Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Top Ten: Worst Hit Songs of 2014

I’ve had a lot on my mind this past year, namely in the area of anime and its perceived lack of penetration into American pop culture. Specifically the Academy Awards. But enough about that. With my mind being clouded up so much, I’ve actually been looking forward to doing my traditional top-ten and bottom-ten lists of the year’s hit music. The bottom-ten because these songs are easy and fun to make fun of, and the top-ten because I get to promote the kinds of songs I like. You know the rules by now: only songs that placed in Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 chart are eligible for either of my lists, songs that already made the chart in years before are disqualified, and multiple songs by the same artist may occupy the same spot. So, ladies and gentlemen, let the mental rehabilitation begin!

10) "Animals"
by Martin Garrix
from Gold Skies [EP]
Year-end position: #71

As longtime readers of this blog, specifically my previous year-end music lists, may recall, I have a thing for electronic dance music (EDM).  But now that it's gone mainstream, there seem to be an awful lot of people contributing (to use that word sarcastically) to the genre who just don't get it.  For example, Martin Garrix, a newcomer Dutch DJ who had a minor hit this year with "Animals".  To give my honest opinion, it starts out alright enough; it's dark and tense enough for an instrumental techno song.  That is, for the first minute and a half, for after then, the repetition starts to set in.  See, this song's got three movements -- a soft part, a buildup, and a hard part -- which do not change throughout the song.  And considering that the full version runs over five minutes long, that's a heck of a lot of repetition.  Even "Turn Down For What", despite making a maddeningly worse first impression, gets this right.  It has the decency to switch up its beats for each "verse", and even within the "verses" themselves.  "Animals", not so much.

9) "23"
by Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa, & Juicy J
non-album single
Year-end position: #90

Technically, producer Mike Will Made-It took top billing for "23", but screw that, I say.  You may remember him from some of last year's duds like Miley's "We Can't Stop" and Lil' Wayne's "Love Me" (no), and while he wasn't the deciding factor that made me hate those songs, his slow, dingy beats did not improve their standing.  "23" is no exception.  This song is named after Michael Jordan, presumably because of a line from the chorus which goes "J's on my feet", which I assume refers to Air Jordan shoes.  Oh great, product placement right off the bat.  And it only gets worse from there.  I'd like to say I'm through with being shocked by Miley Cyrus, but in this song, she raps.  And not well, either.  Both she and Juicy J (Wiz Khalifa gets a pass, at least) suffer from a stuttering delivery which got annoying real fast.

8) "This is How We Roll"
by Florida Georgia Line & Luke Bryan
from Here's to the Good Times
Year-end position: #49

Huh, I've never put any country songs on one of my bottom-ten lists before.  I guess it's just ignorance on my part.  I don't really listen to the genre, but at the very least I've treated it with a live-and-let-live attitude.  But these days... hoo boy.  These days, country music has been cross-breeding with mainstream rap.  Pretty much like most glam-rap these days, albeit filtered through the lens of a different sub-culture.  Although I have a poor track record of predicting popular trends, I'd like to think we've reached critical mass in this regard.  How do I know?  It's not just the frequent references to alcohol, girls, and Hank Williams and Drake sharing space on one's playlist, because that's become the new normal.  No, the red flag for me was that on "This Is How We Roll", one of the guys raps.  Yeah, the two men who call themselves Florida Georgia Line are already un-dignified enough, but as if the drawling lustfulness of their last hit "Cruise" did not make that evidently clear, they had to pull a stunt like that on us.  If you like hearing white-trach country boys using outdated hip-hop slang, holla at ya boy!  (No seriously, he says that last part at one point.)  It almost makes me thankful for Luke Bryan's guest verse later on.  I have no idea who this guy is, but I appreciate any change in the texture of this song.  Also, there's a remix version which replaces Luke Bryan with Jason Derulo, of all people.  That version didn't make the Billboard year-end list and thus doesn't qualify for my own, but don't worry, I'll get to him later.

7) "Drunk In Love"
by Beyonce & Jay-Z
from Beyonce
Year-end position: #35

What a fitting title we have on our hands -- "Drunk In Love" is the perfect musical interpretation of an inebriated state.  The momentum is all over the place.  There are so many repeated lines and awkward pauses that every moment, every line in this song, feels like the singer’s stalling for time.  I'm getting mental whiplash here, is what I'm trying to say.  There is a consensus, if not evidence, that indicates that much of the song was ad-libbed by both Beyonce and Jay-Z, which would explain my previous arguments and other bizarre moments such as when Beyonce abruptly stops her verse at the word "surfboard", and repeats it a bit, thus bringing awkward attention to the word, a word not typically encountered in pop music lyrics.  And yet the sad part is, it's pretty much the only interesting thing about this song.

6) "Black Widow"
by Iggy Azalea & Rita Ora
from The New Classic
Year-end position: #26

I actually respect Iggy Azalea as a rapper and a performer, but her songs just don't do it for me.  Maybe it's not her fault that she keeps getting saddled with lazy beats and generic lyrics, but if a song sucks, it sucks.  And "Black Widow" may be the worst case of this for some time to come.  The chorus builds up a tense atmosphere, to its credit, thanks to its subject matter of Iggy and/or Rita Ora taking revenge for a hypothetical relationship gone wrong.  But then... the momentum built up by the chorus is discarded immediately upon the start of each new verse, in lieu of a barely-there music-box tinkle.  I suppose it could work as being creepy, but it bores me more than anything else.  And no amount of hyper-syllabicity on Iggy's part can rescue that.  What this song needs is a drum-and-bass or jungle-techno beat.  Heck, I'd settle for DJ Snake!

5) "Show Me"
by Kid Ink & Chris Brown
from My Own Lane
Year-end position: #43

I would be remiss in discussing 2014’s stinkier musical moments without mention of DJ Mustard, or as he goes by in his audio watermark, “Motha’ on that E!”. (NB: I have been informed that he is, in fact saying “Mustard on that beat”. But seriously, you try digging through his thick, slurry ebonics to get to those words.) Hoo boy, Heaven help ya if you ever turned on an urban-format radio station this past year, because his works were everywhere. All his works sound the same: the same tempo, the same gang-vocals half-heartedly shouting “hey!” in the background from time to time, he’s really annoyed me, I tell you what.

This entry, in spirit, represents all of DJ Mustard's production works, but because of its lyrical qualities, “Show Me” is in a different class of bad.  You know you're in for a trip when the first line in the song, sung by Chris Brown, no less, is "Let me put your panties to the side".  May I ask you, reader, does this sound like a smooth gentleman who will treat the ladies with respect?  If so, then you may need to be quarantined in the off-chance that stupidity is contagious.  And then the hook of the song is as follows:
You remind me of something
I don't know what it is
You remind me of something
Girl, you gotta show me
Making up a sleazy pick-up line is one thing, but you can't even manage to finish your own comparison?  Now that's an epic fail right there.  Not that Kid Ink, the lead artist of this song, manages to save it either.  Let me sum it up for you: "Blah-blah-blah, I'm gonna get you drunk at a party, blah-blah-blah, let's start a three way.  Also watch out for my other girlfriend."  ...Boy, that escalated quickly.

4) "Summer"
by Calvin Harris
from Motion
Year-end position: #33

Again, although I consider myself an EDM aficionado, the more mainstream stuff like David Guetta and our current subject, Calvin Harris, just doesn’t do it for me. While his stuff has clicked every once in a while, “Summer” is no such exception to the rule. It’s got one riff for the verses, and one for the instrumental chorus, both of them hardly ever changing, making for a repetitive listening experience. Also, unlike many other songs of its kind, the DJ du jour sings the song himself instead of hiring a random guest. I appreciate Calvin Harris trying to earn his featuring credit for once, but in the end it wasn’t worth the effort. He is just too dull of a singer to save this track. The same was true of his last self-fronted single, 2012’s “Feel So Close”, which apparently was so bland that I forgot about it when the time came to write that year’s bottom-ten list, so I might as well rectify that matter in spirit.

3) "Lifestyle"
by Rich Gang feat. Young Thug and Rich Homie Quan
from Rich Gang 2
Year-end position: #71

"Lifestyle" is technically credited to the collective Rich Gang, or as I like to call it, "Young Money 2.0", but the dominant force is Young Thug, and... he sucks.  Young Thug chops and slurs his words... nay, syllables so badly that, combined with his voice drenched in Auto-tune, he is virtually incomprehensible.  For example, near the beginning of the first verse (At 0:47, if you were foolish enough to play the song from that Spotify widget above), he's got a line that goes, "Hundred bands still look like the [adjective] ???".  I blanked that last word out because the way he pronounced it, it could be anything.  So far I've got "tires", "times", "titans", "TARDIS", or "tards" as in retards.  Heh, might as well be that last one.  (Actually, my money's on "Titans", since right afterwards there's a little voice in the background going "Football player!")

But even in the hands of a rapper who didn't just stick marbles in his mouth, this song is still... stillborn.  So he "did a lot of [noun] just to live this here lifestyle", in his words.  Does he ever describe what this lot of [noun] entails?  Of course not.  He started from the bottom, and now, he's here.  Literally now, as if there were no time in between.  But what he lyrics he does choose to ooze out of his mouth cross the line into awkwardly funny.  For example:
I won't do nothing with the [noun], she can't even get me hard
I mean, what else is there to say about a guy who can't get it up for one of his many groupies?  Or a guy who brags about rocking Chanel products, despite nearly all of said products being designed for women?  Young Thug can best be described as a clown.  Laugh at him if you wish.  But it would be better for the whole world if we just ignored him.  As I should have done in the first place.  ...[verb].

2) "Talk Dirty" and "Wiggle"
by Jason Derulo & 2Chainz / Jason Derulo & Snoop Dogg
from Tattoos [EP] / Talk Dirty
Year-end position: #6 / #40

So, we meet again, Jason Derulo. Somehow you’ve managed to ruin every year of the Obama administration -- if only in terms of music -- and with 2014 you’ve presented your worst batch of singles since your unforgivable debut “Whatcha Say”. First off is “Talk Dirty”. One of the things that first hit me about “Talk Dirty” was its horn-led bridge. ...That was, until I discovered it was, in fact, a sample. This part comes from a song called “Hermetica” by the eclectic Israeli-American band Balkan Beat Box, and for “Talk Dirty” was remade by its producer Ricky Reed. So, over time, “Talk Dirty” managed to grow on me a little, and perhaps knowing about where that sample came from had something to do with it.

But as I tolerated the song’s musical qualities, I started paying more attention to its lyrics -- which only made me even more disgusted. See, at its core, this song is about how Mr. Derulo gets love from girls all over the world. And I’m like, if you want to make a song about that, then do it! I’ve got no problem with that concept in and of itself. But whomever wrote this song did it all wrong. He does name-check the odd destination once in a blue moon, but he doesn’t spend any breath on what he likes about those places, much less the foreign honey to be found within. Such lyrical space is instead wasted on his own ego, in lines like:
Our conversations ain’t long
But you know what is
And then there’s the refrain, at least, the part that precedes that unholy sax riff:
Been around the world, don’t speak the language
But your booty don’t need explaining
All I really need to understand is
When you talk dirty to me
So, we can add “knowledge of foreign languages” to the long, long list of skills which Jason Derulo does not possess. And hold on -- he can’t understand what the girl du jour is saying, but he’s apparently turned on by naughty pillow-talk? How does he know she isn’t just talking smack about his sex technique or something? Man, I can barely imagine the quantity of egg to be delivered to his face. Oh yeah, and 2Chainz is on this track as well. Might as well not be.  His part's nothing offensive, unless this new wave of glam rappers offends you by their mere presence.  Which does to me.

And then, there’s “Wiggle”.  Yet another stuffy old song about the buttocks, and egging girls on to shake theirs.  And he can't even do that with any grounding in reality or common sense.  I mean, when he says "your booty [is] like two planets", one would get the impression that he means it literally.  Furthermore, despite the beat not having been produced by DJ Mustard, it may be worse than his output, crazy as that may sound, because the standard barely-there drum track is accented by naught but some lame whistling.  Snoop Dogg’s guest verse is, at least, my favourite part of "Wiggle", much in the way that Luke Bryan was my favourite part of "This Is How We Roll". It doesn’t rescue the song, by any means, but I’d be willing to replace the Jason Derulo in my musical diet with anything, at any chance I get.

1) "Loyal"
by Chris Brown, Lil’ Wayne, and Tyga
from X
Year-end position: #30

And yet somehow, the combined force of not one, but two songs by Jason Fricking Derulo was not enough to clinch the top spot.  For that, we have to return to some repeat offenders: Chris Brown and Lil' Wayne.  Okay, so maybe Lil' Wayne does have a couple of clever lines in his verse...
But she ain't got her ringer nor her ring on last night
Why give a [noun] an inch when she'd rather have nine?
...and his degree of misogyny isn't worse than his usual fare, unlike what I had to deal with last year.  So "Loyal"'s pole position is due to, once again, Chris Brown.  "Loyal" happens to be a song about women who unfaithful in relationships, if only in theory.  A strong concept, I must say; in fact, some of my favourite songs deal with the subject.  But "Loyal" just doesn't work for me.  First, the message of the song is, in practise, all over the place.
Come on, come on, now why you fronting?
Baby show me something
You just spent your bread on her
And it's all for nothing
Second, Chris Brown and company, I would be more inclined to trust your character if you didn't constantly refer to men and women as n****s and b****es respectively.  Third, I would also be more inclined to trust your character if if you at least acknowledge the presence of women who aren't just in it to take the money and run.  And finally, I would be more inclined to trust your character if you didn't strike your real-life girlfriend all the way to the hospital YOU STUPID DOUCHEBAG SON OF A--

...Sorry, that got weird on me.  It's been almost six years after the Rihanna assault, so you think I should've forgotten it by now.  Oh well, some people just never learn, both him and me.  I guess the best thing to do now would be to end on a so-bad-it's-good note, and that's where the Wildcard slot comes in.  For your lol-ing and trolling pleasure, I have picked out some prime cheese that didn't Billboard year-end list and therefore didn't qualify for mine.  Ladies and gentlemen... "Selfie."

Wildcard) "#SELFIE"
by The Chainsmokers
non-album single

Oh wait, I meant "hashtag-selfie", because how better to annoy me personally than with an arbitrary hashtag?  Well, by making an annoying song, that's how.  This is bad even among the lower-class EDM acts, especially since its bass drop (apparently, there's now a technical term for what I used to call a "dirty bit" moment) seems like a weak clone of the one from "Gentleman" (PSY's failed follow-up to "Gangnam Style").  But "hashtag-selfie" sets itself apart by having this young lady club-goer blabbing over the "verses".  She's narcissistic, judgmental, stupid in several places, and not someone I, personally, would wish to associate myself with.  Then again, I suppose she could be of worse character *coughchrisbrowncough*, because crimes of annoyance are victimless in the long run.  No, I guess the real reason this landed on my hate-list is because what fame it managed to garner was not truly viral in nature.  It was promoted by celebrities behind the scenes thanks to a marketing company called theAudience.  "Harlem Shake", I forgive you.  For all your weirdness, at least your rise to fame was natural.

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