by Jon Hunt
This was a pretty tough run-through, folks. The charts seem chock-full of some of the dullest music I’ve ever heard — so many cute little YouTubers crossing over right now, and they all sound the same, and why? Plus, it’s like the world’s on a boring ballad jag. Where’s the damn dance anthems? I guess it’s winter and nobody feels like partying, but if I gotta wait until like halfway through the charts to even get to a disco tune and all the way through to hit my first Flo Rida song, I say: the world is bummed out and brokenhearted, and I don’t know what to do about that. There were a lotta bad songs and only a couple good ones, so my guidelines are merely: Plah (meaning bad) and I’m In (meaning good). So dear god, let’s get started.
20. “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello — I had to Google both these artists (because I’m old) — Shawn is a YouTube sensation from Canada who’s known for his covers of popular songs (i.e. Justin Bieber but less shitty) and Camila is in Fifth Harmony, a moderately popular girl group of the moment. This song is terrible. Acoustic guitar strumming and warbling vocals and a boring-ass minor-key melody (with some faux-latino touches) and nothing to recommend it. Plah.
19. “Stand By You,” Rachel Platten — is this a song from a commercial? (*Googles*) Ahhh — same artist who did “Fight Song,” which was in every commercial in the last six months. Same empowering vibe, same uplifting mood. In a month or two, it will be in every commercial on TV. I guess if you liked that song (did you? It seemed shallowly empowering without any specific message) you’ll like this one too. Me? I say Plah.
18. “Adventure of a Lifetime,” Coldplay — Listen. Coldplay are poop and I know that, okay? That said: this entire album, I liked. I can only sort of explain it — if you take moderately good music and add a pretty great dance vibe to it (and this song does have that — nothing groundbreaking, but passable disco), I’m probably gonna be on board, because if nothing else, you can at least boogie to the damn stuff. It’s also got stronger melodies than the last couple and just doesn’t feel as weighty and shitty. I dunno. I’m in.
17. “When We Were Young,” Adele — …and the opposite is true of the Adele record. It’s all ballads, all super weighty and important-sounding and I find it just stultifyingly dull. She’s talented as hell, I love her songwriting, but I just didn’t find anything super-compelling on 25. This song sounds great — she could sing the hell out of anything and make it good — but it’s just sort of blah as a song. It’ll be a huge hit. Plah.
16. “Die A Happy Man,” Thomas Rhett — Oy, this is the country ghetto section of the charts. I’ve been saying that country music is finally changing, but this ain’t it — this is any pop song by any human at any time in the last few years, generic as fuck and dull as fuck and programmed within an inch of its life (if that’s a human drummer, I’m a monkey’s uncle). Plah.
15. “Work,” Rihanna (feat Drake) — see #3
14. “Cake By The Ocean,” DNCE — So DNCE is Joe Jonas’ new disco band. Roll that around in your mouth for a minute. And I guess it’s pronounced “Dance” and not “Dunce” (I assume). And in the same way that the Coldplay song a few tunes ago didn’t anger me, this one doesn’t either. It’s kind of a terrible song (gratuitous f-word proving that Joe is ADULT NOW GUYS, the dumbest lyric in the world, not a great melody) but as a piece of reasonable disco funk, it’s not bad at all. It’s dumb bubblegummy fun that I can’t really begrudge (yet — let it be on the radio for ten months and we’ll talk). I’m in, sort of.
13. “7 Years,” Lukas Graham — Danish pop band (???) with a ballad about lead singer growing up. Staggeringly dull. Don’t get it. Really, really don’t get it. Plah.
12. “Sorry,” Justin Bieber — God, okay, this Bieber album. By far the best thing he’s ever done, like by a comfortable country mile. That doesn’t mind it’s groundbreaking or even really particularly great. But it plays to his strengths (his great voice — he does have one) and his ability to own a song (he knows where to hold back, which is saying something). This ain’t the best tune off this record, but it is pretty damn good — great little instrumental hook, plenty of good melodies, not un-smart. Proof that there’s something to this whole Bieber deal. I’m in, with mild reservations.
11. “Me, Myself & I,” G-Eazy x Bebe Rexha — Hey, a hip-hop song! When’s the last time a hip-hop song was in the top 20 that wasn’t a party song? Oh — crap. It’s a white dude. Of course. So white dude rap music about how awesome he is and how troubled he kind of is and how awesome it is that he made it. And then a pretty okay hook that he doesn’t sing. Nothin’ to it at all. Boring. Plah.
10. “Hands To Myself,” Selena Gomez — Selena’s latest is pretty good, too, fulla sexy, whispered minimalist bedroom grooves, and this tune is possibly the best of ’em, too, all restrained sexuality and thumpin’ heartbeat grooves and tons and tons of heavy breathing. I gotta confess that after a couple of albums of bubblegummy nonsense she’s maturing quite intelligently and has managed to work her way up to the a-list producers, which is awesome. Can’t hate, you know? I’m quite in.
9. “Roses,” The Chainsmokers (feat. ROZES) — Oh Christ, a DJ duo. This song is appalling — the sampled “ah” that makes up the main hook, the sawtooth synth, the lack of appreciable groove (like, NONE — I’m talking none), the generic-as-fuck vocal bolstering the whole thing. I can’t even imagine this is danceable, so why is it popular? Is this what people think EDM is? Doesn’t there necessarily need to be a “d” for it to be EDM? Fuck, this makes me angry. PLAH, a big angry PLAH.
8. “One Call Away,” Charlie Puth — God, are all the popular singers these days white post-teen YouTube sensations? He sounds like all the other ones — good voice, bland as fuck, no grit, no soul. Moderately adorable to young girls, I imagine, due to great hair flop. Guess it’s an okay song, with a really obvious chord change and an obvious message. The minute even one of these guys goes popular and he’s not white or just-post-teen is the minute I start caring. Plah.
7. “Hello,” Adele — you know this song. Every human alive knows this song. Big bombastic hook. I can neither like nor dislike it — it’s just a thing, a force of nature, like a big storm, hugely popular because it absolutely has to be. I won’t recommend it or not — you already have heard it and know it and it’s part of your DNA.
6. “Love Yourself,” Justin Bieber — Another not-bad song from Justin’s new record which sounds exactly like an Ed Sheeran song because it is an Ed Sheeran song. And quite interesting it is, too, pretty much just Justin and a guitar and a pretty good melody (and the same chord progression every song has — Ed, come on, learn some chords, my friend) and a not-bad “C part.” You know, quite great. Not stupid. Interestingly minimalist. One of those songs where you know it’s gonna be massive. I’m in.
5. “Stressed Out,” twenty one pilots — Dear Jesus Christ. This song. THIS SONG. It is so god-damn bad. Remember in the 80s when hip-hop came on the scene and every commercial ever had white people trying to rap but you knew they had no basis for knowing how to rap whatsoever? This is that. The most sanitized pop version of hip-hop ever made by humans, a soggy suburban piece of dung with fake patois (you’re not Jamaican, kids) and the worst, whitest, most entitled piece of shit rap verse ever. PLAH. FUCKING PLAH.
4. “Work,” Rihanna (feat. Drake) — This is why I was so disappointed with the Rihanna album. This sounds unfinished, doesn’t it? Like it’s going for minimalist but really just sounds like they didn’t finish adding the backup track. The melody isn’t enough to hold my interest at all (“Work work work work work” is the hook), and there’s really nothing else to hang my hat on except the really jarring autotune (AGAIN!) on the “ehhhhhhh” sound she makes. And then Drake on his “feat.” with an atonal, awful singing part. Ugh. I want to like it but I just can’t. Plah.
3. “My House,” Flo Rida — It’s a weak-ass chart that finds Flo Rida the most fun track on the whole god-damn thing. Like you guys know I can’t stand Flo Rida, but what are you gonna do? This song is kind of a stone blast with a super-fun dumb-ass honking sax riff (well, fake sax — like he’d have a real sax!) and a dumb melody and a dumb delivery and lyrics about, you know, partying (does he sing about anything else?) and, well, plenty of straight-up fun. Which every other song seems to totally lack. And hey! It’s not a YouTube white guy! So let’s celebrate. Crack some champagne. I’m in.
2. “PILLOWTALK,” ZAYN — I dunno why ZAYN is shouting at me in the title of the song and his own name, but okay — this is the first single by former One Directioner Zayn Malik. And it’s not awful — he’s trying to channel The Weeknd as best he can from his British perspective, and nice try, anyway. And he drops an “f-bomb” to let us know that he’s grown up, now, and grown out of the frippery of One Direction and ladies, he’s ready to roll. It’s not a terrible song, but he’s gonna need to do something a lot more exciting than this to sustain an ongoing solo career. A good one-song drop but man oh man, the streets are littered with the corpses of ex-boy-banders. I’m in, at least for now.
1. “Summer Sixteen,” Drake — I had to pause a minute before I wrote this because I just can’t come to grips with why everything Drake puts out goes immediately viral. Like “Hotline Bling” was this big huge sensation that everybody in the world knew, and why? Was it that good of a song? I found it to be his usual blend of moderately interesting backing track / dull, rambling rapping / bad singing, but somehow it LIT THE FUCKING WORLD ON FIRE. And here it happens again! And why?? What’s the hook? What’s the point? What’s the attraction? I guess it’s a Meek Mill dis, but is that a reason for Jimmy from Degrassi to score another fucking number-one hit? I do. Not. Get. It. Not at all. Maybe some of you can explain it to me, but until then: PLAH.