Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! And to kick off a brand new year, let's take a look at my most requested list since my return: the Top 10 Worst Hit Songs of 2019!
This has been a real roller-coaster. I've spent the past 15 months or so under the impression that 2019 was an extremely transitional year for music, one where the quality of the music didn't really matter as much as the shifts in trends and sounds across the Hot 100. It wasn't until a few months ago, when I first started putting this list together, that I suddenly realised just how much of the music I really liked! Sure, the overall quality isn't quite as high as 2020, but especially with 2018 in hindsight, this year felt like a giant leap forwards for the Billboard charts, dominated by several acts, old and new, trying new sounds which often got so weird and different that it actually makes the return to a lot of nostalgic throwbacks one year later make a lot of sense. I could make the argument Blinding Lights would have been big regardless, but nowhere near as big as it was, had we not got all those weird impulses out of our systems first.
Now, with all of that on mind, I was prepared to drastically change my tune, and to call 2019 an extremely strong year for music, a deceptively incredible year that we would only appreciate more with time. However, that hasn't quite held up to deeper scrutiny. The fact of the matter is, I was right in saying it was transitional, the music just left a deeper impact on me than I initially realised. While the good stuff is very good, experimentation can lead to failure, which can get pretty grating upon repeated listens, and I had a really rough time with the absolute worst hits of this year! I've seen a few other people's worst lists for this year, and I realised very early on that a lot of the usual easy targets for other people are songs that I either like a fair bit, or don't give a shit about. Thus, you may be a little surprised by certain omissions to this list; Halsey's Without Me, for instance, will not be making this list, and it wasn't particularly close either. Also, since I base my list off of the year-end Billboard Hot 100, Earth by Lil Dicky won't be here either... though even if it were, it probably wouldn't even crack the top 3. On the flip side, I can't really say you'll have any really spicy takes either... not until the Best list anyway, where I expect to get a LOT of pushback.
Anyway, enough of the preamble, let's take a look.
I was planning on ignoring this one as just another novelty. But while I was preparing for my 2020 year-end lists, I re-watched the 2019 XXL Freshman Cypher featuring DaBaby, Roddy Ricch, Megan, etc, which I've referenced about a dozen times in my past few lists because of how much it genuinely impressed me! However, that line-up also had THIS guy on it, and I know a real lack of talent when I see it. So, as easy as it is to kick such an easy target... he also clearly deserves it.
Thotiana by Blueface
Like I said, I wasn't initially going to place this on the list at all. For a long time, this was THE song to hate among the community, and I didn't really get what separated it from every other boring trap banger we got week-to-week. Heck, a casual listen revealed a song with a decently catchy piano line and an off-kilter flow which at least felt somewhat creative! However, that all changed when I finally sat down to listen to it in full, because my GOD, talk about amateur hour!
Blueface is the living proof that anybody can make it big these days. I'd be tempted to give all the credit to the beat, which isn't amazing or anything, but somehow the way it interacts with that piano line, almost like it's playfully jabbing you before retreating back into the mix, it's a cheap trick to draw you in, but it does work! Pair that with Blueface's weird flow and I'm not at all surprised this became a hit. Does it make Blueface himself any more of a competent rapper? Hell no, but I still want to give the production credit where it's due, well done to Scum Beatz! That said, Blueface's lack of talent and effort here went from being somewhat charming to actively aggravating when I saw his 2019 cypher, where he clearly phoned the whole thing in and refused to take any of it seriously.
Look, Lil Mosey isn't an incredible MC either, but at least he tries more than this and can put together a decent hook, which can result in a great song like Blueberry Faygo! Meanwhile, any decent song with Blueface only seems to be so in spite of him, because I've checked out a load of his songs and they're all fucking bad! Occasionally, you'll get a decent hook or production flourish, but then Blueface comes in, completely off-beat in the sloppiest way possible, yet expecting you to give him a pass because he's somehow convinced of his own brilliance, and it ruins the song every time. Hell, if the poetry were at least well-written, I may be a bit more forgiving, I'm a big fan of experimental or technical rap, but even his lines suck! He constantly repeats "bust down" on the verses, because there wasn't NEARLY enough of that on the hook, and I'm not even gonna touch "beat the pussy up, now it's a murder scene!!!"
You sir, are a moron. Learn to fucking ride a beat, take a writing class, and then quit rapping anyway, because you're not being clever, you just sound incompetent! NEXT!
God, guys like Blueface really annoy me, they have no passion or interest in refining their craft! That's a bad habit you need to quit early, otherwise you'll spend your entire career making terrible music, and eventually end up being the butt of everybody else's joke! Case and point:
Knockin' Boots by Luke Bryan
Oh great, this idiot! One Margarita was in pretty bad taste last year, but at least it was somewhat competently written. Which is more than I can say for Luke Bryan's previous failure here, a song that combines the idiocy of Country Girl Shake It with the lack of charm of Kick the Dust Up! Honestly, Luke Bryan has released far worse songs, but this may just be one of his most lazily written songs in a while! It's just the same template, copy-pasted ad nauseum; BLANK needs BLANK, bees need birds, that dress needs to slip off, etc. And those are the ones that are somewhat clever. "Friday nights need to do what Friday nights need to do?" "Fishin' in the dark needs nitty-gritty?" And of course "Boots need knockin'" as the central sex metaphor to this song. And look, that can work; Kesha has 2 excellent songs about boots and they're both sexier than this fucking dirge! Maybe that's because she plays them up for laughs, whereas Luke Bryan decides to lose the energy he occasionally bring to his tolerable songs, in favour of his lounge-singer crooning, which is nowhere near as attractive as he thinks it is! Especially when the production is a triumphant return to the 2014 bro country sound, with fuzzy, compressed guitars, handclaps and finger snaps, Hell I'm surprised there aren't any gang vocals here! Just a terrible, dumbass bro country song that we should not still be getting this late into the 2010s! That's all it is, and that's all that's worth saying about it. Just fucking retire already Luke, for God's sake!
Probably not for the last time, let's discuss Yummy by Justin Bieber. It's a terrible song with awful lyrics and a skin-crawlingly bad chorus... but, like, it's called "Yummy", what were any of us expecting? In my opinion, the song is just as bad as advertised, no better, no worse, it does exactly what it says on the tin. We had several such examples in 2019, with this pick probably being the most obvious. And while I will admit it could have been a worse... that's not really saying much.
You Need To Calm Down by Taylor Swift
You ever been really angry at someone, to the point where they actively have to diffuse the situation? Well, "you need to calm down" is practically the worst thing someone can say to you at that moment, because it implies that you are the problem, which is often the last thing any of us want to hear in the moment. So yeah, I'll admit that when I saw THIS title from THIS artist, I was very sceptical, especially considering Look What You Made Me Do. Luckily, it worked out, as Taylor decided to target this song at homophobes, framing this song as a pro-LGBTQ+ anthem. Good for her, right? ... Well, here's the problem: all of that pro-rights stuff does comes up... but not until the second verse. The first one is a message to her own online haters, telling them to calm down because they're being too loud. Which, fair enough, Taylor has her fair share of haters... except much like when she tried doing this on Shake It Off 5 years previously, it comes off as incredibly insecure! She says that sticks and stones never broke her bones, but Taylor has written many MANY songs, both good and bad, proving that this is emphatically NOT true! Heck, right before she says this, she even indicates that she's learned that lesson that hard way, so which is it?! And unlike Shake It Off, which at least had the energy to justify its title, this one is weighed down by that leaden, plodding, squonking beat that opens up the song and then persists throughout the whole thing! It makes the entire song feel like a CHORE to get through, and Taylor's half-rapping delivery across all the verses, as well as her refusal to sing on the chorus, only make the whole experience even worse! Even with all that though, I was prepared to put this a lot lower. After all, the queer-friendly message is still there, and is what this song is best known for, after all. Sure, it's clumsy as Hell, with that "GLAAD" line, and "shade never made anybody less gay" is a very basic way of distilling years of suffering and persecution, but at least she tried, right? Well, that was all well and good until I really thought about why that title made me so apprehensive; I thought Taylor was going to make an incredibly condescending "screw the haters" anthem in the vain of Look What You Made Me Do. And the fact is, that's exactly what she did, with about the same level of self-awareness! Worse still, it feels like she tacked on the pro-gay message to suit her own agenda, almost like she's equating her own haters to people who don't support gay rights. I'm sure that wasn't her intention (not consciously anyway), but the clumsy way this song is thrown together makes it come off that way! Which really throws a wrench in your pro-LGBTQ+ stance, when you're equating their suffering to your own! In terms of hit songs about being an ally, the best example to me in recent years is Macklemore's Same Love. It's detailed, it stays on topic, and it doesn't suddenly stray off to talk about Macklemore's haters, because he realises it's not about him! Here, Taylor unfortunately made it almost ALL about herself, which feels incredibly egotistical and kinda sickening to be honest. The only reason this isn't higher is because I don't believe it was remotely intentional, but it's still a HUGE misstep on her part! Thank God Taylor decided to release her 2 albums in 2020, because Lover was an overblown mess, with this being pretty close to the shitty apex! Still, for as awkward as it sounds... I can think of worse.
I was hesitant to put this on the list at the risk of seeming petty. After all, I'm supposed to be a critic, doesn't that mean I should be objective or something? ... FUCK no, and besides, these 2 deserve it!
No Guidance by Chris Brown (Ft. Drake)
I could give a number of reasons for putting this here. For starters, it's booooooring. The beat has that 1 tinny note that keeps looping around at the very front of the mix, which I can never unhear and really grates on my eardrums. Half the song is empty dead space, with Drake lazily repeating "you got it girl, you got it" until I want to slap him out of his stupor. Hell, even when his verse actually does come in, he pauses between each line to drag out the length of the song, which the music video also exacerbates by being fucking 9 minutes long! And of course, Chris Brown is lathered in autotune that makes my ears bleed, which is a stark contrast to the otherwise pretty and watery production. Heck, I could even find reasons to hate the content, which on the surface is a song about these 2 encouraging girls they've just met at the club, promising to look after them. However, look even a little bit deeper, and you see the condescending lyrics about how these girls are clearly very naïve, as they've obviously never had real guidance from an authority figure in their lives. So, Chris Brown and Drake promise to be those guiding figures. How romantic, the violent c**t with multiple restraining orders and felony charges to his name, and the idiot who gets more insecure about women on each album, abandoned his child and blames his baby momma for making him pay child support... ON RECORD!!! But the key word in both of those last paragraphs is "could", because I hated this song before I even heard it. Even if this song had been a sonic masterpiece with multiple passages and lyrical tapestries akin to Bohemian Rhapsody... which it isn't, there was no way I was ever going to like this. The moment I saw that Drake had teamed up with the guy who beat Rihanna half to death, the woman Drake briefly dated and has been pining over for years after the fact, I instantly hated this song! Sure, listening to it didn't make it much better, but whenever it would come on, I would immediately feel that rage bubble up and I'd be forced to leave the room. And that's before I even saw the music video, which is one of the most vile and repulsively unfunny things I've seen since Freaky Friday! If you ever find the time to watch the whole thing, you'll see what I mean, especially the credits where Chris Brown is allowed near a child and tells him "I'm not really mean, I'm acting"... I beg to differ! Not the most rational pick, which is why it's not higher, but it is the honest one; screw Drake and FUCK CHRIS BROWN!!!
And speaking of easy targets, even if it does feel incredibly mean on my part:
Señorita by Shawn Mendes & Camila Cabello
Look, I like these 2, as people. They seem nice enough in interviews, I'd love to hang out with them in real life, and if they want to make music together to express how in love they are, cool, that's their prerogative. Slight issue, this song was recorded and released before they were officially dating, and it's one of the many reasons I don't see these 2 lasting in the long run. For starters, the lyrics are astonishingly misguided, to the point where they didn't notice how weird it is for Shawn to say he loves it when SHE calls HIM "Señorita"... seriously, how lazy can you get?! On that note,, you ever notice that "Señorita" is the only Spanish word on this whole thing? It absolutely REEKS of pandering to get the Latin crossover, even RITMO by the fucking Black Eyed Peas made more of an effort than that! ... It sucked balls at it, but still, it doesn't excuse this song's blatant baiting! Far from attempting any reggaetón touches, the production is a barren wasteland, just a vague guitar line buried under echoing finger-snaps that are turned up WAY too loudly, with practically no other foundation! This forces our 2 vocalists to lead the melody, and to say they are under-equipped would be generous! Because I'll be honest, the real reason this doesn't work is because these 2 artists are WILDLY unbalanced. I've stated many times that I don't get Camila's appeal as a vocalist, and while she has made a couple of songs that have worked for me like Havana and Crying In The Club, she just sounds bloody awful here! Sure, she sounds more invested than she did opposite Machine Gun Kelly, but it doesn't change the fact that her shrill vocals do NOT lend themselves to slow, sensual cooing! Her lower range, while still rough, is so much better, and yet on so many of these songs, she's forced into that upper range that grates on my nerves! Plus, she slurrs more than 2014-era Ariana Grande, to the point where her going "lalala" repeatedly sounds suspiciously like baby-talk, which only breaks the romantic atmosphere even further! On that note, for a sweet love song, this sure does get explicit, with lines like "I should be running, you keep me coming" or "you say we're just friends, but friends don't know the way you taste." Not that I have an issue with explicit songs, but these 2 don't remotely sell any of it... also it makes karaoke awkward! Still though, I'll give Camila this, she projects more personality than Shawn, who's a complete non-presence here, which does NOT help the gaping void that is their chemistry on this song! Most people point to that awful video of these 2 kissing on camera as proof that their relationship is basically just a media circus, but honestly, this song is all the proof I need! This was one of the most overplayed song of the past couple of years, and with repeated exposure, it became unbearable! I mean seriously, can you think of a duet with worse chemistry than this?! ... WELL...
Sure, You Need To Calm Down is bad... but at least I had to think twice before putting it on this list.
ME! by Taylor Swift (Ft. Brendon Urie)
The only word that adequately describes this song is "clusterfuck" and I still think that's putting it lightly. While Taylor has made worse songs, she does have a habit of occasionally releasing something that was so obviously a bad idea that it kinda baffles me! Enter Brendon Urie, high off his success with 2 back-to-back hits, to sing opposite her on a duet. Notice how he hasn't had a big hit since? Same thing happened with ZAYN in 2017. Collaborating with Taylor is a very dangerous game, so unless you're Bon Iver or Matt Berninger, I would exercise caution. Now, unlike I Want To Die from the Fifty Shades Darker soundtrack (I know what I said), Taylor is at least trying here. With a big smile, she and Brendon throw themselves full-force at this, with its bombastic horns, it's real drums, and it's anthemic chorus... and it absolutely TANKS! This song has the budget, the orchestral backing, the starpower, and even the effort to feel huge, and yet it falls completely flat... why is that? Quite simply, this song has absolutely no idea what it wants to be! See, in terms of the "story", this is a love song between 2 people trying to convince the other how amazing they are. However, when it comes to the production and the gutless songwriting, it's a very basic empowerment anthem, and rather than picking one and committing to it, the song tries to do both. And it fails spectacularly! Taylor and Brendon are both big personalities, but like with a lot of self-empowerment anthems, they have to stifle them here so that people can more easily slot themselves into their roles. They still wanted a duet though, so they framed it as 2 confident people bragging to each other. But again, because the lyrics are so vague and general, they're no spark at all between them, they both come off as boring egomaniacs that nobody would want to talk to! This song could have been sung by anybody in the world, and it would have had the exact same effect, the song itself is a faulty product! However, they go one step further, because the writing isn't just generic, it's AWFUL! Taylor at least tries to acknowledge her own flaws at first, despite that irritating chipper tone of voice, but ends up saying "one of these things is not like the other, like a rainbow with all of the colours" and "I'm the only one of me, you're the only one of you"... yes, very good! What are you, 5?! Brendon, on the other hand, immediately digs his own grave by promising he'll never bore you, and mentioning that there are a lot of lame guys out there... nice glass house there buddy, especially on this song! And has anyone ever noticed they call each other baby doll? ... Ew. And of course, it all builds to that awful bridge: "Hey kids, spelling is fun!" "Girl, there ain't no I in 'team', but you know there is a 'me'!!" "And you can't spell 'awesome' without 'me'!!!" What the fuck were you 2 thinking?! Taylor must have realised this, because she scrapped the spelling part from the album version, but let's be honest, the entire thing should have been scrapped! A terrible, misshapen song that doesn't work as an empowerment anthem, a love song, or even as any type of song at all! Say what you will about High Hopes and how well it works, and I know many of you have said a lot, but at least it's not this!
I mean... of course.
One Thing Right by Marshmello & Kane Brown
If I had made this list a year ago, this would have been number 2. Knockin' Boots is a bad song, but it's run-of-the-mill bad, the kind of song that only stands out because it's so out of its time. Say what you will about all of the songs I've listed so far, but they're all somewhat listenable tune-wise. With this pick, we are stepping into the real garbage... and somehow this one's only at number 4!
For newcomers, this is Kane Brown, a country artist who's had a staggering amount of success the past couple of years, and I can't see him going away anytime soon. Now, generally, I like him. Sure, I think Be Like That is awful, but if somebody likes it, fine, I won't judge them. If someone told me they liked this though... we may need to see other people. Because, to quote myself, THIS ISN'T COUNTRY MUSIC! Sure, there's some cheap, rubbery guitars on the verses, and Kane Brown is a country artist by some definitions, but that's not what people remember from this song. No, what they remember is the drop... think about that, a country song with an EDM-style drop. The only person I can think of who did this well was Lindsey Sterling with Roundtable Rival, and while that song is awesome, with real instruments, here the drop comes from Marshmello, who is fast becoming one of my biggest enemies in modern music!
The song actually has a decent build-up, which initially made me consider cutting it some slack... until I realised that the verses are just listing what an awful human being Kane Brown is. He's cheated, he's lied, and the more he lists, the more you lean in to hear the one thing that he did to redeem himself... and then that drop hits and none of it feels justified! He doesn't even go into much detail about this girl either, he just says "you" and then repeats that he did one thing right! I mean, fair enough, he only said one thing, one WORD in fact, but it definitely makes me feel like the good deed-bad deed balance is a little off here! And again, the drop is just SO bad, it sounds like a whale being sodomised in the distance! And the autotune which comes in to lather the backing vocals near the end of the song only serves to piss me off more! Pure, unfettered ugliness, that doesn't get ANYTHING right!
Well, with that obvious pick out of the way, I'm sure you're wondering what actually managed to beat out One Thing Right! Well, while the country fan in me was outraged by that song, I do listen to other genres too. And if there's one type of song that I'm certainly fond of, it's a good old retro throwback! The Weeknd and Bruno Mars have both made my year-end lists many times by simply letting a song ride off their insane charisma and vocal chops over some 80s or 90s instrumentation, to the point where some of you have complained to me that I'm too much of a sucker for new renditions of older sounds. Well, the reason I like those 2 so much is because they do the sound very well, it's a good/great homage... but then there's doing it very VERY wrong:
Only Human by Jonas Brothers
Remember One More Night by Maroon 5? You know, that awful song where Levine tries his hand at reggae and sounds like he has a head cold over some incredibly cheap-sounding production? Well, I'd like to present a formal apology to Adam for being so harsh on his nasal cooing, because for as much as I hate that song, at least it had more swagger and presence to it than THIS! At least Levine sounded convinced by his own brilliance, whereas the Jonas Brothers seem to be uncertain about every line they're saying here! I know that some people didn't love their comeback album or Sucker, but nothing else they've ever made has sounded quite as sloppily thrown together as this!
The ugly, cheap horns don't invoke a lounge bar or nightclub, it feels more like your parents left you behind at the circus! And the fake xylophone is NOT helping, it makes for one of the most brittle-sounding songs I've ever heard hit the charts, with absolutely no solid foundation to it! Not to mention, it's ugly as sin, almost seeming to sneer at you... which gets especially uncomfortable when Nick Jonas says "So why should you fight or try to deny the way that you feel?"
That leads us to the other big problem: the lyrics are creeeeeepy!!! Sure, the production is bad, but paired with what these guys are saying here, it starts to get actively uncomfortable. It's bad enough that Joe sings every line of the chorus with that same melody and rhyme scheme, but the backing vocals make me feel like I'm being surrounded by cultists on all sides, urging me to simply give in. Then the music suddenly gets quieter, the crowd parts, and there's Nick Jonas, and for a second you think you're safe... only for him to smile and ask "What's wrong? Why would you fight me? You're saying no, but your body says yes. Come on, stop pretending to be shy, you can't fool me." SHUT UP, YOU UTTER CREEP!!! Seriously, the date-rapey vibes on this are off the charts, and it made for one of the most uncomfortable hit songs I've ever heard! I don't know what possessed them to make this, but it certainly isn't anything close to human!
Aaaand speaking of retro throwbacks that absolutely FAIL!
Wake Up In The Sky by Gucci Mane, Bruno Mars & Kodak Black
Some of you may be surprised this is so high up on the list, especially after my last pick. After all, I like Bruno Mars, and this certainly doesn't sound as cartoonishly awful as Only Human. Well, the problem is that, unlike with the Jonas Brothers, I had expectations for this. Ever since Bruno dropped Locked Out Of Heaven, I have been consistently anticipating every new release from him. Uptown Funk: amazing! 24k Magic: love it! Finesse Remix: give me more! Then I see this song was released, and despite my trepidation at the features, a violent felon and the most overrated rapper of the decade, I decided to give it a chance... and I got the laziest song of Bruno's career. Including The Lazy Song!
Thing is, I didn't initially turn on this song, I was in complete denial at first. I mean, at least the beat sounded twinkling and pretty... until you realise just how ungodly boring it is after that heavenly intro, proving that shallow first impressions aren't everything. Well, at least Bruno's boundless charisma and energy will make for one third of the song being good... but no, he doesn't even have his own verse. He just handles the hook, and it is crystal clear that he was coasting here. He starts off by saying "I drink till I'm drunk, smoke till I'm high" and I believe it, he sounds completely checked out here, with elongated syllables and mind-numbing repetition about how flyyyyyy he is! There's none of his signature energy that even made his worst songs somewhat tolerable, because he's reached a point where he knows he doesn't have to try. And the fact that he has the gall to say so multiple times here just pisses me off to no end!
Next up is Gucci, who honestly fairs the best out of the 3... which is really fucking sad, considering how disposable his verse is here, without an ounce of cleverness, and rhyming "rushin' on me" with "touchin' on me." Then he has the balls to try and compare himself to Nat King Cole... in your fucking dreams! However, that is nothing compared to Kodak fucking Black, who has made worse than this... but is that saying anything?! This guy is up there with Chris Brown and 6ix9ine for me in terms of artists I have nothing but contempt for, who has released some of the worst music of the past decade, all while being an absolutely reprehensible human being... only to get a pass from general society, for reasons which completely escape me! And hearing his slurred bragging about his come-up here, all the while sounding absolutely awful, especially when he "sings" about his wiiiiiiings, it's enough to make me retch!
The song is only 3 and a half minutes long, but with how sleepy the beat is, how low-energy our 3 performers are, and how much I detest Kodak's presence on it, it feels twice as long! Out of all the songs on this list, it's the biggest slog of them all, and I very strongly considered putting it at number 1... but no. We'll get to that in just a moment, but first, let's quickly list off a few dishonourable mentions:
The Git Up by Blanco Brown
Wow Nashville, way to seem desperate! This is such a blatant rip-off of Old Town Road, while emphatically not understanding what made that song so special, that its failure is more than enough to earn its spot here.
You Say by Lauren Daigle
A mediocre piano ballad with decent vocals, but the second verse utterly ruins it by making her happiness and self-worth dependent on this other person... and this is supposed to be empowering?
Clout by Offset (Ft. Cardi B)
Considering the real-life context surrounding the timing of this release and that title, this should have been so much more interesting than it was! Instead, it's a cheap bait-and-switch that ends up being completely generic and unrelated to anything... guess they really will do anything for clout. This also received a Grammy nomination... fuck off.
Swervin' by A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie (Ft. 6ix9ine)
This wouldn't have made the list at all if it weren't for the 6ix9ine feature.
Close To Me by Ellie Goulding & Swae Lee
Why does this annoy me so much? Maybe it's the awkward production, or that cyclical melody, or "I don't want to be somebody without your body", or the way Ellie Goulding says "animal"... huh, guess there are a lot of reasons.
Happier by Marshmello (Ft. Bastille)
Awful! If it weren't for the fact that it also made the 2018 year-end list, this would be in the Top 5! How did I not see this back in 2018?!
Truth Hurts by Lizzo
Yeah, this is probably the closest thing to a hot take on this list. Don't get me wrong, I like the lyrics... everything else is annoying as fuck, but at least I can give it that.
Please Me by Cardi B & Bruno Mars
Wow, Bruno Mars did NOT have a good year! Another song I didn't initially want to hate, but while Cardi is still great here (fight me), Bruno Mars demanding that she please him, over production that would be fine if not for those shrill, blaring synths... yeah, no.
Worth It by YK Osiris
Another 2019 XXL Freshman performer who didn't impress me much, but I still wasn't prepared for how awful he would sound here! Would have made the list if not for that awesome electric guitar solo at the end.
Robbery by Juice WRLD
Look, I get what it's trying to do, I'll even say it succeeds. Unfortunately, that doesn't change the fact it sounds like ass to me. Juice WRLD has some great songs to carry on his legacy, but personally, I'm leaving this with All Girls On The Same; in the past.
You know, I'm aware that my number 1 pick is an odd one. Unlike the other songs on this list, I can even point to some good things about it, at least in theory. However, to understand why this is here, I need to share something slightly personal: if it wasn't already abundantly clear to you in my content, I suffer from anxiety. I only got a professional opinion on this last year, and while it initially came as a surprise to me, after ruminating on it for a bit, it did make a lot of sense. Personally, it just felt somewhat comforting to be able to put a label on this thing that made my first 23 years on Earth so stressful and difficult... thank God THAT was different in 2020!
Now, with that out in the open, imagine there was a trigger for your anxiety. Imagine, if you will, that said trigger was a particular sound, maybe a song. A song which took off, to become one of the biggest international hits of the entire year, to the point where just hearing it tended to trigger headaches and shortness of breath. Why, a song like that sounds like a real pain, which actively makes your actual day-to-day life pretty difficult... yep!!!
Talk by Khalid
Even now, I find it hard to rationalise why this song affects me the way it does. Something about the way those fuzzy synths fade in to open up the song, then pair up with that staccato hand-clap percussion, which makes for one of the most jerky and off-kilter foundations to a pop song that I have ever heard, just makes me want to scream and tear out my earphones whenever I hear it! This was produced by Disclosure, whom I've actually praised in the past, especially for Latch with Sam Smith. Hell, they teamed up with Khalid again to make Know Your Worth, a beautifully mediocre 5/10 I can easily ignore! And yet here... I have no idea what possessed them to do this.
The chinsey synths sound completely out of tune, and the slight reverb on them just emphasises how ugly they are, but the plinking synthetic piano line that comes in to replace them is somehow worse, especially with the ever-so-subtle way the notes inflect downwards. And those plinking, escalating high notes that occasionally appear in the background now and again only make it harder to listen to! This entire song's production is a cluster of bad ideas that only build on top of each other to sound more and more awkward and off-putting! The mix somehow manages to be incredibly busy, while also sounding very spare, with a lot of dead air on every off-beat!
However, as bad as all this is, it's not what really gets to me about this song. I've listened to the instrumental on its own, and while I can acknowledge it's terrible, it doesn't set off any alarm bells. No, the final ingredient which pushes this over the edge, it's Khalid himself. I'm generally not a fan of this guy, not since I first heard Location and thought it was shit, but he's always been very easy to ignore. And I'll give him this, the lyrical sentiment here isn't terrible. He wants to take his relationship to the next level, and he can see she does too, so he asks if they can just talk about it. Ok, he picked the phrase "Can we just talk?", which is up there with "You need to calm down" in terms of phrases nobody should ever use, but I think communication's important in any relationship, romantic or otherwise. However, if someone said that to me, and especially if they sounded like this, slipping between a multitracked, fuzz-laden falsetto and an earnest, throaty mid-range... you'll excuse me if I punch you and run!
Something about the way his voice blends with this production, especially the falsetto delivery of "can we just talk" on the hook, immediately makes my chest tighten and I'm forced to turn it off. The problem is, sometimes you're out in public and you don't have control over the music. Imagine having to excuse yourself, or ask someone to change the music, just because it makes you uncomfortable, and you can't really explain why. Now imagine having to do that repeatedly, because the song in question cracked the top 10 in 12 countries! In some, it's been certified 4 x Platinum, and it was even nominated for Record of the Year at the Grammys... Again: fuck off!
This song is a recurring nightmare to me, and while it thankfully isn't that long, and prolonged, repeated exposure to it has made it easier to deal with, but every now and then, it'll come on, and all that initial discomfort comes rushing back. I can argue and dissect what makes this a bad song from a structural or compositional point of view (very easily, in fact), but it topped this list for entirely subjective reasons. It's one of the most messy, terrible songs, sonically speaking, that I've heard this past decade, and it's easily the worst hit song of 2020! Screw this, I'd genuinely be better off if I never hear it again!
So yeah, those were the worst hits of 2019! Kinda shocked how passionate I got while writing this, but hey, the bad stuff was pretty awful this year. Thankfully, we'll be moving on to the good stuff next, so if you're interested in seeing the Best Hit Songs of 2019, make sure you subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter so you never miss a post. More Musical McCool coming this weekend, thank you to those of you who have tuned into that, I'm really enjoying it so far! And, until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off.