Wednesday, December 24, 2014

the top ten worst hit songs of 2014

So, another year, another Billboard Year-End list, another assorted collection of hits and misses, and another year end list from me where I take a long hard look at the biggest charting songs of the year and pick out the best and worst.

Now for those of you who aren't familiar, let's go over the rules. A song can only make this list if it first landed on the Billboard Hot 100 Year-End chart for 2014. There may be songs from last year that qualify - I can think of a few - but it needs to hit the list this year. And of course there were worse songs that I heard this year on albums that could easily outstrip huge chunks of this list - I'm not going to mention them, they don't deserve more attention - but I want to make the point that we're looking at the hits that got under my skin and annoyed or angered me. Songs that are just excruciatingly boring don't really make the cut here - 'boring' can be a factor, but there needs to be something aggressively wrong with the song to join this august company.

The other important thing to mention is that 2014 has, on average, been a stronger year than 2013, or at least more consistent. Up until the frantic reshuffling at the end of the year, this has been a pretty stodgy year with a few absolutely massive hits that wouldn't go away and prevented a lot of turnover. What this has meant is that many of the songs that have landed on this list don't inspire the same amount of real anger from me - of the majority I wouldn't say they are as deserving of vitriol as some of the really terrible tracks from last year.

That said, I think it's time for our dishonourable mentions!

'Shake It Off' by Taylor Swift (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #13)

Oh my god, I hoped that I wouldn't have to put Taylor Swift on another one of these lists, but 'Shake It Off' wore out my patience in record time. Not only did it confirm all of my worst instincts coming after Red, but it was the sort of kiss-off towards haters that was somehow trying way too hard and yet wasn't hard enough. A song screaming for diva presence and punch and instead Taylor gives us a cutesy and thoroughly unconvincing middle finger to the haters that shows she cares way more than she lets on. And even with that, this song might have missed this list... except for the 'Hey Mickey' inspired interlude that was part bad Gwen Stefani and part Animal-era Ke$ha. And while Taylor is convincing with many emotions, plain obnoxious is not one of them.

'Love Never Felt So Good' by Michael Jackson & Justin Timberlake (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #78)

 This song was destined for the list on principle alone, as I take serious issue with artistic graverobbery like this - there was a reason I didn't review the album. Let me make this clear, there was a reason Michael didn't want to release this song co-written with historically underwhelming at best singer-songwriter Paul Anka, and that's because it's a gutless disco song where Michael Jackson brings none of his characteristic fire and charisma. The king of pop sounds checked out - and since he quite literally is, at least on this plane of existence, there was no excuse for this to be released except as a cash-in. And that Justin TImberlake is on the song is even more infuriating - dude, you and I both know you want to be the next Michael Jackson, but you're better than this.

'Leave The Night On' by Sam Hunt (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #76)

I was really trying to be as nice as possible when I reviewed Sam Hunt's debut album Montevallo earlier this year, but every subsequent listen has soured it on me more and more, and this song in particular doesn't help. By no means the worst track on that record, it's still a gutless, completely synthetic, sloppily produced pick-up track with lyrics that feel recycled even for bro-country. And while there was far worse of that genre that charted this year - we'll get to those - this song tells us that even if it is five o'clock somewhere, the sun won't shine on third-rate Keith Urban wannabes forever.

'Burnin' It Down' by Jason Aldean (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #63)

Can someone please tell me what old Alabama Jason Aldean was listening to when he performed this dreck, the writing courtesy of our good friends from Florida Georgia Line? I may have liked his album Old Boots, New Dirt this year more than I thought I would, but 'Burnin' It Down' is still a drum-machine saturated slurry of a song with the muddiest guitar tones I've heard all year. And this is supposed to be a slow-burn R&B-inspired hookup track? Are you kidding me? There's no fire or sizzle to this, mostly because of the pitch correction drizzled all over Aldean's attempts at crooning that show him as painfully out of his depth. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate experimentation and I'll admit I'm not Aldean's target demographic, but this fire did not ignite whatsoever.

'My N****' by YG ft. Jeezy & Rich Homie Quan (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #58)

Okay, there is a point to boiling things down to the basics, the bare minimum, and I suspect that was the majority of the appeal of YG's My Krazy Life, fusing the bare minimum of imagination in writing west-coast gangsta rap with the minimalist beats of DJ Mustard. And apparently that minimum extended some of the sloppiest and most embarrassing writing I've seen in a while that includes an blatant lyrical lift from Kanye - how many times were they going to rhyme the same word with itself for this song supposedly showing how YG's friend has his back? Well, I'll give the song this, it's not wrong, as Jeezy's more aggressive verse saves this track from being a lot lower, even though I'd argue Jeezy would sound a lot better over a banger than this underweight beat. If you can't rise above the same cliches by going back to basics, or at least make the song have some punch, you need to do more, and this song only does less.

'Somethin' Bad' by Miranda Lambert & Carrie Underwood (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #99)

Oh, I was not expecting this to land on Billboard's Year-End list, and the fact that this is the country hit that charted from Miranda Lambert's album Platinum and not 'Automatic' is a goddamn crime. Putting that aside, while I get the appeal of this song - a trashy, girls going wild teamup anthem that's clearly not for me, the fact is that both artists have done so much better, with darker, heavier songs. I might not like Carrie Underwood for all sorts of reasons, but 'Before He Cheats' and 'Last Name' at least had memorable lyrics and didn't feel as painfully unfinished and devoid of any real consequences. And speaking as a guy who likes it when Miranda Lambert gets darker - hell, I put 'Mama's Broken Heart' on my best list last year - this is not a look and sound for her that works. There's barely any melody, the two have practically no harmonic interplay, the guitar texture is sludgy and not nearly as heavy as it thinks it is, and their story is nowhere near as interesting as the video makes it out to be. There are worse country songs that came out this year - we'll get to that, trust me - but there are very few that squandered their potential like this one.

'La La La' by Naughty Boy ft. Sam Smith (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #82)

Oh, I know I'm going to make some people very angry by even mentioning this song on a Dishonourable Mentions list, but despite Sam Smith's impressive vocals and good strings production, I can't stand this song. I don't like the way the backing vocal sample is clipped, to say nothing of how Sam Smith's falsetto bleeds across the track and really paints him in a woefully pathetic light. Now to be fair, I get the feeling that was intentional with the message of the song of willful immaturity, cowardice, and playing the 'I can't hear you' game whenever someone 'spits their venom'. And believe me, I get the desire to shut your ears whenever you have certain people who only spray hatred, especially when it's self-righteous. But maybe it's how the tone of the song is so sour and darker than it should be with the strings and religious iconography, the juvenile approach just doesn't work. Sometimes, it's best to sit and talk it out.

Well, that takes care of those - now time for the list!

10. Last year, one of the biggest artists in pop and R&B dropped a surprise album at the very end of the year, and a whole slew of music critics panicked to praise it. Now I wasn't nearly as kind, but I did respect its ambition and desire to tackle feminist themes, even if it didn't always stick the landing. For the most part, it hit some solid notes. But when it went wrong, it really went wrong.

And I thought putting Naughty Boy and Sam Smith in this countdown would piss people off...

10. 'Drunk In Love' by Beyonce ft. Jay-Z (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #35)

It's a sad fact when Beyonce is probably the one element I actually like about this song, as she throws herself into it with a raw intensity that completely doesn't fit anything else, especially the trap-inspired production with the ugly pitch-shifted Indian sample at the beginning and how the rest of the track feels drowned out in a slurry of watery textures, choppy synths, and speaker-destroying bass. The instrumentation might be trying to evoke the feel of drunken sex, but it sure as hell doesn't make it as attractive as Beyonce wants it to sound - it's bleak and murky when it swallows up her voice, and the flagrant gangsta tone of the second verse makes it even worse, way more obsessed with being sexual over being sexy. 

And I already know what some of you are saying, 'Mark, why are you criticizing what is plainly a display of open sexual equality in a stable relationship?' Maybe so, but it's sloppy and shockingly unsexy to me, especially with Beyonce shouting 'surfboard' throughout her verse. And that's not even touching on Jay-Z's verse, which adds considerable qualifications to the themes by opening comparing himself to Mike Tyson and Ike Turner! Maybe it's not a good thing on the song you're doing with your wife to actively compare yourself to figures known for rape and domestic assault! I get dirty talk, but his verse isn't trying to be kinky so much as sloppy and vulgar, and it's nowhere near close to attractive. Forget drunk, this song is a bad hangover. Next!

9. Now say what you will about 'Drunk In Love', while its message suffered a lot in execution, it did have a progressive intent which I did like. But that's not saying there isn't a place for a more traditional perspective, one that focuses a little less on the hot steamy sex and more on humbly approaching the father of the bride-to-be to ask her hand in marriage. And for a considerable chunk of the summer of 2014, one such song dominated the airwaves. 

Too bad it really sucked.

9. 'Rude' by MAGIC! (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #7)

This song is actually a fair bit lower than I originally expected, considering how much I found their debut album to be painfully mediocre at best. But I said it when I reviewed their album Don't Kill The Magic and I'll say it again here - 'Rude' by MAGIC! is one of the worst songs of the year. The instrumentation ditches the tightness of the reggae roots that try to call back to The Police and fail, drowns the mix in reverb, and seemingly does everything to make this brand of cod-reggae even less impressive. The fact that frontman Nasri Atweh has little to no stage presence doesn't help, and then we get to the lyrics, alternating between petulant whining at getting rejected and then continuing to go back to the father again and again even when he plainly doesn't like this guy. 

And really, it's the chorus that sinks this song. Telling a potential son-in-law that he's nowhere near good enough for your daughter isn't all that rude, especially when he follows it with the line 'don't you know I'm human too'. We get, dude, you have feelings, but believing you're entitled to anything, let alone this girl's hand in marriage and her father's approval, on that basis alone is not something I'd buy. Especially with this guy's tone, which comes across a lot less passionate and a lot more insufferable. Maybe you should go back to writing songs for Chris Brown and Justin Bieber, Nasri Atweh, because this is really not working for you.

8. Now here's the entry on this list that will surprise absolutely nobody. Some of you might be surprised how low it is on this list, it wouldn't have made it if it didn't belong here.

8. 'Anaconda' by Nicki Minaj (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #36)

Okay, on some level I get this song's appeal - Nicki is at her best when she's provocative and tasteless and graphic. It's not anything new - plenty of female artists have used open, brazen sexuality in order to intimidate and make guys uncomfortable. Hell, I'm fairly certain that's the only reason why Drake is in the video to drive that point home. And the song does have a solid enough crescendo and a little explosive presence.

But like a few other tracks on this list, it's also a song that can't do anything with that crescendo outside of the most tired, obvious sample that Nicki could have possibly used. And that's the reason why this song doesn't work - once you get past the cheap sexual provocation, there is very little to this song. Nicki plays the dumb, giggling drug dealer toy with an ease that is more than a little sad, the production is disastrously bad, a cacophonous blend of sound effects completely killing the power of a pretty good bass line, and the outro of the song goes way too long and shows just how lazy this track is. I'm not angry with Nicki Minaj for not making a stupid song - there's a place for stupidity in pop music - I'm angry because it's cheap, lazy, and Nicki Minaj is capable of a lot more than this. When your song's message boils down to, 'I date terrible people and drug dealers, give them great sex, and then they're expected to buy me things while I'm drugged out of my mind' - and then you get her 'Barbies' trying to pass it off as a feminist empowerment statement, which is all sorts of questionable - I have a really hard time liking this track in any capacity. It's an audio trainwreck, and speaking as a guy who actually likes a few of her silly pop songs like 'Pound The Alarm', this continues her artistic regression into something cheap and hollow, and knowing where she started from makes it all the more disappointing.

7. Okay, when artists make statements about their album saying that this is going to be my most personal work to date, that's normally a good thing. It means that your material is going to be informed by more emotion or real experiences, things that can pull a lot into your songs. And yet there are some artists that should probably just aim to stick with the lightweight shallow stuff, because there is not pulling it off, and then there's making something so transparently phony it stops being funny.

7. 'Dark Horse' by Katy Perry ft. Juicy J (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #2)

I actually sat through all of Katy Perry: Part of Me, and really, that film's existence puts the lie to this song. It's simply unbelievable from every angle. I don't buy into Katy Perry sounding good over this eerie, pitch-shifted voices, oily synth lines, thick chugging bass and snap percussion, especially when we get another decent crescendo with which this song can do nothing. Katy Perry sounds more checked out and distant than ever, which I'm guessing is trying to evoke the image of an aloof powerhouse, but I don't buy it for a second when the lyrics clearly have no idea what Katy Perry's appeal on a song like this is. A dark horse is an unexpected underdog, which is simply not true for Katy Perry who has dominated the charts for years now. And to cast her as some powerful destroyer of all who get her way is even worse - put aside the movie and the arsenal of more sensitive break-up material she released - which included 'Wide Awake', probably my favourite Katy Perry song - she doesn't have the raw presence or power to pull this off.

And then there's Juicy J. Putting aside the Jeffrey Dahmer line that was obviously stolen straight from Ke$ha's 'Cannibal' from four years ago and was way more convincing there, Juicy J's verse is unfocused and pretty damn lazy, with comparisons to Sleeping Beauty made because you're going to put her in a coma? So you spend the entire verse hyping Katy up as some powerful maneater and yet to emphasize that fantastical connection, you compare her to a princess whose defining trait is inactivity? And not only that, you get it backwards by saying you put in a coma instead of waking her up from it? How in the Nine Hells did this get past an editing desk, these are very easy problems to fix!

The fact that this was one of the biggest songs of the entire year says a lot about how inert the charts were this year. Easily one of Katy Perry's worst songs, only being saved from that highest honour by 'This Is How We Do', which thankfully did not chart high enough to make the year-end list, I'm assuming because of pure annoyance, tastelessness, and surprising racism. Doesn't save 'Dark Horse' from sucking, though. Next!

6. I really don't understand why this guy still has a career. I'm not even talking about the incident from five years ago - no, I'm talking about the fact that his material has kept sucking and somehow the general public hasn't called him on it yet. In other words, if this list wasn't predictable enough already... welcome back, Chris Brown.

6. 'Loyal' by Chris Brown ft. Lil Wayne & Tyga (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #30)

This is another song that's lower than I thought it would be, considering every single person on this song sounds like a colossal jackass. Lil Wayne probably fares the best, as there's some passable wordplay that barely manages to conceal the fact he's bragging about not trusting women, and Tyga delivering a completely empty luxury rap verse of which I've heard hundreds of this year. And while there's a decent synth line, the bass is muddy and the wet-sounding, somewhat glitchy sounds over the verse don't help the atmosphere.

But unsurprisingly, the biggest issue with this song is Chris Brown's verses - sure, they're sleazy and are trying and failing to replicate Kanye West's template with 'Gold-Digger' that was established nearly a decade ago, but that's not the real issue. The big difference here is tone and context - Kanye at least told a story to show how a guy might get manipulated with detail and flavour and a decent hook. Chris Brown's story has none of that, showing him actively willing to steal other guys' girlfriends, that he could make a 'broke bitch rich' - and yet apparently he doesn't screw around with broke girls - and then he's going to craft a chorus about how these 'hoes ain't loyal' - even though you're actively encouraging the disloyalty by trying to entice them over. If anything, the song makes him look unbelievably stupid, because he knows he's got the power to steal girlfriends - and yet even though he knows they're going to exploit him, he's going to keep doing it and then complain about it. In other words, this song is insufferable in every way, shape, and form, and an easy contender for this list. Next!

5. And on the topic of Chris Brown, let's go back to 2009 for a minute. I've talked before that after the Rihanna incident and Chris Brown was briefly blackballed by the record industry, label executives started desperately pushing any Chris Brown wannabes to the forefront in the hopes they'd manage to get someone to fill the gap. And while most of them are effectively gone at this point - Iyaz, Colby O'Donis, Jay Sean - more of them than I expected stuck around. Trey Songz did it by imitating R.Kelly's formula and Jason Derulo... well, we'll get to him, but I think the reason this guy still has a career is because I think people keep forgetting he exists and overlooking him, which has allowed him to accrue quite a few hits.

But I think that lack of attention needs to end - because all of his charting singles are terrible and this might be the worst.

5. 'Don't Tell Em' by Jeremih ft. YG (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #42)

It's pretty rare for a song that has done as well as this one on the Hot 100 to not have a music video, and apparently they were going to shoot one but Jeremih never showed up. And this is a recurring issue with Jeremih, because he hasn't promoted his upcoming album or this single at all, making him one of the most reclusive and anonymous R&B singers out right now. And if it wasn't for some legit reasons - he's currently engaged in an ugly custody battle - I'd say it was out of embarrassment, because while 'Birthday Sex' was creepy and gross and 'Down On Me' was sloppy and ugly, 'Don't Tell 'Em' is derivative and asinine. Not only are we dealing with DJ Mustard dropping one of his least-interesting melody lines to date and a lyrical sample of the one of the most iconic dance songs of the Big Beat era in the early 90s, it's another R&B song that mistakes icy reverb saturation for sexy. 

And that's before we even touch on the lyrics, with Jeremih proving he still can't fill up his bars and needs to resort to repeating words and phrases ad nauseum as his hookup metaphors are even more disjointed and confused than usual. Of course, he's relying on YG to carry the substance of the song, which is a giant middle finger to the girl's boyfriend who Jeremih is pleading that the girl not tell. You have to wonder why - if Jeremih was so good in bed, wouldn't it be in the girl's best interest to keep this on the DL, especially if she's convinced it's not really cheating just 'exploring'? Or it's because YG is a giant asshole, describing the girl as 'Twitter pussy he met on the Internet' along with some the laziest rhyming words with themselves that I've ever seen this year. Or maybe it's because Jeremih compares himself to Bobby Brown, who might have been one of the best R&B stars of his time but more recent history has proven to be something of a violent, drug-abusing jackass who was dragged up on domestic abuse charges against his more famous wife Whitney Houston. Either way, this girl shouldn't trust either of these guys, and I can definitely see why they want her not to tell anyone she cheated with them. More because it's a source of shame, because this song is absolute crap. Next!

4. It's become a bit of a thing in recent years where producers have gotten the primary credit on songs, especially given the rise of EDM. And when you have guys like Avicii and Calvin Harris, where they handle the majority of the composition with the vocalist as a clear secondary player, it makes sense. It makes a little bit less sense in hip-hop production, but when you get producers like Pharrell and Timbaland step out in front of the microphone, it can work too.

But then you have songs that feature multiple guests with one that could probably be designated as the main performer on the track, and no actual vocals from the producer himself... and yet the primary credit is still given to him. In most cases, I'd be curious why that main performer doesn't step up - but in the case, I think everyone was looking to defer blame.

And for good reason.

4. '23' by Mike Will Made It ft. Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #90)

This song was damn close to making last year's list, but it ultimately made the most impact here - and it represents the colossal mismanagement of everyone's careers, not to mention a skin-crawlingly atrocious song. I've already talked about Juicy J's discordant verse on 'Dark Horse' and how he has somehow reinvented his career giving street cred to white girls who should know better - even though he has the best verse here, it's not saying much. And I've talked about Wiz Khalifa when I reviewed his disaster of an album Blacc Hollywood earlier this year, how he struggled and mostly failed to step away from the weed rap lane into anything worthwhile - he plays the weed rap game here, but does anyone really believe Wiz when he says he's got automatic weapons?

But speaking as somebody who actually liked 'Wrecking Ball' and thought Miley Cyrus stood a chance at making something of herself, 2014 proved me wrong in the worst possible way. She followed that single with the absolutely forgettable 'Adore You' and collaborated with Pharrell on the grating 'Come Get It Bae' instead of releasing the near-guaranteed smash 'FU', and even worse she contributed to this disaster. Her verse is forgettable nonsense about getting drunk and high in a club, and is anyone else really creeped out by how the pitch shifted voice comes over her second line the chorus? She sounds awful trying to go for a staccato trap flow, and the song makes no use of her real pipes. But the real culprit is Mike Will Made It for this instrumental, which takes the gang vocals, hi hats, and eerie synths and pairs it with this terrible four note melody that sounds like a pitch-shifted dialtone being played underwater. It's an atrocious instrumental from an already bad producer, and the fact that it's paired with a song made to supposedly pay tribute to Michael Jordan about eleven years after he finally retired - and doing so by referencing Space Jam, getting drunk and high, and no solid basketball references? I sincerely hope Michael Jordan got a royalty cheque from this, because otherwise this song is even more worthless than it already is. 

3. There are some songs that when I review the album, I know instinctively they're going to be the next singles. Either because of their sound and formula or because they have a guest star that'll guarantee mainstream airplay, these are going to be the songs pushed to radio. And since I tend to review pop music, I can usually spot many of these singles when I review the albums.

And yet since I don't tend to cover album reissues, I can still be surprised. Sometimes in the worst possible way - because there's no way on god's green earth someone would be this stupid, right?

3. 'Wiggle' by Jason Derulo ft. Snoop Dogg (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #40)

I said when I reviewed Jason Derulo's album Tattoos way back in 2013 that it was the sort of fascinating catastrophe that toed the line between sleaze-driven R&B and outright insanity, with some of the most bizarre lyrical and instrumental choices you would have heard that year. And yet I couldn't have possibly been prepared for this, yet another beat that squanders a decent crescendo with a chorus line that is driven by a goddamn recorder. You know, the instrument you played in grade school as a toy and has rarely EVER been able to hold a tune. Coupled with the leaden bass line, the bubbling sound effect, and an odd sound at the very bass of the mix that sounds like someone's blowing into a stifled kazoo, it's all enough to make you think the song is a complete joke. And if that wasn't enough, the word 'wiggle' repeated ad nauseum across the chorus will certainly reinforce that opinion.

But here's the thing: if they were trying to be funny, there's no joke here beyond being hyperbolic, describing the woman's butt cheeks like two planets when she's twerking and saying she go HAM like 'ham sandwich' - quite literally describing her as a piece of meat - saying that Derulo is making wedding plans upon seeing such a butt, and saying that he can make her famous on Instagram. And yeah, hyperbole can work for a joke like this, but there's no punchline - Jason Derulo isn't playing it comedically or even with any self-awareness, and Snoop Dogg's verse sounds like a sex jam verse he'd drop on any similar song. The point is that compared to acts that can push hyperbole into something where it's funny, like The Lonely Island, this doesn't do it. If anything, the way Jason Derulo plays the chorus so earnestly shows that he actually might buy the asinine crap he's selling - and given what I heard when I reviewed his album, it reinforces that opinion. It's not even clever, it's just lazy and juvenile and tasteless, without the charisma to be genuinely enjoyable or the good sense to be funny. And to top it off, you can't even dance to the borderline unlistenable beat, a tonal disaster that reinforces this year's obsession with butts in the worst possible way. In most years, a song this terribly done would top any worst songs list. But I'm not so much angry at this track than deeply confused and annoyed. The last two on the list pushed that point into real anger.

2. The common opinion by most critics this year is that this was a bad year for hip-hop, and I'd argue that's not true, because I've got a whole slew of great underground hip-hop records that deserved tons of acclaim. Hell, there were even enough with a solid commercial lean that if the radio had promoted it properly, we could have had great hip-hop on the charts.

But when I heard this song, and saw how high it charted, I started to get why critics were saying that hip-hop sucked this year. And then I got mad.

2. 'Lifestyle' by Rich Gang ft. Young Thug & Rich Homie Quan (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #72)

There is so much wrong with this song I don't even know where to start. I could start with the fact that if you have Rich Gang on the song and only Birdman participates, it shouldn't be credited to them, right? This is really a song that's by Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan, and all the proof in the word why neither of them should be fronting a rap song - ever. Forget the blatant abuse of bad autotune, forget the limp and utterly pathetic beat, you'd think that one of the basic qualifiers for being a rapper would be the ability to rap. Well, Young Thug tests that qualification to limit through slurring nearly all of his bars into a disgustingly smug mess, especially on the hook, sounding like Danny Brown if he'd lost about 80 IQ points and was drunk off his ass. Rich Homie Quan is barely better, crushing the ends of every line into something vaguely rhyming, and the fact he tries to reference Lupe Fiasco in comparison to his hustle is borderline insulting. 

But it's the lyrics that fail this song in every conceivable way. The basic premise - provided you could make it out without wanting to strangle everyone on this track - is that they did all sorts of shit to live this here 'lifestyle' - what sort of shit, they don't say, but you know, shit. And while both of them say they're doing all this shit for their family, right now I'm failing to see what they actually do besides waste everyone's time. If you want to talk about dealing drugs, fine, but at least say what it is you're doing, tell a story, do something to imply you aren't just mocking the audience for not having the same amount of money you do! Well, Young Thug does say more than that - he runs into erectile dysfunction in the first verse and blames on the girl - one of forty in bed with him - and then says he's going to pee all over them in the second verse. It seems like Lil Wayne's terrible sex references have been influential, as we get disgusting lyric after disgusting lyric about sex and it's all part of the lifestyle. And at this point I have no idea who this song is for - it can't be for the clubs or going wild given the utterly lifeless beat, and it's too grating and insufferable to be for laid back chilling. It's vapid, artless greed in the worst possible terms that's too lazy to bother to be coherent or structure interesting rhymes. I know this song only got popular because of Vine - mostly because people making fun of it. Folks, this is the natural endpoint that came with songs like 'Friday' charting - we get songs that only exist to be absolute garbage to be mocked - but that doesn't make the artists' any less committed to making it, or the song any better.

And yet believe it or not, there was one more song that pissed me off more than this. Want to know what it is?

1. When I heard this song the first time, I knew immediately it was a contender for my worst hit song of the year. Everything about it offended my sensibilities, a song that represented the worst of its subgenre and made me quiver with rage every time I heard it. And yet it's not like last year, where most people probably couldn't argue with my final pick of 'U.O.E.N.O' by Rocko, Future, and Rick Ross, a song that only really got airplay thanks to the controversy. This one is different, and I reckon there'll be folks who'll disagree here. But let me make my case:

1. 'Bottoms Up' by Brantley Gilbert (Billboard Year-End Chart Position #68)

In a year where bro-country spiraled out of control and completely lost its momentum in a deluge of mediocre albums, I can be honest and say I didn't hate Just As I Am by Brantley Gilbert when I reviewed it. But 'Bottoms Up' was atrocious the first time I heard it and it's only gotten worse with every listen. I can start with the obvious criticism that Brantley Gilbert can barely sing, his voice a thin sliver of the country rock he's trying to imitate, or that his opening guitar riffs remind me of bad downtuned nu metal with pathetically weak heft, or how the actual melody of the song is lost in the snarl and cymbals that have to be crushed down beneath Brantley Gilbert's limp vocals. I could talk about how he starts to approach a rap cadence in the second verse and then completely gives up on it or how the shaking of a country girl's ass has him ready to propose - not the first common element he and Jason Derulo have - or the gutless and painfully unimpressive guitar solo that's interrupted by vocal snippets that aren't wanted or needed. Hell, I could talk about how the lyrics are a grabbag of bad bro-country party cliches that apparently has our narrator going to the party with a girl - he spends the whole first verse talking about it - and then apparently spending the rest trying to slide in to say 'Girl, wassup' as if he doesn't know her in between dumping cheap beer down his gullet on the back of a tailgate.

No, my biggest issue with this song - and this is speaking as someone who will say he likes some bro-country, who probably gave one of the most positive reviews Florida Georgia Line got this year - is that for all of its cliche and attempt at rock energy, it is one of the most painfully serious and aggressively unfun songs I've ever heard. The loud-soft dynamic makes it impossible to dance to, the saturation of curdled minor chords and bad guitar tones sour any positive vibe, there's no sticky melodic hook, and Brantley Gilbert doesn't step up to the microphone with any energy or charisma or real personality behind an affectation of a alpha male douchebag. This is for parties where people go to drink themselves senseless and fight, and yet with none of the visceral power of 'You're Gonna Go Far, Kid' by The Offspring or 'Bleed It Out' by Linkin Park or even 'Heavy' by The Glorious Sons. For a song about partying, it's dark, moody, and thuddingly unpleasant - and what's worse is that it's not intended to be like that. For as goddamn stupid and recycled as Brantley Gilbert's next single 'Small Town Throwdown' was with Thomas Rhett and Justin Moore, it at least got the tone! This misses it completely, and for all of that, Brantley Gilbert's 'Bottoms Up' is the worst hit song of 2014. It's rare when you beat the same titled Trey Songz and Nicki Minaj collaboration from 2010 in terms of making crap, but there you go. Let's hope for better next year.


  1. I have read (and watched) a lot of your album reviews as well as year end lists, and I haves noticed that you occasionally reference best/worst song lists from years past, including 2011, 2010, 2009, and even 2004. It would be amazing if you could, at some point, publish those lists for public viewing. You are an eloquent speaker and an excellent writer, so I know they will be quite interesting.

  2. This is the same commenter as the first one. I thought ur list was definitely an accurate portrayal of the bad music this year, and I mostly agree with it. I thought 23 and Lifestyle were both awful, and it was curious that neither appeared on many critics' lists. I disagree about Bottoms Up; I think it is bad but suffers more from being inert, inept, and inane than being legitimately awful. I actually enjoy Shake it Off (I guess you could say it's a guilty pleasure of mine,) but I will acknowledge that it seems like bullshit and not Taylor Swift at all. Her eyes in the video seem dead and she seems thoroughly unconvinced by her own lyrics. I will put my list in another comment; this one is getting a bit long.

  3. You are dead wrong about Katy Perry, she is a great singer.