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2016 is going to go down in the books as a pretty horrible and grim year and yes, while lots of bad things did indeed occur and a great many beloved cultural heroes bowed out, good stuff happened too. No, really. Google it. There were good things. Honest.
It was an especially strong year for music releases, for one. But you can’t have light without dark and all that, so here’s THE 10 WORST SONGS OF 2016, the most godawful cuts from a very odd year…
10 | The Last Shadow Puppets – ‘Bad Habits’ (Live on Seth Meyers)
Okay, strictly more of a performance than a song here but the studio version is still utter trash. This live edition is industrial strength horrible, though. I get it, you’re two young-ish lads having a grand old time and no doubt indulging in all the rock star excess you can muster, but jesus fucking christ this is unacceptable. All the more bizarre considering they wrote the glorious ‘Miracle Aligner’, which deservedly made it into the NO ENCORE Top 20 Songs of The Year. Miles Kane is stealing a living.
9 | The Chainsmokers ft. Halsey – ‘Closer’
Arriving not long after Avicii announced his retirement as if further proof were needed that cutting the head off a snake is no guarantee of safety.
8 | Meghan Trainor – ‘NO’
Always enjoyable when something reviews itself in its title.
7 | Pet Shop Boys – ‘Sad Robot World’
Let’s be real; Pet Shop Boys are responsible for some of the best songs in recorded pop history. Not only that, they continue to be a terrific force both in and out of the studio. 2013’s Electric is a superb recent feather in their collective abstractly-designed cap, to name but one. ‘Sad Robot World’, on the other hand, is, well, shocking. At least it’s funny, though.
6 | Little Mix – ‘Shout Out To My Ex’
As with The 1975’s inexplicable coronation as the thinking music lover’s avant-garde pop outfit of choice, I guess I missed the meeting where usually-reliable critical corners decided this abomination was a secret great song. Don’t get me wrong, I fucking love pop music. It’s brilliant, and it’s damn hard to get it just right. Little Mix are doing arguably much better than anybody could have predicted, but ‘Shout Out To My Ex’ is so obvious, so desperate and so demographic-serving that it ultimately registers as quite depressing. And it sounds like fucking B*Witched.
5 | Lukas Graham – ‘7 Years’
It’s kind of astonishing that this exists, as if Daniel Powter’s ‘Bad Day’ went on a feverish mating spree with the most saccharine pop songs of the past decade. The world seems to have a great deal of affection for obvious garbage like the above, and it’s truly mystifying. Oh, and ‘Lukas Graham‘ isn’t even a person. It’s four different dudes. EVERYTHING HERE IS A LIE.
4 | Justin Timberlake – ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’
Sigh. What the fuck happened, man? I ran a hotly-contested Twitter poll during the summer, offering up four Justin Timberlake songs (because four is the maximum number of options, you see) for appraisal, confident that ‘My Love’ would be judged, unanimously, as his masterpiece. Not only did that song finish last – I’m still not over this – but there were shouts for a generous fistful of other tracks that I didn’t select in the first place. All this provides a good indication that the Justin Timberlake of old is rather well regarded and was at the forefront of some truly fantastic pop songs. ‘Can’t Stop The Feeling’, film tie-in or not, provides a grim indication that the JT of old appears to be dead and buried. An obvious and desperate ‘sound of the summer’ grasp, it’s as cynical as it is irritating.
3 | Lady Gaga – ‘Perfect Illusion’
I’m still not convinced that this was mixed.
2 | Picture This – ‘For You’
If you’ve ever bought a ticket to a Picture This gig or downloaded one of their songs or given hits to their Carpool Karaoke knock-off (it’s called TRAFFIC JAM, get it?) then you’re part of the problem. And it is a problem. Ireland isn’t short of great acts but it’s hard out there for musicians who care about their craft. 2016 didn’t just spell the end for many a revered celebrity, it brought about the exits of several homegrown acts including Fight Like Apes, Funeral Suits and Enemies, three outfits who, for varying reasons, decided they’d be better off doing something else.
The rise and prominence of simpering indie duo Picture This isn’t directly to blame but it’s most certainly symptomatic of the issues facing acts and artists who would like to colour outside the lines. The popularity of Picture This is downright astonishing to the point that this critic simply cannot get his head around it. They’re the kind of band to go and see between dinner and a few pints down the local on a Friday, the kind of cookie-cutter event that you check into on social media and reflexively take a bunch of shitty indecipherable videos that might rack up about 27 views on YouTube if you were to go to the bother of uploading them.
As such, ‘For You’ joins similar cloying ‘efforts’ from the likes of The Coronas, Walking On Cars and Gavin James as a by-the-numbers plinky-plonky snooze fest that amounts to nothing much at all, but hey it’s totally relatable just like those ‘hilarious’ articles you tag your mates into on Facebook because We’ve All Been There. Get used to this dreck, because it’s not going away any time soon.
1 | Keywest – ‘This Summer’
The hilarious guitar.
The actual lyrics, conjured up, mused upon and eventually committed to song.
“This summer! This summer! / We’re staying out singing ‘let’s get wrecked’ / This summer! This summer! / We’re walking ’round like we just had sex / All the girls are with the boys, check ’em out with their cut-off denim jeans on / This summer! This summer! / You can go fuck yourself.“
The late, great art critic John Berger is perhaps best regarded for his 1972 essay Ways of Seeing, which spawned a BBC series of the same name and proves highly influential to this day. Berger was fascinated by subtext and the idea of delving beyond aesthetics in search of hidden ideologies. We still have much to learn from his teachings and, indeed, his thoughtful criticism.
Alas, there is nothing to glean from the exceptionally thoughtless, the ambitiously derivative, the soberingly pathetic and the inescapably poisonous. As a society we have attempted to thwart the trauma of Keywest but they continue to find streets, methods of public transportation and, troublingly, larger venues in their Terminator-like quest to suffocate all with their distinctive brand of aural excrement.
You wonder how anybody could sleep soundly at night having created something as banal, as wretched, as undeniably abhorrent as ‘This Summer’. There is the very real sense that the world is burning and nothing can stop it, that we are on a collision course with increasingly unimaginable horror. Let us at least go out with some dignity, eh?
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