There is perhaps no more complete representation of modern America than the pop charts. Hip hop and country music, dance and EDM, guitars, Auto-Tune, and the prepubescent stars of Vine make up our collective soundtrack. While voters of Trump, Clinton, Johnson, Stein, Harambe, and Vermin Supreme may live in totally different worlds, they stand shoulder to shoulder on the Billboard Hot 100. We may not agree on much, but we can all agree on one thing: A lot of that music is gloriously godawful.
Welcome to our annual attempt to find majesty in travesty, our celebration of the best of the worst. While the 2015 list had more whoppers than a Burger King, we as a culture managed to outdo ourselves in 2016. Let’s review the rules: In order to qualify for inclusion, a song needed to chart on Billboard. I don’t have time to review your cousin’s mixtape or SoundCloud single (or even more well-known dreck like Soulja Boy’s “Snapchat”). Lots of songs are bad; the whole point is that these songs were also popular.
To that end, this year’s entrants fit into three broad categories. There are aging artists desperately trying to stay relevant, but mostly demonstrating why they aren’t. There are superstars who have topped the charts so many times that they’re not even trying any more. And as always, there are sex lyrics so uproariously unsexy that they are clinically proven to be more effective than condoms at preventing pregnancy.
One last thing: The difference between good and bad is often a matter of taste. Your taste is probably different than mine, and it deserves to be shared. Please do us all a favor and post your own favorite lyrical flops in the comments below.
Now then, let’s get to it: The absolute worst pop lyrics of 2016.
10. “Pop Style”
Worst Lyric: “Got so many chains they call me Chaining Tatum”
The man born Aubrey Drake Graham has long been on the cutting edge of pop music. He combined rap, pop, and R&B in ways we hadn’t seen before and popularized the persona of the lonely stoner. Here, he brings his latest innovation to hip-hop: dad jokes. And look, every rapper will eventually write a real groaner, but on this track, Drake has elevated the facepalm to an art form.
“Pop Style” is a Caribbean term that roughly means “ballin’,” and it’s a small blessing that Mr. Graham doesn’t trot out his awful bajan accent here like he does on other songs from Views, such as “Controlla”. Drake’s only claim to Caribbean heritage is that he once fucked Rihanna. Someone close to him should mention that culture isn’t sexually transmittable.
Worst Lyric: “And you can tell your friends/ We’ll be together ’til the end/ Girl, you can wear my sweatshirt”
The 14-year-old Jacob Sartorius has been called the next Justin Bieber, but the comparison isn’t really fair to either of them: Bieber is a better singer and better looking, and Sartorius seems like a decent human being. The Vine star had his first Billboard hit with the offensively inoffensive “Sweatshirt”, a song which he apparently wrote himself. This would be more impressive if it was, you know, good; but unless you’re grading on a curve, you have to admit that the success of the song has little to do with its artistic merits and more to do with the incredible influence that Vine stars can wield. Never forget: Teenage girls are our music industry overlords.