Alright, let’s finish this.
5. Taylor Swift – “Look What You Made Me Do” (#39)
“Look What You Made Me Do” is Taylor Swift’s worst hit, and I can prove it against her worst outtings from other records.
–“Bad Blood” from 1989: Eh, at least it’s vague enough as a diss to not entirely rely on Katy Perry, and the remix sort of knocks
–“22” from Red: flimsy as hell, but at least it’s straight ahead
–“Sparks Fly” from Speak Now and “White Horse” from Fearless: I normally give credit to someone who strikes out swinging than taking the just-fine bunt, but “LWYMMD” is a bad construct in a way these two aren’t
–“Picture to Burn” from Taylor Swift: This one has the gay joke, but at least Swift’s tried nuking that from orbit at this point, and the song’s trash talk doesn’t waffle metaphors
“Look What You Made Me Do” is a context-dependent tirade whose lyrics never center in on what the offending party did or what Swift is going to do in response, and the music is a loud, ill-fitting mess. I get why she frontloaded it as a single, but I’ll be amazed if this thing gets remembered.
4. Imagine Dragons – “Believer” (#9)
In 2015, Imagine Dragons released their second album, whose title remains a perfect descriptor of their music. It was (spoiler) not a very good record, and I kind of unloaded on it because Imagine Dragons are like if a forty-five minute wait at BDubs was a band. Everyone seemed to notice that, and I thought their whole moment was over when S+M ended up being a go-nowhere record that didn’t have the hits or chart success of their debut. It did have this song on it, though, called “I’m So Sorry,” which was an admittedly kickass tune that only sounded flunky when Dan Reynolds would screech the title through his nose with an exaggerated rasp.
I didn’t think much of it at the time, but those few pinched seconds of “I’m So Sorry” would be the harbinger of Imagine Dragons’ return to the hit parade with “Believer,” whose hook Reynolds delivers as though he’s trying to shatter his nasal cavity. It’d be almost impossible to tell what Reynolds was bleating if his lyrics weren’t something as basic as “HEYYYYY YA MAKE ME A/YOU MAKE ME A BELIEVAHH, BELIEEEVAHH” over a garish beat. And, if that wasn’t enough, Reynolds also decides to get his “I’ve been listening to a little band called Twenty One Pilots–maybe you’ve heard of them” flow on a few times, only without sounding as natural on the mic as Tyler Joseph (God, do any of these guys believe in real last names?). Add that on top of the half-assed AWOLNATION-stealing shanty, and you’ve got a song that’s straight up rock and roll heresy.
3. Sam Hunt – “Body Like a Back Road” (#8)
I swear this song didn’t make the list because of its central premise. Like, I know it’s easy to shag modern crossover country ([“Look What You Made Me Do” voice] “I do it all the time”), but if you’re being fair about it, “Body Like a Back Road” has the same cross-genre premise of “Trap Queen.” No, “Body Like a Back Road” makes the list because every part of it is just lousy. Sam Hunt’s halting singing can’t quite mask how poor his voice is, the instrumentation sounds too drunk on cheap beer, I cannot fathom why anyone in 2017 would use those “heys” that we were all sick of by “Rack City,” and the lyrics are just flat-out dumb. “Body Like a Back Road” is like a back road: it’s shite and you should avoid it.
2. Blackbear – “Do Re Mi” (#98)
I swear this song made the list entirely because of its central premise.
In the interest of bloggeristic integrity, I listen through each song on the year-end Hot 100 before sitting down to seriously make a list of best/worst candidates. I’ll pencil in obvious picks as I go–like, of course “Slide” was going to appear on the best list somewhere, as was “Body Like a Back Road” on the worst–but I don’t preload my lists because there’s always a chance I’ll be surprised.
For example, when I discovered “Do Re Mi” got its name from playing that “Do re mi fa so fucking done with youuuu” hook straight, this fucker was damn near guaranteed a spot in the top 5. A by-numbers trap rattler by rapper Blackbear–a guy who seems less like a human and more like if an #aesthetic Insta gained sentience so it could learn how to ghost you–“Do Re Mi” is a blast of misogyny that doesn’t have an original bone in its cad body. I mean, I can get behind a good “fuck you” song, and I’m sure that someone like The Weeknd or Drake or even dvsn could make something like this a little more palatable, but you look at “Do Re Mi” and it’s like, c’mon, dude. I was going to make a crack about how this song seems like musical equivalent of seeing a guy call his ex a “fuckin bitch” on Facebook, but “Do Re Mi” straight up includes the lyric “Bitch, you crazy.” This song’s just mean, too; there’s no demented freedom coming from Blackbear, he’s just a guy in his feelings. Shit, she was probably right to leave his ass, too.
1. XXXTentacion – “Look At Me!” (#99)
So, our annual trip to the summit of Shit Mountain has been full of bad music, but we’re just having fun with it, right? Like, end of the day, it’s just a countdown from jokes at Shawn Mendes’ expense to jokes at Lukas Graham’s and we all peace out, yeah?
It’s a little harder to do that with this year’s number one.
XXXTentacion is a Florida rapper. Without getting into a year and a half of unpacking, I am writing this sentence while he is back in jail after getting slapped with additional charges like witness tampering and harassment following his arrest last year over domestic violence allegations, and there is a very real chance that he would be in prison for decades if convicted. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
“Look At Me!” just bums me out. There’s a torturous “art vs. artist” argument you can dance around, there’s a tired debate you can throw around over the merits of looking into someone’s darkest parts, but “Look At Me!” isn’t really worth entertaining either one. As a song, it’s SoundCloud rapper fodder that believes sounding like shit is a treasured aesthetic choice, like how bands will call themselves lo-fi to avoid having to sound coherent, and X’s shock rap, which largely consists of lines like “can’t keep my dick in my pants” and “My emo bitch like her wrist slit” doesn’t land like depraved, gleeful fantasy, but like someone conjuring imagery to cope with their own trauma. But with X, these impulses aren’t just imagery. They have real, tangible consequences for him and everyone around him, and honestly, a career like his feels counterproductive to him getting the help he needs, and the hell away from anyone else who might get hurt. It seems toxic. And, for a year where pop culture itself seemed tainted because of the toxic actions of the men running the (sometimes literal) show, there’s no song that fits this year’s worst impulses better than “Look At Me!”
[Y’all are cool sitting this embed out, I promise.]
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