Pop music 2016: the downers and dirges
2016 was a brutal year for pop music. The industry lost some of its most iconic stars— David Bowie, Prince, George Michael etc. and the year’s chart-toppers seemed to match the mood. Defined largely by downtempo and turning towards a detached, electronic sound (EDM seems to be the trend of the future), pop music of 2016 was dismal. Selecting the worst pop songs from a year of bad pop music is a torturous task, but someone has to do it. Here are the worst hits of 2016 — may I never have to hear them on the radio ever again.
“CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” by Justin Timberlake
I realize I was just complaining about how bleak most of 2016’s hits were, but Justin Timberlake’s “CAN’T STOP THE FEELING!” goes to the extreme of being cheery and upbeat. It is a terrible song, but at least it was a reprieve from the dirges of 2016. I almost feel a little bad labeling it as one of the year’s worst songs.
Every single aspect of this song is calculated. With its dangerously catchy hook and far too happy lyrics, it is as if this song was deliberately engineered in a lab with the intention to annoy me, right down to the all-caps and exclamation mark of the title.
Whenever Timberlake sings, “I got that sunshine in my pocket/Got that good soul in my feet,” I feel nauseated. I have a limit for excessively chipper lyrics, and he has surpassed it.
To make matters worse, this song was written for the Trolls movie. Does that make this a children’s song? If so, perhaps I am criticizing low-hanging fruit. But the world did not ask for a sequel to Pharrell’s “Happy.”
Justin, if you are reading this, please abandon your foray into bubblegum pop. It is time you brought sexy back.
“7 Years” by Lukas Graham
Danish band Lukas Graham’s 2016 smash hit “7 Years” opens with the melody from a music box playing over the sound of a movie projector.
Obviously, this is supposed to evoke nostalgia. My first thought upon hearing “7 Years” was, “Oh no. Please don’t be a song about the finite nature of life.”
In “7 Years,” lead singer Lukas Graham Forchhammer (yeah, he named the band after himself) reflects over the events of his life and ponders what will come. The band adopts a sound popularized by bands like OneRepublic, soulful, but inoffensive enough to be used in commercials about cell phone plans.
But “7 Years” takes itself so seriously, and yet it feels so fake. Moreover, Forchhammer’s chirpy vocals lack the power to pull off the emotional sincerity the song is trying to convince us of. At one point, Forchhammer yelps, “Something about that glory just always seemed to bore me/’Cause only those I really love will ever really know me.” This lyric exudes faux-humility, considering that shortly following the lyric they inserted the sound of a roaring crowd shouting “Lukas Graham!” Way to really drive a point home.
“Treat You Better” by Shawn Mendes
Shawn Mendes wants you to know that he is not your average teen idol. He is a teen idol with an acoustic guitar, and therefore is a serious singer-songwriter, a hybrid between Ed Sheeran and Justin Bieber, if you will.
In 2016, Mendes released “Treat You Better,” a condescending anthem for your local “nice guy.” In “Treat You Better,” Mendes laments that his crush is in a relationship with a guy who is not a “gentleman” and that she should be with him instead.
This song is insufferable from the first lines, “I won’t lie to you/He’s just not right for you.” Charming.
Moreover, the song’s composition is incredibly similar to his 2015 hit “Stitches,” featuring the same melody and chords.
“Treat You Better” is responsible for the worst pop music moment of 2016. Mendes screeches out the final line of the chorus, “Better than he can,” in what is possibly the most inhuman voice I have ever heard. Bland and condescending, the amount of radio play this ode to fedora-tippers has gotten is disheartening.