Hello, and welcome to Day 2 of Listmas! Today beings our 4 day run at the pop charts.
Well, it’s all there in the title: we’re gonna count down the worst hits of the year over today and tomorrow. Billboard’s year-end chart is usually a good snapshot of the year, and this year is…kind of all over the map. We’ve got hits big and small, but a lot of one-offs and randos in the mix, too. It made drawing up the worst/best lists interesting. The biggest difference between yesterday’s albums list and the these lists is that the hit lists have a set of rules they gotta follow. Here they are.
- Songs have to make Billboard’s End of the Year list to be eligible (note: I super duper break this rule once on one of these lists)
- It has to have peaked this year, so say goodbye to “Hotline Bling” and “The Hills.”
- It can’t have been on my best or worst hits list of last year, so farewell “Hello” and “Watch Me.”
Anyway, let’s begin.
Dishonorable Mention: The Chainsmokers feat. Halsey – “Closer” (#10)
The Dishonorable Mention: the pettyweight belt of the Worst list. This spot’s reserved for whichever song wasn’t outright bad enough to justify making the actual list, but it still drove me up the wall in a noteworthy way.
And this year, the belt goes to The Chainsmokers, to Halsey, and to you people. I’ll contend that “Closer” did a few things (okay, really 20 seconds of post-chorus) right, but that wasn’t enough to save the Chainbrokers and Halsey from themselves and their stupid, entitled song. There’s a lot to hate about “Closer:” the way it rhymes “closer” with “rover” with “shoulder” with “corner” with “Boulder” with “older” like they were the first listings in a rhyming dictionary, the way Andrew Taggart sings like a guy who hasn’t drank quite enough to convince him he’s good at karaoke, the way it knocked the Nine Inch Nails classic off the top “closer” search result on YouTube, and even the way it advocates for shoulder tattoos; the second most chickenshit tattoo placement possible. And what kind of asshole steals a mattress?
“Closer” was obnoxious from its first listen, but wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you people. If “Closer” came and went, then it’d be irritating, albeit from safely in the rearview. But no, you people had to make it the longest reigning number one of the year, so my irritation at it had time to ferment, like fine whine made of the bitterest salt. And guess what? Because “Closer” was such a success, we get to hear these chucklefucks try ad infinitum to follow it up with more lousy electro-pop! It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
10. Chris Brown – “Back To Sleep” (#89)
[INT. Music Writer, hunched over laptop]
“Oh, look, a Chris Brown song made the year-end hund-o this year.”
[Music Writer hits “play”]
“I might be over the whole ‘Ugh, Chris Brown’ thing. Not that I think he deserves a reexamination or whatever, but he’s not gonna stop making 3rd string trend-chasers with abysmal lyrics, and just how many times can I be like ‘Chris Brown, he’s the woo-ooorst‘ before it loses meaning? He might even be crashing already; whatever ‘Back To Sleep’ is, it barely clawed its way to 98. You know, maybe I’ll leave him off this year; hell, maybe I’ll even say something about retiring him from the list o–“
[lyric “Just lie me rock/Fuck you back to sleep/Don’t say a word no, don’t you talk” comes up]
“…maybe next year. Chris, welcome back, we got a spot right here on the list for you. I insist.”
9. Daya – “Hide Away” (#84)
You’ll probably recognize Daya from “Don’t Let Me Down,” but she’s working on her own career, too. The first thing Daya wants to tell us about herself is that She’s Not Like Other Girls, which lives in the margins of “Sit Still, Look Pretty,” but gets brought front and center on “Hide Away.” After opening both verses a double whammy of slut-shaming (“The ones [girls] who get undressed before the second date” and “Boys seem to like the girls who like to kiss and tell”), she laments that she can’t find Mr. Right who will properly woo her by buying her a bunch of shit and taking a long time (a long, long time; both verses mention how much chasing and effort he’s gonna have to put in) to win her over because she’s a gooood giiiiiiirl. And I’m all for taking your time, and waiting for the right person, but the takeaway from “Hide Away” is less “All I want is the right guy” and more “All I want is the right guy who will cater to my every need, but I won’t find him because I’m NOT A SLUT LIKE YOU ARE, HANNAH.” Setting aside the internalized misogyny and shitty gender politics, “Hide Away” is just a lousy track; this overeager drum track and plodding synth combo are headache inducing and too aggressive to be a ballad while not being aggressive enough to be a dance track. At least “Dear Future Husband” was catchy.
SPEAKING OF WHICH
8. Meghan Trainor – “NO” (#45)
Welcome back, Meghan. Wouldn’t be the Worst of the Year list without you. Credit where it’s due, “NO”‘s “fuck off to the scrubs” message is on-point, it’s just a shitshow of a song and a performance. I don’t know who told Trainor decided to try “rapping” with the most nasally, grating voice ever, or why “NO” calls for that to be the way she leads the chorus, but she should probably fire this person. And if it’s her, then I don’t know, maybe don’t listen to that impulse? Sing generic duets with John Legend instead? Trainor has a good voice when she decides to sing–which is why you’re seeing “NO” here instead of “Me Too” (barely), so her choice to go as annoying as possible for stretches on here is confusing. Especially over such a flailing song; if someone offers you watered down ’90s beat, tell them NO, too?
7. Florida Georgia Line – “H.O.L.Y.”(#49)
If walking bro-country symptoms Florida Georgia Line had written just another bro-country party jam, they’d miss the list. But, because FGL tactfully follow trends instead of bucking them and now that bro-country is a liability instead of an asset, they’ve gone soft rock with “H.O.L.Y.” (short for “high on loving you,” dear God this is lame). And what’s worse, they’re leaning into the maudlin, gutless territory of easy-bake, blando Christian rock, where the music and praises are as thoughtless as possible; FGL were never master musicians or spectacular arrangers, but “H.O.L.Y.” is mailed in, even for them. And I hate referencing 13-year-old jokes on shows I’ve never watched, but have you ever heard the old riff South Park has about Christian rock where you just swap “Baby” out for “Jesus,” and you’ve got a Christian hit? “H.O.L.Y.” is exactly that kind of song, only so cheaply written that its platitudes sound fake regardless of if you’re talking to her or Him. Just go listen to a song that means it, like “Blessings.”
6. Shawn Mendes – “Treat You Better” (#28)
Let’s talk about what makes something “the worst” for a second, because I’m afraid this list so far reads like it’s made of the softest targets possible, i.e. “Oh, Chris Brown put out a song this year? Of course that’s in.” But I promise that’s not the case–I listened to the whole list (including what felt like so much redundant trap), and there were a lot of mediocre songs that had at least one thing in their favor. “Pillowtalk” might be the equivalent of shouting “this guy fucks,” but Zayn sells it well enough, and the only reason I’m not laughing at Drake’s fake accenting on “Controlla” is because Boi1da came through. “Lost Boys” might secretly be 6 hours long, but at least it’s a full story, you know? “The worst” here means “takes an L in all categories;” something like “Hide Away” is kinda gross lyrically, buuuut the production is subpar, too, whereas “In the Night” escapes the list because of the hook.
All of this is a long way of saying that Shawn Mendes isn’t here because he’s an infinitely twerpy milquetoast who’s easy to make fun of, but because he’s an infinitely twerpy milquetoast whose flavorless song actually drops the line “Any girl like you deserves a gentleman” right into its wretched chorus. The line after that, by the way, is “Tell me why are we wasting time/On all your wasted crying/When you should be with me instead” which is meant (I hope) to be sweet, but just comes off as condescending, like “Can’t you just date me already so we can skip the not-dating-me part?” The boring instrumentation only makes “Treat You Better” sound more like a wet blanket, so does Mendes (a man of semi-limited vocal means at the best of times)’s decision to occasionally try to soulfully belt the line “Better than he can!” in such a mangled way that it comes out closer to “Badda tha h’caan!” Oh, he also promises he’ll stop time for you, so there’s that.
Him and Daya would have the most annoying courtship.
Check back tomorrow for part two!
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: Worst Hits of the Year (10-6)
12/16: Worst Hits of the Year (5-1)
12/17: Best Hits of the Year (10-6)
12/18: Best Hits of the Year (5-1)
12/19: The Gibby 50 and Over/Underrated Albums
12/20: The Year in Rant: Odds and Ends