I have listed out the 500 best songs of the 2010s, but the full story of the 2010s in music is not sunshine and rainbows. It’s full of shit pop music, viral sensations that rivaled the Swine Flu, and legends absolutely decimating their careers. There’s so much to choose from — how do you define “worst”? Many terrible songs come and go as they are rightfully left to wither away in the dark corners of “Remember _______?” trends, but ultimately, I went with songs that won’t be left behind. They’ll pop up in advertisements, mall playlists, Spotify algorithms, and political campaigns until the day you & I die. That’s the true insidiousness of terrible music; it makes you hate people for actually liking it. Here’s the music that made me hate the world and the people living in it.
I made no playlist. Avoid these songs as best as you can.
They are ranked. Some special artists have multiple songs here.
100. Frank Ocean – “Be Yourself” (2016)
How do you follow possibly the greatest 3-song opening to an album ever? Frank Ocean decided to go with a minute-and-a-half skit of somebody’s mom telling her son to not smoke, do drugs, or drink while in college. It’s supposed to be some ironic joke that builds the thematic world of Blonde, but really it’s just a nuisance everyone skips when they’re trying to listen to one of the best albums of the decade. Blonde ended up not making my top 10 albums of the decade, and including skits like these was the only reason why.
99. Elle King – “Ex’s & Oh’s” (2014)
You’ll hear older generations complain about the lack of guitar in pop music today, but when I hear the blues guitar so lazily used in Elle King’s biggest hit, it makes me wonder if they really want what they wish for. A five-year-old could’ve come up with the melodies in this song, and it wouldn’t shock me. Just some ohs and woahs and heys and 1-2-3’s and somehow you can dominate the pop charts. Add a pathetic honky tonk stomp to the parade and some music critics will think it’s a fiery anthem.
98. Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello – “Señorita” (2019)
The couple song — every pop star match made in hell has to throw something together so they can make a bunch of money off each other before the relationship inevitably dissolves. Neither of these people has proven they are anything but competent performers — but, hey! They’re both smoking hot. You’ll see a trend here where songs don’t have much going for them except some lazy rhyming and la-la-la’s — people eat it up every time.
97. Maroon 5 (ft. Cardi B) – “Girls Like You” (2018)
How do you even keep up with Maroon 5’s output this decade? They made a couple quality pop rock songs on their 2002 debut and have just coasted on that good will for seemingly 100 Billboard hits since then (it’s actually 18 — none of them bearable). Lazy rhythms in the chorus do this one in; it just goes “do do do do-do” ad nauseam. Cardi B also just phones in something here for some cash because that’s just what type of artist she decided to be after Invasion of Privacy. It was a no. 1 hit — God bless us all.
96. Anna Kendrick – “Cups” (2012)
This is a cover of the Carter Family’s 1931 hit “When I’m Gone,” and it should have stayed there. The song is simple to the point where it only works under the knowledge that it coincided with the invention of country and pop music, so you can forgive the Carter Family for not putting a little more effort into making it interesting. Otherwise, it’s just a short dumb song that has no business receiving massive airplay, jumpstarting a viral cup challenge, and helping create a trilogy of Pitch Perfect movies.
95. The Black Keys – “Howlin’ for You” (2010)
For a few years, The Black Keys were the biggest band in the world selling out arenas around America and headlining festivals. Their biggest crowd-pleaser was “Howlin’ for You” — just a dumb ol’ blues rock song. It rips off Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” for some easy sports fanfare, while Auerbach proclaims he’s “howlin'” over someone. Is anybody convinced this took longer than 10 minutes to put together? 218 million streams on Spotify for this one.
94. The Avalanches (ft. Biz Markie) – “The Noisy Eater” (2016)
This one was tough. The Avalanches’ Since I Left You is one of my favorite albums of all time and the build-up to their second album was agonizing. The singles off Wildflower were fine but certainly not the work of Since I Left You‘s vibrant plunderphonics. Things turned worse on the full album with “The Noisy Eater” where Biz Markie talks about eating cereal while The Beatles’ “Come Together” is sampled for no reason other than it’s the Beatles. It’s goofy and should have never seen the light of day.
93. Billie Eilish – “when the party’s over” (2019)
How easy is it to confuse drowsy, boring pop music for a serious artistic statement? With the unanimous praise of Billie Eilish’s drably mediocre 2019 album WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP, WHERE DO WE GO?, it feels pretty easy. Beyond the great “bad guy,” any song off the album could be picked at random for this spot. I went with one of the biggest singles, which is just 3 minutes of mumbles and some lame alliteration in the chorus. The future of pop, everyone.
92. T.I. (ft. Iggy Azalea) – “No Mediocre” (2014)
T.I.’s biggest hits of the 00s were classics: “What You Know,” “Rubber Band Man,” “Bring Em Out,” Whatever You Like.” This decade? A song featuring Iggy Azalea. This song was just forced into a hit with the constant repetition of “I don’t want no mediocre” with his classic Southern drawl that’s been used for much better reasons. T.I. was a non-factor the entire decade.
91. Fitz and the Tantrums – “HandClap” (2016)
“I can make your hands clap,” says Fitz. Fuck that, you gotta earn it. I believe this song was crafted in a lab because car companies needed something to inoffensively pep up their new cars. That fake hand clapping sound with the high bass mixing is absolute torture.
90. Adele – “Hello” (2015)
Adele broke a first-year creative writing rule: Don’t start a story with someone saying “Hello?” What the fuck is that shit? Didn’t Lionel Richie teach us all this was laughable melodrama? But Adele was the ruler of laughable melodrama in the 2010s, going 2 for 2 on Album of the Year Grammys. Luckily, there was only two of those albums, where their main goal was to just make you feel sad. Congrats, I’m depressed.
89. WALK THE MOON – “Shut Up and Dance” (2014)
What were WALK THE MOON supposed to be? The bridge between The Killers and Panic! At the Disco everyone was dying to see happen? They had the charisma and fashion of Youth Group worship leaders, and their music just reveled in that peak of millennial hipster chic. Bleh, bad memories.
88. Lady Gaga – “Born This Way” (2011)
That intro — “It doesn’t matter if you love him, or capital H-I-M.” Good God, kill me. Another great line here: “Don’t be a drag, just be a queen.” HOW CLEVER. Poptimists this decade often boasted of pop music’s inclusivity compared to other genres, but how much of it was peddling a kitsch version of inclusivity that just provided stupid quotables for its target audience? Lady Gaga at the start of her career did pretty well for herself in this field.
87. Marshmello & Anne-Marie – “FRIENDS” (2018)
There’s a theory that Boomers need to die off, and the world will set itself right through an embrace of progressive policies. That’s putting a lot of faith on a generation that has allowed a man in a marshmallow head to be one of the most listened-to artists in the world. The music in no way justifies the stupid gimmick. This song just features lame production and an [INSERT ENGLISH FEMALE VOICE] nominee Anne-Marie; it’s on its way to a billion streams.
86. Coldplay – “A Sky Full of Stars” (2014)
I liked every Coldplay hit up until this one (yes, even “Paradise”). What went wrong? Obviously, you can start with that piano. For a band behind some of the best piano-driven pop songs of the century (“Clocks,” “The Scientist,” “Speed of Sound”), Coldplay just sound limp and synthetic here. Martin’s poor lyricism and mediocre vocals have often been masked by the surrounding instrumentation and melodic strength, but when there’s neither working here, oh boy.
85. Baauer – “Harlem Shake” (2012)
I was the kid that knew of this song’s existence before it became the most effort-involving of viral trends this decade. I don’t say that to brag but to display how I could get bummed out that a song I enjoyed somewhat was now forever just that beat drop video song. It was funny maybe the first couple of times you saw it? Maybe if you knew the people, but yeah, once advertisers are making “Harlem Shake” videos to sell you Hot Pockets, it’s time to cut the cord.
84. Vance Joy – “Riptide” (2013)
Some songs aren’t that terrible, but you look up one day and somehow they’re one of the most-streamed songs ever. “Riptide” is that song. It’s fine. It’s not like I need to turn it off for my own sanity like most of the songs here. It’s just an innocuous tune that I’ve heard in some variation by way more interesting artists across many generations. Nothing he does here is exceptional.
83. Fifth Harmony (ft. Ty Dolla $ign) – “Work from Home” (2016)
I tried with poptimism; I really did. Now, this was after Carly Rae Jepsen’s EMOTION and I was feeling alright with the state of pop music and the music criticism surrounding it. Then, 2016 ends and this song keeps popping up on year-end best songs lists. This?? It was around this time that every pop song had to engage in that fake tropical house beat to get played, and this was one of the worst examples of that. A major feature of this list is template songwriting, and the way each verse and line here is scripted for that lame payoff of the chorus makes me want to scratch my ears out.
82. Rihanna, Kanye West, & Paul McCartney – “FourFiveSeconds” (2015)
Man, this was supposed to be exciting. Three legends collaborating probably for the only time. And then you press play, and what we get is an acoustic slow jam that just sounds like some duet karaoke of a mediocre ’70s folk hit. They didn’t even try; it sounds thrown together in one studio session and then Kanye came in later to add his verses. That Rihanna would spend the next year and a half having her creative instincts flood the music world proved this song was just utterly useless. It has pulled massive streaming numbers, though I have no idea what people are hearing here.
81. Beyoncé – “Run the World (Girls)” (2011)
This was the last time you could get away with dismissing Beyoncé’s artistic ability because her biggest hit off 4 is trash. There’s just nothing here to enjoy unless you want to chant the question-and-answer chorus, a #feminist anthem that’s all about empowerment in its simplest form. What does “run the world” mean exactly? Is that inherently good? This goes unexplored as Beyoncé sings about buying something for yourself or whatever.
80. Sia – “Chandelier” (2014)
For all of her supposed eccentricities, Sia sounds like a standard pop star. “Chandelier” received a lot of critical praise, mainly for Sia’s vocal performance on the chorus. I have no complaints on that front. The song falters in just about every other aspect: do-nothing lyrics, an annoying “1-2-3” pre-chorus, that lazily blown-out production on the chorus that is ultimately a disservice to the emotion in Sia’s vocals. The result is just sludge that ages terribly.
79. Far East Movement (ft. The Cataracts & Dev) – “Like a G6” (2010)
After an ’09 summer of Black Eyed Peas domination, imitators would follow, and Far East Movement was the most successful of these. This song is only a hit due to Dev’s brutally-catchy hook; that thing is just lifelessly repeated after every verse, each one lamer than the next. Like every pop/rap monstrosity of this era, you’re asked to “put your hands up.” Nah.
78. Kesha – “Praying” (2017)
Oh thank God that dollar sign’s gone — we can take her seriously now. That intention is obvious all over this “comeback” single — this is very serious pop music about very serious issues for a very serious audience. The thing is, “Praying” hinges completely on backstory because the lyrics are as vague as they are bland. It’s also hard to buy into this song being an emotional tour de force when its construction is defined by its banality (lone piano opening, choral backup singing, etc.) The music world welcomed Kesha back with open arms because they needed it to be so.
77. Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” (2017)
Fuck that bass sound. Fuck that trumpet line. Fuck that oo-ooh. Fuck 1966. Fuck 1986. This was just an odd breakout hit that makes you wonder why some more — better — alternative music finds its way into the mainstream. Keyword: better.
76. Ryan Adams – “Out of the Woods” (2015)
Here’s the best argument for poptimism on this list. Ryan Adams decided to take the already-great 1989 and turn it into the sluggish sounds of a sad sack creep. “Out of the Woods” is one of Taylor Swift’s best songs — intense and exciting from start to finish. Ryan Adams’ take on it is twice as long with every line drawn out until Taylor’s quick-wit delivery is wiped clean. Serious artists usually don’t record covers of recent or beloved songs, so I don’t know why Adams went with music that was both.
75. Of Monsters and Men – “Little Talks” (2011)
Indie folk got in a few years of credibility before it was forever tainted by mainstream acts for a well-to-do hipster audience. This was Of Monsters and Men’s first single and is their defining moment. Horns and heys blare out to represent freedom and revelry for people that need neither. Then, those duet vocals start — I blame The xx for this — and grind the song down until it’s just boring mush.
74. 100 gecs – “money machine” (2019)
100 gecs were the premier act of 2019 for music critics that wanted something off-kilter and was dismissed at first. Is it music that’s supposed to sound terrible? Is that the cool part of it? I don’t which part of their style is more obnoxious — the lyrics, the vocals, or the production. I think they’re just filling some void of something new to get excited about.
73. Blueface – “Thotiana” (2018)
How far can a song in 2019 go just off a decent drum sound and a trendy use of a word? Pretty far if you look at Blueface’s undeserved success over the last year. He’s famous for his off-beat style of rapping, so he must be a great lyricist or have some neat vocal inflections to make up for it, right? Well, let’s just say he doesn’t possess anything that resembles talent.
72. Sara Bareilles – “Brave” (2013)
I thought this Colbie Caillat shit was done by the time we got to the 2010s. Who the fuck wants to hear a successful singer-songwriter ask that you be brave and say that thing you’ve been meaning to say? I’m sure I won’t lose my job, get into family arguments, and have every woman I know get super awkward around me. That sounds great, and it’s all I really want out of music — advice on how to live my life.
71. The Lumineers – “Ho Hey” (2012)
I’ve heard this song a lot (Hey!)
And I’m trying to get it out of my head (Ho!)
It’s so simple a child could sing it (Hey!)
But that definitely doesn’t mean you should (Ho!)
So please don’t play this song
in a public space where I can hear i-it
70. Ariana Grande – “7 Rings” (2019)
Ariana Grande is very white. When you’re very white and start singing “My wrist, stop watchin’, my neck is flossin’,” you should expect some accusations of blackfishing. There was some of that, but mostly, white people drove this song up to the top of the charts for 8 weeks. The interpolation of “My Favorite Things” to just flaunt that you can buy a bunch of useless shit is pretty rancid, too.
69. Pharrell Williams – “Happy” (2013)
A constant in pop music through the ages is soundtracks dominating the charts. Every major artist at one point or another is forced to provide a song to promote the next pile of trash for a family night out. It’s no coincidence that the three biggest soundtrack songs of the decade made this list (you’ll see the next two later on). There’s just an artlessness to the ho-hum nature of songs like “Happy,” where you just know a bunch of people in suits ran it through a filter of focus groups to make sure everybody everywhere is neither offended nor made to feel anything negative.
68. Gym Class Heroes (ft. Adam Levine) – “Stereo Hearts” (2011)
There were PG pop/rap collabs before “Empire State of Mind,” but after it, the early ’10s seemed bombarded with these rehashed versions. As with all those monstrosities, the success is 100% based on the chorus, and here, Adam Levine does not provide a gem like he did on Kanye’s “Heard ‘Em Say.” Travie McCoy also raps here, but it is about as close to white noise as rap an be.
67. Katy Perry – “Firework” (2010)
Some “serious” music critics wonder why Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream isn’t revered in the same way a Red or Sweetener is, and I just have to question if they’re listening to that album’s biggest hit with any type of critical lens. The lyrics in “Firework” are atrocious poetry (“Boom Boom Boom / Even brighter than the moon moon moon”). The song’s production also highlights Katy Perry’s piss-poor vocals for some reason. At least we got it to soundtrack Kim Jong-un’s face exploding in that notorious-yet-terrible Seth Rogen movie.
66. Miley Cyrus – “Wrecking Ball” (2013)
This is the only entry here that was featured on Pitchfork‘s best songs of the 2010s list, and boy, I just have no explanation why they’d include something this lame. ‘You see, the chorus…is like a wrecking ball. WOW.’ The way it’s produced to where you don’t have to adjust the volume when the chorus hits results in a pretty limp attempt at catharsis. It used to take a lot more for pop stars to receive heaps of praise.
65. Justin Timberlake – “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” (2016)
Hey — it’s the song of the summer. SONG OF THE SUMMER, folks! This is serious shit, ok? Music publications still do this thing where they present all the potential biggest songs of the summer and debate if any of them will reign supreme; it’s dumb and just serves as free marketing for pop stars. “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” from the fucking Trolls soundtrack was released in May ’16 and was destined to get JT back on top. It did its thing — satisfied enough artless folks get him a billion streams.
64. OMI – “Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)”
What a cruddy sentiment — to want a woman to be your cheerleader. That’s a role where she is stuck on the sideline making sure your actions are properly praised. I don’t want a cheerleader; I want a linebacker that’ll suplex my ass if I get in her way. Anyway, the song is practically nothing at a brisk 3 minutes of tropical beat stuff. File it under ‘How is this that popular??’
63. The Chainsmokers (ft. Daya) – “Don’t Let Me Down” (2016)
This song won a Grammy for Best Dance Recording — I could mention the Grammys most of these songs were nominated for, but that would take up way too much of your time. We all know the Grammys stink. Still, The Chainsmokers? I remember some critics praising this song as deserving of its massive success, but it’s just lazily constructed all around: 1.) Bad The xx guitar, 2.) Worthless featured vocals that a million others could do, 3.) Beat drop without any unique qualities, 4.) REPEAT.
62. Taio Cruz – “Dynamite” (2010)
This song is just dumb. You can’t get more straightforward than “Cuz I told you once / Now I told you twice / We gon’ light it up / Like it’s dynamite.” I can’t even hate on this song that much. It’s about as polished as worthless music can be. He even gets the call to “put your hands up” in there among 3 or 4 annoying hooks. Golly, what a banger. Fuck.
61. 6ix9ine (ft. Nicki Minaj & Murda Beatz) – “FEFE” (2018)
Before he had any success as a rapper, 6ix9ine pled guilty to the use of a child in a sexual performance. It not only did nothing to derail his career; it probably helped him with headlines and attention stemming from it (hip hop culture needs to do some serious soul-searching in this regard). Still, 6ix9ine made the big time, but his performance is as infantile as his attire. Nicki Minaj made a lot of money working with this dummy. Do you think hip-hop’s in a better place than it was 10 years ago?
60. Florida Georgia Line – “Cruise” (2012)
Country music continues to be a cesspool of pandering banality. Not much country music made this list because really, how can you tell any of the mainstream shit apart? Nashville continues to be at the forefront of creating music that has nothing to do with art or originality, and Florida Georgia Line was probably their most heinous creation this decade. Before “Body Like a Back Road,” “Cruise” was the longest no. 1 Hot Country single the chart had ever recorded. The song became a symbol of “bro-country” — a term coined by Jody Rosen — where tatted-up white dudes sing dumb lyrics about partying and picking up chicks in a pick-up. It really spoke to the masses.
59. alt-J – “Breezeblocks” (2012)
Joe Newman’s vocals are the worst in indie music this decade. They put enough of a stain on the entire sound of rock music today that I can’t even dismiss it when older generations complain about how music has really fallen off since they were teens. If this heap of shit — which doesn’t have any type of hook I can discern of — can get 362 million streams on Spotify, then I guess old rockists are onto something.
58. Travie McCoy (ft. Bruno Mars) – “Billionaire” (2010)
At the start of the decade, two features reigned supreme and alluded to some atrocious pop/rap Frankenstein coming our way — Ke$ha (we’ll see this later on) and Bruno Mars. Mars is the feature that terrible rappers would get to just sing an ultra-polished hook that was radio bait. “Nothin’ on You” was maybe a little decent, but “Billionaire” was rancid and hasn’t aged well as, you know, billionaires shouldn’t exist. It takes McCoy a few verses to get to spreading some wealth around, but first, he’s gotta blow it on some useless stuff for himself. Boy, this is lame.
57. Taylor Swift (ft. Kendrick Lamar) – “Bad Blood” (2015)
Some of the most depressing music moments of the decade involved Kendrick Lamar — the greatest album-artist rap has maybe ever seen — reduced to a pawn for pop song remixes and features. By 1989, Taylor Swift had reduced much of her world-building lyricism to a few quotables, and “Bad Blood” was the worst example of her new direction. With a remix that featured heavy contribution from Kendrick Lamar offering up the worst verses of his career, the song somehow forced its way into a no. 1 hit.
56. B.o.B. (ft. Hayley Williams) – “Airplanes” (2010)
B.o.B. is now a flat-earth truther, even releasing songs to spread his dumbass ideology, but in 2010, he was the biggest new name in rap. Now that Kanye was starting to go off the rails, we needed someone to take his place! That did not pan out as B.o.B. couldn’t rap….or pick good beats….or get the best features. Hayley Williams just happened to be the voice stuck to do that lame chorus.
55. Jonas Brothers – “Sucker” (2019)
Is there a more grim sign for music criticism in the next decade that the Jonas Brothers — which we should remember, are a Disney act — could come back (mostly unchanged), receive positive reviews, and have a song receive more acclaim than a countless number of legitimately great songs. “Sucker” got to no. 1 on the Billboard charts before Lil Nas X’s reign, almost purely on nostalgia from 20-25-year-olds. Some of those people are given large platforms on music sites to spout out their lame Disney nostalgia, so that’s great. Progress!
54. Wiz Khalifa (feat. Charlie Puth) – “See You Again” (2015)
If I die horrifically at a young age and one of you motherfuckers plays this song, I will haunt your ass down and have you join me. “See You Again” — yeah, real fucking soon hopefully. The Fast & Furious movies are still churning; they have been my whole life, so why should I expect them to ever leave? This limp-dick tribute song catapulted the franchise to insanely popular heights. Good for Wiz Khalifa, I guess. He seems nice.
53. Train – “Hey, Soul Sister” (2010)
Soul sister — it’s the kind of phrase that only an asshole that makes a pop song out of a ukulele would use. Train pop up every now-and-then to throw their monkey feces at us onlookers (though, I enjoy “Drops of Jupiter” in rare doses). The vocals and lyrics work hand-in-hand in accelerating my wrinkles due to every cringe face I make. Pleasantry without artistry can never be pleasant if you care enough about that sort of thing.
52. The Black Eyed Peas – “The Time (Dirty Bit)” (2010)
This song’s kinda awesome. After their 2009, where they had a no. 1 song for 26 consecutive weeks, the Black Eyed Peas did not give a shit what they put out into the world. Case in point: will.i.am singing the Dirty Dancing song in the worst use of auto-tune imaginable. It’s hilarious every time the chorus comes back around, because it absolutely does not mesh with the video game beat drop. They were feeling themselves though, as the song somehow crosses the 5-minute mark.
51. Blanco Brown – “The Git Up” (2019)
Now, what the fuck does the Yeehaw agenda mean? I hear it used as if it’s some sophisticated artistic statement, but the only results I see are of line dance memes and TikToks of people in cowboy hats. I’m saying it’s dumb, like most pop culture trends, and Blanco Brown’s “The Git Up” is, well, dumb. Any song that exists to merely market a dance is on the lowest rung of artistic integrity as it goes after viral party success rather than anything resembling long-lasting emotional effects. Eventually, people should stop being impressed by songs with country accents because anybody can do it. Eventually.
50. Sam Smith – “Stay With Me” (2014)
Pop music doesn’t deserve great voices. Look what they’ve done with them for the last thirty years — stick ’em on terrible ballads which make them more boring and popular than ever. Whitney Houston was an electric force in the ’80s and was turned into milquetoast with “I Will Always Love You” in the ’90s. Sam Smith was great on Disclosure’s “Latch,” where the instrumentation truly backed up his vocals, but once he went solo, everything great about him went down the drain. He was just another cog in the machine, a clone for the music industry’s need for balladry.
49. Nicki Minaj – “Anaconda” (2014)
Does the good outweigh the bad when it comes to this song? The good: the music video featuring a lot of ass and Nicki Minaj eating a banana. The bad: Nicki Minaj still making songs about her ass and heavily sampling one of the tackiest songs ever (Sir Mix-a-Lot’s “Baby Got Back”). It might depend on how I’m feeling, but I can’t imagine why anyone wants to listen to this song without the, uh, visual accompaniment.
48. A Great Big World (ft. Christina Aguilera) – “Say Something” (2013)
Melodrama without specificity is the worst because everyone latches onto it for their petty issues amidst the grand complexities of the word we live in. A Great Big World have accomplished nothing else since this, and it’s shocking “Say Something” even became what it was. Ian Axel sings in this Owl City karaoke voice that people must really love, and Christina Aguilera saw an opportunity to make some money before her career completely goes down the drain. Just a one-off freak occurrence that we’ll be forced to reckon with for eternity.
47. T-Wayne – “Nasty Freestyle” (2015)
“First, let me hop out the muhfuckin’ Porsche” — that’s the opening line for T-Wayne’s debut single, and for some reason, it connected with people. It was used on countless memes and vines by the lamest people on the internet for some dance that I don’t even remember. T-Wayne has nothing else resembling a hit, and that’s how it should be.
46. Kanye West/Lil Pump – “I Love It” (2018)
This is Kanye West’s biggest hit since “Ni**as in Paris,” which is a grim indictment on Kanye’s recent output and pop radio’s neglect of his best work this decade. This nothing of a song wouldn’t have seen the light of day if Kanye was in the right creative headspace. I guess part of him just wanted a hit, so he was willing to collaborate with the terrible Lil Pump. I’d rather Kanye not make music at all than do this.
45. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Mary Lambert) – “Same Love” (2012)
It takes a while for people who live differently from the status quo to be allowed to live that way. When the dam finally breaks, mainstream art reacts and usually in the most banal of manners. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis released the gay anthem “Same Love” just as the Supreme Court legalized gay marriage, and the song covers Macklemore growing up and still living in a homophobic culture. It’s a nice, clear message that certainly some needed to hear. At the end of the day, the song is terrible, and Macklemore just can’t rap very well. Protest music that lacks the whole “music” aspect of it ends up being lightweight and a misuse of this particular creative avenue.
44. CeeLo Green – “Fuck You!” (2010)
“Fuck You!” was a huge hit for CeeLo Green at the start of the decade (edited as “Forget You!”) Everybody seemed to love the song — a retro soul hit that had enough modern spunk to reach the masses. Over time though, the feeble lyricism became unavoidable, and the critical praise for it as one of the best songs of the decade just doesn’t hold up at all to scrutiny. Lizzo has followed this song’s template for massive success this year, and yeah, that shit’s not any good either.
43. Lil Nas X – “Panini” (2019)
“Hey Panini, don’t you be a meanie” — ah, the dreaded follow-up to “Old Town Road” that was destined to be terrible and still hugely popular. This song sounds like a Nickelodeon version of a rap hit, where the main audience is people with short attention spans and can’t handle any problematic cursing in their lyrics. Sadly, that doesn’t just refer to children, but also adults that have made sure this song is a major hit. May the 2020s be Lil Nas X free.
42. Bebe Rexha (ft. Florida Georgia Line) – “Meant to Be” (2017)
Despite all odds of common sense, Bebe Rexha is a huge star. Who she is and what career she sets out to have is still entirely unclear. She released her first album last year — five years in the making — to a resounding critical shrug, and all of her major hits are collabs with people as artistically inept as her. The biggest of them all is “Meant to Be” with Florida Georgia Line. The song barely cracks two-and-a-half minutes and is an absolutely insipid rap/pop/country hybrid that Florida Georgia Line basically carry on their own; the spotlight on them is never a good thing.
41. Hozier – “Take Me to Church” (2013)
I refuse to let baritone voices be the calling card of mainstream hipster music, but that’s just what has happened with artists like George Ezra and Hozier. The latter has the biggest indie crossover this decade with “Take Me to Church,” which has all the excitement and merriment of being taken to church against your will. It’s a real barnburner in the sense that a burning barn seems really bad for the community. He goes by Hozier, but he should go by Dozy. Ok, you get the point.
40. fun. (feat. Janelle Monáe) – “We Are Young” (2012)
Nate Reuss would not make a good lawyer. “Tonight, we are young, so let’s set the world on fire” — hold up, being young doesn’t entitle you to “set the world on fire.” Your “[this], so [that]” logic has its faults. That doesn’t matter; it’s just a shitty pop song aimed at young people to make them feel like they’re going for the gusto. Reuss also has terrible vocals, and Antonoff’s instrumentation instincts tend to just be pounding drums and a piano, which is boring most of the time. Janelle Monáe is also here, though I honestly usually don’t make it far enough in the song to know what she contributes (background vocals?)
39. Ke$ha – “TiK ToK” (2010)
History cannot revise itself into believing Ke$ha was anything but a reprehensible artistic figure at the start of this decade. Ke$ha was the extension of synthpop into its trashiest self built for nights at the club following the massive success of the Pussycat Dolls, Flo Rida, and The Black Eyed Peas in preceding years. “TiK ToK” was the biggest of her hits, and it’s obvious why. The song never lets up, berating its listeners with a hook in every line and some auto-tune manipulation as a sign of the times. “Everybody getting crunk, crunk / boys trying to touch my junk, junk.” Cool.
38. One Direction – “What Makes You Beautiful” (2011)
Has a guitar ever sounded worse than whatever this song opens up with? It’s Blink-182 via Kidz Bop. Everything that follows is worse. The lyrics — “You’re insecure / Don’t know what for / You’re turning heads when you walk through the door” — blegh. The vocals of these five together is useless. What’s the difference between 1 or 5 of them? And what the fuck is that drum fill before the first chorus? It’s terrible production for a song that wouldn’t be good with it. I shouldn’t have to care about this song, but it’s One Direction, an act that some music critics feel the need to defend despite being a complete music industry creation shoved down our throats.
37. Zay Hilfigerrr & Zayion McCall – “Juju on That Beat (TZ Anthem)” (2016)
Crime Mob’s “Knuck If You Buck” is one of the best rap songs of the 21st century. That song is absolutely butchered for the sake of this lame-ass dance song. For a solid couple of years, any browse through social media involved dealing with white teenagers doing the way-too-long choreography for their way-too-eager followers. The rapping is atrocious, and everything good about this can be found in “Knuck If You Buck,” if you want to listen to a song that attempts to be a cultural mainstay rather than a fad.
36. Chris Brown (ft. Lil Wayne & Busta Rhymes) – “Look at Me Now” (2011)
Chris Brown has never made anything good, and it has never kept him from having hits for 15 years. He’s proven to be a shameless chameleon willing to collaborate with anybody, and here, it’s the fast-paced rhymes of Busta Rhymes & Lil Wayne. It gets off to a bad start with that squeaky fake laugh and a “Leggo,” but it gets worse with Brown attempting to do some comedic rhymes about his dick. Busta Rhymes steps in to be his tackiest self and is somehow worse than Chris Brown. Rap that tries to be ironic usually ends up being incredibly lame and unfunny.
35. Toby Keith – “Red Solo Cup” (2011)
Fuck Toby Keith. He was the best the Trump campaign could get for his inaugural celebration, as for twenty years, he’s been on the front lines for America in case anybody ever dares to criticize this perfect country. Worse though is his music, and “Red Solo Cup” is as dumb as country music gets. You don’t get away with simplistic dittys about partying when you’re an asshole. The music video features the worst figures in sports and comedy and really drives home the stupidity of the whole affair.
34. John Legend – “All of Me” (2013)
The funny thing about sweet romantic ballads is that they’re actually trying. How do you sing “I’m on your magical mystery ride” with a straight face? I’d expect the woman I’m singing that to to give me a quizzical look. Also, “love all your curves and all your edges” — yeah, I’d expect a response of ‘mmhmm what does that mean, exactly?’ The thing about John Legend is that he doesn’t really have a good voice, and it shows here.
33. Ed Sheeran – “Thinking Out Loud” (2014)
The term singer-songwriter can never recover from Ed Sheeran’s representation of it this decade. He’s not a good guitarist, or at least that’s not apparent in anything he writes. It’s just there to provide a beat for his bland lyricism and vocals. The shit works; he’s able to fit in enough melodies and romanticism to excite all his fans, which feels like every white person under 30 by this point. He’s reliable blandness.
32. MAGIC! – “Rude” (2014)
Reggae fusion is terrible without that authenticity of being a part of the culture, as Sublime and The Police have proven before. But like those acts, MAGIC! were not prevented from having huge success. “Rude” is their only hit, and the subject matter manages to be worse than the sound. The main figure in the song is asking his girlfriend’s father for her hand in marriage and is denied. How rude! The “girl” in the song has no agency as her life decisions are handled by the two patriarchal figures in her life. Girl, get out of there.
31. Silentó – “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” (2015)
This is music at its laziest. Silentó is just a kid that spends 3 minutes shouting out trendy dance moves for you to do. I will always be stunned by the amount of young people that need a song to just be a vessel to perform and share their shit choreography. Like culture, baby! Gotta get that serotonin from the acceptance of friends and randos.
30. J. Cole – “No Role Modelz” (2014)
J. Cole just can’t rap very well. It’s fine — I probably couldn’t either. His sense of rhythm is always at odds with his lyricism; it makes for awkward syntax decisions and constantly impedes any type of flow he was going for. This assessment of J. Cole’s flaws feels obvious as someone who listens to a lot of rap, but that has never stopped his fanbase from growing and being treated like he’s some rap legend in the making. He’s never made a song worth a damn, and his most popular one — “No Role Modelz” — is no different. A weird decision here is the sample of a George Bush gaffe only to act as an intro to his verse. J. Cole continues to be an artist not defined by his intellect or potential but by his misfires and bad instincts.
29. Lukas Graham – “7 Years” (2016)
Lukas Graham has nothing interesting to say. It’s proven by the lackluster insights he has about what his parents said to him as a kid — “get some friends or you’ll be lonely” and “get yourself a wife or you’ll be lonely.” Going for universal truths is a double-edged sword. You can speak to the masses, but then the cynics will follow and complain how any idiot with the means to obtain a major label recording contract can peddle this shit through a large platform. Cynicism is good. Be critical.
28. Gotye (ft. Kimbra) – “Somebody That I Used to Know” (2012)
God, how’d this shit happen? It takes until the 1:30 mark to even get to the chorus. Before that, what reason was there for anyone to keep listening? It’s just a guy mumbling over some sugar-free indie pop production (that xylophone percussion taken by itself soundtracks the seventh ring of Hell). And the chorus isn’t even that big of a payoff. Still, it was the biggest song of 2012, and the eighth biggest song of the decade according to the Billboard charts.
27. Mumford & Sons – “I Will Wait” (2012)
The banjo-led sound of Mumford & Sons is laughably bad. They go for a wall of sound technique, but the result is an overblown hipster folk that sounds more synthetic than passionate. Marcus Mumford’s vocals — yes, the rest of the band are referred to as his children — are cringe-inducing as it sounds like a massive put-on to fit in with the hipster crowd. With Babel, Mumford & Sons got a Grammy for Album of the Year and preceded to fall off the face of the earth. Thankfully.
26. Andy Grammer – “Honey, I’m Good.” (2014)
Fuck, this is putrid. We’re in the endgame of terrible shit from this decade; bear with me. If your sound shares similarities with “Cotton-Eyed Joe,” fucking abort that shit. Is Andy Grammer country? Is he pop? Is he worth giving a shit about? Well, with this turd, he reached the top 10 of the Billboard charts, so the rest of this country has deemed him worthy. If you can make it to the part where he says “you got that ass,” you have a stronger will than me.
25. Panic! At the Disco – “High Hopes” (2018)
Have you seen the Pete Buttigieg campaign dance to this one? Oh, you’ve got to see it. Apparently, its design is to be a dance that everyone can do. The result is the lamest people in the world doing some hand motions and acting like it’s revolutionary. I focus on this because I hated this song before, but being the cause of that dance really took this song to a high, high place on my shit list.
24. Bruno Mars – “The Lazy Song” (2010)
Bruno Mars should not be allowed to make music. Not after “The Lazy Song” or the whole goddamn album this came off of. Look at the lyrics: “I’ll be loungin’ on the couch just chillin’ in my snuggie / Flip to MTV so they can teach me how to dougie.” If that doesn’t make you wince, clearly we don’t want the same things out of our music. I like being lazy, but Bruno Mars saying he likes it too makes me want to run a mile. It’s a great workout plan.
23. Lil Dicky (ft. Chris Brown) – “Freaky Friday” (2018)
The combination of Lil Dicky and Chris Brown alone is gag-worthy. Now throw in the uncredited vocals of Ed Sheeran, DJ Khaled, and Kendall Jenner; have you barfed yet? Well, now take the actual song, which involves Lil Dicky and Chris Brown trading bodies. Why? Because it’s supposed to be hilarious. Lil Dicky can say the “N word” — woop woop — and Chris Brown doesn’t have to deal with paparazzi — yay, good for him. Lil Dicky is a buffoon, but also somehow has the pull of any mainstream act he wants. His career might be the most confounding on this list.
22. Eminem – “Not Afraid” (2010)
Eminem’s comeback is doubly depressing: 1.) none of it is any good or comes close to his peak, and 2.) he’s as popular as ever. Every album release from him this decade has been a massive commercial success, and he’s managed to scrape out a few hits from each, usually with the help of some lame pop star collaboration. On this list, I’d like to highlight when he gets a hit all on his own because they’re somehow worse. “Not Afraid” is supposed to be empowering — the song that symbolizes his recovery and rise back to the top of the charts. Eminem has never come back though and probably never will. His antics have turned to anger, and his witty wordplay has turned to a heavy berating of words.
21. Iggy Azalea (ft. Charli XCX) – “Fancy” (2014)
What’s immediately apparent when you press play on “Fancy” is how Iggy Azalea’s voice is still so shockingly awful and problematic. That “who dat / do dat” section alone is atrocious. In 2019, most people have reached that conclusion, and that’s part of why Iggy Azalea doesn’t have hits anymore. Now, I’m not letting Charli XCX off the hook for this one. With most features on this list, you could swap out any number of people, and the song would remain unchanged, but Charli XCX’s persona is pretty dominant here. Her over-enunciated valley girl accent is at its most grating on this hook.
20. Robin Thicke (ft. T.I. & Pharrell Williams) – “Blurred Lines” (2013)
Multiple songs on this list have been sued for copyright infringement, and that’s certainly not a coincidence. First, there’s more incentive to sue popular artists because there’s more to gain, but also most songs here just go for a stereotypical sound. Pharrell’s production just goes with a downbeat disco vibe which happened to be similar to Marvin Gaye’s work in the late ’70s. It’s more a sign of lazy creativity than creative theft. There’s of course more that’s wrong with this song — the date rape allusions stand out since it’s in the fucking title. Everything about this song has aged like a banana; I rarely hear it in public anymore.
19. LMFAO – “Sexy and I Know It” (2011)
I think by now everyone knows these two were descendants of Berry Gordy and had the fast track to success that only people in that position could have. It also neatly explains why they left as quickly came; they made enough money off this and “Party Rock Anthem” to never have to work again. You may not know that Redfoo was 36 years old when LMFAO peaked; it’s pretty incredible to be that publicly stupid at that age. With “Party Rock Anthem,” they seemed all in on the joke in a “Gangnam Style” kind of way, but with “Sexy and I Know It,” I think LMFAO really wanted us to see them shirtless. Also, the beat drop just isn’t that fun here. They still managed to overstay their welcome.
18. Imagine Dragons – “Thunder” (2017)
Imagine Dragons made a name off booming stadium rock(????), but reached their full potential of shittiness with the muted “Thunder.” Dan Reynolds’ vocal approach is just to EXCLAIM everything, and he’s not able to adjust for this different instrumentation creating an immediate overbearing force. The chorus features some high-pitched alien robot saying “thunder,” so that we all know what the song title is. We are then told to feel the lightning and the thunder as if that means anything except, I don’t know, punching people in the face? I think the Imagine Dragons’ ultimate goal is to inspire us to commit acts of violence for no reason, but all I feel is enraged to immediately turn it off.
17. Childish Gambino – “Bonfire” (2011)
Donald Glover is responsible for one of the best TV shows this decade (Atlanta), but his musical output as Childish Gambino cancels that greatness out. People have looked to his recent work on “This Is America” and “Redbone” as evidence he should be taken seriously, but honestly, he’s still closer to the amateurish dumpster fire he was on Camp than anything great. “Bonfire” is the most popular song from it, and Glover’s lyricism is quite possibly the worst this decade had to offer. A few choice cuts: “My dick is like an accent mark, it’s all about the over e’s,” “I made the beat retarded, so I’m calling it a slow jam,” “Put my soul on the track like shoes did,” etc. Couple that with a freestyle ringtone-quality beat, and it’s a nominee for worst rap song to ever be this popular.
16. Mark Ronson (ft. Bruno Mars) – “Uptown Funk” (2014)
“Uptown Funk” was the most inescapable song of the decade. It’s just decent and palatable enough to where people stick it onto advertisements and playlists to have an agreeable party-like atmosphere. The pastiche tackiness of it is unbearable after a few listens though, and Bruno Mars’ smarmy performance and attire in the video remains obnoxious. The repetitive laziness of the song — really, how many times do we need to hear “Don’t believe me just watch,” “Girls hit you hallelujah,” and “Uptown funk gonna give it to ya”? — makes one listen tiresome, so how can people listen to this song nonstop for the last five years? If you just want ’70s funk cosplay, I can point you to some better examples of it from this decade.
15. Meghan Trainor – “All About That Bass” (2014)
Here we are: one of the most successful debut singles of all time. It’s also absolute dog shit. The song immediately dives you in with the nails-on-a-chalkboard chorus, emboldened by Meghan Trainor’s ghastly vocals — just a vile hybrid of Amy Winehouse and Iggy Azalea. Then, we have to sit through Trainor’s cute thoughts on body positivity. At the end of the day, I don’t even care about her message and if she’s actually dealing with the intricacies of the subject when the lyrics are this obnoxious — “Cause I got that boom boom that all the boys chase,” “She says, boys like a little more booty to hold at night,” “Hey, I’m bringing booty back.” Yeah, please stop saying “booty” and “boom boom,” for the sake of humanity. The Pazz & Jop poll of music critics somehow named this the 23rd best song of 2014. Pop music’s worst quality is convincing people that social issues can be adequately approached through infantile wordplay.
14. Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You” (2017)
This is the most-streamed song on Spotify, and it’s not even close. It’s the only one with 2 billion — 2.373 billion to be exact (next is Drake’s “One Dance” at 1.784 million.) So what’s special about this song? Well, to my ears, nothing! There’s a dancehall beat that sounded like every other “dancehall pop” song from this era. Ed Sheeran offers up his weakest vocals, going for some Drake speak-sing thing. It ends up sounding like any schlub off the street could perform this. In the lyrics, he invokes Van Morrison (“Van the Man”) as if anything Sheeran has made comes close to even Van’s mediocre output. I’m not sure how anybody could swoon over a chorus that goes, “I’m in love with the shape of you / We push and pull like a magnet do” — ugh, if you have to go informal to make something rhyme, you can’t walk and talk like Ed Sheeran.
13. Pitbull (ft. Ke$ha) – “Timber” (2012)
Harmonicas haven’t been cool for a while. I’m pretty sure they’re only bearable if you use it as an instrumental break between some verses about getting lost on a highway or whatever. Otherwise, pretty screechy! If a song featuring Pitbull and Ke$ha wasn’t enough, we get an obnoxious harmonica riff here that literally never stops. Each figure here does their best to steal the spotlight away, and they’re both so profoundly bad, they end up succeeding. Ke$ha handles the chorus and cuts through to your soul like a rusty machete; if anyone’s voice could overshadow an abrasive harmonica, it was peak dollar sign Ke$ha. And Pitbull just does his thing. He can’t rap without sounding like a complete goof in way over his head. With the existence of this song, parties immediately became way more obnoxious.
12. The Chainsmokers – “#SELFIE” (2014)
This song’s so obviously bad that I feel like I shouldn’t even list it. It’s just a lame dubstep beat I’ve heard a million times this decade with a feature that is a stereotypical sexist depiction of how young women talk. When men in electronic music display how much they hate women, it’s usually not laid out in the song. How about featuring this Jason she’s talking about? He seems like a scumbag, but no, it’s all about how women are so dumb when they take selfies and talk about their emotions and feelings. By the way, this song has 178 million streams on Spotify, which means these guys might’ve made over a million dollars off this song alone. Appalling.
11. DJ Snake & Lil Jon – “Turn Down for What” (2013)
This song feels bigger than the “turn-up beat drop” subgenre it inhabits. Songs like “Harlem Shake” came and went, but “Turn Down for What” has persisted, being played in advertisements and football stadiums to this day (“Third Down for What,” yeah yeah). Not coincidentally, it’s also the tackiest song from this decade. Lil Jon has never recovered from Chappelle’s impression of him and is as much of a caricature now as he is in those sketches. Here, he just screams “Fire up that loud / Another round of shots / Turn down for what?” That’s the entire lyric sheet. The song never changes up the original premise but still manages to be 3 minutes and 34 seconds long. It’s like a GIF stretched out into an HBO miniseries.
10. Logic (ft. Alessia Cara & Khalid) – “1-800-273-8255” (2017)
It’s always an awkward stance to be a music critic taking down a song that’s supposed to be doing good for the world. Am I the asshole? Has my life not been affected by suicide enough to the point where I am often undeterred with its depiction in art? Logic — the rapper with the most egotistical name of the decade — asks something along these lines in the chorus with “Who can relate? WOO!” This line’s a bit revealing in Logic’s M.O. here if you ask me; he’s saying ‘hey, a lot of people have been affected by suicide, so let’s market some music to them.’ Now, is that harsh of me to say? Well, why else would the song title be the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline if Logic didn’t want everyone to know what the song’s all about? He should’ve just named it “FYI: THIS SONG’S ABOUT SUICIDE.”
Alright, maybe I’m still the asshole for expecting the worst out of pop culture. Maybe Logic had no immoral incentives to make this song. We can’t see inside his head, so why bother prodding? Still, this song stinks up to high heaven. First off, why do sad songs go for bare, melodramatic instrumentation? Listen to Lil Uzi Vert’s fantastic “XO TOUR Llif3” for an example of tackling difficult topics within a fun atmosphere. Logic is also bad at rapping. He leads into the first verse with “I just wanna die / and let me tell you why” like a horrendously-written narrator in a kid’s story. But Logic doesn’t rap very much here as he recruits two features from the most boring people in music to flesh out the song. Alessia Cara & Khalid just exist; I don’t really know what they provide other than name recognition. Overall, it’s just social awareness music that has no real artistic intent other than bringing up the subject. Logic is just coasting on the listener injecting their own complex relationship with suicide rather than offering up his own. Seeing this shit played at the Grammys had the opposite effect of helping people.
9. Macklemore & Ryan Lewis (ft. Wanz) – “Thrift Shop” (2012)
Rule of thumb: If a song’s chorus goes “This is fucking awesome,” it most likely ain’t. If the song says the line multiple times, then you have “Thrift Shop.” Before Wanz starts singing though, you should already know this song’s terrible. Everything about the beat screams that some garish junk is about to be dumped on the world. Some wut-wuts and a gratingly-simple saxophone riff combine for a wretched intro that appeals to listeners who haven’t dealt with enough fun party music to know when it actually features clever production or real artistry. I don’t miss the irony of a song that’s so tacky professing a love of thrift shops. Maybe that’s the point, but this is a scenario where reassessing the cause still doesn’t change the effect.
The main feature of the song is of course Macklemore’s unremarkable linguistic skills on the mic. Normally, he’s so run-of-the-mill that quoting him doesn’t achieve much, but he opens his first verse here with, “Walk into the club like, ‘What up? I got a big cock.'” This might be funny from a rapper who has built some credibility while being a bit goofy (2 Chainz, for example), but it falls flat with Macklemore’s delivery. For a simple beat, he still manages to be all over the place rhythmically — a style that suggests he’s inept rather than rule-breaking. What he’s rapping about is also problematic, at least coming from him. He is decrying materialism in hip-hop but doesn’t reflect on the psychology of having more money than your previous generations and the people you grew up alongside. It’s a complex issue of racial economics — something I don’t want Macklemore — who professes to be above-it-all — to be leading a discussion on.
8. 3OH!3 (ft. Ke$ha) – “My First Kiss” (2010)
“ft. Ke$ha” strikes again. It’s more than her being an atrocious singer; it was also her shamelessly working with piss-poor male musicians and being their “we collaborate with women” scapegoat. By 2010, 3OH!3 were at the end of their peak, and “My First Kiss” would be their last major hit. This song is so rancid that 3OH!3’s frat boy aesthetic still left a trashy gleam on the whole decade. These are people in their mid-20s singing from the perspective of middle schoolers — “I got a kiss under the bleachers, hoping that nobody looks” — while at the same time saying things like “Excuse me miss, but can I get you out your panties?” It’s gross and the work of people who have never been told they should grow the fuck up. The song relentlessly repeats its mind-numbingly dumb choruses and bridges until it’s just a slog of drunken dirty talk by irredeemable assholes. I need to take a shower.
7. Rachel Platten – “Fight Song” (2015)
It took a long time for Rachel Platten to break through. She graduated with a degree in political science in 2003 and then self-released her first album Trust in Me that same year. That album is not on Spotify, and the page for it on Discogs says 0 people have the album. Then there’s an 8-year gap until her first true album Be Here, which also flopped. She then starts making songs for cable TV programs including a theme song for Jane by Design, and a song played on Pretty Little Liars, Basketball Wives, and Finding Carter (all different songs, by the way). This was enough to sign her onto Sony/Columbia Records, and the rest is history.
History, as in being partly responsible for Donald Trump becoming president. “Fight Song” was initially just innocuous ad-soundtrack music. “This is my fight song, hell yeah! What are we gonna fight?!? Uh, I don’t know — there’s unlimited rewards on every purchase with Capital One!” Sonically, the song is indistinguishable with every other song featured on ads and cable TV soundtracks — no flare, straightforward, empowering but not actually so because that might disturb the peace. Then it became the official anthem of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign. The Democratic National Committee — in the midst of a deserved outright booing affair from Sanders supporters at the Democratic Convention — released a “star-studded” video of celebrities singing “Fight Song” led by Elizabeth Banks, who used it as cross-promotion for Pitch Perfect. “This is my fight song, hell yeah! What are we gonna fight?!? Any form of politics that genuinely changes the status quo! Alright, let’s win! Oh, wait..”
6. Kanye West – “Lift Yourself” (2018)
Kanye West released an album this year. I have to say that loud every once in a while to keep from forgetting, which is a grim sign for where Kanye’s career trajectory is going. He started out the 2010s by releasing the best mainstream album since Purple Rain, and he ended it by giving sermons with Joel Osteen, releasing do-nothing albums, and praising Trump. The 2020s might have to go without significant contributions from the best artist of the last 15 years.
No song represents that dismay better than “Lift Yourself.” Before the spiral became clear, this song surfaced with the hype and promise that it was the definitive single to kick off the next album cycle. West samples the gospel song “Liberty” by AMNESTY, and for a minute, you think it’s classic Kanye — the sped-up vocals, the hard beat, etc. Then you wait for Kanye to give vocals………..and wait…………and notice that the runtime is only 2 minutes and 28 seconds. Ok, maybe it’s an instrumental or a demo sample. Then, you realize Kanye did provide a verse and it’s full of “Poopy-di scoop”‘s. Instead of making a legitimate single, he decided to be a troll and throw together a beat and verse in maybe a couple hours. It was a depressing sign of things to come.
5. Bruno Mars – “Grenade” (2010)
Bruno Mars’ first album Doo-Wops & Hooligans manages to be the only album to have two songs on this list — not good! The biggest song off the album — “Just the Way You Are” — was also strongly considered, but “Grenade” just encapsulates Bruno Mars’ trivial brand of milquetoast romantic pop with a dose of being incredibly dumb. The song’s about heartbreak, so the instrumentation has to represent this stereotypical version of sadness that record executives have conditioned people to buy into. It starts with a piano to suggest it’s spur-of-the-moment and heartfelt rather than the construction of 7 different people borrowing from an unreleased song that Mars had heard from record producer Benny Blanco. The drums come in with the blandest gallop possible. Like Bruno Mars’ appearance, the song is distractingly manicured; it hits its mark in the most unsurprising of manners.
The lyrics are the most melodramatic of the decade; let’s review what Mars would do for this woman who does not love him:
- Catch a grenade
- Throw his head on a blade
- Jump in a front of a train
- Take a bullet straight through his brain
- Eat it with a fox
- Eat it in a box……no wait, I’m thinking of something else
These are all incredibly stupid things to be willing to do for someone who doesn’t care about you. That’s the point, Andrew — gosh! I know, but it’s terrible poetry and awfully sentimental. It’s the emptiest lyrics of the decade, and I just want to barf.
4. Charlie Puth (ft. Meghan Trainor) – “Marvin Gaye” (2015)
(*Marlon Brando voice*) “Look what they did to my boy.”
Seriously, the single cover even has Charlie Puth trying to look like Marvin Gaye. Why? Do they think this honors him? His name is invoked for the chorus of “Just like they say it in the song / Until the dawn, let’s Marvin Gaye and get it on.” He’s no longer a person; he’s a verb and just synonymous with his most over-played song. He also mentions “healing,” but can’t say “sexual” because that’s too risque for Mr. Puth. It’s insanely tacky. The crazy thing about all this is that it’s Charlie Puth’s debut single. He hadn’t even built up any good will to get away with it. He just decides, ‘Hey, I’m somehow already signed to Atlantic Records and will associate myself with Marvin fucking Gaye.’
How did Meghan Trainor end up on this? Apparently, it was spontaneous, as he played it for her at a party, and she decided it should be a duet. A Tammi Terrell she is not, though she lightens up her accent from the year before on “All About That Bass.” It ends up where you barely notice Trainor is there, which is the best case scenario for her. That these two rose up together makes sense; they’re both desperately uncool and just bafflingly-popular. To hear them talking about getting it on is almost too much to handle. It makes me consider celibacy. They played the song on the American Music Awards and to make headlines, they did a forced makeout at the end that I’m pretty sure neither party really wanted. It’s unsettling; I’m not going to link to it.
3. Lil Dicky (ft. Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Halsey, Zac Brown, Brendon Urie, Hailee Steinfeld, Wiz Khalifa, Snoop Dogg, Kevin Hart, Adam Levine, Shawn Mendes, Charlie Puth, Sia, Miley Cyrus, Lil Jon, Rita Ora, Miguel, Katy Perry, Lil Yachty, Ed Sheeran. Meghan Trainor, Joel Embiid, Tory Lanez, John Legend, PSY, Bad Bunny, & Kris Wu) – “Earth” (2019)
This is a real who’s who lineup of people who have sold their soul to the record industry. They make up a good portion of this list, which isn’t by accident! To end 2019, Lil Dicky decided to make my job easier and list out a bunch of pop stars you should be wary of while heading into the next decade. These charity pop star songs in the past have gone for sappy and somber, but this is a new era — one where Lil Dicky has the star-power pull of a Quincy Jones. It’s time to be funny! The mission here is to have each celebrity offer a short couple lines pretending to be some animal on Earth and to include a little quip. Absolutely none of it is funny and feels like the work of a obnoxious 7th grade class clown. “I’m a squirrel, looking for my next nut” — really, Miguel?? You made “Adorn;” have some dignity.
Sad charity songs are terrible, but so are funny ones. The charity song is a real artless proceeding, usually spearheaded by rich people who would feel guilty if they didn’t do this type of stuff. With environmental catastrophes though, racial economics play a major factor. Every person singing here will never truly be hurt by climate change in their lifetime; they’re rich and have the means to avoid any catastrophe if need be. I care deeply about climate change, and I’m sure everyone singing on this does too, but instead of using their platform to start a real conversation based on intelligence and empathy, we get lame jokes. Stop dumbing down political issues; it’s patronizing and a real disservice to the issue.
2. Original Broadway Cast of Hamilton – “Alexander Hamilton” (2015)
There’s not much worse than bad rap that gets the White elite culture going, and Hamilton tapped into that market like nothing we’d ever seen. Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote this play after reading a biography on Alexander Hamilton and finding out that no modern telling of his life had been done. Miranda decided to go that extra mile and make it a long-ass spoken word/rap poem broken into God-knows how many parts. It wowed audiences that had no idea what they were getting into and were appreciative of the change of pace in the style and diversity of a Broadway production. This is not a takedown of the play, which I have obviously not seen and would probably enjoy as a way to stay off my phone for a few hours.
No, this is about the soundtrack, which I presume is how most people have experienced Hamilton. On its own, I can’t make it past 10 minutes. It’s all the perfect ingredients of a poisonous stew: 1.) lackluster production and instrumentation (a real “default intelligent rap” type of sound), 2.) lyrics that exist to just convey information in a cute manner rather than go for something a little more subtle and abstract, and 3.) that spoken-word poetry vocal APPROACH that everybody DOES when they REALLY need to GET their POINT across [*long pause to indicate that something important was just said*]. It’s really draining, and the discourse around Hamilton‘s importance, musically-speaking, followed suit. It’s music for Broadway fans, who have never really been known to enjoy art supposedly meant for the lower classes. The assumption is that Hamilton goes beyond class and race to create a truly American work of art, but the version of rap that Hamilton presents confirms the distance between Broadway and music that most Americans actually listen to. Hamilton fans wouldn’t touch an act like Lil B or Clipse with a 10-foot pole. We can’t let this play be an outlet for upper-class liberals to dismiss their own version of class division.
1. Eminem – “Rap God” (2013)
Eminem is the worst artist of the decade. That’s not a unanimous belief since there’s a lot of competition, as this list shows. Most bad pop stars act as industry placeholders — without them, someone else would fill that void — but nobody could be as bad as Eminem this decade. To do so, an artist would have to be really good as one point. He’d have to be treated with such reverence and given the creative freewill to make obscenely terrible music because he wouldn’t suffer any consequences. He’d be allowed to make a 6-minute-long parade of fast-rap nonsense, call himself a “Rap God,” and not only is he not laughed out of music, but people consider if he actually is a rap god.
On “Rap God,” Eminem reached the peak of his pathetic comeback by fulfilling his unchecked ego and proving that he never needs to mature if his problematic self can keep him this popular. First, let me say that the Eminem that rapped “Got a new blow-up doll and had a strap-on added / Whoops! Is that a subliminal hint? / No, just criminal intent to sodomize women again” on “Kill You” back in 2000 is one of my favorite artists. He could be extremely problematic, but the humor and shocking narrative jumps made it to where you wanted to see the world through his words. The Eminem of the 2010s just berates you with wordplay and expects you to think it’s the old days. I can’t get into that space when he has a chorus saying, “I rap like a robot, so call me rap-bot.” Or consider “With this rappity brat, packin a Mac in the back of the Ac’ / Backpack rap crap, yap-yap, yackety-yack” — any idiot can rhyme a bunch of words especially when they’re nonsense filler, but it takes creativity to have it mean something. I could annotate this whole song and tell you why it grates me so, but I’ll just list out some awful lines here:
- “Only Hall of Fame I’ll be inducted to is the alcohol of fame / On the wall of shame”
- “You fags think it’s all a game til I walk a flock of flames”
- “I’m out my Ramen noodle / We have nothing in common, poodle”
- “Uh, summa-lumma, dooma-lumma, you assumin’ I’m a human / What I gotta do to get through to you I’m superhuman”
- “But if I can’t batter the women / How am I supposed to bake them a cake then?”
“Rap God” is no. 1 because nobody has ever put in this much effort to display how lame and inept they are. His “rappin’ like a maniac” — considering the most stereotypical vision of that word — can’t even get him praise from any respectable music critic. He claims to be rapping from the future, but still talks about Bill Clinton and calls people “faggots.” He’s stuck in the past but conveys none of what made his past self so special. Theory: Eminem was replaced with a guy that was told to “rap like Eminem” — the charm and exuberance can’t be replicated, and that’s what I was drawn to. I could see myself in the young Eminem through his personality and creative decision-making: the authority issues, taking aim at the common discourse and politics of this country, pushing buttons in a way that challenged people’s conceptions of what to do with problematic music, manipulating his idea of self and his narration until we’re unsure who he’s speaking to or for. Now, he’s the curmudgeon that acts like he’s doing us a service by making music. I miss the old Eminem, and I wonder if we’re just trying to fill that void by still listening.