First, the good news. The digital music explosion, and the concurrent collapse of the music business as a place where an artist might reasonably expect to make a living by creating and recording music, has allowed for much more music to seep through the cracks. Much of it is actually good.
Those who think that streaming is the greatest thing to come along since shoplifting like to point out that, hey, there’s tons of great music out there, you’ve just gotta dig for it, and for the most part, this is true. Without major record label bean-counters breathing down their necks, many independent artists are exploring the possibilities of forward-looking music that doesn’t fit neatly into any demographic or stylistic pigeon hole. They aren’t likely to make much money for their efforts – the money will have to come from touring, or landing a song on a film soundtrack or television commercial. But for the sake of the music itself, these artists are on the right side of history.
That said, for every forward-thinking Kendrick Lamar, there are ten Pitbulls waiting in the wings, ready to make insipid, cliché-ridden “music” at the drop of a hat. I took a break from immersing myself in a plethora of hugely compelling new releases this week – from Tame Impala, Jason Isbell, Warren Haynes and Railroad Earth, and a few others – to scope out the music that is actually making people money. Scrolling through the combined results of the Spotify Top 10, which celebrates the most streamed tunes of the week, and the Billboard Hot 100, which measures sales, downloads and streams, I compiled a playlist that came close to robbing me of the will to live. This is some of the worst music it has ever been my misfortune to listen to. And it’s incredibly popular stuff.
So here it is. The worst music in the world, this week. Life is short. Why is anyone spending their time listening to this stuff?
Skrillex & Diplo with Justin Bieber, “Where Are U Now”
Why it’s terrible: From the moment Justin Bieber’s heavily auto-tuned falsetto emerges atop an insipid collection of cut-and-paste piano chords, you know you’re in for a rough ride. A truly awful and unflinchingly maudlin electro-ballad, the tune sounds like the work of a Mouseketeer run amok with a laptop and a fanny-pack full of designer drugs. When Skrillex attempts to bring some “world beat” stylings into this computer-generated mess, the listener can’t help but be confused. The song sounds like a bunch of unrelated half-written ideas that were simply mashed together and regurgitated onto an audio paper plate. Bon apetit.
Possible side effects: Depression. This is just a stupid pop song, yes, but there’s something cold and cynical about the manner in which it is so obviously not even a song. It actually does manage to capture the scattershot, cut-and-paste zeitgeist rather handily. But this isn’t a good thing. My golden retriever could have made this, if she knew how to work Garage Band on the family Mac.
Omi, “Cheerleader, Felix Jaehn vs. Salaam Remi Remix”
Why it’s terrible: This is lowest common denominator sonic drivel with brain-dead lyrics and a mush-mouthed delivery from Omi that clearly owes a debt of, um, gratitude (I guess?) to Drake, who is the king of “mumbling-as-rap.” Again, it’s a cobbled-together mess of a tune without a single instrument in the mix, other than a sampled trumpet, which fails to help matters at all. Gross.
Possible side effects: Objectifying women in pop music is nothing new. But what’s more offensive than the objectification is the complete lack of imagination in terms of writing, recording and production here. The video, which suggests that life in some mythical place that doesn’t look like anywhere I’ve ever been involves cavorting in expensive cars with women who look like supermodels while throwing dollar bills out of the car windows, is as awful as the song. Listening might make you imagine that you’d like to live as boss of a life as Omi apparently does. This is potentially dangerous for you.
Fetty Wrap, “Trap Queen”
Why it’s terrible: Over-emoted dreck with one of the most annoying three-note melodies in recent memory. Seems unsure of what it’s supposed to be – is it rap, or is it a pop song? Is the dude talking or singing or trying to do both at once? There is absolutely no good reason for this song to exist.
Possible side effects: Crippling ennui.
Selena Gomez, featuring A$AP Rocky, “Good for You”
Why it’s terrible: Gomez’ voice is absolutely bathed in effects, Auto-Tune among them. So when she attempts to be sexy, she just comes across as a little bit creepy – like the voice on your GPS attempting to parlay erotic information while you’re driving down the street. A$AP Rocky’s cameo simply ups the creepy factor. Overproduced schlock aimed at listeners who don’t really like music, but need something to listen to while they’re getting ready to go out dancing to some hipster DJ at the club.
Possible side effects: Loss of IQ points is likely with repeated listening.
Pitbull, featuring Chris Brown, “Fun”
Why it’s terrible: How do you make Pitbull more unbearable than he is on his own? Add Chris Brown to the mix. This track sounds like late ‘80s Miami Sound Machine, which is the best thing that can be said about it. The video, which most of the people who listen to this drivel will have watched, is an over-the-top soft-porn fantasy in which a Great Gatsby type visits Miami and somehow manages to hook up with not one, not two, but a whole bevy of supermodels.
Possible side effects: You’ll need to bathe after listening to this and/or watching the video. Maybe twice. Just to get the ick off.
Heavy sigh. This is why we can’t have any nice things, people.