Alright, today ain’t gonna be fun, but let’s finish this.
5. Florida Georgia Line – “Simple” (#82)
Florida Georgia Line’s yee-hack duet with Bebe Rexa got more attention this year, but “Simple” has the double-whammy of being deeply annoying and deeply bullshit, so it won out. Let’s handle annoying first: “Simple”’s chorus deadass includes lyrics like “One, two, three just as easy as can be” and “It’s just that simple, S-I-M-P-L-E/Simple as can be,” looped forever and the only only two musical moods it has are that faux-folksy whistle and what I can only describe as country music white noise.
But “Simple” is also deeply bullshit because no one on God’s cruel Earth should ever buy the idea that Florida Georgia Line are arbiters of country/folk-style earnestness. These guys are really out here talking about being “Simple like a six-string” when they’ve used more trap drums than Ariana Grande, and namechecked Drake on their debut single; FGL’s entire schtick has always been that they were only country in the most superficial ways possible. An interview with the duo this year suggested that “Simple” may be their pivot to “real” county, which feels like a fake in itself because the vocals on the chorus are so processed that they sound like some country robot telling you to live life free. “Simple” is like a Facebook post talking about how much better your life’s been without social media.
4. XXXTentacion – “SAD!” (#17) and “Moonlight” (#88) and “Changes” (#94)
Hooooo boy. Last year, I wrote about rapper XXXTentacion and the not-fun he brought with him on account of his history of violence against women, his court cases, and mental illness, and this year he was shot dead during an attempted robbery, and after his death, a recording surface of him confessing to domestic abuse and stabbing nine people. And he charted three year-end singles.
Look, all things being equal, nothing about X feels good. Not his long list of reprehensible behavior. Not his fiercely devoted fanbase who will contort themselves into every shape to justify said behavior while harassing one of his victims. Not his damaged upbringing. Not the Floridan legal system that was likely to be disproportionately aggressive in pursuing punitive justice against a black teen. Not the labels who kept working with him. Not the artists (looking at you, Kendrick) who should have known better than to support him. Not the fact that he’s dead. And certainly not his music.
All 3 of these songs would have made the worst-of list even if X was alive and well and taught swim lessons at the Y instead of assault people as a way to process his traumas. I didn’t want to give each one its own slot since for one, giving the same artist 3 spaces out of 10 would have felt anti-climatic, and for another, each write-up would have been a slightly reshuffled version of this one, so we’re still making the point all the same. Here’s the brief on the songs.
“SAD!”: The most fully-formed of the 3, and even if sounds more like an outline than a full song.
“Moonlight”: Fun Fact: the only half-interesting thing here sounds like a glitchy sample of Jeremih’s “Oui.”. Fun Fact: the first thing most people associate with the word “moonlight” these days is the intensely empathetic Barry Jenkins film about a black gay man living in Florida who has to unlearn the coldness the world taught him so he can live. Fun Fact: X once freely admitted to beating a gay cellmate in juvie within an inch of his life because he looked at him (I told you this would be a bad time).
“Changes:” One of the recurring lyrics here is X telling a girl “You’re changing, I can’t stand it.” Do I even need to say anything at this point?
3. 6ix9ine – “GUMMO” (#56)
Okay, maybe we can regroup now that we’ve got the not-fun of X out of the way. Let’s see what riffs can be got from rapper 6ix9ine’s Wiki pa–
“Hernandez plead guilty to using a 13-year-old child in sexual performance in 2015. He was arrested in November of 2018 on racketeering and firearm charges, among others, for which he is facing a possible life sentence in federal prison.”
“GUMMO” is a two and a half blare of screamed, flowless rap delivered in a constipated voice that could accurately called “rap game Chad Kroeger.” Like X, the delineating “art vs. artist” line doesn’t exist for 6ix9ine, who raps about doing gang shit while having a history of gang activity, but unlike X, there’s no emotional throughline for fans to latch onto. 6ix9ine (God, that’s such a hassle to type) just doesn’t seem worth it: the music’s bad, the pedophilia is worse, and he keeps getting into legal trouble despite the plea deal and rap career. Dude’s just as radioactive as his hair looks at this point, who would work with him?
2. 6ix9ine feat. Nicki Minaj – “Fefe” (#31)
For as bad as “GUMMO” is, it’s at least on, however dubious they may be, 6ix9ine’s artistic terms, while Fefe” is a shameless attempt to sand off his edges for a crossover hit, right down to the big name cosign. Everything about this song’s just gross: 6ix, taker of a plea deal in a sexual conduct involving a minor charge, is the last guy I wanna hear talk about sexual prowess and preferences (we already have a good guess, sport), the childlike visuals are their own yikes, and…we gotta talk about Nicki here.
Not all guest appearances are created equal, and a few years ago, I came up with the term “the Skype Call Guest Spot.” This refers to guest hooks/verses where it’s obvious that the featured artist’s involvement with the track is so minimal, that it’s conceivable that the main artist and guest artist were never in the same room for any part of the song/video’s creation (probably the Ur example is will.i.am’s “#thatPOWER,” where the video literally beams in Justin Bieber for his hook). Nicki’s done plenty of these–my favorite is the awful shop-job in “Swish Swish” that has to be seen to be believed–and if that was the case for “Fefe,” her involvement would probably be unfortunate but incidental. But she is all over this track, jumping on the intro, adding ad-libs under 6ix’s lines, and using a flow similar to his for her verse. She shows up like Regina George’s mom in Mean Girls, enabling all the villain’s worst impulses, but with none of that Amy Poehler charm. This really could have been one to phone in.
1. Lil Dicky feat. Chris Brown – “Freaky Friday” (#55)
Let’s start at the beginning. “Freaky Friday”’s a comedy rap song by joke rapper and joke rapper Lil Dicky with the premise that Dicky and Chris Brown wake up body swapped, ala Freaky Friday, a movie that came out when Dicky’s target demo was in preschool, and in the end, getting Brown to love himself swaps them back. The song’s completely disposable: over a beat that probably came from DJ Mustard’s “2013 drafts” folder, Chris Brown does his big, bright, “AutoTune’s doing the heavy lifting” thing while Dicky barrels through every one of his lines like a frat guy doing a Big Sean impression after pregaming the Winter Formal. And for a joke song, no one could be assed to write any jokes*.
The only thing funny about “Freaky Friday” is just how hard it comes off as an unintentional self-own for both names on the marquee. Mega-famous abuser Chris Brown, months removed from some of the most blatant chart thirst I’ve ever seen, has to do what’s two steps shy of a Jim Crow song and dance routine of stereotypes with a novelty performer for a hit. When Lil Dicky inhabits his body, Brown celebrates that he can sing, dance, hoop, has a big dick (this one comes up multiple times in the song), and, in a fascinating look into Dicky’s psyche, can say “nigga” whenever he wants. Then there’s Lil Dicky. You could do a deep dive on this, but between the n-word bit in “Freaky Friday” and everything about this video, it’s apparent that Dicky is so impossibly hard up for black cool or acceptance that he’s willing to work with a pariah like Chris Brown to get even a little of it. Not only that, he smooths over Brown’s history as “my [his] controversial past” (although is it really “the past” if there are controversies after the song dropped?) and the song bends over backwards to emphasize how great being Chris Brown is despite evidence of the contrary. Ending “Look who I can get” cameos from Ed Sheeran and DJ Khaled pass without incident since both of them mail in their appearances, and the less said about Dicky as Kendall (COULDN’T GET KYLIE) Jenner’s ebullience at having a vagina, the better.
All of this–the lack of jokes, the shitty jokes that get made, Chris Brown still getting work–makes “Freaky Friday” a miserable experience, but what elevates the song to being the worst hit of the year is that it shows just how small pop was in 2018. “Freaky Friday” wasn’t just a streaming and YouTube hit: it had some decent placement on charts that also track influence and radio play, like Billboard’s Rhythmic chart and the R&B/Hot R&B and Hip Hop charts, so it was out in the world. You would expect something like this to generate some controversy, and it kind of did, but criticism of “Freaky Friday” was basically limited to the first week or two of its release. It didn’t prompt any sustained backlash (or success, for that matter) the way “All About That Bass,” “We Can’t Stop,” “Fancy,” “Dear Future Husband,” or “Blurred Lines” kept drawing fire a few years ago. Because of a myriad of factors from pop’s slump to world suck just being this much louder, even our pop controversies aren’t as splashy as they used to be, and nothing showed pop’s diminished place in the world this year like “Freaky Friday.” Congrats on underlining pop malaise, guys, great work.
*Okay, fine, “Freaky Friday” has exactly one good joke, and it’s in the video. When Dicky-as-Brown is reveling in the fact that he can say “nigga” consequence free, the video cuts to him saying it to a bunch of different people. The funniest of the bunch is when he’s in a niceish restaurant, and he tells a waitress played by the most placid looking white woman imaginable “Big ups, my nigga” with a nod while she refills his water glass.
Come back tomorrow, where we’ll look at some of my favorite songs, and a much sunnier disposition!
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