Hits

The Worst UK No. 1’s of 2016 (posted April 2017)

With Rockabye covered, we’ve finally got to the end of 2016. At last, we can finally chuck the year away and leave it to fester in it’s well deserved pit. But first, time to cross some t’s and dot some i’s with the mandatory Best-Of and Worst-Of lists (posted only a quarter of the way into the year that came after it). First up is the worst list, purely because more people always prefer to read the negative stuff:



Special Mentions

‘Dancing on My Own’ – Calum Scott

101

This would’ve been No. 1 on this list had it reached No. 1 in the charts: a detestable track done by an unpleasant stalker pretending to be deep and sensitive. As I’ve already said: this song wants you ‘to deeply sympathise with a potential criminal as he does the stupidest thing he could possibly do in his situation, trying to morph a self-defeating stalker into some form of tragic hero‘. As I’ve also said: ‘Fuck it‘.



The List Itself

#5: ‘Say You Won’t Let Go’ – James Arthur

106

This song isn’t bad. In fact, I think it’s fine. It knows what it wants to do and it does it in a way that isn’t actively unpleasant. It is boring though. It takes every trope that every dull male artist used this year and proceeds to do nothing with them. Nothing. And unfortunately for it, there were only 11 UK No 1’s during 2016, meaning that the lower end of this list was always going to feature things I didn’t care for as opposed to things I actively hated. The No. 5 spot eventually became a choice between this song and Justin Bieber’s Love Yourself; Love Yourself does more interesting things so this got the chop. Sometimes ‘fine’ doesn’t cut it.

#4: ‘Pillow Talk’ – ZAYN

74

Again, I don’t hate this song. I am disappointed by it though. It was the first single from a departing One Direction member, promising a new direction for Zayn as an icon and a new type of music primed to shake up the charts. It delivered on neither of those promises. The end result is something which wanted ‘to feel like a reinvention of the wheel‘ but was ‘little more than a wheel with the word “WHEEL” written on it‘. The world does not need a post-One-Direction Zayn and it didn’t need this.

#3: ‘One Dance’ – Drake feat. Wizkid & Kyla88
I don’t get Drake and I particularly don’t get this. It’s a miserable, confused, unsatisfying piece which apparently counts as a romantic club hit. I mean seriously, how are people enjoying this? That said, this got it’s position not due to it’s internal qualities but due to its effects on the industry as a whole. Firstly, it was No. 1 for 15 weeks. 15 weeks! Given how dull and contentless this track was, that constituted a complete pausing of the entire record industry for the whole spring. And because it was a massively successful record produced by one of the biggest names in pop, it was immediately followed by a lot of copycats. The result was the second half of 2016: a bloated, unmoving monolith of musicless tracks mumbled by an endless series of uncaring hacks. This song ruined pop music in 2016; culturally, it’s the worst thing Drake has done since “YOLO”.

#2: ‘7 Years’ – Lukas Graham

75

My review of this song is a 3,000 word monolith of me trying to figure out if I like it or not. As time has gone on though, I’ve been able to come down on a firm opinion on it: it’s crap. I can appreciate it for it’s scale and grandiosity; what I can’t appreciate is how malformed the syntax is, how messy the lyrics are, and, most fatally, how awfully self-important it is. Even worse than this is Lukas Graham himself whose sense of ego wafts off him like BO from a well-worn gym sock, particularly given that he doesn’t have the writing chops to justify it. This song needs to get over itself, much like Lukas himself.

#1: ‘Stitches’ – Shawn Mendes

77

The vapid whining of a nasal hack. Fuck it.


So that’s the shit dealt with, now onto the good stuff. Next time: the top 5 UK No. 1’s of 2016…

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Worst No. 1 Hits of 2014 – No. 2: “Shake It Off” by Taylor Swift

I decided that I was going to review every song to make it to No. 1 in the UK charts. I managed to review about four. Instead, I’ve organised the songs into a list and will review the ones I liked and disliked the most. Here’s one of the ones I particularly disliked:

04

As a writer in the UK, I usually write about the UK chart, it being the one I have most contact with. This song didn’t reach No. 1 in the UK; indeed, no Swift song did. It did reach No. 1 in the US charts though and, for the sake of this list, I’m going to allow that. That’s how much I hate this song: I’m breaking my own rules just to include it.

Half of my problem isn’t even with the song itself. You see, I’m a massive Taylor Swift fan. So are my friends. Those friends love this song. I don’t think it works. I’ve had to justify that opinion to almost every friend I have this year, and I’ve had to do so again and again and again. I’m sick of talking about it; I’m sick of having to think about it; I’m sick of others mentioning it. Other songs on this list might be subjectively worse but this is the one song on this list that I never want to hear of again.

The song features Taylor Swift asserting her own individuality against “the haters”: she is essentially going ‘I am Taylor Swift, I don’t care what you think about me, I’m going to do my own thing, you can’t stop me”. Fair enough. The main problem though: this song sounds absolutely nothing like Taylor Swift. “This sick beat.” “Haters.” “Cruising.” “Hella good hair.” When has Taylor ever spoken like that? Yes, Taylor’s career at the moment is about her moving from country music to pop music and so a change of sound is to be expected, but everything else she’s released recently sounds like a Taylor Swift song done as through a pop filter; the instrumentation is different but the tone, sensibility and word choice remains the same. That is not true here and, as this is the one songs of hers which overtly goes “I’m never going to change myself”, it represents a massive flaw in Shake It Off which effectively renders the entire thing moot. It just doesn’t work as an artistic statement; it’s completely broken. Why do I have to point this out so often?

But, my friends say, don’t you realise the song’s a parody? If you watch the video, you’ll see Taylor Swift dressed as other famous dancers and pop stars; she tries to pull off the dances and attitudes associated with those people but can never manage it; eventually she just gives up and starts doing what she wants. Get it? She’s not going to be like anyone else in the music industry; she’s just going to be herself. The song is the same: by mimicking the words and style of her pop contemporaries, she shows how she doesn’t fit with that style and therefore defines her own individuality as one separate to the pop world. The paradox you so dislike isn’t a flaw but the song’s main feature; it’s basically the point.

Bullshit. If that’s the case, then it basically implies that Taylor Swift knows her song is shit; that she indeed wants it to be shit. The fact still remains though: the song’s shit! And more importantly than that, if that’s the case then the song’s missing the most important element to it: the payoff. If this song is the one where Taylor Swift mimics the personalities of others to show how little she has to do with them, then where’s the section of the song where she actually reclaims her own identity? Where’s the bit of the song where Taylor actually dismisses everyone else’s personality and starts sounding like herself? It’s still a song about her individuality completely devoid of her individual personality. Even as a stealth parody, it doesn’t work. The song just doesn’t work. This is not a good song.

If you want to listen to Taylor Swift master the art of the stealth parody, then listen to Blank Space. If you want to listen to a lie or a parodic failure, then you have Shake It Off. Not that I imagine Taylor Swift has much use for my complaints; I imagine she’d just… Well, you get the joke.