Hello everyone, and welcome to Day 5 of Listmas, where we’re closing out the year of 2017 here at Ranting About Music! For the last 4 days, we’ve been looking at everything good about the year musically; my favorite albums, favorite songs, and the best pop hits of the year. But, you had a bit of a year, right? You’re not looking for someone to talk about the greatness of Kendrick Lamar for the umpteenth time, or lay down some more praise for Kesha. You’re here for blood, aren’t you? You’re here let your inner hater loose. Well, these next two days have you covered with the worst this year had to offer.
The biggest difference I’ve found, between the best hits and the worst hits lists, is that the hardest part of both lists is sussing out the rankings on the worst hits. The best and worst songs of the year are usually pretty apparent, and you can build your case on the best hits list pretty well because there tends to be depth to liking a thing. Disliking something tends to be a knee-jerk reaction, and requires more interrogation of how you feel the way you feel. And these are the songs that, on reflection, can suck it from this year. First a quick recap on the rules.
-Had to land on the Billboard year-end Hot 100.
-Couldn’t be on my worst hits list last year.
-Had to peak this year.
One honorable mention like the best list, and then we’ll go.
Dishonorable Mention: Portugal. The Man – “Feel It Still” (#45)
The Dishonorable Mention has traditionally been the space where I can let my petty soul breath. If there’s a song that I hate, but putting it on the actual list would be disingenuous because it’s not the worst, then this is where it goes. Gotta earn that “Ranting” in the site name somehow.
Anyway, the 2017 dishonorable mention goes to “Feel It Still,” the random hit from indie lifers Portugal. The Man. The narrative around this one was excited chatter that Portugal. The Man, a real life band with actual, breathing people in it, was able to claw their way to the Top 10 after an extended stint on the charts. That much is true: “Feel It Still” caught on in the later part of the year thanks to its appearances in TV spots, ads, and sports arena dance cams with its lightly funky beat and accenting horn. Limited exposure like that is the best way to encounter “Feel It Still,” because the song crumbles like fucking ash if looked at head-on. “Feel It Still” is a song made out of spare parts: Danger Mouse-era Black Keys vintage-psych worship, anonymous vocals, and Fitz and the Tantrums/Bastille/the “Pumped Up Kicks” guys instrumentation for a song so vague that I swore I’d heard it before when listening to it for the first time. I get that it was relief seeing a real band actually notch a hit, but it’s less fun when the hit in question is just like, “Shake It Off” on benzos.
10. Sam Smith – “Too Good At Goodbyes” (#77)
Okay, so remember yesterday, where we talked about how great Kesha’s “Praying” was because it was a piano ballad that didn’t feel like it was cheating you, and how I specifically mentioned that living in a world where Samuel Frederick Smith was making piano ballads made it hard to not be cynical about them? “Too Good At Goodbyes” proves how you get so cynical in the first place. This soppy ballad tries do everything, but ends up coming off as aimless; those backing singers come rushing into the last chorus like, “Wait, shit, we’re here already?!” But beyond that, this song’s lyrics make no fucking sense. Smith says how he’s been here before, and how his lover must think he’s cold and heartless…but then the pre-chorus makes it sound like Smith’s the one who got hurt? And then he resolves that he’s not going to let anyone close, but the song is about someone telling him goodbye, and implies they’ve done this a bunch of fucking times and what the hell do you want from this man, Sam Smith? I know that because of his arm-load of Grammies and multiple bank accounts, Smith has no reason to not keep rewriting this shit, but can he at least put some effort forth?
9. James Arthur – “Say You Won’t Let Go” (#11)
“Hey babe, I wrote this song about us! I wrote about how you talked to me at a party–or maybe it was a club? I kinda forget, I just know that it was dark–and how you were such a drunken mess that I held your hair back while you threw up, and you were okay with that despite the fact that we had just met. I wrote about how you smiled between heaves, and how I fell in love with you and how your body rejected vodka cranberries. Oh, and how you said I should stay over, but I refused. And then I wrote about how awesome it was of me to bring you breakfast in bed, and coffee, and how I’ll take the kids to school while you, I don’t know, just kind of exist as someone for me to wax poetic about. There’s also a bit where I say I want to love you till death do we part, like wedding vows, but then, I say that it’s just like our wedding vows! And how your love is worth more than its weight in gold despite love being an intangible concept because I love you so much I no longer understand metaphors! Oh, and the whole thing is set to this really basic little acoustic guitar ja–hey, where are you going?”
8. YFN Lucci ft. PnB Rock – “Everyday We Lit” (#95)
The Question: What would it sound like if you took someone who hated modern rap, but also didn’t know a lot about it, and told them to make a rap song that sounded most like what they envisioned all modern rap to be?
7. Ed Sheeran – “Shape of You” (#1)
Writing for Uproxx, culture critic Steven Hyden pointed out that nothing’s ventured by making fun of Ed Sheeran in the year of our Lorde 2017. Attacking Ed Sheeran at this point is like shitting on Michael Bay or trash talking Applebee’s: it’s the easiest way to show you have basic (as in minimal) discernment/taste. It’s free points. But then, I listen to “Shape of You,” and more than the overplay, more than the fact that I sometimes think it was written and produced a predictive bot that plugged and chugged a bunch of Spotify pop playlists like that Harry Potter chapter, what I hate about “Shape of You” is what a Self-Insert Fic it is. That Ed Sheeran would be able to sucker a woman in through the combined powers of Van Morrison and the China Buffet is the height of male fantasy, as is imagining that anybody would find a lyric like, “I’m in love with the shape of you” or “And now my bedsheets smell like you” endearing. It might be easy to make fun of Sheeran, but that doesn’t make it wrong.
6. Shawn Mendes – “Mercy” (#54)
Who did this to Shawn Mendes? Who broke this (Siri, how old is Shawn Mendes?) child’s heart to the extent that the only way he thinks he can win them back is through a song whose John Mayer Lite guitar, elbow slamming piano chords, and exaggerated drums are so melodramatic that they venture into cartoonishness? Did this same person not tell him that a world The Disaster Artist at least in development in it is not one where “You’re tearing me apart” can be taken seriously as a lyric? Was it this same soul who convinced squeaky-clean Shawn Mendes that he had to sing with a phlegmy rasp to convey gravitas, or that he had to offer to torture and offer up his life twice for them? Or did they just say “make a terrible song for me” and all it there? I ask because I care, Shawn. I ask because I worry, Shawn. I ask so you don’t appear in the #6 spot again, Shawn.
We wrap up this list tomorrow!
Listmas 2017 Schedule
12/14: Favorite Albums
12/15: The Gibby Fifty (50 Favorite Songs)
12/16: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/17: Top Ten Best Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/18: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 1)
12/19: Top Ten Worst Hits of 2017 (pt. 2)
12/20: The Year In Rant/Odds and Ends