Written by: Michael Strait
When I want to mock terrible shit with my friends, I open the songs in Opera so that it does not clog up my YouTube recommendations on my homepage. This has had the unexpected and most entertaining side effect of turning my YouTube homepage on Opera into a fascinating shrine to all the most awful music in the world. On the encouragement of my good friend Lex, I decided to rank the songs there today and give each one a short review. Enjoy.
Santana- The Game of Love
Alright, I know why this is here. I don’t know much about Santana, but I know their music is generally reputed to have declined in quality after the seventies, and so when somebody linked me a single from 2002 I of course assumed it would be bad and opened it in Opera. Shockingly, it turned out to be pretty good! It’s kinda generic and a little forgettable, but it’s got a pleasant atmosphere, a nice singer and an entirely decent hook. It won a Grammy, apparently, and considering some of the thoroughly worthless dreck that has received Grammys in the past I can’t honestly say I object. It’s an unpretentious lil slice of feelgood pop, and I gotta admit there’s something charming about the simplicity. Brace yourselves, though – it’s all downhill from here.
Avicii- Wake Me Up
The depth and breadth of my philosophical and ideological loathing for Avicii is far too biblically vast and furious to fit in this box, so for now let’s just settle for a teaser. Avicii is a vulture, or a vampire, or perhaps a tick; he sucks parasitically at the veins of not just any subculture, but the entire concept of subculture, fattening himself up on its riches and its resonances while inflicting naught but evil and malice upon the host. Dance music was already deep in the throes of corporate exploitation by the time he came along, of course, and Avicii is as lazy a producer as any of the faux-rockstar hellspawn to have emerged from the EDM death camps, but what really sets him apart is his habit of supplementing his abominable preset wankery with dregs pillaged from country, soul and other such music-of-the-downtrodden. It’s the most abominable kind of musical cynicism, and the only thing that prevents this from being right down at the bottom of the list is the thoroughly herculean effort of Aloe Blacc on the vox. He really does try his absolute hardest to salvage this thing, coming up with the best melody he can manage over this incredibly generic chord progression and somehow even doing his best to turn the hackneyed tempo-jump halfway through each verse into a rousing call to arms. Even his lyrics, really, aren’t that bad – “I tried carrying the weight of the world, but I only have two hands” may be a little stupid, but it’s very endearingly and sincerely stupid, and I believe he really does mean the sentiment. Sadly, there’s nothing he can do about the instrumental drop – which, aside from all the more obvious issues, suffers from the frankly baffling problem of being mastered way more quietly than the rest of the song, thoroughly depriving it of the impact it really needs – or, for that matter, the video, which is really quite disquietingly mean-spirited towards rural America for a song that draws so heavily from a form of music that wouldn’t exist without it.
The Chainsmokers- Paris
I have no intelligent insights to offer on this utterly boring, totally vapid, absolutely nonexistent collection of nonmelodies, nonhooks and nonlyrics. I defy any of you to remember a note of this when it’s finished. Quoth Devilman: “I’m not even wastin‘ no more bars on this prick!”
The Chainsmokers- Closer
This one is marginally worse than the other one, on grounds that the melody is actively bad and lazy rather than simply boring. This blares out of the local supermarket’s stereo system all the time, and I’ve grown wearily used to it. I never expected to encounter a song on which Halsey was the best part, and now that I have I feel no catharsis – only endless boredom and vague existential despair. Man, I never thought I’d say this, but I liked The Chainsmokers better when they were a novelty group.
Minus One- Alter Ego
“WAKING UP ALOOONE, LIKE A MAN THAT FAAAAILED”
This was one of the Eurovision entries a couple of years ago, and I gotta confess I find it difficult to be anything other than deeply amused at its existence. As far as I can tell it’s a blend of mainstream trance, buttrock and hair metal, with a touch of power metal sprinkled in to add just that little bit more melodrama. I honestly can’t figure out if this thing takes itself seriously or not, but it doesn’t much matter – this is exactly the sort of thing the Eurovision Song Contest is famous for, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Stitches – One Million Dimes
As far as I can tell, RYM doesn’t catalogue this because it isn’t actually an official single. No matter – this is Stitches, a.k.a Florida Man himself, and he wants to remind you that he’s got a soul too. I gotta say, this is actually kind of a remarkable improvement – he’s stopped screaming like a dismal Waka Flocka Flame impersonator and embraced what could conceivably be called an actual flow, complete with a surprisingly pleasing deep, gravelly voice that sounds custom made for struggle rap. Before we get ahead of ourselves, though, we gotta remember that this is still motherfuckin’ Stitches we’re talking about, and the motherfucker’s still dumb enough to a) write the lines “Before I get a job I rather get a gun and rob a store” and then immediately follow them up with “I’m tired of committing crimes; man, this shit is getting old”, and b) think that remixing Adele’s “Hello” into a plaintive trap lament was a good idea.
Twenty One Pilots- Holding On to You
Seriously, what the fuck even is that logo? That ain’t no letters, that’s a damaged TIE fighter.
And what the fuck sorta mischievous poltergeist thought it’d be funny to convince Tyler Joseph to rap? I tell ya, I find that motherfucker imma exorcise him so hard his ectoplasm’ll be dripping from the ceiling for months.
There ain’t no competition, and y’all know it: Twenty One Pilots (not to be confused with professional skreet homie Twenty One Savage) are the worst band in America right now. There’s nothing new, of course, about making rap for people who don’t like rap, but this accomplishes the difficult task of sounding not only like rap by people who don’t like rap, but rap by people who are morally outraged by the existence of rap and would rather everyone listened to nice, wholesome, Christian music instead. “Is it time to move our feet/ to an introspective beat?” pleads the self-important fucking blurrytwatface from amidst his legions of contagiously middle-class fans, facepainted like a horde of white teenage Apaches bearing gentrification rather than death. This stuff makes me recoil; I wish it did not exist.
Rick Guard – Stop It (I Like It!)
This ain’t catalogued by RYM either, ‘cos as far as I can tell it’s a one-off novelty song. Damn good thing, too, or it might be the lowest-rated single on the whole site. These lyrics really do seem to have sprung right from another era; “They got bumps and curves just for hors d’oevres/ and I haven’t even mentioned the lips!/ They got wild eyes that make me lie/ And legs right up to the hips!” sleazes our lead jock from behind a smugly seductive smile, delivering his lyrics with just enough breathy sweat to send red flags scattering across the vision of any woman who might be unfortunate enough to talk to him at the bar. Why is it that mambo music is only ever co-opted by the weirdest perverts, anyway? “Mambo No. 5” may have been even more off-putting than this, and that was actually a hit. That ain’t on my Opera homepage, though, and this is, so I’ll just settle for calling this straight-up loser music for the alone & delusional and move on to the next.
Avicii- Hey Brother
Oh. Fuck. Off.
Right – look, I’m sure Dan Tyminski is a very talented man. His stuff appears to be rated highly on this site, and I’m sure those ratings are deserved. But his style does not mesh nearly as well with Avicii’s horrifying fucking cookie-cutter pseudo-dance as Aloe Blacc’s does, and I’m afraid the end result of this collaboration is one of the most legitimately offputting things I’ve ever heard in my life. I mean, fucking shit – is this what America means to some people? Vapid, meaningless platitudes about brotherhood and friendship (editor’s note: that certainly sounds like what America means to me) scattered aimlessly across a smattering of thinly-picked acoustic guitar, the skeletal remnants of a techno beat and a bunch of horn sounds that clearly came with the fucking synth? What the fuck is the point of this music? This is repulsive. I mean, I never thought I’d bump into a song that managed to be the nadir of two vast musical forms at once, but here we are! The long, storied history of American folk music and the bright, lively spirit of underground dance music meet here in a vomitous drizzle of pathetic meaninglessness and overwhelming stupidity. I’m an American, and this right here is nearly enough to make me ashamed.
Charlene- I’ve Never Been to Me
Give ol’ Charlene this: at least she didn’t write it. She should still be ashamed of singing it, mind you – rather than doing the decent thing and, you know, calling the fucking cops on the monsters who actually wrote these lyrics – but she’s more a victim of inexcusably lazy corporate songwriting than anything else. Still, her vocals are so simpering and so utterly pitiable that it’s difficult to resist the urge to hate her when listening to it; this woman has absolutely no self-respect whatsoever, and it makes this song deeply loathsome in that way only hideously sappy adult contemporary ballads can ever be. And for that matter – “adult contemporary”? “Adult” my ass! This song feels like the horrifying result of a failed experiment to see if the gift of eternal youth can, in fact, be delivered through music, except when the scientists lost control they realised they had created a monstrous beast that actively infantilizes all who lay ears upon it, preserving their physical age while reverting their minds to a childlike state. “I spent my life exploring the subtle whoring that cost too much to be free”, she sings at one point, and for the life of me I still can’t understand what the fuck that even wants to mean. This music is a viscous, cloying, clawing liquid that seeks to fill my lungs and choke my brain; it is a malignant force, a being that wishes naught but ill upon the human race. It is an abomination, and the sooner it is destroyed the better.