Sunday, June 9, 2019

the top ten worst hit songs of 2010

...what, you thought these retrospective lists would only cover the best of the year? 

Yeah, eventually we were going to have to get here, and we might as well start with the first year in the 2010s left uncovered. But first, a quick recap of the chart trends of 2010, a year knee-deep in the club boom, somewhat evenly between the songs that believed the party would never end and those who were desperately pretending it wasn't happening at all. And what was telling was how both sides of that binary wound up on the best and worst lists, which you'd think would balance everything out. And yet that's where you'd be wrong, because the bad songs seemed to grossly outweigh the good in 2010 in hitting the lucrative balance between offensive, obnoxious, or just plain asinine. More to the point, it was also a year where flimsy production that's aged rather badly was everywhere on the Hot 100, and sometimes a song sounding like ass is all you need here.

Now granted, 2010 is one of those years where the factor of, 'Oh, this sucked, but nobody cares anymore so why revisit it', and that tends to be a hidden truth about the Hot 100 - bad trends age badly, but the songs are so disposable that nobody really cares all that much, which tends to paint the years as better than they might be. And while this is true for some forgotten crap, there'll also be hits on this list that somehow remain massive to this day, either because the artists are still celebrities - and probably shouldn't be - or the radio has entrenched them as staples because nobody with brain cells came in the day they decided on syndication. And again, the songs had to debut on the Hot 100 in 2010 - it's widely considered a pretty rough year for the charts, all the more tainted by the fact I personally spent way too much time in the club in 2010, so let's go back to the gungy afterparty rightly forgotten, and the morning hangover that somehow has not gone away, starting with...

10. So one thing I try to keep in mind for lists of the worst hit songs of any given year is that dance crazes are just that: crazes. They're inherently disposable, here for a brief spurt of time, maybe a year, then everyone is embarrassed by them for a decade, and then they become staples of your next wedding reception and never go away. It happened with Soulja Boy, it'll probably happen with Silento's 'Watch Me', it's probably already happened with this song... and yet somehow I doubt it. Because on level, the dance craze has to, you know, make you want to dance - not do this.

Look, on some level there's not much you can even say about this - it doesn't even have much of a melody, just some rattling percussion and vocals that from the school of 'I really don't want to be here so let me act like I don't care and pretend that's charisma'. But that's only part of the problem, because the song fundamentally fails in its basic concept of teaching anyone to do anything, instead relying on the 'Lean Back' by Terror Squad conceit that the less someone actually moves while dancing, the 'cooler' it might be, and this track is all about reinforcing that ludicrous conceit. And for an era overstuffed with blaring, in-your-face synths and dance jams, it's startling how lifeless this feels even away from contrast. Sadly the Cali Swag District could never escape the shadow of this song, with two of their members dying in the years that would follow and all subsequent singles and albums either flopping or being shelved, but they still have this, right? Yeah, not much to speak for, let's just move on.

9. Okay look, I'm an Usher fan - have been for years, he's one of the most talented and charismatic R&B acts of the past twenty years, and he has a few great albums... and Raymond v. Raymond was not one of them. Instead of following the intense vulnerability that gave Confessions an emotional core he slipped towards messy trends that a bad release strategy only further emphasized. Let me be blunt, 'Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)' is only missing this list because of good delivery, certainly not because of production or anything Usher actually said on the song, but with that single only producing moderate success and 'Lil Freak' sputtering out early, he needed a win. And with this single he might have gotten it... but I think in the long run he might have preferred the loss.

Man, this brings back memories - hazy nightclubs where this goes off and everyone tries to get into it but the sluggish tempo and underwhelming delivery rarely has the flair it should, and anyone trying to catch a good vibe off of Usher's lower delivery has to deal with the censored 'oh my gosh' and that's before you get to the verses talking about the girl's boobies or the fact that he's talking about breaking down the target of his affection. And that's not touching the fact the drums are underweight, the crowd noise only adds to the overmixed failure to be anthemic, not helped by synths that are more texture than tone and are somehow as loud as Usher's voice... but you can likely place the blame for all of that at the feet of producer and guest, who not only poorly used Usher here, but through his mixing choices and hideous autotune made it clear he thought he was the real star - yeah, we'll get back to this, but in the mean time... yeah, this is bad - next!

8. So when I made my list of my top ten best hit songs of this year, I highlighted how it might have been easy to hate a certain glitter-smeared, faux-trashy party girl in this era for being openly sleazy and obnoxious. And while I've certainly warmed more to her over the 2010s, I'm not deaf and I get where the criticisms came from, even if I thought they were oversold and more than a little condescending, especially from guys who would give rock stars and punks every pass in the world for the same material. That said, I do have a line... and it's this.

The grating beep, the omnipresent clap that somehow will cut through even the slur of electric effects as the autotune malfunctions, and for some ungodly reason a third verse given to the sentient embodiments of douchebaggery in 3OH!3 that were long past their fifteenth minute before society realized being an asshole ironically still makes you an asshole! But I can't solely blame them for this: Ke$ha has made plenty of trashy hookup songs in her career and while I like a lot of them, this has none of the coursing rock groove that makes 'Dirty Love' and 'Gold Trans Am' so much fun and all of the electroclash squeak that rides on incoherence and only gets worse from there. And I get that it's at least trying to be flirtatious, to get this dumbass to shut up and just fuck her already, but I have to imagine there are better dicks to ride than anyone associated with this song, and there's the very real possibility that with 3OH!3's verse, Ke$ha could be branded as just as annoying. And while she managed to mostly get away from that... well, we'll get to it.

7. But on the topic of insufferable, repetitive, and excruciatingly annoying...

So I think it's well-known at this point that the Black Eyed Peas, for as much as they got legitimate praise for 'I Gotta Feeling' were beginning to test everyone's patience by 2010 before crashing and burning in 2011. And I'd put money that 'Imma Be' was the song that got there, somehow going to #1 on garish bombast, a watery snap beat, hideously dated autotune and synth choices, and repeating the phrase 'Imma be' until your ears bleed, and that's before you tack on gang vocals and a wonky beat shift that might be the most oily and headache-inducing offkey squonk I've heard on a pop song this decade! And that's before you get to anyone actually on the song, with Fergie's laziness highlighting the very bottom rung of her artless arrogance, comparing himself to a sperm bank, and then trying to justify the rest of the mindless filler writing by saying it's because he's popular. And he's probably right with that - where else could you get rhyming 'million' with 'billion' with 'trillion', rhyme 'bouncing them cheques' with itself, describing himself as the 'average brother with soul' where there is no soul to be found, or overall some of the weakest rhymes this group has ever delivered! Folks, there's a reason that even when the Black Eyed Peas get brought up and praised today, this doesn't - because it's horrible.

6. So I said before that 3OH!3 were approaching their asshole behavior ironically - I mean, that was the only excuse why they got a pass, right? They were dicks, they knew they were dicks, but them kind of owning it in the wave of late-2000s fratboy obnoxiousness let them get away with it because the tunes were good or at the very least 'heavy'. But again, I think everyone had a line, and for me, it was this.

There are so many misconceived elements on this song it's hard to pinpoint where to start. For one, the production is dreadfully thin, which shows up worst in the percussion but doesn't help the compressed guitar leads carry much of a tune. Apparently this is being done to place 3OH!3 at the front of the mix - which is asinine, because their falsetto is painfully weak and their meat-headed shouting hits the precise nerve between obnoxious and not being interesting enough to back it up. But it's the same deeper issue that highlights why 3OH!3 was never any good: they aren't even interestingly bad! If this song is about your first kiss why is so much of it in the present tense and the machismo is such an overblown put-on? How is it possible to waste Ke$ha by having her serve up bored accents and backing vocals? And why in the Nine Hells did you think the falsetto scatting on the bridge would fit with anything? Thank God Kesha was the one who wound up with a career and not these two, and that this dumpster fire of Axe Body Spray and mugging assholery has been properly forgotten.

5. And speaking of duos who should have never had a career...

Going back to dig up the minor success of duos like New Boyz is kind of fascinating, especially when you dig up how the hell they were a thing to begin with. In this case, they were a jerkin' dance duo that went viral of a cheap dance hit, got signed to Asylum, and then put out two albums with some of the worst singles around the turn of the decade. And while some have associated them with the hyphy scene, I've never heard a good word about these two, especially as the brand of pop rap they put out has aged remarkably badly. I would struggle to even say this is their worst single when 'Better With The Lights Off' exists, but this is still pretty atrocious. The cheap canned synths, snap beat and gang vocals, awkward attempts at crooning off a mediocre hook from Ray J, but the fundamental failure is obvious: these are two kids trying to sell how they're such studs in high school that they won't get tied down. Of course, all of this operates on the premise that either of these two are so insatiably attractive that anyone would want to fuck them, but that would involve either showing a distinctive personality beyond awkward Lil Wayne imitations - of arguably one of Lil Wayne's worst eras! But for the most part, this is just dated and embarrassing by two twerps who were never good or interesting to begin with trying to follow in Justin Bieber's lane and coast on charisma and talent they did not have. In other words, there's a reason everyone forgot this existed - next!

4. I don't think I was the only one who heard Man Of The Woods last year and then went back to old Justin Timberlake and Timbaland songs with the uneasy thought that many songs were probably never that good to begin with. Now for me it just confirmed a lot of what I already knew: most of his albums were bloated and overproduced but did occasionally capture real gems with tight grooves and enough ego to hold together - but if you thought the corniness was something that was new...

I think even Timbaland knows that his late 2000s work was crap - even outside of the beats he outsourced or his questionable choices behind the mic, at this point of his career he and Justin were pushing hits to the top on ego and star power alone, and 'Carry Out' is one of the worst possible examples. The production is one of the biggest culpirts - a grainy fizz right against the clinking percussion, garish horns and a clunky non-groove, and either the autotuned warble of Timbaland trying to sound imposing or Justin trying to ride his multi-tracking to form some sort of groove. All of this would be rough to work with, but then it's compounded by being a sex song overloaded with fast food puns! And while I get that the collective lyrical standards took a nose dive around the turn of the decade in terms of the gibbering nonsense we allowed, why didn't somebody stop them from making Katy Perry's 'Bon Appetit' eight years early and somehow worse? The non-rhymes are stacked and blatant, I don't see how any woman would find being described as 'carry out' sexy, and even if you're into that sort of thing, I'm not sure you want to then be serenaded by Timbaland saying he'll have you open all night like IHOP! And somehow J.T. is worse - he asks if he's full of himself to want you full of him, he says he's well-seasoned and then follows it with how he'll walk into your body until you hear him out, and then tries to make the bridge sexy by framing it as a drive-thru order! The only reason I can see this song existing is for many of the same reasons we got asinine, overreaching conceptual sex songs across J.T.'s entire career - nobody on his team told him 'no', and in this case if a waitress had kicked him out of the Wendy's we wouldn't have this food and audio poison!

3. So look, I get that pop trends were moving quickly around the turn of the decade, and young but limited personalities needed to find a niche and fast, so it makes sense pairing two kids with more money than good taste or sense together and see what diseased pop alchemy will spit out. Most often it's forgettable, as to the majority of the mainstream public this has been - but it still deserves a thorough roasting regardless.

Look, I stood up for Sean Kingston more than I probably should have, but before J.R. Rotem would hitch his wagon to Jason Derulo, he tested his sample-heavy scheme with Sean Kingston and a selection of big, doofy hooks in the late 2000s. Most of them haven't really aged well, but there's a pop formula that saves them from being less than mediocre - unless, of course, it became a duet and the song turned to crap. It happened in 2008 and a waning Natasha Bedingfield on 'Love Like This', and some things got worse with anti-charisma wunderkin Justin Bieber in 2010. And while a song like 'Baby' probably got more hate than it deserved ten years ago - outside of the Ludacris guest verse, which is somehow worse than you remember - 'Eenie Meenie' is a disaster from front-to-back. And let's start with the fundamental premise: for as much as the indecisiveness of this girl is emphasized, doing 'eenie meenie minie moe' is actually pretty direct. Now if you wanted to say she's capricious or flighty, that's a different conversation, but you didn't say that, but it also raises the question why on earth Justin Bieber and Sean Kingston are chasing her to begin with! Unfortunately, nobody's hammered common sense into these two yet, so they think they can be slick - and the seduction techniques and rapping are as amateurish as to be expected - but the truth is that none of this song has much flow or groove. But the production is probably the biggest culprit of this: folks have already pointed out how much this song imitates Sean Kingston's marginally better 'Fire Burning', but to me the flattened synth tones and overmixed percussion smacks of that early Benny Blanco production credit and reminds me how intolerable he was in the early 2010s! And sure, all this song is trying to be is bubblegum, but it's really bad bubblegum, compressed into mush with two young acts hopelessly out of their depth, saddled with a song that played to none of their strengths. In other words, there's a reason this has been forgotten - next!

2. But you know, say what you will about 'Carry Out' or 'Eenie Meenie', they've mostly been forgotten. Most people like to pretend Timbaland's Shock Value II album didn't come out, and it's not like this has been showing up in any of Justin Timberlake's medleys recently, and Bieber sure as hell isn't playing 'Eenie Meenie' at his shows. No, if you want a song that's stuck around, to the excruciating displeasure of anyone in near adult-alternative radio...

There's bad writing, there's most of this list, and then there's what Pat Monahan of Train does to this track, which just so happens to be the incredibly successful reason that this mediocre, white-bread nonentity got a second life this decade. I should start with the fact that there's nothing soulful about this song or anything of the implied sisters thereof - weakass jaunty ukuleles are not impressing any of them, and considering when my mind hears 'soul sister' I think of 'Lady Marmalade', I'm fairly certain every woman on that song would castrate this band with nail clippers! It might explain why Pat Monahan's yelps and painfully weak falsetto sounds like someone waxed his gonads - why else would he bellow out how his heart is beating out his 'untrimmed chest' on his second verse, the hair is clearly on his mind! But that almost leads me to the theory this could be an anti-love song: why else would you describe lipstick stains on the front lobe of your left side brains, or how her smell is in all of his dreams, or why for some ungodly reason he calls her a 'game show love connection', or in the most bafflingly misconceived choice to date, he says he's so gangsta, he's so thug! But the infuriating part is that it's plainly being sold as sincere, because the other half of the song is drenched in straightforward 80s references with no cohesion and there's nothing saying this could be satirical - hell, Pat Monahan said that he was trying to write a song like INXS and somehow he produced a grocery store staple to faintly nauseate anyone paying attention! But that's the sick nightmare of this song: it's just bouncy and catchy enough to disguise the alien atrocity beneath its skin, disguised as a love song to be sung at karaoke by the same people who don't realize 'Semi-Charmed Life' is about crystal meth addiction! And as surely as it will be recorded as a footnote in the downfall of western civilization, it lingers like an antibiotic-resistant venereal disease on playlists today. And more of that specifically is reserved for another list, but in the mean time, our Dishonourable Mentions!

Look, I get why it happens when songs leak unfinished and the artist basically winds up releasing that version as the single - it's not ideal, but if you're new on the scene, you do what you have to do. But 'Your Love' has always been representative of Nicki Minaj's least interesting side, a sloppily mixed midtempo ballad that leans way too hard on the autotune and the Annie Lennox sample and shows Nicki sounding her most disinterested. At least the rapping connects together okay, although saying she'll 'die hard like Bruce Willis' and saying she loves him 'like she raised him' raises all sorts of questions. Also, there's hashtag rap - which sounds weird to rip on now in the era of trap repetition but still sounds stilted in retrospect - but we'll get to more of that in a bit

I'm more forgiving of Akon than most, but this is one of his worst songs because it exposes just how goddamn clumsy he could be - don't worry, she's not the neighbourhood ho, he's not trying to be disrespectful, she's just a sexy bitch, a phrase that is hammered into incoherence by the hook. Well Akon, would there be a problem if she was the neighbourhood ho, are you trying to hold her to a double standard that I guarantee you wouldn't follow? All jokes aside, what kills this is the production - David Guetta got a lengthy pass for 'I Gotta Feeling', but it should have ended with this, thanks to the blocky synths, the muddy vocal mixing on the hook, and the weird stutter clap on the hook that sounds so limp and utterly lacking of punch in the low-end. Man, so much of 2010s production has aged badly...

Geez, Jay, could you sound less like you cared? Yeah, we all know the biggest issue with this song is Mr. Hudson's warble against gutless and thin production that is coasting way too hard on the Alphaville sample and ugly, buzzy drums - not one of Kanye's best productions - but Jay deserves some blame for this too. This was Jay-Z in full-on 'I need to entrench my legacy' mold, and if you draw a comparison to the hunger he brought years later on 4:44, this is him in a slump. The flow is blocky, the writing is rote, and while there were hits on The Blueprint 3 that actually kind of worked, this is by far his worst. Not quite terrible, but never one I'd revisit.

People forget just how many songs the Black Eyed Peas got off The E.N.D., and this is one that doesn't quite get as much vitriol as it probably deserves, likely because of that liberal Rob Base sample. But it still sounds grainy and overmixed, especially with the synth choices, and then we get a chipmunk-voice from Fergie. That's typically the point I check out, but the rest of the Peas actually get verses off - verses that remain completely pointless because this is The Black Eyed Peas in 2009 making a dance song. Next!

I mean, the meme is 'grocery bag', but an influx of ridiculously corny lines from the rest of Young Money and on the hook leaves me just feeling faintly embarrassed. And I get that it's supposed to be loose and goofy, but someone Drake is the only one who gets a decent joke and the rest seems weirdly preoccupied with all the different ways they're going to knock this girl out with their dick! Seriously, both Lil Wayne and Gudda Gudda bring it up, and that's before you get Tyga arguing about TV schedules and even Drake drawing on Talledega Nights references! Hell, with Lloyd crooning about how their room is the g-spot, I've got serious questions how any of them managed to find it to begin with!

No joke, when I made this list originally for my own records, this song topped the list - I hated Mike Posner's limp non-charisma, his flailing attempts to neg this girl that read like a pick-up artist at 2 AM, and the desperate insecurity that sits at the very core of this. Also - and this is not a joke - this was a song my residence floor in university chose as a theme song to perform at the coffeehouse; I seriously question how any of us got laid that year! It's a song that feels more gimmicky than anything, and it could easily gotten back onto this list... but that chugging synth gurgle is actually pretty likable and I do think the bridge is melodically sound - of course, none of it is helped by Posner trying to drop out the instrumental, but hey, there's small blessings here... which is probably what any woman who goes home with Posner will say.

Can we just write off this entire era of Timbaland's production? Because this sounds like gurgling ass with overmixed percussion and Drake desperately trying to croon over any bad facsimile of melody. Apparently this is a post-breakup song that's trying to be both celebratory and regretful, a 'let her down easy' song, but normally the emotional core of that is not rooted on pleading for her validation. Also, it's kind of hard to get past sounding like gurgling ass!

1. At the end of the day, as I've said before the worst hit of a year normally transcends just being a terrible song - no, it has to linger and leave some sort of skid mark through time, the possibility of causing lingering cultural damage - that's one reason why 'Hey Soul Sister' is so damn high on the list. But upon reflection of both the song's quality and what it's left for us across the 2010s... it really couldn't be anything else.

Let's make this clear: if 'Deuces' had flopped hard, we probably could have been spared Chris Brown across the 2010s. Think about that for a second and how often Chris Brown has showed up on 'worst of' lists and then ponder that if this had flopped, we could have escaped all of it. Hell, I'll go one further, if this had flopped Tyga probably would have suffered a severe setback too, and considering all the junk he's put out, can you imagine what the state of R&B could be? So many bad albums and publicity nightmares could have been avoided, but instead America chose to give a microphone to an abuser who put Rihanna in the hospital - and no, I'm not going to ignore the cultural context to why this was wretched in 2010 and given how Brown keeps referencing his past on hit songs, I don't see why I can't bring it up now! So what, we're supposed to ignore how this turd is framing the girl as being emotionally demanding on an ugly breakup song, and then how Kevin McCall says 'like Tina did Ike in the limo, it finally hit me' - so framing the girl as abusive after what happened just the year before? Granted, this is a Kevin McCall verse with the charming line, 'I'm a dick, so it shouldn't be hard to swallow', but let's try to just consider this song as a pure toxic breakup, framed where nobody is likable. That could be feasible, given the bleak keys, the very clipped sandy knock of the percussion, the curdled autotune and backing vocals, just a wallow in bad taste and misery where with no good melody all the focus is on our dynamic trio. But then you have Tyga here who can't even sell being a prick as well as Brown or McCall can, and the toxicity isn't even consistent! I'll make the same comparison I did in 2018 with 'Te Bote' - for this sort of track, you want genuine resentment and anger, a really good hook, and brevity, which is why my go-to in this lane is 'Heartbreak' by Yelawolf. But this song is a cheap attempt to rewrite Chris Brown's narrative - which fails by its third verse - the hook is foul, and the tempo adds no sense of groove or momentum. And the fact that this was a hit and gave us a decade's worth of Chris Brown and Tyga songs to follow...yeah, without question, the absolute worst hit songs of 2010. Let's hope we can keep this noxious legacy to just this decade - deuces.

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