Hello there, and welcome to Listmas 2018 Day 3! Today, we leave the world of albums behind to start our song-based coverage. Quick reminder: We’re gonna do Worst Hits today and tomorrow, 50 Favorite Songs Sunday, and then come back after Christmas for the Best Hits.
Let’s get into the dirt.
So, part of why I ended up not blogging this year, and something that caused Radio Rants to fall off in the last year or so before that, was that pop hit a lull in the last few years. That’s not to say that there isn’t still exciting stuff out there, just that it wasn’t catching on under the crushing streaming numbers of whatever bullshit song that got buoyed by dance fads, artists too big to fail, and rappers with 2 minute songs and grossly outsized followings. That lead to a year-end chart that feels really underwhelming and kind of (no pun intended) listless. In fact, I had a worryingly high number of cuts to make to the Worst Hits list. It wasn’t all doom and gloom as we’ll see after a brief Christmas break, but 2018 left a mark.
Before we get to the list, [extreme Dua Lipa voice] I got some rules, I count’em.
- Songs must be on the Billboard Year-End Hot 100 for 2018 to qualify.
- If a song made the Worst/Best Hits lists last year, it’s ineligible this year. We want all new faces, so “Shape of You” and “Mi Gente” were removed from contention.
- Slightly Updated: The song had to peak during 2018 to be considered eligible. I’ve implemented this with something along the lines of “The song has to have been relevant this year” in the last few years, so really, I’m just making it more official sounding. Billboard’s “Year-End” chart actually technically covers the charts from last year’s December to this year’s mid-November, so a few late December holdouts always make it here, and…I mean, the worst hits of 2018 have to be the worst hits of 2018, you know? Nothing major got lost with this rule, it just took out stuff like “Sorry Not Sorry” and “rockstar.”
And now, the list.
Dishonorable Mention: Post Malone – “I Fall Apart” (#39) and “Psycho” (#6)
The Dishonorable Mention spot is effectively my “Most Hated” pick: it’s for the song that I can’t in good conscience put on the list, but I hate enough that I couldn’t let it slide, either.
This year, the spot goes to a pair of songs that capture the totality of Post Malone’s shitty multitudes. “I Fall Apart” is Post at his most mealy-mouthed and boringly woman-hating; some woman (I’m sorry, some “Devil in the form of a whore” because Post is actually from the 19th century) hurt his fee-fees and now he’s too sad to enjoy his jewelry or his cars, leading to “Weird flex, but okay” lyrics like “Whippin in the foreign and the tears keep rollin” and “Never caught a feeling this hard/Harder than the liquor I pour.” Making things worse is that this soggy tune expresses such feelings with the artless drudgery of a guy trying to soldier through an original song at open-mic night with a guitar and a drum machine.
Meanwhile, “Psycho” captures everything stupid about Post’s singles in go. It leans far too hard on one kinda interesting melody that can’t sustain itself over a hook that gets stretched into infinity. It’s less a genre mismash than it is musically inert. It wastes a competent guest appearance. Post riffs on someone else’s physical appearance (“Had so many bottles, gave ugly girl a sip”) while looking like this. And, what really puts it over the edge for me, is that the chorus has this painful slant rhyme where he rhymes “Psycho” with “Michael” with “ON you” that kneecaps it every time. Post had an absolute monster 2018, and I don’t know if that was in spite of or because of the fact that he’s terrible.
10. Drake – “I’m Upset” (#86)
Drake has a bad tendency to put out too many “just fine” songs, so when he lays an egg, it’s really noticeable. Such is the case with Scorpion lowlight and possibly his single illest-timed release “I’m Upset.” Nothing about this song, from Drake’s delivery to the lyrics to the generic trap drums and bass meets SNES game piano loop lands right; I’m baffled anyone thought this single was a good idea. “I’m Upset” needs a rapper who can sound petty and aggrieved without being infinitely whiney (think the first half of “I Don’t Fuck With You”), and Drake just can’t do that. Drake’s best shit talkers are the ones where you can feel him step outside his moody apathy for a minute because he has that much vitriol for you. When he tries for wounded like he does here, he just sounds entitled.
And then Push happened. Three days after Drake released a song expressing frustration at being financially tied to a woman, Pusha T dropped “The Story of Adidon,” where he revealed that Drake has a child he’s kept on the down low. There’s no way to hear Aubrey as anything other than impossibly small while protesting “I still got like seven years of doing what I want!” once you know he’s a dad that refuses to acknowledge his kid. If “I’m Upset” was already a miss, it became a hideous looking during Surgical Summer. Yuegh.
9. Maroon 5 feat. Cardi B – “Girls Like You” (#10)
Oh, Maroon 5. It’s not the Worst Hits if it’s not with you.
Maroon 5 have been a kissass band since “Payphone,” and “Girls Like You” has the distinct kissass flavor of playlist-baiting. The song is a grabbag bastardization of every broad trend possible: muted and moody synths meet percussion that’s bolstered with finger snaps and handclaps meet a pedestrian acoustic guitar lick with aggressive string squeaks for bogus “authenticity” in attempt to sneak onto every Spotify and terrestrial radio playlist possible while bringing absolutely nothing to the table. And, even for Maroon 5, the lyrics here are mailed in: who the fuck knows what to take from a filler lyric like “Girls like you run ‘round with guys like me?”
“Girls Like You” solidified it’s ranking here, though, with the verse from Cardi. Her verse isn’t bad, it’s just that Cardi is too, well, alive for a song this sedate. Adam Levine spends two and a half minutes confusing a tepid delivery with an intimate one, and then in comes Cardi zigzagging through the track and throwing in her trademark ad-libs (in fact, it bears mentioning that “Girls Like You” is possibly the only song where “Okurrt!” shows up–it’s usually a social media/interview tick); these two have all the chemistry of the tertiary couple in a high school musical. But, we all know that Cardi isn’t here because she pairs so well with Adam Levine, she’s here because (like Wiz Khalifa in 2012, Kendrick Lamar in 2016, and Future in 2017) she’s the hot rapper of the moment, and this pandering bullshit worked: “Girls Like You” spent 7 weeks at number 1. Maroon 5 have been a mainstream name since 2002, I’m sure it won’t be long until they reti–Adam Levine’s only 39?!
8. Imagine Dragons – “Natural” (#69, nice)
Look, this is just a rewrite of ID’s already shrill, tuneless shanty “Believer” with Dan Reynolds yowling about getting a little tough in a cold, uncaring world. And when Dan Reynolds wants to roll up his sleeves, get intense, and snarl, he sounds so hard that I bet he’d still get coldclocked by “I’m Upset” Drake.
7. NF – “Let You Down” (#29)
I’m writing part of this list on the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. The trees have shed their leaves, it’s been overcast after raining yesterday, and it’s bright enough that no one has their Christmas lights on yet. Today’s just miserable and dreary in a grossly uninteresting way.
You see where I’m going with this: today feels like how Christian (maybe?) rapper NF’s music sounds. If you want all of Twenty One Pilots’ neediness without the warmth, and late-era Eminem’s stone-faced seriousness and woeful beat selection without the technical verve, have I got a guy for you! On “Let You Down,” NF spits with his fists clenched over a beat of staid piano chords and drums as colorless as asphalt about being a let down to…someone?
That’s the thing: I can’t tell who “Let You Down” is supposed to be addressed to. There’s a line where NF underlines “That’s parents for you,” but in the next lines, he’s talking about someone who put a knife in his back when they should have been loyal, and while a parent can super betray a kid, the idea of a parent being loyal…like, that’s weird, right? And other parts of the song sound addressed to a parent, but then there are a lot of “we”s thrown in and another line stating that “Both know you’re gonna call tomorrow” like this is to an on again/off again significant other. I don’t know, it’s all confusing, and for a guy as fixated as NF is on making REAL MUSIC, you’d think he’d be more fastidious.
6. Thomas Rhett – “Marry Me” (#76)
The punchline is that the full lyric reads “She wanna get married/But she don’t wanna marry me.” It’s a Nashville bait and switch: after the first verse of a song called “Marry Me” details the loving image of a country girl’s dream wedding, you think that the nervous fellow who describes himself in the chorus as holding back tears and taking a pull from a whiskey flask to calm his nerves is the groom, but ohhh waiiit, we discover that it’s not the groom whose talking, but the sad bastard in the pew who loved her the whole time. He’s morose; he reflects on that time they almost kissed (but didn’t, because they’re friends), he laments that her daddy “ain’t the only one giving her away,” and he boldly decides that he won’t declare his love on her wedding day. Instead, he’ll be the unsung hero by being there, holding himself together, and wishing her well.
My guy: just don’t go.
Like, this is a solvable problem: if seeing your lady love marrying who I have to assume is James Marsden is going to cause you this much anguish, you don’t have to be there. Stay in and keep off social media, or take a day trip and buy them some hand towels off the registry; in a beautiful fit of irony, your presence at the wedding is not required. And c’mon: you love this woman this much, and yet you just kinda just hoped she’d love you back and never shot your shot? Actually, I take it back. Go to the wedding, you deserve to sit at a table where you don’t know anyone and have lousy chicken alfredo before doing the Electric Slide. Ya dink.
Come back tomorrow for more!
Listmas 2018 Schedule
December 19th: Top Ten Favorite Albums of the Year
December 20th: A Brief Inquiry Into 2018
December 21st: Top Ten Worst Pop Hits of the Year, pt. 1
December 22nd: Top Ten Worst Pop Hits of the Year, pt. 2
December 23rd: The Gibby Fifty (50 favorite songs)
December 26th: Top Ten Best Pop Hits of the Year, pt. 1
December 27th: Top Ten Best Pop Hits of the Year, pt. 2