Radio Rant: Ariana Grande feat. Nicki Minaj – Side to Side

Hello, and welcome to Radio Rants! New year, new Rant, let’s jump on.

A quiet but triumphant thing happened last year: Ariana Grande became an actual, solidified pop star. While true that she’s in her second major album cycle (discounting “The Way,” Yours Truly was basically a Selena Gomez and the Scene album), everything Grande did in the My Everything era had that self-conscious “I do adult pop music now, please do not mention my old kids show” slant that Gomez and Miley had in 2013. She was wobbly at Dangerous Woman‘s release too, for different reasons, but that seemed to work itself out by summer’s end. As a result, Grande ended last year as the newest pop star with an established base. Now, to be clear, part of it is also the field; anyone bigger than Grande seems either too disinterested in the pop idol game (Rihanna, The Weeknd) or has transcended it (Beyonce, Drake), while her competitors who haven’t imploded already (Charli XCX, Iggy Azalea) lack the right songs to personality ratio (Meghan Trainor, The Chainsmokers). She’s pretty much alone in her lane as the industry backed, personable, good but never singular, pop star. Welcome to the new age.

But, nothing feels as convincing of Grande’s newly minted stardom as “Side To Side,” which consists of exactly one entendre tucked inside a nothingburger of a song. If this is Grande’s biggest single off of Dangerous Woman (it’s already her highest charting), and not the a-okay title track or the fantastic “Into You,” then she’s clearly hit the point of pop entrenchment where she’s rewarded more for showing up than bringing her best material. I’ll say this for “Side To Side:” it’s the most unhurried she’s ever sounded on record, which is good for Grande’s long-term career prospects, but doesn’t add much to a song that’s already low energy. It comfortably sounds like a third single, which is to say, kind of conservative. Regardless of quality, the third single is the one that’s just kind of there. It’s not as attention grabbing as the lead single, nor designed for maximum airplay like the second one, but doesn’t have that “why the fuck not?” edge that comes with batting clean-up (Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and T.Swift’s 1989 exemplify this order).

And musically, “Side to Side” is the epitome of “just kinda there.” It has that incorrigible reggae/tropical bounce to it that pop ran into the ground a year ago, and that just sounds bizarre next to single degree temperatures outside. The heavy bassline in the verses adds a little texture, but it’s not enough to give the song any kind of life beyond Max Martin-led pop song #1138. What’s weird about “Side to Side” is how the pre-chorus and chorus both hint at this release that never comes; the pre-chorus (“These friends keep talkin’ way too much”) raises the drama, and the first two lines of the chorus (“I’ve been here all night/I’ve been here all day”) hint at a climaxbut when it comes to the actual delivery of “You’ve got me walking side to side,” the song shoots a blank. While it splashes around in the same vaguely tropical waters as “Cheap Thrills” and others, “Side to Side” comes up dry.

But I’ve jerked around as long as I can, it’s time to get to the thrust of what people talk about when it comes to “Side to Side:” did you know that this song is about getting dick? In fact–ahem, I don’t know if you know this yet–but it’s about getting dicked so hard you can’t walk straight the next day. Scandalous. It’s compulsive to hint that you know this whenever “Side to Side” comes up; even yesterday, I heard the song on the radio, and the DJ followed it up with “That was Ariana Grande’s ‘Side to Side,’ I’ll let you figure out what it’s about” like the meaning is some Dan Brown Illuminati shit to be decoded, and not immediately where your mind goes after hearing “I’ve been here all night/I’ve been here all day/And boy, you got me walking side to side” for the first time.

Two things with this. First of all, y’all, this is not a secret. The only reason the “You Won’t Believe What ‘Side to Side’ is Actually About” narrative exists is because Grande and her team framed the song that way. Grande copped to the meaning as soon as the song started getting promotional push before playing coy about it on twitter, at which point Buzzfeed ran a piece on Pop Twitter’s wild overreaction, and we all agreed to just go with it. No one who took more than a glance at this song or its video thought it was actually about bicycles (speaking of the workout video: Kanye did it first, Best Coast did it better). Second of all, I don’t know how much sex Ariana Grande does or doesn’t have, but I do know that “Love Me Harder,” a song of hers that’s just barely not about rough sex, already exists, so the sexual nature of “Side to Side” barely registers. The shock behind “dick bicycle” exists just so this song can sell.

Otherwise, there’s not much to “Side to Side.” Grande sounds fine, the beat’s unremarkable, and Nicki does one of those solid pop verses that I feel like we take for granted, but I also don’t have much to say about (aside from “Rappers in they feelings cuz they feelin’ me” getting a lot funnier now that she’s broken up with Meek Mill). I want to say that I’m surprised this has been Grande’s big hit off Dangerous Woman, but I get how it’s ridden the charts so long. It’s so slight that you don’t notice it chafes.

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Overrated, Underrated, Properly Rated: Green Day

When you sit down to write a little on every Green Day album ever, somewhere around Nimrod, you get hit with the burning question “Why?” The best answer I can give is that I think Green Day honestly gets a bum rap. If you want to knock them for being basic, entry-level pop-punk, then sure go ahead, but I’d argue that’s punishing them for what they’re designed to do as opposed to appraising how well or not they do it. When you look back on their career, Green Day has a consistency and stability you don’t find with most groups in their weight class; they’ve played at a higher level longer than like, The Offspring or NOFX, their bad stretches have never flailed as hard as fellow Alterna stalwarts Red Hot Chili Peppers or Weezer, and they’ve held the same line-up for 20+ years. That same consistency is, I’d say, something that gets held against them because Green Day’s never had a break-up/hiatus to serve as a referendum the same way that blink-182 or Fall Out Boy have.

So, this is me trying to reverse that somewhat. Instead of a straight ranking, I’m looking at how fairly “rated” each Green Day record is on the very serious and not at all wildly subjective criteria of my own impressions and observations over 12ish years of fandom. I’m not trying to argue whether or not Warning is actually better than Dookie, but more what deserves its rep, what needs a second look, and whether or not we’re right to avoid Dos! (spoiler alert: we are). Agree or disagree, let me know! So welcome to paradise, here we go.

39/Smooth (1990): Did you know Green Day had an album before Dookie? Either you didn’t, and you’ve never heard of 39/Smooth (or 1,039/Smoothed Out Slappy Hours if you own the more circulated version that comes with the band’s first 2 EPs stapled on), or you did, and you know that this one’s too underdeveloped for its own good. Either way, no one listens to 39/Smooth a bunch, which isn’t unfair; PROPERLY RATED.

Kerplunk (1991): Did you know that Green Day had two albums before Dookie? Kerpunk, in a lot of ways, feels like the Batman Begins to Dookie’s The Dark Knight: it’s good and got people’s attention, but also hard to see with fresh eyes because everything good about it crystallizes on the sequel. If Green Day imploded after Kerplunk, they’d still go down as an affable bunch of slacker Bay punks thanks to ramshackle songs like “2000 Light Years Away,” “Who Wrote Holden Caulfield?,” and “Christie Road.” There’s the argument that this one should be underrated because it’s the band’s authentic indie record, but truth be told, the only reason you’d ever reach for Kerplunk is if you’ve already worn out Dookie and Insomniac and refuse to believe this band’s existed for the last 20 years. PROPERLY RATED

Dookie (1994): Trying to render judgment on Dookie is like trying to appraise Nevermind or Empire Strikes Back: the material is so ingrained in cultural memory that you’re not sure you’re listening to “Longview” or your memories of listening to “Longview” whenever it comes on. “Longview,” “Basket Case,” “When I Come Around,” and “Welcome to Paradise” are still alternative radio staples, and “She?” is still as fine a song as Billie Joe Armstrong’s ever written. “Chumped” is solid, and Dookie has one of my all time favorite Green Day deep cuts. Maybe I just got to it too late–Dookie was one of the last Green Day records I got to as a teen–but despite the reputation, this one’s always seemed inconsistent and filler-y outside the classics. Your mileage may vary, but because of how it works as an end-to-end listen, I have to declare Dookie OVERRATED.

Insomniac (1995): Insomniac is Green Day’s Room on Fire/Antics/Favourite Worst Nightmare: the brief, bashed out, similar but not samey, quick turnaround follow-up to the landmark breakout record. Dookie and Insomniac are cut from the same no-frills, all-thrills musical cloth, but Insomniac’s heavier, crunchier sound is its own, and despite missing Dookie‘s highs, Insomniac is the stronger, more consistent record. That consistency is born of a glassy-eyed, giggling dread that permeates the album. You see it best on “Geek Stink Breath,” “Brain Stew/Jaded,” and “Panic Song;” cuts that play where the line between “dangerous” and “hilarious” blurs. For a lone album, that sort of churning dread a really good look for Green Day. Because of their close release proximity and because this is the last pure “punk” album Green Day would make, Insomniac is always going to have to spar with Dookie in a way that the band’s other albums don’t have to, which seems a little unfair, so Insomniac is UNDERRATED by my count.

Nimrod (1997): Honest question: does Nimrod even have a reputation? When I went to listen to it for this article, I could have sworn “Hitchin’ A Ride” was the opener, and not the actual first song “Nice Guys Finish Last;” that’s how much it’s disappeared from our cultural memory. Ironically, Nimrod feels the album that set up Green Day for long-term success: the songwriting matures somewhat, and it marks the first album where their de facto guitar tone–their distorted, particular version of “DUN-DUN-DUN”–comes up. At the same time, they started sounding less overtly punk with songs like the high-stepping “Hitchin’ A Ride,” the surf rock “Last Ride In,” arena number “Haushinka,” and of course “Good Riddance (Time of Your Life).” Nimrod’s also the first album where Armstrong wrote and sang like he wasn’t afraid of letting a melody develop. At a huffy 18 tracks with some redundancies (“Redundant” itself is excellent, however), it’s not a forgotten masterpiece, but Nimrod is UNDERRATED all the same.

Warning (2000): Frequently heralded as Green Day’s most underrated album, Warning is Green Day at their furthest in the weeds (39/Smooth, meanwhile, is Green Day at their furthest in the weed). Freeish of expectations, the band dabbled in more acoustic work here from affecting ballads (“Macy’s Day Parade”) to power pop (“Warning,” “Church on Sunday”), and the songwriting skewed toward social commentary and dirtbag relationship reflections. Somewhat to its detriment, Warning is low stakes in a way nothing else is in the band’s discography, and the only one of their records that could be described as pensive, maybe even warm. My one gripe with rating Warning is that it’s 16 years old, and been called “underrated” for the last like, 11, so it’s back in PROPERLY RATED territory.

American Idiot (2004): I mean, c’mon. This thing was everywhere for about 2 years, and still feels like one of the best mainstream rock albums of the ‘00s. PROPERLY RATED.

21st Century Breakdown (2009): So, Green Day didn’t plan on American Idiot taking off like it did, nor did they know how to follow it up aside from their usual “take previous album, recalibrate” approach. Thus, you get 21st Century Breakdown, which wants to be AI, but more: more powerful, more personal, more songs, more variety–gimme, gimme more (it’s Billie, bitch). You’d be hard pressed to argue that the album isn’t grasping and wheel-spinny at times–”21 Guns” just is a rewrite of “Boulevard of Broken Dreams”–but the middle is stacked with a potent mix of songs; the stretch from “Christian’s Inferno” to “Restless Heart Syndrome” feels like American Idiot with a health dash of Nimrod mixed in, and “American Eulogy” is a fine two-song suite. What sinks the record is Armstrong’s palpable strain for Importance on the album’s opening and closing salvos of songs. Sweeping Statement Cultural Messiah Billie Joe is the least appealing Billie Joe; he flails when it comes to making statements like “See The Light,” and sounds better in the thick of things like the claustrophobic “Murder City.” I’d agree that 21st Century Breakdown doesn’t quite make it as a whole–it’s hit/miss rate is less than ideal, and at times it feels too short or too long, but underneath the bloat is a sturdy enough 35-40 minute record, so it clocks in as UNDERRATED.

Uno! (2012): Oh, the trilogy.

In 2012, Green Day had the bright idea to release three full lengths a few months apart instead just culling the best of the best for one (hypothetically) really good album. Uno!, Dos!, and Tres!–known colloquially as “the trilogy”–mark the lowest point in the band’s almost 30 year career: a grave miscalculation of market demand matched only by an oversupply of so-so material and a PR bottom out. You can’t really talk about the band at this time without mentioning Armstrong’s “One fucking minute” outburst at the IHeartRadio festival, and his subsequent time in rehab for alcoholism and prescription pill abuse, all of which derailed the band around Uno!’s release and cast a grim shadow over the next two albums. It didn’t affect Uno! all that much, which got treated as an okay if underwhelming GD record, which is still about right; PROPERLY RATED.

Dos! (2012 again): Dos! has my single favorite song of the trilogy. It’s also handily the worst entry of the three, and that it isn’t universally seen that way is still irritating. OVERRATED. SOMEHOW.

Tres! (2012 again): Tres, Green Day’s third album in 3 months, is the one actual–hey, come back! UNDERRATED.

Demolicious (2014): For 2014’s Record Store Day, the band released a compilation of 18 studio demos of songs from the trilogy. The argument from Green Day obsessives (and one I’ve propagated before) is that Demolicious has the real versions of these songs, and not the corporate, overproduced ones that the man sold you. But, if I’m being honest with myself, the corrective nature of Demolicious is oversold. Rubbery overproduction was a problem with the trilogy, but it was also too overloaded with tracks that would have been the 5th or 6th best song on a normal mid-tier Green Day record. No stripping the studio lacquer off is going to fix that. Song selection works against the corrective narrative for Demolicious, too, since at an hour plus and lacking some of the more ambitious moments from the trilogy like “Brutal Love,” it doesn’t function as a tight best-of. As the fanatic’s cure-all for the UnoDosTrelogy, it’s OVERRATED, but as a listenable but inessential compilation, Demolicious is PROPERLY RATED.

Revolution Radio (2016): Revolution Radio has the unsexiest role of any album in Green Day’s discography: it’s their Competence Album. A Competence Album’s job is to prove that an act can still sound like itself after at least the last two records have fallen short, and other course corrections have failed. It’s not a full-fledged comeback, it just has to stop the bleeding with a single that sounds good on the late night TV circuit, and convince folks that you still know how to deliver on your best traits, even if you aren’t writing your best songs. Literally all it has to do is not make fans wince when you announce something. Semi-famous examples of Competence Albums include Interpol’s El Pintor, Weezer’s Everything Will Be Alright in the End, Pearl Jam’s self-titled, and Oceania by The Smashing Pumpkins.

To that end, Revolution Radio does its job: “Bang, Bang” is your heatseeker single, the title track calls the knee-deep politicking of ‘00s Green Day to mind, “Outlaws” is your ballad, “Youngblood” and “Still Breathing” are your down-the-middle power-pop cuts, “Forever Now” checks off the boxes as the “multi-part epic” the band just does now, and “Ordinary World” is your singer-songwriter acoustic closer. In fandom, RevRad is probably overrated right now (another Competence Album signifier: its reputation starts high with the fans and eventually levels out once the pleasant surprise of its okayness wears off), and I called it underrated within 2016, which feels like where a band like Green Day should be right now, leaving it PROPERLY RATED.

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2016: The Year in Rant and Odds n Ends

Welcome to the closing day of Listmas 2016. It has, as always, been a lot of fun to do this for everyone, and I appreciate you reading and keeping up with our end of the year coverage. Today’s going to be a briefish take on this year’s pop chart, followed by the annual superlatives.

Getting to the Chart of Things
Working on the worst and best hits lists means spending a lot of time with Billboard’s Hot 100 for year, and you end up noticing a few things with that kind of repeated exposure. This year’s chart largely struck me as being…fine? Like, at least for me, a top ten with “One Dance,” “Panda,” and “Stressed Out” all in it doesn’t inspire much either way, and I felt pretty similarly going up and down the chart overall. Most of it ranged from pleasantly okay to kinda dull. As a result, the worst hits tended to be the incompetent ones, while the best hits list skewed a little singular in massive sound that married texture and emotional heft. They were still my honest picks, but I was aware of the trappings on both sides as I was writing.

The most lasting impression I got from the year-end Hot one hundo is that it already feels like I’ve known these songs forever. It’s felt this way a little more with each passing year, but 2016 marked the first year where “stagnant” felt like the default descriptor of the weekly top ten. Songs are not only holding number one for longer, but the whole top five has become routinely entrenched by the same songs in the same positions for weeks at a time with only a minute week to week change. This is reflected in the year-end chart by something like, well, “Love Yourself,” which was number one for 2 weeks, but held in the top ten so long that it beat “One Dance” and “Work” cumulatively. It works in the opposite direction, too; “Closer” came in at number 10 for the year, despite being the longest running number one. Part of “Closer” underperforming on the year-end could be due to its run not being complete yet, but it still placed lower than “All About That Bass” did in 2014 despite their similar peak times.

The long hit dovetails into another 2016 pop trend: the disappearance of the pop middle class. I worked this idea into an album review last month, but this is a good place to discuss how it applies to pop specifically. Effectively, you’ve got a situation where 5ish zeitgeisty pop superstars are calling the shots, and everything else feels either inconsequential or consciously in the stars’ shadows. This year, you saw so many different spins on Bieber and/or Diplo’s tropical house, Rihanna-esque dancehall, and Drake, and with so many of these guys and their imitators charting (and again, for so long), the non-pop stuff got stiff-armed. The genre fair got pushed to the edges: the usual country subset was limited to Florida Georgia Line and a schmaltzy Tim McGraw number, while rock’s only showing was Imagine Dragons knock-off X Ambassadors (the ascendant Twenty One Pilots aren’t rock, even though they’re on Fueled By Ramen–don’t @ me). And there’s no reason not to think this monopop trend will continue.

What caused all this? Well, the nicheification of popular culture at large, the breakdown of genre radio stations…oh yeah, and streaming. Definitely streaming. Billboard started counting streams toward the Hot 100 in 2012, and with the proliferation of streaming platforms this year, it’s gotten easier to keep a replayable song higher in rotation for longer. It creates a feedback loop where popular songs stay popular, and unless something breaks through on the power of sheer will (“Stressed Out”) then, well, at least “One Dance” sounds nice? I don’t know, we’re all learning as we go in making a better, smarter pop world, one overplayed hit at a time.

And now, for the sake of tradition, here are some superlatives!

Favorite Albums That Barely Missed the Da List
Blood Orange – Freetown Sound
Joyce Manor – “Cody”
Mitski – Puberty 2
Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

Albums I Meant to Listen To But Never Got Around to This Year, So Watch Me Get Into Them in March
Young Thug – JEFFREY
Kaytranada – 99.9%
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds – Skeleton Tree

Sleeper Album: Radiohead – A Moon Shaped Pool. I don’t know why Radiohead, of all bands, released an album in spring that’s tailor-suited for fall and winter.

The “It’s Not You, It’s Me” Album: Angel Olsen – My Woman

“Punk in 30 Minutes Or Less” Ranking
5. Modern Baseball – Holy Ghost
4. G.L.O.S.S. – Trans Day of Revenge
3. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
2. Joyce Manor – Cody
1. Mannequin Pussy – Romantic

Honorable Mentions (Considered for the Best Hits List)
Selena Gomez – “Hands to Myself”
Twenty One Pilots – “Heathens”
Kiiara – “Gold”
Jeremih – “Oui”

Dishonorable Mentions (Considered for the Worst Hits List)
Adele – “Send My Love (To Your New Lover)”
Meghan Trainor – “Me Too”
Charlie Puth – “One Call Away”
Coldplay – “Hymn For the Weekend” (Chris Martin should never say “Drinks on me”)

Best Number 1 Hit: Rae Sremmurd – “Black Beatles”

Best Number 1 Hit That Wasn’t on the Best List: Sia feat. Sean Paul – “Cheap Thrills”

Worst Number 1 Hit: Justin Bieber – “Love Yourself”

Worst Number 1 Hit That Wasn’t on the Worst List: idk, “Pillowtalk” by Zayn?

Most 2015 Number 1 Hit: Justin Bieber – “Sorry”

Pop Star Who Was on the Bubble Who Made 2016 Their Own: Ariana Grande

“Sorry About the Comeback Attempt” Award: Lady Gaga. =/

“Congratulations on Crossing Over With Your Weakest Album” Award: Drake

There might be a thing up next week, but otherwise we’ll see you at the start of next year. Thanks again for reading!

Listmas Schedule:
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

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The Gibby 50: 50 Favorite Songs of 2016 and Over/Underrated Albums

Hello all, and welcome to our first almost-late day of Listmas! Wouldn’t be this time of year without one. Anyway, today we’re trying something new with the 4 most overrated and underrated albums of the year. I’m not saying the overrated albums are bad, but that maybe the music-list machine has been a little too nice to them. Conversely, the underrated ones are ones that I thought deserved more of a chance, and so I wrote a little thing for them. Here are those things.

Underrated Albums
4. Beach Slang – A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings
I saw Beach Slang live this year at one of the more singular live shows I’ve been to. Their second guitarist was fired the day the tour started, and frontman James Alex resolved to do the tour as a solo acoustic act, instead. Somewhere, that plan got nixed, and on the night I saw them, Alex walked out alone but with his white Epiphone 335, and jumped right into “Atom Bomb.” For the next two and a half hours, he played and sang Beach Slang’s loud as shit guitar rock like the fact that the rest of the band wasn’t there did not matter. He headbanged, he jumped and stomped, he did Pete Townshend windmills, all despite the fact that if you were close enough up front, you could hear his unamplified guitar strums. A Loud Bash of Teenage Feelings has that same do-or-die mentality, and while Beach Slang probably won’t evolve past their earnest, scrappy, punk with a wide pop streak, they’re hard to top at it. So long as Alex keeps turning in the songs, he’ll be able to keep the dream alive on tour, whether it’s just him or the full band.

3. Isaiah Rashad – The Sun’s Tirade
31 months isn’t so long to go without a release in most music circles, but rap actively punishes artists for not being prolific. No one more than TDE member Isaiah Rashad is aware of how long the gap was between his debt Cilvia Demo and September’s The Sun’s Tirade (well, aside from TDE manager Dave Free), and Rashad spends most of the album reflecting on and overcoming the substance abuse and depression that interfered with his creativity. For an album coming from a low place, it’s never dour: the production is a smooth mix of boom-bap and soul-tinged southern rap, and even at his grimmest, Rashad sounds like a guy who considers himself thoughtful. It’s a good, moody record, even if it got overshadowed in the rap canon of 2016.

2. Green Day – Revolution Radio
Where are Green Day supposed to exist in 2016? Even after Billie Joe Armstrong’s 2012 meltdown and the UnoDosTriology, they’ve always felt more creatively stable and ambitious than their still-going Alternative Nation compatriots Red Hot Chili Peppers and blink-182, and less likely to give into classic rockization. At the same time, there isn’t a way forward for them on the radio, which was more or less finished with Rock bands by 2011. So, Green Day spend Revolution Radio convincing fans they’re still good at being Green Day; that they can still fire off three chord riffs, verse-chorus-verse songs, and junior year poetry-as-commentary lyrics without derailing it with tons of filler or heady concepts. They’ve also let the sentimental streak live on RevRad with “Outlaws,” “Still Breathing,” and “Young Bloods” all acting as homages to old friends, the fresh out of rehab new lease on life, and Armstrong’s wife respectively. Green Day are still as uncool as they’ve always been, but this is the best they’ve sounded in 12 years.

1. Tegan and Sara – Love You To Death
If it’s hard for Green Day to exist in 2016, it’s even harder to say where a veteran indie act that doesn’t act like a veteran indie act like Tegan and Sara fits in. Love You To Death doesn’t get to re-up on the “they went synthpop” narrative critics got to attach to Closer, despite this album picking up where Closer’s gleaming synths left off, nor are any of these songs especially likely to cross over onto unadventurous radio stations. But pound for pound, it’s one of the best, purest pop records of the year. The synth arrangements here are more intricate than Closer, and the writing here is ridiculously sharp in how it looks at the ways a relationship is often at odds with what we want for ourselves (“U-Turn” might be the single smartest pop song you hear all year). It’s weird that a compact, intelligent album full of unabashedly queer synthpop went by almost unremarked all year, but you’ve still got time to cue this one up. You may even love it to death (sorry, I had to).

Overrated Albums.
4. Anderson .Paak – Malibu
Anderson .Paak’s 2016 might be the best thing that came from Dr. Dre’s Compton last year. On top of Malibu, he also released the collaborative Yes Lawd! with Knxledge, and had great feature spots with Kaytranda, ScHoolboy Q, and A Tribe Called Quest. That said, the EOY praise for Malibu (which is a good and undeniably fun record!) feels like it’s for his year as a whole than on its merits as a record. It’s a solid G-funk meets R&B record, but one that loses its flavor somewhere past “Room in Here.” It’s a good start to what’s hopefully a long career on the up-shoot.

3. Bon Iver – 22, A Million
Does Justin Vernon know that the point of numerology and symbolism is that you go somewhere with it? 22, A Million gleefully clubs you over the head with its hieroglyphs and coded numbers, but you never get the sense that it actually means anything under it all, which goes for the album’s wonky, non-Euclidean take on studio folk, as well. Vernon is talented at making songs that sound very something, but any deeper meaning behind “#29 Strafford Apts” or “715 (Creeks)” is covered in too many layers for anyone who isn’t a Bon-Hiver to discern. This record got compared to Kid A a bunch, which has never sat right with me because Kid A is loaded with “Look Brian Eno, no hands” moments, sure, but its songs believed in being actual songs. Instead, with the way it uses unconventional sound and obfuscation to hide its own intertia, 22, A Million reminds me of The King of Limbs.

2. Kanye West – The Life of Pablo
In a Songs of the Year match-up, Pablo is the six shot revolver you brought to a knife fight loaded with “Ultra Light Beam,” both “Father Stretch My Hands” numbers, “Real Friends,” “No More Parties in LA,” and “Fade.” And TLOP is a fascinating album to turn over mentally from the living document angle and as a prelude into the hectic year in store for its creator. It’s too bad it’s so lopsided as an album with underdeveloped sections and pacing issues. As compelling a thought experiment it is, The Life of Pablo cannot be an album of the year if the least compelling thing about it is hitting play.

1. Car Seat Headrest – Teens of Denial
Is it reductive to write-off all of indie rock-dom as “sad white dude sings about his disaffection?” Maybe. Is it unfair to hold that reputation against Will Toledo’s Car Seat Headrest? Almost definitely. Toledo knows his way around a song–”Destroyed By Hippie Powers” is the keeper here, and “Fill in the Blank,” “Vincent,” and “Drunk Drivers/Killer Whales” are great, too–but Teens of Denial is too self-satisfied and (so) overlong as a whole to be anything beyond okay. There’s only so much mileage you can wring out of presenting the ennui of a guy living his mid ‘20s in a city as plainly as this, and somewhere after the second or third song about the emptiness of drinking at parties, but before the eleven minute long one that uses the sinking of a cruise liner as a metaphor for how life is just so hard, it’s like “Jesus Christ, Will, I know.

The economics of time might something to do with why Teens of Denial is a turn off. At 70 minutes, not only is it unwieldy, but I could fit in Mitski’s Puberty 2, Mannequin Pussy’s Romantic, and most of Cody by Joyce Manor in the same time and get more bang for my angsty 20s-something buck. I don’t know. I think of Teens of Denial, I think of seeing James Alex front Beach Slang alone, and I try to imagine Toledo trying the same gig. I don’t see it happening. Toledo’s music doesn’t have that desperate edge, that guilelessness necessary to take the leap. Without that, Teens of Denial sounds cool at first, but gets indulgent and empty in a hurry. It becomes the sort of record that makes you look at indie rock and ask “Is this it?”

The Gibby Fifty
Anyway, now that we’ve got that out of the way, here’s my favorite 50 songs of the year. The only real rules for this one are one per primary artist, and songs from the best list don’t count because we already accounted for them, and songs from the worst list are (natch) DQ’d. It’s alphabetical with the “the” artists in the T’s. Check it out, we finish tomorrow!

6LACK Getting Old
A Tribe Called Quest We the People….
A$AP Ferg Strive
Against Me! Crash
AJJ Goodbye, Oh Goodbye
Anderson .Paak feat ScHoolboy Q Am I Wrong?
Banks Trainwreck
Beach Slang Atom Bomb
Beyonce Don’t Hurt Yourself
Blood Orange Best to You
Bruno Mars Too Good To Say Goodbye
Calvin Harris feat. Rihanna This Is What You Came For
Car Seat Headrest Destroyed By Hippie Powers
Childish Gambino Redbone
Chris Farren Say U Want Me
clipping. Wriggle
D.R.A.M. feat. Lil Yachty Broccoli
Danny Brown feat Kendrick Lamar, Ab-Soul, and Earl Sweatshirt) Really Doe
Drake Feel No Ways
Esperanza Spalding Unconditional Love
Frank Ocean Nights
Future Maybach
Green Day Bang, Bang
Gwen Stefani Make Me Like You
Isaiah Rashad feat. Syd Silkk Da Shock
Jeff Rosenstock Blast Damage Days
Joyce Manor Last You Heard Of Me
Kanye West feat. Kendrick Lamar No More Parties in LA
Kendrick Lamar untitled 05 | 09.21.2014
Lady Gaga feat. Florence Welch Hey Girl
Mannequin Pussy Anything
Mitski Your Best American Girl
Modern Baseball Just Another Face
PUP If This Tour Doesn’t Kill You, I Will
Radiohead Daydreaming
Rae Sremmurd Take It or Leave It
Rihanna Kiss It Better
Santigold Can’t Get Enough of Myself
Savages Adore
Sia feat. Big Sean Cheap Thrills
Solange Cranes in the Sky
teen suicide It’s Just a Pop Song
Tegan and Sara U-Turn
The 1975 Somebody Else
The Hotelier Two Deliverances
The Menzingers Bad Catholics
The Weeknd Stargirl (Interlude)
Thin Lips Never Again
Weezer LA Girlz
Young Thug Drippin’

Listmas Schedule:
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

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The Top 10 Best Hits of 2016 (5-1)

No introduction necessary, you know what we’re doing.

5. Rihanna – “Needed Me” (#13)
Rihanna’s secret is that under her famous “IDGAF” persona, she actually does give a fuck, but albeit a fuck that is deployed very selectively. “Needed Me” is the moment she finally gives one; it’s the fuck that comes after she’s quietly watched your every move, counted your every pace, and knows exactly how to stop you dead. The song’s been out since January, and it still wows with what a thorough dissection it is of the dude who thought he was playing Rihanna. She just takes him apart limb from limb, and it’s great: you were just some guy on the list, you were only good for the hookup, and fuck your white knight bullshit; you’re the one who needs her. That all this happens on a song with a standout Rihanna vocal and a DJ Mustard beat colder than this polar vortex is just icing on the cake. “Needed Me” has a loud and clear message: if you fuck with Rihanna, you hurt yourself.

4. Rae Sremmurd feat. Gucci Mane – “Black Beatles” (#UNRANKED, WHAT?)
HERE’S OUR RULE BREAKER. “Black Beatles” didn’t make the year-end Hot 100, thus disqualifying it from my list, but I’m saying to hell with my rule because Billboard’s ruling on the matter is fucking stupid. As I write this, “Black Beatles” is in its fifth week at number one on the charts. Let me underline that: “Black Beatles” has been the biggest song in the country for more than a month, and still missed the year-end because of when the charts are called for the year. Just speaking logically, you cannot be the biggest of something for almost 10% of the time, and stay losing to competition that peaked as Halloween ’15’s last minute costume. That’s the rules’ fault.

I will gladly break the rules for “Black Beatles,” too. This might be Mike WiLL Made-It’s best ever production: a take on Atlanta trap that’s as melodic as it is massive with a surprisingly emotive synth interwoven between skittering drums and divebombing bass, and it provides the necessary room for Sway Lee, Gucci, and Slim Jxmmi’s distinct verses. Sway is nimble, sing-y, and bounces between hedonist and melancholy; Gucci’s here in Atlanta elder statesman mode for the cool; and Slim Jxmmi counters both of them with his bellicose boasting. All four guys involved with this song bring their best, and “Black Beatles” was already one of my songs of the year before it made the charts.

Not that it’s really essential–I’d put the odds that Rae Sremmurd came up with the concept of “Black Beatles” because it sounded like some cool shit to say at about 65%–but I do get Beatles vibes here. There aren’t any superficial comparisons, sure, but “Black Beatles” totally nails the strung out, emotionally frayed, melted “I haven’t lived a normal day in years” psyche that ran rampant on the Fab Four’s The White Album. Sway Lee’s disconnected lines have the same fractured twist of “Happiness Is a Warm Gun,” while Slim Jxmmi bellowing “I HAD HATERS WHEN I WAS BROKE/I’M RICH I STILL GOT HATERS” isn’t so far from McCartney’s “I’M COMING DOWN FAST BUT DON’T LET ME BREAK YOU” on “Helter Skelter.” “Black Beatles” sounds as art-damaged as the group did in their later days, which is more true to the Beatles than a “Hard Day’s Night” sample any time.

3. Ariana Grande – “Into You” (#51)
Can a track by one of our most mainstream contemporary artists and produced by the insider Swedish pop god be considered a cult classic? Because “Into You” seems destined to live on only with pop music obsessives despite being designed to be as big a hit as possible. Really, “Into You” is structured to always keep its momentum going forward with verses that build gracefully into blockbuster choruses, and it’s vocally right down the middle for Grande’s multi-octave voice. She sounds great, and Max Martin brings his nicest sounding robo-disco synths and drum machines for the hook; “Into You” is nearly the platonic ideal for the industry-approved Swedish pop jams we’ve had since the turn of the century.

The only reason I could see for why “Into You” didn’t go further (it stalled out at #13, which is weird considering how long we held onto like, “One Dance”) is that it isn’t “Into You” isn’t very–God, I can’t believe this is an actual metric necessary for success; 2016 sucks so hard–meme friendly. Like, Grande’s “Side to Side” has become something of a sleeper hit, and it’s hard to argue that “dick bicycle” didn’t help keep it in public consciousness at least a little. “Into You” is woefully lacking on the dick bicycle front, and has to settle on being killer pop music instead.

2. Zara Larsson & MNEK – “Never Forget You” (#46)
If “Into You” represents Swedish-written pop music of the past, then Zara Larson and MNEK’s “Never Forget You” represents Swedish-written pop music going forward. It’s still based in dance pop and precise, almost numeric melodies, but adds breaks and touches of tropical house to compete in a post-EDM world. Another key difference is that a song like “Into You” is meant to sweep you up, whereas “Never Forget You” is overwhelming by design. The song runs through its rise and fall verses right into a building chorus, which then drops into a break reminiscent of “Where Are U Now?” but faster, and then does a rinse/repeat with MNEK joining Larsson on vocals. Throw in another charging chorus with extra percussion and a final break where Larsson and MNEK trade off on vocal runs, and “Never Forget You” ends with all the elation of running a marathon. It’s a lot, but “Never Forget You” wouldn’t be as satisfying if it backed off any. Sometimes, you just have to let a song run away with you.

1. Beyonce – “Sorry” (#71)
It wouldn’t be an end of the year list if Beyonce didn’t top something. That’s not to say that “Sorry” was a preordained number one here, but even against the competition, it’s just that good. I’ve written before about “Sorry” as the best representation of Lemonade‘s ethos, and a smooth blending of electropop, R&B, and hip-hop, and I still stand by that; if you can only play someone one song from the album, I’d go with this over “Formation.” As for the charts, what makes “Sorry” stand out is how un-loud it is: it’s not unassuming or quiet exactly, but it isn’t trying to wrestle your attention to it with both hands or pummel you with its hooks. Instead, it has some empathy with its listeners who might be going through some shit, and implores you to “Tell’em boy, bye” in defiant celebration. “Sorry” is inviting in large parts, which only makes its falling in slow motion end even more affecting. So for nailing its emotional high-wire and the sound of like, 4 different radio trends, “Sorry” is our best hit song of 2016.

That’s it for the hits! Come back tomorrow for my 50 favorite songs and the 5 most under/overrated albums of the year!

Listmas Schedule:
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

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The Top 10 Best Hits of 2016 (10-6)

Hello, and welcome to day 4 of Listmas! We’ve looked at my favorite albums, the worst hits of the year, and now it’s time to look at what gifts were on the charts. And 2016 didn’t lack for solid pop, in fact, I had to make more than a few heartbreaking cuts to keep this list to an earnest 10. There will be more of an in-depth breakdown of what the best and worst lists meant for the state of pop this year on Tuesday, but for now, here are the names and writeups. And the rules again as a reminder.

  1. Songs have to make Billboard’s End of the Year list to be eligible (this rule gets super broken tomorrow)
  2. It has to have peaked this year because forget what you heard about leftovers.
  3. It can’t have been on my best or worst hits list of last year, because why cheat like that?

Let’s begin.

Honorable Mention to the Honorable Mention: Desiigner – “Tiimmy Turner” (#98) (XXL Freestyle version)
Desiigner’s a weird kid who isn’t really there yet as an artist, and you can heard this when he tries to flip maybe a minute’s worth of material into 4. But the original “Tiimmy Turner,” a brief melodic verse over fingersnaps that skips from a Nickelodeon character to BET to some version of hell in 30 seconds, is oddly transfixing.

11. Honorable Mention: Adele – “When We Were Young” (#83)
Adele’s 25 felt invisible, or as invisible as possible while still selling more records than everyone else. The album’s biggest hit remains “Hello,” (which made last year’s list) and its longest running hit was its most irritating song, but between those two is the lovely “When We Were Young.” The sepia-tinged warmth of “When We Were Young” isn’t going to surprise anyone whose heard an Adele song before, but where it really wows is in the soaring pre-chorus, where Adele swells as she sings “You look like a movie/You sound like a song/My God this reminds me/Of when we were young” with her trademark glow. She truly sounds like she’s yearning for the impossible past, with a hint of astonished joy on “My God this reminds me” that finding that feeling again might just happen. The chorus doesn’t quite match the build-up, which holds “When We Were Young” back despite its nice arranging, but still, this is one to listen to from 25, and a nice reminder that “When You Were Young” is still great 10 years later.

10. DNCE – “Cake By the Ocean” (#18)
Similarly, pop group DNCE’s “Cake By the Ocean” is elevated by a moment of inspiration. For its first verse and chorus, “Cake By the Ocean” glides along as a tightly-wound dance track with no trace amount of Gorillaz in its DNA, but the second verse has this extra funk guitar come crashing in that adds some extra hip sway. On later listens, you hear that guitar tucked away in the hook, but it’s a satisfying extra kick every time it breaks into the verse. It’s a nice human touch; Maroon 5 wouldn’t have thought of that shit back when they were still a real band. And “Cake By the Ocean” is already capable without it as a glistening dance jam that embraces its himbo nature with Joe Jonas’ sighing vocals and sexy dancefloor dude falsetto. That “Cake By the Ocean” gets its name from what the band’s Swedish producers would mistakenly call Sex On The Beach says everything you need to know: this song’s a sugar rush of dumb dancefloor fun in the best way.

9. The Weeknd feat. Daft Punk – “Starboy” (#58)
I bagged on The Weeknd a a bit ago for refusing to move out of his lane, but the counter to my argument is that sometimes, Abel Tesfaye really knows how to make that lane pop. “Starboy” marks one of the relatively few times on the album of the same name that Tesfaye sounds inspired, and here, you can see him strike back against his own fame. After radio-friendly singles “Can’t Feel My Face,” “In the Night,” and even “The Hills,” “Starboy” is downright cold. With its pulsating bass and spaceship drums (care of Daft Punk themselves) and with flourishes like the flute on the chorus and sleek piano throughout, “Starboy” sounds like the millions and millions of dollars Tesfaye boasts about spending. And not only is Tesfaye spending all this money, he’s very quick to point out that you aren’t. You aren’t the one buying cars just to fuck with someone else, you aren’t the one pulling hot women, you aren’t the one doing grade-A blow while feeling like shit in a lavish house: he is. And you’re the one who made him famous, so what the fuck did you expect? The Weeknd often shoots for dark and vicious and misses the mark, but the well-heeled villainy on “Starboy?” He’s earned it.

8. Drake feat. Rihanna – “Too Good” (#29)
I think Drake might actually love Rihanna.

Not just because, y’know, real life, but because he’s on his best behavior when she’s on his songs; first “Take Care,” now “Too Good.” Buried entirely too fucking far back on VIEWS, “Too Good” casts Drake and Riri as failing lovers who both air brutally honest and totally believable grievances over the album’s best fake-dancehall beat (apologies to “Controlla” and “One Dance”). Most pop duets honestly oversell romantic drama with lyrics about being torn apart and slipping away–we saw one yesterday–but “I don’t know how to talk to you”? That hurts. And almost nothing hits back at all of Drake’s passive-aggressive deep sighs like Rihanna singing “Lately you just make me work too hard for you,” like he ain’t shit; this needed to be a duet to work. Hell, “Too Good” even softens Drake’s wince-inducing fake patois by sampling the Popcaan song he references. And I like that it ends unresolved: the last line the pair sings before that Popcaan sample fades everything out is “You take my love for granted/I just don’t understand it. They really don’t know how to talk to each other.

7. Major Lazer feat. Justin Bieber and  – “Cold Water” (#25)
“Cold Water” is like the infinite crisis crossover event of tropical house pop-EDM. It’s got Diplo, Bieber, and MØ (pronounced “Mer” if you were wondering like I was), and industry types Benny Blanco and Jamie Scott on it, too. Ed Sheeran helped write it. With this many hands on deck, “Cold Water” should flounder, but everything about it comes together like a well-mixed summer cocktail. Bieber carries it well vocally, MØ’s end-piece is lovely, the low-end thump and fuzzed out synths of the drop find a nice groove, and the overall song’s well-constructed; you never feel like the verses or bridge are there just to pad out the run time. I was super skeptical of “Cold Water” when it was announced since it seemed like a way to cash-in on the public’s love of “Lean On” and “Where Are U Now?” but then I heard it and was surprised at just how well it’s put together. “Cold Water” is so good any “Bieber does tropical house” song after it sound inert, which is really bad news for DJ Snake.

6. DJ Snake feat. Bipolar Sunshine – “Middle” (#80)
The good news for DJ Snake is that he has “Middle” with Bipolar Sunshine. DJ Snake honestly might be heading into “underrated” territory: he already felt like Diplo’s second banana even while quietly stealing the show on “Lean On,” and his status feels like it slid again with the rise of The Chainsmokers. He’s written off as the “Turn Down For What” guy, but with “Middle,” he has a break as pretty as “Closer”‘s but done by someone who understands what groove and bass actually are. You can dance your ass off to this thing. But British singer Bipolar Sunshine is who takes “Middle” over the edge–while most singers go for cool detachment on these kinds of house bangers, he’s fully engaged and expressive, so much so that you’re almost sad he doesn’t get to sing more on “Middle.” I know there are tons of pop-EDM tracks out there, but this one deserved to be bigger.

Alright, go enjoy your night, we end this list tomorrow!

Listmas Schedule:
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

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The Top 10 Worst Hits of 2016 (5-1)

Alright, let’s get to it!

5. G-Eazy feat. Bebe Rexha – “Me, Myself, and I” (#19) / gnash feat. Olivia O’Brien – “i hate u, i love u” (#38)
I didn’t really like VIEWS (more like SNIEWS, amirite?), but listening to knobs like G-Eazy and gnash make me think maybe we’re taking Aubrey for granted, who use twists on his style to significantly lower returns. G-Eazy is the less overt of the two on “Me, Myself, and I” (sadly, not a Beyonce cover), throwing in Drakeian “Yeah”s and using early-to-mid-era Drake cadences that emphasize just how good a job he’s doing staying on the beat. He raps about wanting to be alone to work and how he’s coping with success, and…it’s all just so unmemorable. For a guy who raps that “While y’all follow, we just make trends,” the G in G-Eazy should stand for generic; he’s a blank slate of a rapper and a black hole of charisma on a song that somehow feels like it’s 18 minutes long instead of 4.

The other plodding, fake-deep, introspective rap track with the hook by a jazzy singer and bars from a dude who looks like Macklemore after getting attacked by Alex Turner tumblr gifs is gnash’s “i hate u, i love u.” If G-Eazy looked at Drake’s flow and thought “Oh, that sounds easy, let’s try it,” then gnash looked at his whole persona and went “Okay, but do I actually have to try?” “i hate u, i love u” sounds like someone was told to make a Take Care track from the memory of hearing it once, and they had to keep every line they wrote. How else do you explain corny shit like “If I pulled a you on you, you wouldn’t like that shit,” or “Wedding bells were just alarms/Caution tape around my heart,” or Now all my drinks and my feelings are fucking mixed” making it out of the first draft? gnash’s mumblecore delivery where he raps every line without conviction only makes them sound pettier and less interesting, like a dude who wants to tell you about his relationship problems, but only after he baits you into asking. Which, y’know, I’m not.

What both these clowns miss is that Drake’s ear for beats is like, 60% of his appeal. You can’t put someone as prone to flatfooted raps and clumsy punchlines as he is on just any track; you’ve gotta give him a sound that makes him obsessing over his fake problems sound profound instead of insufferable (at least most of the time). But G-Eazy and gnash trying their thing over Great Value 40 and Diet Boi1da tracks only highlights their weaknesses. Avoid these two altogether; if you’re hearing this, it’s too late.

4. Shawn Mendes and Camila Cabello – “I Know What You Did Last Summer” (#86)
Shawn Mendes is not the problem here.

I mean, he’s still a problem, but for someone as chronically inept as Mendes, the move from being the problem to a problem counts as progress. The problem with “I Know What You Did Last Summer” is how much it flails as a song. Its aggro-acoustic strumming is noodling instead of impassioned, the verses crumble under the story they’re supposed to tell, and the hooks all sound like they were written for different songs–it fails Songwriting 101. Everything else: Fifth Harmony member Camila Cabello’s super oversinging, the audacity to crib from Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Mendes and Cabello’s total lack of chemistry, and Mendes’s Diet Timberlake act on the chorus just contribute to this thing’s death by 1,000 cuts. I don’t know why Cabello and Mendes needed to reference a movie as old as they are, but what I do know is that no one needs to remember I Know What You Did Last Summer, either version.

3. Tory Lanez – “Say It” (#74)
There was so much trap and trap-esque rap/R&B on the year-end chart. Future, Bryson Tiller, Post Malone, Desiigner…even Usher got in on it, and once Usher Raymond IV hops on something, you know it’s officially a mainstream trend. And, whenever there’s a trend, someone has to do it worst; there’s gonna be a guy who’s transparently trying to get those spins from once you’ve worn out the other hits. For 2016 pop-trap, that guy was Tory Lanez, and that song was “Say It.” Wanna hear dull bass drops, by-numbers rattling snares, and AutoTune so gratuitously squeaky that it made me care about bad AutoTune again, something I didn’t think anyone listening to pop in 2016 was still capable of? Well, it landed on the year-ender, so apparently you do! Congrats Tory Lanez: you’re officially worse at trap than the guy who thought this was a good look.

2. Justin Bieber and kinda Ed Sheeran – “Love Yourself” (#1)
Last fall when Bieber was in the prerelease cycle for Purpose, many people were saying that Justin Bieber could–choke, gasp!–actually be good. He flipped his surprise turn on “Where Are U Now?” into actual momentum with Purpose‘s first single “What Do You Mean?” and the oh-my-God-he-might-do-it hype peaked with his next single “Sorry.” Not only was this a quality trio of songs, but each one almost seemed contrite (or in “Sorry”‘s case, contrite if you looked at it sideways), like they were ready to leave Bieber’s past as an unrepentant, arrogant shitkicker behind.

And then came “Love Yourself.”

Written with Ed Sheeran, the king of bitchy kiss-offs, “Love Yourself” wraps all of Bieber’s passive-aggressiveness in fake soulful guitar strums (complete with audible dead strums so you know he’s feelin this music, y’all), a backing choir of snippy exes, and one unbearable trumpet. The crux of “Love Yourself” is that Biebz has this ex who was like, such a bitch that he couldn’t bring her around his friends, and even his mom didn’t like her, but she’s still hitting him up and trying to use his name to get places because, y’know, she’s just like that, and he wasn’t really gonna say anything, but if she’s gonna keep being like this maybe she should go love herself or something, he doesn’t know. Sheeran has some leeway with this level of venomousness because he still looks capable of taking an L; he’s famous, but not so famous that he doesn’t have room to punch up. For Bieber, who only has room to punch down, “Love Yourself” is a bad look. There just isn’t a believable way for someone as famously disaffected as Bieber to sell the wounded vulnerability needed to take the high ground in a break-up without looking like even more of a shitheel, especially in a song where he makes a big show of how much he’s moved on from your crazy ass, and whose singer-songwriter affections telegraph that this is supposed to be biographical. Go fuck yourself, kid.

1. Lukas Graham – “7 Years” (#12)
You know it, I know it, everyone knows it.

No really, everyone knows it. I Radio Ranted “7 Years” back in back in March, and since then, it’s racked up an astounding 14 comments, all of which unanimously read as “fuck this song.” What is it about “7 Years” that everyone hates? Is it Lukas Forchammer’s yelpy, over enunciation of every single word? Is it “7 Years”‘s Hallmark special soundtrack of instrumentation that sounds so pleased with its own innocence? Is it the nonsensical lyrics about toking up and pounding booze at 11 years old while your dad tells your 5th grade ass to go wife somebody? Is it the way the song comes with its own self-worshiping “Lukas Graaaaaham [audience cheers]”? Is it that the line about dude’s wife having kids just so he can sing his songs at them isn’t even one of the worst lyrics here? Is it the fact that “7 Years,” pretentious as fuck already, has the Danish stones to start and end with the sound of a fucking movie projector?

“7 Years” isn’t only terrible, it’s bad in a way that feels distinctly alien from everything else on this list. It’s the sort of song that never had the chance to be good. And, for that, it is my (and probably your) worst hit song of the year.

Alright, with that exorcism over, it’s time to look at the best tomorrow. See you then!

Listmas Schedule:
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

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