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As 2017 quickly draws to a close, its time to toughen up and dissect the best and the worst of what the musical world had to offer these past 12 months. While the majority of people seemed to detest 2016 as a whole, the music we were gifted wasn't actually as bad as one would think. However some of the worst trends to saturate popular music in 2016 have only seemed to worsen, growing larger and more inescapable every year. It just seems that recently pop music has lost its "pop," leading to more and more mediocre instrumentals and lyrical themes to spread like generic wildfire. It is with this in mind where we shall begin to take a look at some of the worst songs to come out in 2017, however we shall first set some ground rules. First off, as with any musical or cultural commentary, this list is entirely subjective. I have my own theories and ideas as to what makes music "objectively" bad (as if there were such a thing), and these biases can be greater understood by reading some of the other works I've done on popular music. Second, this list won't be exploring the worst deep cut off of the album that your cousin's German neighbor put together using a 4-year old version of FL Studio in his basement, rather this list will be focusing on songs that are either by well known and successful bands or artists, or songs that were simply successful themselves. With this in mind, let us begin this list with:
7. Ed Sheeran - Shape of You
As bland as popular music can sometimes be, much of it at the very least comes packaged with a complete, lush instrumental, and lyrics that, while bland and uninteresting, don't say anything too controversial or outlandish for the masses listening. Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" however, checks off neither of those two boxes. The instrumental sounds unfinished and hollow considering the type of beats and rhythms it explores, and the lyrics well... oh the lyrics.
In the past Ed Sheeran has flaunted his near perfection of the "white guy with an acoustic guitar" style of pop music that always find a place in the mainstream, and has done so with some pretty memorable and fairly catchy hits. However as opposed to his previous works, "Shape of You" doesn't come off as a quirky lovable boy in search of love, and rather the stereotypical frat bro who hangs around the punch bowl with a bottle of Smirnoff and a bad idea. The fact that a song containing the lyric "and last night you were in my room, and now my bed sheets smell like you" reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 is embarrassing, and serves as one of those songs that older generations hear on the radio and ignorantly proclaim that "BACK IN MY DAY music was _____ unlike this!"
6. Weezer - Feels Like Summer
After two successful records in Everything Will Be Alright In The End and the self-titled "White Album", it seemed that Weezer had finally returned to form. It was at that very moment, one in which die hard Weezer fans finally stopped worrying about their favorite band putting out mediocre "pander" music, where Weezer decided to drop a steaming helping of Raditude-flavored garbage water that was the single "Feels Like Summer." At first it felt like a prank, as it seemed so improbable that a band that had spent the previous 6 years apologizing for bad habits past, would suddenly drop a song that ditches every trait that made them legends from the moment they stepped onto the alternative rock scene in 1994. Well, I did say improbable, not impossible.
5. Fall Out Boy - Young And Menace
When Fall Out Boy released "Young And Menace" in late April, it appeared to have blown up the internet. While I have found some instances of fans defending the band's new sound, the heavy majority of responses online seemed to be that of shock, disgust and betrayal. The once emo-tinged pop-punk sound Fall Out Boy had come to master had seemingly been traded in for an electronic, pop-centric one, and the fans certainly responded. While I certainly have no issues with a band wanting to evolve and alter their sound, Fall Out Boy however attempted to do so on this track with such reckless abandon that it nearly turned off their entire fan base, and it's not hard to hear why. By the time the song reaches its chorus the listener is immediately hit in the back of the head with an almost 40 second EDM jerk off that sounds about as disjointed as the video accompaniment, which features middle school children being chased in the woods by llama monsters... or something.
4. Taylor Swift - Look What You Made Me Do
This rendition by Jarrod Alonge is so much better. Honestly. Just listen to that instead.
3. Imagine Dragons - Thunder
"Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning and the thunder. Thunder, feel the thunder. Lightning and the thunder. Thunder. Thunder. Thunder."
First off: They follow "feel the thunder" with "lightning and the thunder," thereby implying that you should in fact feel the lightning as well as the thunder. This is a bad idea.
Second: This was the chorus of a song that reached number 4 on the Billboard Hot 100. Much wow.
Even Cardi B's "Bodak Yellow" or Camila Cabello's "Havana" offer some sort of musical swagger, or at the very least lyrics that offer a minuscule amount of depth or complexity to them. Imagine Dragons have certainly found their formula, and in their defense if it ain't broke, why fix it? Honestly. Every time they churn out another heavy, pump-up chorus- laden stock NFL anthem, it sells. Regardless of quality however, they are still Nickelbacking. Bad Imagine Dragons. Stop Nickelbacking. Bad.
2. Theory of a Deadman - Rx
In 2016 I had completely forgotten that this band even existed. I miss 2016.
Nope, Theory of a Deadman is still a thing. However this time they've rebranded for some f***ing reason, and go by "THEORY" now. **Edgy** I don't even have much to say really, this song is just garbage. Now I RARELY call a song garbage because, like with any band or artist, music is subjective. Unfortunately there really isn't a better example of a garbage song out there right now than the warm Miller Light that is "Rx."
Unlike other stale pop songs on the radio, this "song" is actually insulting. It takes the immensely serious and incredibly REAL problem that is prescription medication addiction, and masks it behind lyrics that seem to be more concerned with making it edgy enough to be played on rock radio as opposed to addressing an actual issue. When bands like Puddle of Mudd, Hinder or Theory of a Deadman used to write terribly stale rock music in the early 2000's, they would always make sure to include a couple of "edgy" lyrics in order to give it 40-year old dad appeal, only its now 2017 and these "rockers" have reached the age where their kids are embarrassed to be seen with them at the mall. To the detriment of all of us however this band has also thrown in some "Bro" country spice in order to give this fake worn pair of Levi's some crossover appeal. This trash is the epitome of pander, and it is honestly insulting that they chose to utilize a serious epidemic such as pill addiction to do it. At least when Logic entirely glossed over real issues on "1-800-273-8255" he did so with a vibrant and lush instrumental, and didn't yell something like "Bro, killing yourself is f***ing lame tho" on it.
1. Sam Hunt - Body Like A Back Road
Here we are. The worst song to be released in 2017. As bad as this song is however, I can't even necessarily say that it's that much worse than anything else in Mr. Hunt's catalog. Pop country, "Bro" country, "Hick Hop," whatever you care to call it, is unquestionably the worst popular genre of music to plague the radio over the last couple of years, and I honestly feel that Sam Hunt is the perfect poster child for such smut. As country legend Steve Earle stated back in June:
"The best stuff coming out of Nashville is all by women except for Chris Stapleton. The guys just wanna sing about getting f***ed up. They're just doing hip hop for people who are afraid of black people."
The lyrics contain sexual metaphors that explore subject matter that ironically sounds as if it was too mature for the 3rd grade student writing them, the music vapidly regurgitates the old I-V-vi-IV chord progression that seemingly finds itself in over 90% of popular music, and it is all packaged and delivered by a man who has as much energy, color and vigor in his performance as a turtle with erectile disfunction. Not to mention the instrumental contains these immensely overshadowed "hey" samples that give it just enough hip-hop flavor to be a radio single, but not so much as to turn off the intoxicated 25-year old Nasvhillian beer-pong enthusiasts listening. Even the car-themed metaphors Mr. Hunt crafts call into question his ability to put together a coherent comparison.
"Doin' 15 in a 30," first off this will get you pulled over, and getting ticketed for going too slow isn't typically what gets the girls at your doorstep. Second, I get that you wanna "take it slow," but the implication that you are going below the speed limit only indicates to the listener that you are a boring lover, incapable of fulfilling the needs of your partner in such scenario.
"The way she fit in them blue jeans, she don't need no belt." I get that using the word "belt" is supposed to carry a double meaning, but stating that she "don't need no belt" would only indicate that you have no concern for your partner's safety. Then again maybe she "don't" need one because you're going 15 miles under the speed limit?
I understand that music like this isn't even supposed to serve any sort of artistic purpose, and simply exist as a "turn up" song... or something, but regardless of purpose there is no excuse for lazy writing. Unfortunately when it comes to lazy writing Mr. Hunt is the crowned head of pop country. But hey, what he doesn't have in talent or artistic integrity, he makes for in appearance... or so I've been told.
Honorable mentions: All My Friends (Owl City), Light It Up (Luke Bryan), Drinkin' Too Much (Sam Hunt), Happy Ending (Hopsin), Swish Swish (Katy Perry), 1-800-273-8255 (Logic)