Worst

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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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…

TheWrittenTevs’ Top 5 Worst No. 1’s of 2015

So the year’s over and we’ve covered all of 2015’s No. 1s; I guess there’s nothing left but to rank them and come to some final conclusions. As such, here’s my list of the Worst No. 1’s of the year (posted before my best list because people always prefer to read negative things than the positive).

No. 5 – “Fight Song” by Rachael Platten

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I don’t know if my review of Fight Song comes off as too positive or not. Certainly the song is better than most other songs in it’s subgenre: it identifies the problems inherent in other songs and fixes them quite nicely. The problem is that it doesn’t do anything other than that, resulting in a song that isn’t “Good” as much as it’s “Not bad”. It also results in a song which is almost personality-less, a particular problem when the song is about defining Rachael Platten’s personality in defiance of everything around her. The entire thing is just a massive disappointment: every time I listen to it, I want to be listening to something else.

Full Review

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No. 4 – “Lips Are Moving” by Meghan Trainor

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At the time, I predicted that this song would turn Meghan Trainor into a one hit wonder. She then went on to gain another No. 1 hit and contribute to the soundtrack of a relatively successful animated film. I’m still not convinced I’m incorrect though. Firstly: the other No. 1 she got was by appearing on someone else’s song with all of her own singles post-Lips Are Moving not receiving half the success enjoyed previously. And yes, she provided one of the songs for a popular animated film but have you actually heard it on the radio (particularly given how Happy and Let It Go are still pretty common tunes)? As such, I stand by my original statement but with a few minor adjustments: Lips Are Moving is the song which turned Meghan Trainor from a world-conquering icon into a B-list artist few people care about. For that, I suppose I should be thankful; it still doesn’t make the song any good though.

Full Review

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No. 3 – “See You Again” by Wiz Khalifa feat. Charlie Puth

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An obituary written by people who obviously didn’t care for the deceased. I didn’t like this song from the start but it received it’s final sentencing in a Todd in the Shadows video where he played it over several sport montages, proving just how un-sad it sounds. This has been a really morose year in pop – Adele’s moaning about her exes again, Beiber’s confused and sorry, people keep going down to rivers and thinking about what they’ve done – yet the one song that’s definitively written about the death of someone that most people know can also be used to soundtrack American Football games: that’s how unfit for purpose See You Again is.

Full Review

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No. 2 – “Drag Me Down” by One Direction

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Out of all the songs this year, few were outright unpleasant. This was. An ugly attempt to cling onto their fanbase by being relentlessly mean to them, it just left a bad taste in the mouth. I don’t understand how anyone behind the scenes thought that any of this could work. A mean spirited failure: One Direction’s worst song by a mile and one of the worst songs I’ve ever written a review for.

Full Review

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And the Worst No. 1 of 2015:

“Hold My Hand” by Jess Glynne

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Well, who else could get the top spot?

This blog has a certain set of values for what it calls “Good music” and what it calls “Bad Music”. No artist so relentlessly rejected the good music values while embracing the bad than Jess Glynne did. Her work pretends to be interesting when in reality it’s meaningless; it pretends to be artistic when it’s cliched and worthless. Its deceitful and thinks its audience are idiots. Unfortunately, given how many Jess Glynne songs hit No. 1 this year, we kept proving it right. As far as this blog’s concerned, Jess Glynne is Public Enemy No. 1, and now she’s got this year’s No. 1 Worst Song.

Full Review

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So those are the songs I hated; which ones did I like? Stay tuned and find out.

TheWrittenTevs’ Top 5 Worst No. 1’s of 2015 – Special Mentions

So 2015 is done: there’s nothing left but to look over it and try to put things into order. As such, I’ve looked through the UK No. 1s of 2015 and produced my “Best of 2015” and “Worst of 2015” lists, just to sum things up.

A quick note on how these lists differ from the reviews: when I’m writing a review, I’m trying to figure out whether the song in question has valid artistic worth and whether it’s well-composed. When I’m writing a Top 10 list though, I’m trying to figure out what songs I enjoyed listening to the most. Basically my reviews ask “Is it good?” while my lists ask “Do I like it?” The result is that some songs I have written glowing reviews for can feature in my “Worst of” list while songs I savaged can appear in my “Best of”.

My “Worst Of” is first, but before we get into that, here are some special mentions which didn’t make the final list:

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Songs that reached No. 1 but didn’t get on the list:

“Cheerleader (Felix Jaehn Remix)” by OMI

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I don’t understand why people like this song. I still don’t understand what this song actually is: happy, sad, a club hit, deconstructionist? Ultimately, it’s not really anything. Putting it on the worst songs list seems an over-exaggeration though; there’s so little to it, calling it the worst anything seems pointless (particularly when there’s such bigger fish to fry). I spared this one, but it should consider itself lucky.

Full Review
See also: A No. 1 Review: “Are You With Me” by Lost Frequencies

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Songs that didn’t get to No. 1 but would’ve appeared on the list if they had:

“Heartbeat Song” – Kelly Clarkson

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“This is my heartbeat song and I’m going to play it / Been so long I’ve forgot how to turn it / up up up up all night long / up up all night long”

This strikes me as a massively stupid set of lyrics, though I can’t quite pinpoint why. I mean, a heartbeat song would be intensely monotonous. Can one turn up a heartbeat, even metaphorically? Or, if taken literally, she’s forgot how to turn up her music? Usually you just press a button or twist a knob. And so on. Even by my standards though, these are pedantic nitpicks based on overly literal readings of the song’s lyrics. Ultimately I just don’t think the lines hang together; they almost cohere into a workable sentiment but never quite make it. It’s just badly written (and thus wins this year’s Thinking Out Loud prize for being a song which I think is terribly composed while everyone else keeps calling it a work of pop art).

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“Jealous” – Nick Jonas

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“It’s my right to be hellish / I still get jealous.”

Factually incorrect; just because you’re so insecure that you don’t feel comfortable in your own relationship doesn’t mean that you get to take it out on your girlfriend, you entitled piece of shit. It is not your “right to be hellish” and feeling “jealous” isn’t an adequate justification. I hope your girlfriend does leave you because you suck. The idea of this song being the one which turns Nick Jonas into a popular sex symbol makes me sick.

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“Kiss Me Quick” – Nathan Sykes

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This is the song which finally defined for me exactly what it is that I hate about hyperrealistic lad singers like Jason Derulo: namely that they think they’re being funny.

“Kiss Me Quick” is a phrase that comes from saucy Blackpool postcards – it’s a joke punchline. By using this phrase as the cornerstone of a song about going to a club and getting some action, Kiss Me Quick thus portrays hedonistic womanising as a joke; as banter; as something which isn’t serious. You’ll recognise this as the justification behind the highly rapey Blurred Lines: it’s not meant to be offensive, it’s just three lads playing about, it’s all a joke. This completely misses the point though: sexism and rape are treated like jokes in our society and the people who are campaigning against them are desperately trying to get such issues taken seriously. Making a fun song about womanising isn’t a jokey take on something which is seen as a problem; fun songs about womanising are the problem.

This position also implies that jokes are inherently inoffensive, something which is bullshit of the highest order. Jokes are vicious. There’s no easier way to discredit someone than to mock them; indeed, that’s the whole point of satire.

So this song is highly illustrative of issues within today’s sexist society and particularly within modern lad culture. The only problem is that it doesn’t realise just how illustrative it is; which, again, is the problem.

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“FiveFourSeconds” – Rihanna feat. Paul McCartney and Kayne West

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And this song is why I keep prefaced this post with a section detailing the difference “A Song That’s Good” and “A Song I Like”. My review for this song was glowing because it’s a fascinating piece of work; I don’t actually like listening to it though. Statements like “All of my kindness was taken for weakness” sound like the type of thing that idiots post on Facebook in order to defend the fact that they’re bad people. This critique does seem present in the song but we also seem to always be on the side of the narrators: it doesn’t sound like a deconstruction as much as it does a sad justification. As such, FiveFourSeconds remains a brilliant exploration of self-destructive mindsets: they’re just not what the type of mindsets I want to spend too long listening to.

Full Review

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So that’s all the ones which didn’t get onto the list; next up is the list itself.

Worst No. 1 Hits of 2014 – No. 1: “Thinking Out Loud” by Ed Sheeran

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 the one I particularly disliked:

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I hate this song. I hate it. It doesn’t work. It’s meaningless. It’s pretentious. It’s hollow. It’s boring. It’s awful. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it. I hate it.

Big Problem #1: listen to how much effort Ed Sheeran has to put in in order to make the song sound earnest. He’s tries so hard to make the song sound sincere, which therefore means it can’t be sincere because, if it was, he wouldn’t have to try so hard to make it sound as such. By having to go through the lengths he does to make this sound truthful, he thus reveals that this song isn’t the truth at all. This song is a con, ladies and gentlemen; a overly designed, self-defeating con. It’s a lieEd Sheeran doesn’t love the song’s focus at all.

Big Problem #2: it’s called “Thinking Out Loud” but all of the lyrics are him telling someone how much he loves them: the lyrics of the song thus can’t be thoughts because we don’t think directly at people. If they were thoughts, the first lyrics wouldn’t go “When your legs don’t work like they used to before / And I can’t sweep you off of your feet”, they’d go “When her legs don’t work like they used to before / And I can’t sweep her legs off of her feet”. These aren’t thoughts, these are quotations. Also: “I’m thinking ’bout how people fall in love in mysterious ways”. No you’re not. Even if you accept the idea of this song as being comprised of thoughts, none of this song is about how people fall in love. It’s about how the narrator’s already in love and about how he thinks the love will last, but none of it – none of it – except for that one line is about how people fall in love. Do you even know what this song’s about, Ed Sheeran? Because it’s about falling in love, no it’s about being in love, no it’s about thinking about love, no it’s about confessing your love – WHAT IS THIS SONG ABOUT, ED SHEERAN?!? PICK A TOPIC AND FUCKING STICK TO IT!

So a summary so far: the song is patently insincere, the register is completely wrong and it doesn’t even seem to be able to decide exactly what it’s talking about (thinking about? Oh who cares?). But hey, maybe there’s a couple of good lines in the song. Maybe there’s a few moments where it’s not entirely incompetent?

NOPE.

“Well, I’ll just keep on making the same mistakes / Hoping that you’ll understand” – The whole point of a long-term relationship is to learn from your mistakes and become a better person through your love for your partner. The relationship Ed Sheeran apparently is envisioning here is one where he’s a horrible idiot who never learns anything and his wife puts up with him just because. He’s basically imagining being The Simpsons. Such emotional investment he has with this relationship.

I fall in love with you every single day” In order for Ed Sheeran to fall in love with his partner every single day, he’d have to fall out of love with her every single day too; you can’t fall in love with someone you’re already in love with.

“Your soul could never grow old, it’s evergreen” – Evergreen trees grow old; they just don’t lose their leaves in winter. The actually accurate lyric would be “Your soul could never be bald; it’s evergreen” – ridiculous yes, but only slightly more than the original.

“Baby, your smile’s forever in my mind and memory” – A valid enough sentiment, if it wasn’t for the fact that four lines ago, Sheeran mentions the time “when my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades”. So what he’s basically saying is “You will always be in my memory, unless my memory of you goes”, or “You will always be in my memory until I eventually forget you”. What a great observation.

“Will your mouth still remember the taste of my love?” – That doesn’t sound like you’re talking about kissing, that sounds like you’re talking about blowjobs.

And I could carry on. None of this song works; not a single line, not a single note, not a single word. It’s completely incompetent. It’s sub-teenage poetry level bad. This is a song written by a man who does not understand metaphors, syntax, register, voice, the way two lines contrast against each other, how to write, or seemingly anything at all. It’s not sincere, it’s not romantic, it’s not clever, it’s crap. In every single way, crap.

AND IT’S FUCKING EVERYWHERE.

I watched Christmas Top of the Pops this year; he performed the song on that. I watched Jools Holland’s Annual Hootenanny; he performed it on that. I listen to the radio; they appear to just be playing it on repeat. He’s received several awards for this song. It’s one of the biggest selling songs of the year. Why doesn’t anyone seem to be able to see that it’s terrible?! It’s just not good, yet we’re treating it like it’s the next Bohemian Rhapsody. Why? How? When will it end?

One last song lyric: “When my hair’s all but gone and my memory fades / And the crowds don’t remember my name”

Oh how I await that day. “Thinking Out Loud” – Worst song of the year.

Worst No. 1 Hits of 2014 – Special Mentions

I’m currently counting down the 5 worst No. 1 hits of the year. Before we get to No. 1 though, here are some which just managed to avoid ending up on the final list:

Talk Dirty – Jason Derulo

Count this as the 6th worst No. 1 of 2014. Sexist and not-quite-but-definitely-close-to racist, this song openly basks in it’s own ignorance and expects us to do exactly the same. It’s offensive on almost every level it’s possible for a song to be. It’s saved from appearing on the list because it’s saxophone riff is actually pretty damn funky sounding (as much as I hate to admit it) and it does at least work on it’s own terms, puerile as those are. You got lucky here Derulo; you got lucky.

Wiggle – Jason Derulo

Now this disgusting, disjointed, moronic pile of sexist crap would’ve been my worst No. 1 of the year had it actually reached No. 1 anywhere. Thank God it didn’t.

Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid 30 / All About That Bass – Meghan Trainer

Both try to do decent things but both do so extremely problematically to the point of almost being self-defeating (particularly “All About That Bass”). I couldn’t truly justify putting them on the list though; it’s always better to try something important and fail than become successful through laziness and complacence (hence why Something I Need and I Don’t Care are on the list instead). I can respect something without liking it and that’s what I do with these songs.

Crazy Stupid Love – Cheryl Cole feat. Tinie Tempah

Stupid is right. This song features all of Cheryl Cole’s worst qualities – the ripping off of other successful sources instead of coming up with any ideas herself*, the deeply boring lyrics about topics everyone in pop has been revisiting for decades, the bland club music which everyone else in the industry has desperately trying to move beyond for a year now – this is the whole package. It was ultimately saved from being on the list because Tinie Tempah’s section is actually quite good (at least it’s better than everything around it; the song at least does elevate when he appears) and because her other song, I Don’t Care, somehow managed to be worse. Cheryl Cole is one of the worst performers in British pop at the moment and the fact that we keep giving her success is ridiculous.

* The name of the song comes from a vaguely successful rom-com released about 3 years ago

Right then, that’s it. Time to stop dilly-dallying. It’s time for what I consider to be the worst song of the year. The song which is worse than Ben Haenow’s utter forgetability, Magic!’s utter hateability, Cheryl’s plagiarism and Jason Derulo’s vile offensiveness. And boy do I have a lot to say about this song…

To be concluded…

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:

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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.

Worst No. 1 Hits of 2014 – No. 3: “I Don’t Care” by Cheryl

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:

03

You know who I don’t care about: Cheryl Cole. And this is easily one of the worst things she’s ever done*.

Firstly we already have a song where a female singer shouts “I don’t care!” over a synth beat: it was called “I Love It” by Icona Pop and Charli XCX and it was released only two years ago. This makes Cheryl’s song at worst a complete rip-off and at best surplus-to-requirement. Plagiarized or pointless: take your pick.

Secondly, the song just doesn’t work. If you’ve been inflamed by something so much that you had to dedicate an entire song to shouting about it, you’ve failed to show that you don’t care about it. “I Love It” negates this problem by having two singers shout “I don’t care, I love it!” at each other; no-one else comes into the equation, they do only care for themselves. Cheryl meanwhile is on her own, shouting directly at the audience, using the f-word at us just to make sure we’re really paying attention. She sure cares a lot about letting us know she doesn’t care.

This basically makes the song into the audio equivalent of that person who posts about how terrible their life is on Facebook only to say “it doesn’t matter” when anyone asks her what’s wrong: it’s passive-aggressive, insincere, weak, lazy, unimaginative, unbelievable and just crap. I don’t care for it at all.

* And she’s been done for assault.