Hi guys, welcome back to The Social Tune! And today we are going to count down the Top 10 Worst Hit Songs of 2021.
This was a year where the entire direction of The Social Tune channel and "brand" changed dramatically. Rather than focusing exclusively on the Billboard Hot 100 as I had in previous years, I decided to instead embark on releasing a weekly series, one where I would talk exclusively about the Irish charts. And to be perfectly honest, it's been one of the most creatively stimulating years I've ever had. I always wanted to create something unique that no one else was really doing, and during a Q&A last year, I realized that I didn't know jack shit about contemporary Irish music. So I seized the opportunity to bring some coverage to a country whose music much fewer people invest their time into and gave all of my attention to the Irish top 50 (yes, there is a top 100, but a not-insignificant portion of the bottom 50 are repeats ranging from Somone You Loved by Lewis Capaldi to Mr. Brightside by The Killers).
And as I said, it was incredibly rewarding. Not only did I discover a ton of new talents that I never would have come across otherwise, but I also ended up becoming very engaged in what was going on along the Irish charts every week. In previous years I've kept a casual eye on the charts as the year went on, but because I was doing a weekly series this year, I was always paying attention to what was getting big and therefore formed very strong opinions and connections to the pop music of 2021. Not that I would recommend doing it to everyone, mind you! I am genuinely baffled how anybody has the time to do this in video form every single week on top of other content, this written series took pretty much everything I had if I wanted any sort of social life! Suffice to say I was glad to have started this blog, because this sort of series simply would not have worked for me on YouTube.
And yes, such a series is a bit more niche, it does mean that there are some hits I'm choosing to highlight that some of you may have never heard before if you're based in the US, but which most of you in the UK and Ireland have definitely been bombarded with for a large part of 2021. So if you want to find out what qualifies as a hit and what doesn't, you can check out my Top 100 Biggest Irish Hits of 2021, which I posted just a couple of days ago. Without further ado, these are the Top 10 Worst Hit Songs of 2021!
I don't think people give Olivia Rodrigo enough credit... hear me out. She perfectly encompasses the feeling of being screamed at by a teenage girl, which is obviously unpleasant for some people. But for me, it's the fact that she's able to replicate it so accurately with far-above-average songwriting and some absolutely fantastic music at the core of it. Yes, it's definitely workshopped quite a bit behind the scenes and if anybody's an industry plant, it's certainly Olivia, but the end product still hit me emotionally time and time again this year. And pop music that can elicit a genuine emotional reaction, good or bad, is always worth highlighting. Because if you took the exact same formula and then gave it to someone with no interest in sounding good or leaving much of an impact, you'd be left with...
you broke me first by Tate McRae
YE position: #97
I genuinely hesitated to put this on the list. I mean for starters, this was technically a hit in Ireland last year, but also, Tate McRae is still young. She's still growing into her voice, and I'm well aware that I'm basically punching down by putting her here. This is a song about a girl sitting by her phone, not knowing what to say to an ex who broke her heart, after he suddenly asks her if they can get back together. That's definitely a solid premise for a song, I can't wait to see her tear him a new one! Sadly though, the execution is just godawful.
Let's start with the obvious issue, Tate McRae's voice. I know that age is a factor here and I'm sure she'll find her own sound at some point. But back when this came out, all I could think was "wow, this song sure is doing its best Billie Eilish impression". The swampy mix, the echoing reverb, the lack of any real sort of melody, instead being driven by the vocals which are slathered in reverb, just enough to fool you into thinking that they're more atmospheric than they really are. The entire song just feels like I'm listening to it underwater, then once in a while I'll step into an underground sinkhole in the form of the chorus and sink even deeper! Seriously, after all the build-up on the pre-chorus, demanding to know where he gets the nerve to ask her out again after how he treated her, she delivers that star line and it just falls completely flat on its face! The bass feels like it's trying to go for a dramatic Inception-style BWAM but it's way too muffled to have any sort of punch to it! Say what you will about Olivia Rodrigo, but whenever she dropped a zinger on SOUR, for the most part she knew to give the line some heft and teeth, whereas Tate McRae just sort of whispers it at you really intensely.
It's unfortunate for Tate McRae, because if I didn't have that comparison in mind every single time I would listen to this, I would probably just go "wow, this songwriting sure is basic" or "this melody sure is nothing", but then I would listen to half the songs on SOUR and just smile to myself contentedly. I'm not saying it's fair but there it is. Even before all that though, I did not like this. It's a prime example of the sad pop which I criticised so heavily back in 2017 and 2018, and I want that trend to go away as fast as possible. So yeah, an easy target... now let's get to the meatier ones.
This is gonna hurt me way more than it hurts you, baby.
I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE by Måneskin
YE position: #37
Okay, now we finally get to an act that everybody knows! Måneskin was the winner of Eurovision in 2021, and subsequently had several big international hits. I would honestly credit them for bringing hard rock back to the charts. Sure, acts like Olivia Rodrigo somewhat paved the way, but Zitti e Buoni was the closest thing to a hard rock song to hit the charts in a very long time, a song which I personally found absolutely terrific, and it's a real shame that it didn't make the year-end list! That being said, they did have 2 hits this year: one of them was the cover of Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons' Beggin' - which got mixed reviews but which I personally enjoyed - and the other, bigger hit over here was I WANNA BE YOUR SLAVE, which is hands-down one of the most ridiculous songs released all year.
This might be an unpopular opinion, but I think this song is utterly hilarious. First off, it sounds cartoonishly bad, with a very staccato build-up on the verses that starts as just a kick drum repeatedly stabbing you in the side of the head, then brings a sneering bassline into the mix to really drive home the danger! And once the guitars come in, they just follow the same looping pattern that's not remotely interesting or technical in any way. Well, that is except for the breakdown after the hook, but even that feels weird and awkward. It's supposed to emphasise the awesome thing that was just said on the hook, but the problem is that the lyrics don't even make sense!
This is a song where the first 2 lines contradict each other: "I want to be your slave, I want to be your master", and I'm lost, what? On their follow-up single Mamma Mia, Damiano David at least knew which role he wanted to play, the submissive one who got spat on. This song doesn't know what it wants to be, so it tries everything, repeating the mantra of "I wanna be *blank*" over and over and over again. And as the biggest fan of repetition in the music, you can imagine how much that pleased me!!! Then the hook hits and it gets even more fucking ridiculous, as he starts calling himself "the devil who's searching for redemption", "a bad guy who's searching for redemption", "a lawyer who's-" ... wait, what?! ... Well, okay, you could make the argument lawyers are evil, fine.
Let's continue: "a monster who's searching for redemption", "a blonde girl who's-" okay WHAT??? Yep, that's the real line! I don't know why he decided to bring blonde girls into it, but it definitely takes me out of the song and causes me to collapse laughing on the floor! And again, all of that is then followed by this rocking guitar solo, which just feels so limp and pathetic after all of those STUPID lines! It's like he's expecting everyone to stand up and roar with approval as the guitar rings out, while we're sitting there confused and trying to figure out if he really just called himself a blonde girl searching for redemption! It's one of the most ridiculous things that I heard all year, by a fucking mile!
Now, because of this, I do at least find this entertaining. There were definitely songs I disliked more than this in 2021, but I feel like I'd be doing everyone a disservice if I didn't include this on the list. God bless you guys. I hope that your star doesn't burn away just yet.
If there's one genre that is much bigger over here than it is in the US, one which made this year a bit of a challenge for yours truly, it would be dance music. House, electro, and all these other subgenres of EDM have been THE dominant sound in Ireland and the UK for quite a number of years now, and every year, like clockwork, we get a ton of interchangeable dance music hitting the charts, sometimes with big names attached to it, sometimes with complete unknowns. Now in 2021... well, at least I can tell them all apart, but I think that's more due to repeated exposure because the majority of it felt pretty bland and forgettable. And while there was plenty of fodder like Navos that bored me to tears, there was one song in particular that felt truly worthless to me.
My Heart Goes (La Di Da) by Becky Hill & Topic
YE position: #44
Oh how far we've fallen... Topic started off the year on a fresh foot by teaming up with ATB and A7S on Your Love (9PM), which was such a breath of fresh air to me and a great follow-up to Breaking Me last year, a song I genuinely forgot existed until last week. Then he just HAD to go and fuck it up!
Becky Hill is a mainstream EDM producer's wet dream! A technically decent singer, yet who is so anonymous and lacking in presence that she really is a perfect fit for this classic DJ-singer team-up! She's the interchangeable female vocalist whom you just throw on any song because her personality doesn't matter, she's just there as a tool. That being said, I've never disliked her; it's really hard to dislike plain bread, you know? Everything about her is just so mind-numbingly flavourless, she leaves absolutely no impact every single time, and never seems able to effectively convey any type of emotion. And this year, she had 2 big hits, the other one being Remember with David Guetta, ironically one of the most forgettable songs of the year. Yet while that was the obvious choice for this list, the success of this one pissed me off so much more!
The thing is, while I don't like Remember, I could see why other, dumber people might like it. It's upbeat, it's danceable and it's got a hook that would be catchy in the hands of a better producer and singer, I can see the bare bones of a good song there. But to give some context, when I covered My Heart Goes on my weekly series, it got the shortest blurb I think I've given to any song all year, because what can I even say about it?! It sounds like a million other songs before it and there will be a million others after it that are just like it! That's what I thought at the time... but upon repeated listens, I realized: no, it's significantly worse. Because unlike other songs about seeing someone and feeling your heart pulse and race at the mere sight of them, this one somehow manages to turn a moment of lovestruck excitement into the most boring and downbeat club song imaginable!
I'm serious, I didn't realize until I read the lyrics that this was supposed to be a love song, because once the hook hits, it's all minor tones and bass, none of it sounds remotely upbeat or happy! Plus, am I the only one who thinks it's really fucking stupid that she says that her heart goes "la di da da di da"?! I mean, don't get me wrong, the classic "la di da" phrase has been used before - Hell, there was a Nessa Barrett song earlier this year which used it and was FAR more interesting than this dreck - but the point Becky Hill is trying to make here is that you make her heart sing or beat erratically. Maybe "bum bum bum da bum" would have worked better if Joel Corry & MNEK hadn't got to it first, but "la di da" is what you say to something you find uninteresting, something that doesn't engage you! It really doesn't make sense for a song where your heart is supposed to be racing!
Quite apart from my lyrical gripes with the chorus though, the rest of this is completely forgettable. It hit the top 10 here, stayed for weeks, and I could not tell you how any of the verses go. But I can remember the hook, because it's one of the most badly-produced moments of the year! A moment of sheer ecstasy is built up on the pre-chorus, only for it to default to an ugly, minor beat that leaves you feeling completely cold and a little bit cheated. To me, this is one of the biggest failures in House music all year, and while I would love to also call it the worst one, boy did 2021 have a few really strong contenders in that regard!
Those of you who have kept up with my weekly posts this year will probably be a little surprised to see this so low on the list. After all, I tore into it when it first dropped and stated on multiple occasions that I absolutely detested it, that it was an absolute bastardisation of the original! And look, over time, I've come to accept that there were plenty more bad songs this year and that this wasn't the "worst" thing necessarily... but it definitely does still strike me as one of the most offensive.
OUT OUT by Joel Corry & Jax Jones (Ft. Charli XCX & Saweetie)
YE position: #29
Joel Corry is one of the most regular hitmakers out right now. And honestly, of the many British producers on the scene, I tend to like him a fair bit. Okay, yes, he definitely has a very safe pop sound to a lot of his songs, but at least he knows how to construct a good melody and how to make good use of his performers... MOST of the time. But once in a while, he'll come out with something that just does not work on any level! And while I Wish with Mabel was thoroughly underwhelming, this was downright inexcusable.
Oh don't get me wrong, this was doomed from the very beginning! I don't know what possessed them to choose this sample, of all things, but the fact that they took it and then did absolutely NOTHING with it is what really got under my skin! As many critics have highlighted, the original Alors On Danse by Stromae is a haunting classic of Belgian EDM, and as someone who grew up in that country, an absolute childhood staple of mine. The lyrics are surprisingly sinister, basically evoking the same emotions as Robyn's Dancing On My Own, where we dance in order to cope with just how shitty our lives are, as day in, day out, everything remains depressingly similar and unchanging. But sure, let's ignore all of that and instead just jack the fucking horn line and give it to one of the most soulless performances I've ever heard come out of Charli XCX.
Seriously. I have been rooting for Charli for the last couple of years, and I was delighted when I saw that she might actually get a hit this year, but this performance is just terrible! I know for a fact she's capable of far FAR better than this, none of her trademark personality shines through here. Although to be fair, can you really blame her when she's given material that's this fucking basic? It's just another boring song about waiting to go out on a Friday night, because we certainly didn't get enough of that from RITON & Nightcrawlers this year! And since they have to pay homage to the original in some loose way, they decided to just make the hook go "just watch me dance", which results in it ending up far closer to Silentó than Stromae!
But all of that being said... there is 1 saving grace in Saweetie. Don't get me wrong, she's not amazing, but she does have easily the best part of the song. Her verse has energy and personality, and "bubblegum butt running through this ass" is a genuinely funny line to transition into the final hook with. Too bad that's all she's given, she doesn't even get any ad-libs or anything on the hook. No, that all belongs to Charli and BOY does she just do fuck-all with it!
This is such a soulless, half-assed attempt at trying to bank on people's nostalgia for a hit, and one that genuinely pisses me off every time I hear it! If it weren't for Saweetie elevating it beyond total uselessness, this song might have even topped this list. But you know what, there was more unpleasant music released in 2021. For instance:
As I'm writing this, I'm actually lucky enough to be home in Belgium for the Christmas holidays. I'm truly grateful for this, but it has meant helping around the house a bit more, including the long-overdue clear-out of my old room. And amid all those dusty books and worn-out clothes, I chanced across an old diary I wrote in when I was 15... and it was so so SO much worse than I remembered!!!
WITHOUT YOU by The Kid LAROI
YE position: #11
Believe it or not, this was originally going to miss this list. Sure, I hated it when it first dropped and it was an easy target, but over time I started to sympathise with Kid LAROI's wailing angst. He was just a scared, hurt little boy who'd gone through his first real break-up, and was melodramatically screaming about how scared he was to be alone. And yes, the misogyny of "can't make a wife out of a ho" was terrible, but was it really enough to justify putting it on the Worst list? ... Yep!
The second I read that fucking diary, I realised that teenagers are dumb, they're SO dumb!!! Not just in what they think matters but in just how much importance they place on those things. And sure, there are exceptions, but not everyone is Billie Eilish or Olivia Rodrigo, and with those easy comparisons staring me in the face all year, WITHOUT YOU curdled and fell apart in RECORD time! Suddenly all the elements I had been able to forgive were unlistenable; the basic acoustic guitar, the melodramatic backing vocals wailing away in agony, and especially this kid's GODAWFUL voice, all of it just became intolerable! At least on STAY you could get caught up in the good melody or the desperate plea for your to stay, whereas this is a much uglier sentiment.
See, WITHOUT YOU marks the moment in the break-up where teenagers get a lot meaner. Once he realises he's not going to win her back, he decides that if he can't have her, nobody will! So he paints her as the devil, going on and on about how unforgiving and awful she was to him, and even sneaking some pretty nasty insults in there, all under the pretext of being in pain and deserving sympathy for it! It's a manipulative guilt trip, from a 17-year-old who doesn't know the first thing about love or relationships, and venting about it in one of the most generic post-breakup tantrums I've ever heard! Plus, he does the Central Cee thing of insulting you ("fuck all of your reasons") and then saying he didn't mean it in the same breath ("I lost my shit, you know I didn't mean it"), and then calling her a ho when she runs and cries about it to her friends!
I get that he wasn't even 18 when he wrote this, but that doesn't excuse what an asshole he is on this! And the fact that so many people streamed and bought it, supporting this teenager's sociopathic cryfest, made this one of the biggest headaches of 2021 for me! Take it from someone who used to be almost as insufferable, he doesn't need you enabling him! Kick some sense into this kid now, trust me, he'll thank you later!
It's hard to believe this is the very first song I ever reviewed on Musical McCool. Back then, I genuinely didn't think it would stick around long enough for me to care. But then it actually started taking off and becoming a hit in its own right, which was bad enough... and then the original artist cosigned it... and that was just the final straw for me.
Goosebumps (Remix) by Travis Scott & HVME
YE position: #12
For those of you who don't remember, the original goosebumps was a song released in 2016 off of Travis Scott's controversial Birds in the Trap Sing McKnight. It was underappreciated both critically and publicly at first, but subsequently became kind of a cult classic. And honestly, I can see why; the atmosphere, the off-key synths, the warping bass, the absolutely manic Kendrick Lamar verse, and Travis Scott's energetic performance all made the song ridiculously entertaining! With all that in mind, the fact that they took a song with so much personality and made it into this colourless sludge is a real kick to the stomach.
What really gets me about this song personally is that it's called "Goosebumps", and yet while the original tried everything to live up to that title, with one deranged element after another, here you get none of that! All thanks to HVME, the Spanish Deep House producer none of us asked for, who took it upon himself to strip everything memorable out of the original song, leaving us with the most generic slurry imaginable. Kendrick Lamar was removed completely and the rest is reduced to bargain bin lo-fi trap and EDM that does not sound good, it's just really murky and depressing.
But you know what? I was prepared to look the other way and forget about it... until it took off and became one of the biggest hits of the entire year. Even more so after Travis Scott decided to do his own remix of it, which you'd think would give the song a little bit more energy and personality, right, especially as Travis has allegedly grown as a performer since then? But there's just NOTHING here! Rather than bringing the remix back up to his level, he reads its dull energy and then matches it to a fault. In fact, if anything, HIS remix of the remix is worse, because his vocals genuinely don't match at all! That vocal line is just sloppily slapped onto that low, murky beat and it just sounds depressing. I feel kinda bad placing it this high because Travis almost sounds "too good" for this, but that clash just makes it sound disjointed and awful.
I know a lot of people are just going to say that this is merely boring or generic or forgettable, but to me, especially after going back and listening to the original, this is such a fucking slap in the face. And the fact that Travis actually endorsed and encouraged something this lazy and soulless... yeah, fuck that noise!
You know, making these Worst lists is always fun, but sometimes it's a bit complicated to come up with reasons why you hate a song so much and you feel the need to justify yourself. So it's kind of refreshing when a song just sounds like shit.
Need To Know by Doja Cat
YE position: #72
Doja Cat had one of the best years of her career and along with Olivia Rodrigo and Lil Nas X, was definitely one of the most dominant voices in pop in 2021. Her album Planet Her was fresh, funny, with highlight after highlight, and only 1 or 2 duds preventing it from being great in my opinion. So yeah, generally speaking, I have nothing but good things to say about her, even the negative points I brought up with her last year are long gone and resolved at this point... apart from her working with Dr. Luke, that part still irritates me to no end! But you know what, it's kind of fitting that her worst song to date should be produced by that fucking rapist.
I remember when I first heard Need To Know, I was genuinely shocked. It's been a while since I've heard a song that I disliked so immediately, from the first throb of bass, but as soon as Doja started singing and that unflattering swampy mix kicked in, I knew we were in for something baaaaaad. Not even the fun kind of bad either, no, this is more along the lines of Lil Wayne's Love Me, where it's just deeply unpleasant to listen to from start to finish. And to be brutally honest, Doja Cat makes things even worse! She's not singing particularly differently than she normally does, but this instrumental brings out a certain sneering tone in her voice that's very much not fun at all!
The entire song is set up as a dreamlike fantasy, where she's demanding to know what dirty thoughts you think about because she finds it exciting. It's supposed to be alluring and sexy - you know, like Kiss Me More was - but the end product is simply hellish! This makes me actively afraid to tell her anything for fear that she's about to stab me in the face. Either that or it'll be like that one episode of New Girl where Jess is misled about what Nick's into and performs an act that both of them would have rather lived without... I watched a lot of Netflix this year, sue me. This is just so uncomfortably ugly, one of the most hideous-sounding pop songs I've heard in a while, where all of Doja's trademark personality is absolutely siphoned by that viscous mix. Now in fairness to her, I can't really think of anyone who could have made this work, and it hasn't changed my opinion on her as a whole, but my GOD did it reinforce some of my concerns about Dr. Luke! Even Doja has openly said she doesn't have to work with him anymore and I couldn't be happier about that! I remember an old parable that said "sometimes when we think ugly thoughts, we ourselves become uglier over time", and this is the fucking proof of that. Banish this thing to Hell where it belongs!
Now I'm not someone who's known for exaggerating to get their point across... but there was a point this year where I would have considered handing back all my vaccination certificates in exchange for never having to hear a drunken group of strangers sing this fucking song ever again!!!
Let's Go Home Together by Ella Henderson & Tom Grennan
YE position: #27
This song was one of the biggest radio hits in the country. It was incredibly popular across many demographics and you can certainly see why. For the youngsters, you have the 2 popular artists and the subject matter about hooking up with a stranger in public, and for the older ones, you have... the same, plus the fact that the jokes were clearly written 50 years ago!
Some of you may recognise the name Ella Henderson from her big hit Ghost back in 2015, or from that Jax Jones collab from a couple of years ago. Her career hasn't been the most consistent exactly, but she's remained in the public consciousness in her home country of the UK at least. But this is probably her biggest hit in a while... and look, for someone who started out her career on such a strong note, I'll admit she's never fully lived up to her potential in my opinion. But you know what, she also hasn't pissed me off until now, and this song just continually pushed my buttons all year until I couldn't stand it!
Now, in fairness to her, the problem isn't Ella, she's just playing a drunk woman out on the town. Sure, she sounds disturbingly anonymous, basically just coasting with zero effort or much vocal control - which results in a number of very awkward voice cracks, kind of like I'm listening to my drunk aunt at karaoke - but that's also kind of the point. The song wasn't designed to be an Ella Henderson song, it was designed for sing-alongs where 2 drunken idiots can easily slot themselves into the roles here. It's literally a shell of a song, and not usually the kind of thing that would evoke much rage from the average listener.
But no matter who they'd picked instead of Ella, this song would have pissed me off, because they paired her with Tom Fucking Grennan, one of the big breakout stars of 2021. He got a lot of radio play between his multiple hits. a fair share of acclaim from critics, and a load of middle-aged cougars absolutely losing their shit over how cute he was! And hey, good for him, I just wish his voice were remotely tolerable! You know that weird accent Drake puts on when he tries to steal from Afrobeat and which some have coined "jafaikin"? Well, Tom Grennan always sounds like that. I don't know what it is., but whenever he sings, the voice he puts on just sounds incredibly fake to me, like he's trying to talk down to a toddler. And it's emphasised all the more on this slow, meandering turd! The song doesn't have any sense of tempo, another element that lends to it being easy to sing along to, which in turn caused a lot of people to seriously get on my nerves in 2021!
Plus he just has absolutely no chemistry with Ella Henderson. Unlike other duets, there's absolutely no sizzle or fire or chemistry between these 2, instead replacing it with these oh-so-cheeky bait-and-switches! For instance, "I'd never have given you a second look, but I like the way you don't give a... damn"... It's 2021, who gets offended by the F-word anymore? Certainly not a country like Ireland which uses it in every other fucking sentence! Although the crowd favourite seems to be "Even though you talk way too fast, I can't stop looking at your... eyes", which always throws the bar into raucous laughter and immediately causes me to leave the establishment.
The song just thinks it's so fucking cute, and I only say that because I'm sincerely hoping it doesn't think it's clever! It's so obnoxious, appealing to the lowest common denominator without actually being funny. There's a reason these songs are usually about meeting someone on the dancefloor, because the music will get you in the mood and dancing with whoever you're trying to seduce. Whereas this just feels really awkward, where the 2 singers sound so drunk that you have to be several pints in in order to remotely buy into the cheese! And the hook has the gall to try and suggest these 2 are actually in love... yeah, I fucking believe that! Even though the rest of the song makes it very clear that they're just going to drunkenly hook up and probably never call each other again, sure, maybe this is true love after all!
Weirdly though, I think my least favorite line of all is on the hook: "I never do that. How did you do that?" It highlights just how atrocious and lazy the writing on this is, it's barely fucking trying! And all topped off with some of the clunkiest faux-organic production that I've heard on one of these songs in ages (seriously, the out-of-tune piano, the fake horns, and the awful chiptune get really damn grating after a while)... yeah, this just ends up being a nightmare for me! The kind of song that will probably last far beyond 2021. And I'll be there, shitting all over it in public forevermore... I'll be there...
"I'll be there"...? ... Oh, fucking Hell!
By Your Side by Calvin Harris (Ft. Tom Grennan)
YE position: #60
Talk about regression! I know I gave shit to Topic for that earlier, but Calvin Harris might have dropped the biggest disappointment of the entire year for me. After so many years of improving as a producer, bringing his sound in a new tropical direction that people were actually liking and praising, he decided to default to his 2013 instincts, circa I Need Your Love or Summer, where the production is just bleeping nonsense with a standard build-up and drop on the hook that's tired, predictable, and in this particular case, ugly as all Hell!
I've already said my piece on Tom Grennan as a vocalist and this might just be his most egregious performance to date! A faux cheery voice that just makes me want to punch him in the face, promising that he'll be there for me every single time I wake up, which is about the last fucking thing I want! Seriously, the lyrics on the song do not matter, they're completely basic and generic love fodder that doesn't leave any sort of impression, relies heavily on repetition and doesn't go anywhere. There's no story or stakes or context, it's all just a sappy and simmering refrain that repeats ad nauseum, with barely any modulation at all. The only time that he strays away from his standard chorus is where he calls himself "a light beside you who will be there when you need him", which isn't really adding anything, it's just using different words to describe the exact same thing. At least the writing on the previous entry TRIED to be funny! And Tom Grennan obviously makes it so much worse, as he yelps and cracks across the mix, trying to sound romantic and ending up sounding like he's trying to sing this with a leash around his throat.
But again, the main problem with this isn't even Tom Grennan; he's just the icing on top! No, the issue with this is the goddamn production. I HATE the way this sounds! The stupid processed guitar sounds way too fucking clean and repetitive, the backing vocals are echoing in a hopeless attempt to add some grandeur to this piss-poor mix, the bass is so weak it's practically nonexistent, and most of all, the main core of the instrumental that made me hate this from the very first listen, the drop, which sounds like a seal being clubbed repeatedly against the floor!
This song is just my nightmare, a regression to the worst aspects of 2013 EDM by a producer who should really know better, paired with one of the worst vocalists of the entire year! Damn near unlistenable and was my pick for the worst hit of the year for most of 2021... but eventually, it JUST got edged out.
But before we get to what could have topped that particular atrocity, let's get through some dishonourable mentions.
Girls Want Girls by Drake (Ft. Lil Baby) - Year-end position: #73
Embarrassing, boring, and manipulative in the worst possible way... but at least it's not Way 2 Sexy.
I GUESS I'M IN LOVE by Clinton Kane - Year-end position: #99
Awful. For all you Clinton Kane apologists who defended Chicken Tendies, what's the excuse for this?!
Believe Me by Navos - Year-end position: #95
One of the laziest slices of House and EDM of the year, which epitomises everything I hate about the genre. Lucky for Navos there was far worse from the genre in 2021!
Latest Trends by A1 & J1 - Year-end position: #74
I was content to ignore this brief blip of nothingness which SOMEHOW cracked the top 10, until I heard the line "she wanna take this BBC and I ain't talking about 1Xtra"...
Black Magic by Jonasu - Year-end position: #25
One of the worst choruses of the year, by a mile! Only saved from the actual list because I thought the saxophone was a nice touch.
Cold Heart (PNAU Remix) by Elton john & Dua Lipa - Year-end position: #14
Somehow I just didn't see how this could possibly take off. A dance remix of 2 songs from 30-40 years ago where the synthesis felt anything but natural. And then it became one of the biggest hits of the entire year... I'm only glad it dropped as late as it did because I couldn't have stomached another 2 months of this.
FLY AWAY by Tones & I - Year-end position: #49
The bargain-bin guitar loop, one of the worst vocalists on the planet - I see that now - and not a single original lyric in sight! Such an easy target, but there was just SO much worse on Welcome To The Madhouse than this. Still, the fact that this cracked the top 10... we can do better, guys!
Good Without by Mimi Webb - Year-end position: #20
I didn't even hate this one at first but overplay and the fact that it was in every single Spotify ad for 3 or 4 months REALLY soured me on it. Also ending your hook on a preposition is just... ew!
And this leads us quite nicely into:
I imagine this may come as a letdown to some of you... but if she doesn't fucking care, why should I?
Dumb Love by Mimi Webb
YE position: #77
Once in a while, a new artist shows up who everybody gives a chance for the year, and then they promptly fade into obscurity because they didn't really bring anything new or interesting to the table. And in 2021, that coveted spot definitely went to Mimi Webb, a newcomer on the scene who broke through with her breakout single Good Without, the far more successful follow-up to her best song to date, Before I Go. And while I clearly hate that song, I'll say this: it's probably her most memorable song. Nobody's going to remember 24/5 a month from now, but there will be a handful of us who remember being bombarded by Good Without throughout this year. But while many will probably forget this single of hers in record time too... I'm not so forgiving.
The first part I got sick of was Mimi Webb's voice. I don't know why she chooses to deliver every line in the voice of the Cowardly Lion from Wizard of Oz, but it definitely gets pretty fucking annoying! She has, without a doubt, the worst voice that I heard come out of pretty much any singer on the charts this year, with a really irritating way of enunciating her words that doesn't sound remotely natural. Much like dear Tom, it just sounds like an act she's putting on, a type of insincerity that always annoys me, but which REALLY doesn't work on a song where she's clearly asking for your sympathy! But you know what, even if don't like him, Tom Grennan has charisma and power behind his vocals, whereas Mimi Webb simply does not have that It Factor.
See, while Good Without was a flash of catchy inspiration, it was still deeply cloying and pathetic. And Dumb Love is what you'd get if you took the few good elements out of Good Without, where Mimi was clearly left scrabbling for ideas. So she hit upon an easy formula: young love! That's messy and overdramatic, perfect for any young musician to write about! The problem is that Mimi Webb is a terrible songwriter, so her first instinct was to make the chorus "we have that young love, we have dumb love"... Okay, to all the people I have ever called unoriginal or generic or hack songwriters - including those mentioned on this list - I apologise. Because this might just be the laziest songwriting I've heard in ages!
Seriously, this song is just awful! Every rhyme is clunky when she's not just rhyming words with themselves - I counted and more than HALF THE LINES end in "love" - the tempo is unbelievably slow and plodding to pad out the runtime - which does no favours to a vocalist who makes every syllable feel like agony - and Mimi Webb sounds utterly MISERABLE! Seriously, she's singing about YOUNG LOVE, the exciting rush of it all, the "you jump and I'm jumping crazy kind of something" - seriously, FUCK this writing - and yet rather than Teenage Dream, we end up with a goddamn funeral dirge! There's no thrill, no excitement, she even describes their kisses like heroin, a downer opiate, rather than a fun drug like cocaine (don't do drugs, kids)! Oh, and the production obviously sucks too, with a dull piano loop, finger snaps, handclaps, and stiff, cavernous production that kicks in on the first hook and immediately drowns out the rest of the instruments.
The very worst part is unfortunately the hardest to describe, and it's on the hook. Like I said, she milks the runtime HARD, taking her time to mispronounce each and every syllable in a teeth-pullingly slow way. Well, after she describes this burgeoning young romance in the ever so eloquent words "we had that young love, we had that dumb love", she proceeds to deliver the rest of the hook "the kind that cuts you up inside my blood was your love". Now, let's set aside the fact that these lines are bordering on the fanfiction My Immortal, and just focus on HOW she delivers them. Because rather than saying it as any normal person would with, say, a touch of MELODY, she instead places the emphasis on each and every syllable! I know that may not sound that bad, but imagine it like this: "The. Kind. That. Cuts. You. Up. In. Side. My. Blood. Was. Yooo-ur love." It is BEYOND unnatural, not even distinguishing between the 2 separate sentences, and it's practically all in the exact same NOTE! It's by FAR the worst few seconds in pop music this year, by a fucking MILE!
Mimi Webb is not someone who deserves to be famous. Her voice sucks, her production is melancholic bullshit, and she's the kind of songwriter who thought the bridge of this song should just be the first 2 lines of the chorus - we had that young love, we had that dumb love - repeated 3 times! Dumb Love may not be the ugliest song of the year, or even the most forgettable, but it annoys me the most for how little it tries. The entire thing has "hack" written all over it, and while I have tried to be nice to many singers this year, Mimi Webb is the only one I have absolutely nothing nice to say to! I hope she's gone next year, I'm sorry if that sounds harsh, but I think we're good without her... see how easy it is to NOT end on a preposition?! Christ's sake!
So yeah, that was the Worst of 2021! Thank you so much if you read till the end of this, I had a blast writing it, even if it was challenging in spots. I hope this exposed some new awfulness to some of you or at least gave you some catharsis in the same way it did for me! Top 10 Best Hits of 2021 is next, so please make sure you subscribe to the blog and follow me on Twitter so you don't miss a thing. Stay safe, and until the next time, I'm Fionn and this is The Social Tune signing off.