Well, another year, another pile of pop schlock to shovel through. Last week I kept hyping up 2012 as the year that pop music changes for the better since there have been a lot of successful crossover indie hits, but I realize that change doesn’t occur overnight and like every year we still had a healthy dose of crap to put up with. This may have been the year of Gotye, Adele and fun., but this was also the year of David Guetta, Flo Rida and Rihanna, so it’s kind of a double-edged sword. Now every year has an equal helping of both good and bad music, and while the few good ones to come out this year were really good, they just made the bad ones look all that much worse. Just like how I got a good diversity from my best list, my worst picks of the year have a wide variety of flavors, from the annoyingly stupid, to the poorly written, to the skin crawlingly disgusting. Just like my last list, there are two criteria: they all have to come from Billboard’s year end list (with one exception), and no repeats from last year’s list. With that out of the way, grab your boots and shovels ladies and gentlemen; we’re digging through the Top 10 Worst Hit Songs of 2012 (in my opinion).
10. “Back In Time” by Pitbull
I didn’t see Men In Black III, mostly because I didn’t think we even needed a Men In Black II. When I heard that this was coming out, I assumed that there was going to be some hit single attached to it like the last two movies, and since Will Smith doesn’t rap anymore it makes sense that they’d get someone else to do it. Why they got Pitbull, a guy who doesn’t know how to rap about anything not having to do with sex, clubs, traveling or himself to take his place, I’ll never know. Asking him to do a song based on a movie about a secret police force tasked with covering up the existence of alien life is kind of like asking a physics professor to write an editorial on the history of Coca Cola: not only are you asking the wrong guy, but you won’t get the desired results. Granted, it’s been a long time since we’ve had a movie tie-in song that’s so synonymous with the movie it’s attached to like Top Gun and “Danger Zone” or Dirty Dancing and “Time of My Life” (fuck you, Black Eyed Peas), but even if you ignore the connections to Men In Black III, which are half assed and forced at best, there’s absolutely nothing in it that separates it from the rest of Pitbull’s work. The lyrics are clunky, the beat is this stiff guitar riff that gets really annoying after a while, and toward the end we get this random dubstep breakdown that comes out of nowhere and doesn’t fit in with the rest of the song at all. This is a useless song. It’s useless as a film tie-in, it’s useless as a Pitbull single, and it’s a useless addition to the ever growing heap of generic club songs.
9. “Mercy” by Kanye West feat. Big Sean, Pusha T. and 2 Chainz
Recently I listened to Kanye West’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy front to back for the first time. (Yeah, took me long enough.) After giving it a good listen I came to two conclusions. One, Kanye West is a genius, and two, Kanye West is insane. I like to think of him as the Stanley Kubrick of hip hop because he has this creative hubris that can only come from a man so withdrawn in his own mind and absorbed in his own ego. Naturally it would be near impossible to make a follow up to something this big, and “Mercy”, the first single off of Kanye’s collaboration album, is a really big disappointment. The lyrics from all four rappers, including Kanye himself, didn’t surprise me since they all seem to follow his knack for clumsy wordplay, awkward references and firing off every stupid thought they have the minute they have it. But the thing that kills this song for me is the beat. If you go back and listen to “Gold Digger”, “Flashing Lights”, “Power” and “Runaway”, you’ll know that Kanye has some of the best beats in the business on his songs, which is why it makes no sense that he’d choose a horror movie soundtrack on skip with migraine inducing bass. I also have to ponder his choice of collaborators. Kanye is at his best when either delving into his own psychosis or working with someone who works as a foil, like Jay-Z. The Good Music crew (Pusha-T, Common, John Legend and Kid Cudi) seems specifically designed to do just that, but Big Sean and 2 Chainz don’t seem to be interested in rapping about that, so they started rapping about getting a handjob in a Lamborghini instead. This song is low on the list because I know Kanye can do better than this, but maybe I’m just a little starry eyed from MBDTF.
8. “Whistle” by Flo Rida
Flo Rida is an anomaly in the pop music landscape: a popstar that isn’t famous. He’s had 8 top 10 hits over five years, three of which made it into the top 20 of this year end list, but I doubt most of his fans even know what he looks like. He has no real identity or personality that separates him from the rest of the group and is only as successful as he is by collaborating with some of the biggest names in the business. “Whistle” shows us that that’s probably for the better since whenever Flo Rida ventures out on his own, there’s a good chance he’ll end up making a complete fool out of himself. For those of you who haven’t figured it out, “Whistle” isn’t really about whistling , but is actually a metaphor for blowjobs. (“You just put your lips together and you come real close”). Clearly both Flo and the idiots who wrote this think this song is more clever than it really is, but all it tells us is that no one involved with this song has never heard of Lauren Bacall. Beyond that, Flo Rida’s flow is actually clumsy as hell on this song, the lyrics are so mangled and incongruent that it feels like he’s forcing a square peg in a round hole, and the hook is so maddeningly catchy that it makes you want to scrape at your brain with a spoon.
7. “50 Ways To Say Goodbye” by Train
If I had to sum up this song in one word, it would be “unoriginal”. Among Train’s outstanding track record of bad lyrics, this one has their usual blend of forced rhymes, metaphors that make no sense and bizarre pop culture references (“She’ll think I’m Superman, not super mini-van”). Although I must say I’ve never heard about a song with this kind of scenario, but that’s probably because it’s a really stupid one. Apparently Pat Manohan and his girlfriend broke up, and rather than just tell the truth, he tells everyone that she died in enough unlikely and stupid ways that she could be the first person to have multiple Darwin Awards. The instrumentation wouldn’t be that noticeable if not for the addition of a mariachi band. But what really gets on my nerves is the title and the melody, which rips off not one, not two, but three different songs. The title rips off Paul Simon’s “50 Ways To Leave Your Lover” (which I think was the inspiration for this song, but epically missed the point), the melody in the verses rips off “Phantom of the Opera”, and the chorus rips off “Drive By”, the single that Train released before this one. If you’re so hacky that you’re resorting to ripping off yourself, then you need to reconsider your career choice.
6. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” by Taylor Swift
I never liked Taylor Swift’s music, but I always thought she had the potential to become a good songwriter. Maybe this whole heartbreaker phase is just a step toward that realization, but I really hope it’s not the final stop. With this song we say goodbye to Taylor the doe eyed girl next door, and say hello to Taylor the bitchy popular girl, the pop diva with a trail of brokenhearted celebrity boyfriends. Granted, she’s had a massive slew of breakup songs before, but on her newest album she takes it to maximum overdrive. Here she removes the down to earth tone that made her likable, leaving only the adolescent undertones (or overtones in this case). The fact that she’s dated a whole bunch of celebrities over the years (Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner, John Mayer, Jake Gylenhaal, one of the Kennedys), hasn’t held on to any of them for more than three months and has written songs about every single one of them, it makes me wonder if she’s dating and breaking up with them just so she can have material. Another thing I can’t stand about this song is the smugness. For some reason, Taylor Swift makes a random jab at hipsters, yet she’s wearing hipster glasses, the video looks like a parody of a 90’s alternative video, and she carries the whole thing with the conceited, condescending attitude most people associate with hipsters. Some say that Taylor is following in the footsteps of Beyonce and Adele, but I think if she’s not careful she might accidentally end up looking like Avril Lavigne or, God forbid, Cher Lloyd. But trust me, as much as I hate this song, this not the benchmark for bad breakup songs or catty mean girl bitchiness. (We’ll get to that later).
5. “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” by Kelly Clarkson
The problem I have with most breakup songs is that a lot of them sound less like “I don’t need no man because I’m a strong independent woman”, and more like a fourteen year old girl writing on her LiveJournal after breaking up with her first boyfriend. Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger” merges the most annoying aspects of both these attitudes and coats them with a bunch of cliched lines ripped straight from those motivational posters they hang in office buildings. The apparent douchebag ex she seems to be so over sounds less like a real guy and more like a villain from a Saturday morning cartoon. Say what you want about Taylor Swift’s aggressive man bashing and her revolving door of boyfriends, at least we know those songs are about real people. This song also looks like it’s riding the coattails of that trend of self-confidence boosting songs from last year like “Firework” and “Born This Way”, and if that’s the case then Kelly Clarkson showed up so late to the party that by time she got there, all the beer was gone and everyone was either cleaning up or getting ready to go to work. This is also a sad reminder that Kelly Clarkson has been so desperately trying to recapture the lightning in a bottle that was “Since U Been Gone”, since every song she’s recorded since then has either sounded exactly like it or was about the same thing. Obviously this falls into the latter, but strips away the passion and aggression that made the original such an instant classic in favor of just throwing her hands in the air and reaching for the low hanging fruit.
4. “Red Solo Cup” by Toby Keith
Where I come from there are two kinds of people: those who only listen to country, and those who listen to everything except country. I have a few friends who are really into country, but I with the exception of Johnny Cash I could never get into it because it’s all incredibly same-y sounding to me. In order for a country song to really grab my attention it has to be particularly outstanding. “Red Solo Cup” did just that by being the dumbest thing to come out of the genre, and considering this is the genre that gave us “Convoy” and “Achy Breaky Heart”, that’s saying quite a lot. Now I realize that this doesn’t have any hidden message or metaphors and I’m not expecting it to be otherwise, but let’s face it, this is a song about plastic fucking cups. Even Toby Keith himself admitted it was a dumb song, but recorded it anyway because the record needed a party song. Look, country fans, I know you have your strong points and you have plenty of artists that you should be proud of, but I can’t take you seriously if this is what you keep giving me. But then again, what else could I expect from the guy who brought you “Beer For My Horses”?
3. “Stupid Hoe” by Nicki Minaj
This is the only song that doesn’t fit my criteria since it didn’t do that well on the charts (and rightfully so), but it’s such an interesting cacophony of bad music, bad lyrics and bad production that I had to make an exception. For those you who aren’t in the know (or don’t care), Nicki Minaj has been in a beef with Lil Kim for about as long as she’s been famous. The latter accused her of stealing her act, and Minaj released this diss track in retaliation. A lot of Minaj’s older fans are turned off by how much of a sell-out she’s become, but if the rest of her “hardcore” stuff is anything like this, I’d take the plastic Barbie persona in a heartbeat. Where do I even begin with this song? Well, for starters, you know that grizzly, demented ax murderer voice that Minaj sometimes randomly slips into during some of her songs? That’s her alter ego Roman Zolanksi, and she uses that voice throughout the entire fucking song! Then we have a beat which doesn’t really have any melody or structure, it sounds more like they were looking at soundboards on the internet, collected the most annoying ones they could find and threw them together into a salad bowl. Then there’s the video, which I think is probably what a bad bath salts trip looks like. I provided clips for this and the rest of the songs on here so those of you who haven’t heard them before can have a reference point, but please, don’t look at this video if you’re either prone to seizures or plan on sleeping tonight (or even again for that matter). Thankfully everyone saw the song for what it was, let it die and then went back to twerking to “Starships” or whatever kids are doing nowadays.
2. “Want U Back” by Cher Lloyd
On last year’s list, I included “What The Hell” by Avril Lavigne, which was basically Avril shouting “I’m a complete and utter bitch and proud of it” for three minutes. But I had no idea just how far the catty mean girl attitude could go in a pop song. Enter Cher Lloyd, who practically announces to the world that she’s a jealous sociopathic bully with her debut single “Want U Back”, which I declared the worst song I ever heard within seconds of hearing it. (That obviously wasn’t true, but one atrocity at a time.) Let me paint the scenario for you. Cher Lloyd dumped her boyfriend and is jealous that he found someone new and is upset that she doesn’t have someone to manipulate and jerk around anymore. And that’s not me being bitter, that’s what the song says upfront. Granted, this song seems to know how unlikable its narrator is, but that doesn’t change the fact that I want to punch her in the face every time I hear it. How am I, or anyone who isn’t a jealous sociopath, supposed to relate to a song about someone who abused and toyed with her boyfriend, derives joy from his misery after she callously cut him off, then gets jealous when he finds someone new and starts whining now that she doesn’t have a gullible fuck puppet to push around? I left high school long ago, and this song is a great reminder of why I have no desire to go back. This song is just ugly. The music is obnoxious and loud, Cher Lloyd’s voice is so maddeningly shrill that it makes me want to set an orphanage full of kittens on fire, and whoever wrote this probably went out of their way to make her look like the most unlikable person in the world. And based on what I’ve read and heard about her, they’re probably not that far off. For a while I was determined to declare this not just the worst song of 2012, but also the worst song I ever heard. But I was wrong. I was horribly, horribly wrong.
1. “Birthday Cake” by Rihanna feat. Chris Brown
Ten years from now, Rihanna and Chris Brown will go down in history as one of the most destructive and perverse celebrity couples, right up there with Ike and Tina Turner, and Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston. Neither one of them has dealt with it in the healthiest of ways. Chris Brown has spent the last three years being an irredeemable, egocentric, misogynistic waste of sperm, and providing us with the most hilariously awful Twitter account of all time. Rihanna spent that time reimaging herself as a nymphomaniac sex kitten, wallowing in a state of debauchery that would make R. Kelly blush, and showing major signs of regression that prove she’s not as over the abuse as she wants us to think. A lot of fans saw this as a sign that Rihanna has forgiven him and is ready to move on, but all it really is is a magnification of both of their worst traits. Musically it’s a droning, repetitive sledgehammer to the brain, lyrically the sexual schlock that’s been consuming Rihanna’s music has been turned up to an extreme where it stops being sexy and becomes gross (If the “cake” is her ass, then what’s the icing supposed to be?). And adding Chris Brown to the song makes the whole thing feel like a prelude to the gang rape scene from Last Exit To Brooklyn. (If you don’t get that reference, go read a book.) But what I hate more than the music itself is what it represents: the low point of the most disparaging and soul crushing marriage since George and Margaret from Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? After the release of this song, Rihanna and Chris Brown announced that they were getting back together, and will get married on New Year’s Eve. The only way I can see this ending is in tragedy. As bad as everything on this list is, from Flo Rida’s aggressive blandness to Train’s discouragingly poor writing skills to Nicki Minaj’s in-your-face brand of annoyance, nothing holds a candle to the ugliness of this song, everyone involved in it and the events it represents. Find me a song worse than this, and I will call you a liar.
Well that’s my list of the worst songs of 2012; a healthy smorgasbord of bad music, bad lyrics, and rage inducing egos and stupidity. Hope you enjoyed reading my bitchings about stupid songs as I did writing it. Next time: something a little more positive.