It has never been easier at any point in modern history to ignore popular music than it is right now.
Curation has gone insane. The old benchmarks used to determine what is “popular” have been obliterated, and it is difficult to know what the new benchmarks are, let alone what they should be. It is good to come out of whatever k-hole one finds themselves in from time to time and explore what others are listening to, to experience whatever passes as youth mono-culture these days. Below are the top 1- songs in America, as dictated by Spotify, for the week of May 2, 2016.
We’re still not back yet, by the way.
10) “Me, Myself & I” by G-Eazy and Bebe Rexha
Thoughts: Back before I made an effort to not judge books by their covers, a very sweet friend of mine with questionable musical taste suggested I listen to G-Eazy. “You like rap,” she said, “and this guy is pretty good at rapping. I remember taking one look at the dude and deciding his shit would not be for me. I never could confirm her assertion that he is a good rapper, but I can now: G-Eazy is a bad rapper, and this song is bad. This is some sub-Flobots, sub-Linkin Park, post-Drake, cold trash. I which this song would Mackle less.
Bebe Hexha has an interesting name, so she’s got that going for her. This will either be the start of a long career as a C-list top 40 rapper, or the end of the line for all parties.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? No
On Accident? Maybe. This is the kind of song that the NBA will play as b-roll before jumping to commercial. The playoffs are on right now, and I watch a fair amount of basketball. So, maybe.
Will I be Shitty About it? Hell yes.
9) “7 Years” by Lukas Graham
Thoughts: Part of the appeal of writing about these songs is seeing how far out my tastes have moved from those of the mainstream Spotify user, to see what unites me with people different from myself. Usually when I do this, I’ve heard maybe two or three songs, or at least recognize names from other spots in culture or from word-of-mouth. Lukas Graham has completely blindsided me. I am unaware of him, so I was not prepared for how shitty this song would be.
I struggle to describe this song. It is a piano ballad, but it has the vocal chop and obvious clipping of an EDM track. It has the same structural beats, too – a warped, drop-crest-drop framework that amplifies and blunts pop effectiveness the song hits like an especially obvious hammer. It has both hip-hop and Americana patios. If we are to believe the narrator of this song, he was told to make friends at 7, started smoking pot and drinking by 11, at which point he was told to get a wife. Then he was 30, and soon will be 60. Who is this song for? Who is told to get a wife at 11? Was this song written in the feudal times?
I plugged my headphones in and heard the embarrassed wailing of a generation of dead children who quoted Green Day and Vitamin C in their yearbooks, heard the groans of the fatally matured who found their grade-school poetry and couldn’t be kind to themselves. There is nothing fertile here, nothing can grow. The house will be built in sand and swallowed by the eroding sea, with only the excuse of youth in an endlessly available world to fall back on.
This is a very bad song.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? I looked, and there was before me a pale horse.
On Accident? Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him.
Will I be Shitty About it? They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
8) “Work” by Rihanna and Drake
Thoughts: WORK WORK WORK WORK. WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK. WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK. WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK. This is the best pop song I’ve heard in years. Rihanna has done it again (though, If I were advising her, I’d advocate to ditch the Drake verse because the song don’t need it. That motherfucker’s phoned-in shit is the only part of this song that doesn’t absolutely fucking bang). Especially hot: the last chorus that devolves into true gibberish.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? WORK WORK WORK WORK WORK.
On Accident? YOU SEE ME DO ME DIRT DIRT DIRT DIRT DIRT.
Will I be Shitty About it? DON’T LEAVE ME STUCK HERE IN THE STREETS.
7) “Don’t Let me Down” by the Chainsmokers and Daya
Thoughts: One could be forgiven for thinking that The Chainsmokers were clever and subversive after hearing their first hit, “#Selfie.” “Don’t Let Me Down” suggests that gives them too much credit. This song is fine in the same way all EDM songs are fine. So much so that it feels like one of Sid’s toys from Toy Story: built for functionality from the discarded parts of broken EDM songs, terrifying to behold, ultimately something to be treated with compassion and pity while waiting for the drop.
Whatever. I’m bummed I have to keep listening to this song for this blog. Blogs are very dumb. I am very dumb for having a blog. I hope things work out for Daya, I guess.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? No
On Accident? No
Will I be Shitty About it? Assuredly. Do not party with me if you can help it. You will have more fun if I am not there.
6) “Needed Me” by Rihanna
Thoughts: At the risk of dissing Rihanna, the most impressive part of this song is DJ Mustard’s attempt to move beyond his “Playskool Bay Area” production, though it might not be especially culturally savvy to move his pallet into an “EDM-by-way-of-Weeknd” lane that might not actually exist anymore.
That said, Rihanna is awesome at this kind of mournful, sexy, damaged-but-determined breakup song. If there’s any artist out there who could get away with never making another album and sustaining a career on a stream of highly-produced singles and non-stop touring, it’s her. Rihanna deep cuts don’t exist, but everything she touches on the radio turns into something to at least be aware of. I don’t know anyone who does basic bitch sexy fuck-ups like her. She’s a treasure, and future generations will appreciate her talents more than we do.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? …Probably not. I’m past the point in my life where I need this kind of dorm-room flagellation.
On Accident? Oh sure, probably.
Will I be Shitty About it? No way.
5) “Pop Style” by Drake and The Throne
Thoughts: Very pleased to find out that “The Throne” is actually Jay Z and Kanye and not some 20-year-old producer from Atlanta.
“Pop Style” is a disappointment because it seems to draw one of rap’s last great Cold Wars to a close; Kanye vs Drake. At this stage in the fight, when both artists are releasing bloated, possibly under-cooked mega-albums with little buildup and maximum fanfare and neither one is really focused on rapping, it’s very telling that this song remains corny as all fuck until West shows up and injects some of his manic life into it. It isn’t even a fight at this point: one of these artists has a verse that is loopy and inventive and funny and flawed but clearly coming from a place of inspiration, and one of these artists is Drake.
All that said, it is fun to imagine Jay Z as some kind of intermediary, using his influence to bring both artists to the table then dropping four very-weak bars and getting the fuck out. That’s an image to hang onto, even if this event song is more of a Kanye West leftover than an actual event.
God, I’m going to have to listen to this Drake album, aren’t I? He is going for a Pablo-esque patchwork thing? This caused me way more questions than it did anything else.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? For sure.
On Accident? Unlikely, because this is such a trifle of a song I can’t imagine coming across it anywhere. Maybe on the rap station, MAYBE.
Will I be Shitty About it? Nah. I love Kanye.
4) “I Took a Pill in Ibiza (Seeb Remix)” by Mike Posner
Thoughts: Certain think pieces would have one believe this song represents the end of EDM. I’m in no position to argue, but I do take umbrage with this song’s indictment of the public transportation. “You don’t wanna ride the bus like this” – hey, fuck you, man. I take the bus all the time, the bus is fine. It’s late sometimes and it can be hard to get a seat if you take the 17 or the 23 or whatever, but it covers the city well enough.
This weird honking synth line that makes up the song’s chorus is some tremendously cheezy shit. This is what happens when someone hears “Midnight City” and thinks that the saxophone needs to be less victorious and more ironic. This is actually almost a country song more than it is an EDM song. This second verse is all regrets and old timers. All it needs is a mention of whiskey and a pickup truck.
This song actually might be brilliant, what with it’s deconstruction of DJ fame lifestyles. It’s sloppy and sexless as anything, but those attributes might be intentional. What’s unclear is how much of the credit, if there is any credit to be given, goes to Posner or Seeb. I’ll need to listen to the original.
<Listens to the original>
See, this makes more sense. The Posner original is an honest-to-goodness country song, and it’s pretty great as far as pop country goes. What is unclear still is Seeb’s intention in all this; did he hear this wistful country tune and realized that there was a truth, if not an outright commentary, that could be brought to a different, but equally affected, audience? Did he hear this and think, “Well, ‘Wake me Up‘ was a hit, so I need some peanut butter in my chocolate, plus this already name checks Ibiza, so fuck it?”
I don’t know which is the truth, but since I’ve seen We Are Your Friends and because this is the modern music industry, I’m assuming the latter.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? Strong “fuck no” to the remix. The remix is poison to me now. Fuck you, Seeb. I’d spin the original again.
On Accident? I can’t imagine I do. I avoid the places that play this kind of thing like I avoid rusty nails.
Will I be Shitty About it? I’ll probably just annoy whoever is around with my knowledge of the country song.
3) “Work from Home” by Fifth Harmony and Ty Dolla $ign
Thoughts: Snapping. Space. Vacancy. This beat sounds like a DJ Mustard song that got all the good parts ripped out, which is really saying something, since DJ Mustard songs only have, like, four parts parts. Steel drums are real and here to stay, apparently.
I used to work from home, I did not get very many sexts. Also, I’m a little unclear on the themes of this song. Is this song advocating jacking off at work? I feel like that’s a bad way to get ahead at the office. Furthermore, Fifth Harmony is a girl group, but I feel like they aren’t fully utilizing all five members. This could have been a K Michelle song just as effectively.
I will forever like Ty Dolla $ign for “Paranoid” and “Real Friends,” so I’m glad he’s getting that feature money on this weird pop song. This song is fine.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? I don’t think so. This feels way too cross-over for me.
On Accident? I go to the mall. I’ll probably walk past a Forever 21 at some point.
Will I be Shitty About it? I won’t even remember it.
2) “Panda” by Desiigner
Thoughts: Kanye got the best part of this song by a mile. The entire song is structured as a hook, but only the actual hook part, the “I got broads in Atlanta” part, is good. The first 30 seconds of this song fucking rule, but then Kanye doesn’t come in and it instantly becomes played out. Shout out to the entire concept of sending a dude $200 for a YouTube beat.
The most offensive part of this Future ripoff is the “YEHYEHYEH” ad-lib (used to great effect here). That’s such a Future-specific noise, so much less forgivable than biting an entire style. Style-biting isn’t new. Ripping ad-libs verbatim is some truly weak shit.
It’s a 50/50 split at Desiigner ever having another hit. He’s in the Kanye shop, which is a good sign, but Cyhi the Prynce was also G.O.O.D and it hasn’t happened for him. Make another song, Desiigner. Put out a mixtape, something. Kanye’s vulturing has always been way more subtle than this. So that’s kinda sad. Panda is fun word to say.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? Yes, but only in the context of “Pt. 2.”
On Accident? I listen to Philly’s pop-rap station in my car, so yes.
Will I be Shitty About it? Not about the first 30 seconds, yes if the song lasts longer than 30 seconds.
1) “One Dance” by Drake, Wizkid and Kyla
Thoughts: A side effect of paying for Spotify is that I rarely buy digital music. I don’t have an iPod anymore, so if I ever do buy something, it’s physical (records for the house, tapes for the car) or a band that I know will appreciate the support (bandcamp). I haven’t heard Views and until that shit is streamed I probably won’t.
Since we’re living in a post “Hotline Bling” world, dance-hall Drake is apparently here to stay. I wonder what cats from Jamaica think about this fake accent shit. I wonder what Rihanna thinks about it. I wonder if Vybz Kartel is in a cell somewhere thinking about how successful his career could have been in America if his accent was just a little easier to understand.
This is the perfect 2016 Drake song because it sounds exactly like a Drake song and nothing like a Drake song. It sounds exactly like “Hold On, We’re Going Home.” It sounds exactly like Rihanna. It’s also barely a fucking song – it’s less than three minutes long. I just finished listening to it and I couldn’t tell you a single word. I wouldn’t even be surprised if there were no words, just weird rhyming couplets and a keyboard.
I’m not going to do the research, but I assume Wizkid made the beat and Kyla is the woman who warbles her way in for a few bars before the song ends. Big day for Wizkid and Kyla, obviously. Let’s hope it works out for them. This song has 2 million daily plays because everyone who listens to spotify is a 24-year-old personal assistant who lives in Miami and is passionate about nothing.
Will I Ever Listen to This Again on Purpose? I doubt it, but I thought “Hotline Bling” sucked when it came out. This is on the exact same wavelength.
On Accident? Without question.
Will I be Shitty About it? Internally, the way I am with all Drake songs, but getting mad about Drake songs in 2016 is like getting mad about the weather; it’s just going to shorten my life and it won’t change anything.