10 Worst Pop Songs of 2017

Taylor Swift

Popular music in 2017 wasn’t that bad overall. I don’t know if I’m saying that because of 2016 being so bad in comparison, but I mean it when I say that 2017 was a decent year for pop music. I even found it hard to compile 10 awful songs this year, I don’t know what’s going on with me, I’m usually so crass and cynical about pop music, am I getting soft? Or is pop music genuinely just not worth hating on as much these days?

The issue I found this year is that so much music is meh, rather than being outright terrible. A lot of it is sounding more and more the same, which I could consider being worse than making terrible songs because at least you can make fun of those. Whereas now, for every one meh pop song, you’ve got another seven that are basically the same in sound and they all end up being meh too.

Despite all this boring talk, I do have to run down ten songs from this year that I thought were bad, and if you like any of these songs then I’m sorry (not sorry).


10. Demi Lovato – Sorry Not Sorry

I’ve never been much of a fan of Demi Lovato, but I’ve also never thought she was that bad. Just another over-popularised pop star that got too much credit for merely okay songs. There’s one thing I’ve never thought she was though: a bad singer. That sure did change with Tell Me You Love, oh my god the vocals on that album really are bad. This song being the worst offender, where she attempts to stretch her vocals so far on the chorus. Here, she’s actually trying her hardest to sing which is something I’ve not heard her do before. Also, she’s attempting to fight off “dem haters” which always come off as awful in nearly every pop song out there (I’ll talk more about this later in the list).

Typically you get straight forward pop songs from her that are at least catchy. But this, this is in no way catchy and doesn’t compliment her style whatsoever. Ariana Grande, Sia, and Pink can pull this off, but you’ve gotta know your talents.


9. Ed Sheeran – Shape Of You

I know this one will piss off a lot of people, but that’s precisely why I do these lists. This tropical, dancehall inspired shmush has been flooding the charts for over a year now, and the last person I wanted to do a song like this was Ed Sheeran. Up until this point his music has been safe, nothing too out of the ordinary except for a song like Sing and that track fit his style really well (probably thanks to Pharrell’s input. His success has always been baffling because it’s never fit current pop trends. Shape of You though, is as trendy as it gets. A stale and and worn out, gentrified dancehall beat that I’ve heard too many times to let this slide.

This is a Drake song. I’m sure some mash up nerds out there could layer Drake’s One Dance vocals over Shape Of You and it wouldn’t sound too out of place.

I understand that Ed wanted to try something different for this song, but this isn’t the same as ‘trying something different’. This is an artist consciously making a song that will appeal to current pop trends because another ‘Thinking Out Loud’ wouldn’t suffice for the mainstream.

The lyrics here are vapid too. “We push and pull like magnet do”, “I’m in love with your body”, I just don’t think writing about sex is for you, Ed. He’s too nice for this style, he goes on about Chinese food and asks how her family is doing in the second verse, it’s like a PG version of a Marvin Gaye song.


8. Rag’n’Bone Man – Human

Now I know there was a Rudimental remix which gave this song more life and was likely the reason this song got popular in the first place, but I am talking about the original here.

There’s not much to get mad about with this song, it’s mostly the instrumental I dislike. I also really don’t like that a guy called Rag’n’Bone Man isn’t this decade’s hottest reggae star because that’s the perfect name for a reggae artist.

This is the most watered down soul instrumental I’ve heard for a long time. There is genuinely great modern soul music out there (Michael Kiwanuka, Sharon Jones, Charles Bradley and even King Krule to a certain extent), and soul music isn’t exactly booming in 2017 so I’m confused as to how this one broke big. There’s nothing exciting going on up until the chorus, and all the chorus does is get louder.

The lyricism irks me here, too. The whole song is basically Rag complaining that people come to him for advice. He’s not a “Messiah” so you should go to someone higher instead and not ask him for help. I get that it’s a huge responsibility to offer someone advice that you might not have the answers to, but don’t be an arse about it. If a friend asks for help, you don’t respond with “oh, I can’t answer this because I don’t want to, I tell you what you, there’s a prophet called Zechariah that will help you instead. I would recommend Moses but he can’t deal with this right now.”

I don’t know, I think the framing of this song is completely off. Yeah, we’re all human, but we can handle high pressure, so don’t just run and hide as soon as things gets a little tough.


7. Machine Gun Kelly – Bad Things

I know, you’ve looked at the title of this song and thought “I’ve never heard of this song”, and you probably haven’t. I can assure you it was a hit though, and has 200+ million views on YouTube.

You don’t have to waste your time listening to it, I’ll just say it’s a vanilla, 50 Shades of Grey-esque song that plays to the idea that treating someone bad gets them going even though it shouldn’t and they don’t know why S&M blah blah blah.


6. Little Mix – Power (Feat. Stormzy)

Pop music haters over the last decade (and no, that’s not me) have continued to point out that pop music is getting louder and louder. There’s some validity to this, multiple studies have been done to show the correlation between modern music and the volume increasing.

And if any song backs up those statistics then it’s Power. This song is an absolute mess. This is Bang Bang by Jessie J but 30 times louder and less focus on actual musical composition.

I know I’ll sound like a 48 year old man that only ever listens to The Stone Roses when I say this but it really is just too loud. You can’t just turn the volume up on everything and then call it a banger. It’s like the record label told them they needed an album that had elements of electronic, pop, hip hop, trap, dubstep and chorus drops all over the album but then Little Mix accidentally shoved them all into one song.

On the first verse, there’s a Christina Aguilera wannabe that ends up shouting every line as opposed to singing well. Then there’s this clunky shift into the pre-chorus which is more melodically sung but it grates on my ears the same way the yelping does on the verse. The worst part of the song is the chorus, if it can even be called that because it’s just pitched up vocals over a standard drop that you hear in so many frigging pop songs.

On the second verse, I thought Nicki Minaj came on for a feature but apparently I was wrong there, it’s just an imitator. Then Stormzy jumps on later for a generic pop song-rap verse, a supposed grime artist because the grimiest thing to do is to feature on a Little Mix song.

I’ve never outright disliked Little Mix, Touch is a good example of what great pop music sounds like, but Power… Power is not.


5. J Balvin & Willy William – Mi Gente

Reggaeton blew up in 2017. Just by me saying that word, you instantly though of Despacito. Perhaps now the biggest Latin song of all time, and honestly I don’t mind that.

Is it the best example of what great Latin music sounds like? No, not at all, try the band Ondatropica for some excellent Latin-Jazz music. Latin music has been long overdue a massive mainstream buzz and Despacito will go down as a big moment for that genre.

Of course, with that comes all the rip offs and the artists capitalising on the trend. Mi Gente is one of those. That sampled beat is enough to be on the list, I can’t concentrate on anything else in this song because of that obnoxious sound. It was sampled from an Indian artist’s music which gives the track a Middle Eastern flair which in itself is unique. That’s not enough for me to defend it though, it sounds horrible.

It’s overbearing and ruins any potential melody that the song could’ve had. The worst part is, it’s exactly the same All. The. Way. Through. All the goddamn way. So not only is it an earache of a sound, but it gets stale after approximately 18 seconds. A 3 minute song and about 5% into the song I’m already done. Brockhampton’s Sweet is a much better example of how incorporating a Middle Eastern beat into a track and making it work.

The issue with this Reggaeton trend is that it’s beginning to sound less and less authentic, but we’re eating it all up in the western world because it’s trendy and we don’t hear much Latin music cross over. All it takes is a remix with a western artist on it, like Beyoncé on the remix of Mi Gente and that’s enough for everyone to fawn over it and suddenly Spanish music is cool. Well I ain’t buying it, give me Latin-flavoured music all day, but not this crap.


4. Julia Michaels – Issues

Julia Michaels was relatively unknown before this year, but she’s been behind the scenes in the pop music world for most of this decade, penning songs for the aforementioned Little Mix and Demi Lovato, and even Justin Bieber’s Sorry.

Now, the thing is, writing your own songs and writing for other people are very different. You can have the talent to write as many songs as you want, but performing them isn’t anywhere near as easy as it looks (take it from me, a guy that writes about songs rather than writing songs, what the fuck do I know?).

The way this song is structured is so bizarre to me, the instrumental has this sharp sound that doesn’t compliment the vocals; the vocals don’t compliment anything. The strained tone to her voice is something I don’t find appealing whatsoever – this is what I mean when I say writing and making your own songs is very different. You need to actually have a good ability to sing, and Julia Michaels is not there yet.


3. Liam Payne – Strip That Down (Feat. Quavo)

Why must everyone try to be Justin Timberlake? No matter how hard you try, you can’t pull off sexy, slick and cool the same way he did, so why even try?

We get it, you came from One Direction; a teenage boy band that wrote mostly innocent pop songs and now you’re older, you want to seem ‘mature’ and ‘sexy’.

How does one do that? Well, you feature one of the hottest rappers around and jump on a DJ Mustard-style that sounds 3 years old and then hope everyone calls you an R&B star.

To me, there’s nothing sexy about this song. If you have to process the vocals this much because you don’t have smooth vocals then just don’t do it. I also have to say–wait, hold on a minute. Who wrote this song? Oh, Ed Sheeran co-wrote this. Yep, that’s why it’s not sexy. Nevermind.


2. Taylor Swift – Look What You Made Me Do

I remember reading a few years back that Taylor had always cited the legendary folk singer, Joni Mitchell as an influence of hers. Since then, I’ve always hoped that she’d follow through with that influence and craft something that could be nearly as beautiful as Joni’s work. Fast forward a few years later, and Taylor Swift has had to credit the I’m too sexy for my shirt song as a sample on her lead single. Yeah, she really isn’t using her influences to her advantage, is she?

The main reason that this song doesn’t work is the content. You see, all the gossip that Taylor Swift gets involved with isn’t exciting. The relationship drama, the seemingly out of  nowhere feud with Katy Perry, the Kim Kardashian stuff, and of course the Kanye West rant at the MTV Music Video Awards. Now, may I remind you that this controversy happened eight years ago. That’s right, eight And Taylor Swift has kept a grudge all this time and felt the need to address her so called beef with Kanye in this song.

Not only that, but she’s dragging everyone else down with her, which to be fair every person in the world seems to hate Taylor Swift, and to be in that position must be disheartening. She really doesn’t make it easier for herself with songs like this though. This edgy persona seems fake, it’s trashy and it’s completely out of her element. This secondary school catty drama crap is in no way interesting.

Ironically, her best friend Kanye was able to make these drama stories interesting on his album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. This is the best I’ve ever seen it done, and considering it’s only been eight years since the release of that album and many already calling it a classic says something. With that said, I’ve always thought that the lyrical elements of the album were in fact the worst part of the album, it mostly gets praised for its production. So to sum up, even when this celebrity-gossip gets penned into songs, it still has big flaws.

Taylor was setting herself up to fail here. She’ll continue to get more hate sent her way because of her childish ways, and that will only be proven with how badly this song will age over time.


1. Jax Jones – You Don’t Know Me (Feat. Raye)

This, to me, embodies all the wrong things about modern pop music. A stale, over used dance beat, vocals slathered in auto tune. A nondescript vocalist so even if there was no auto tune I wouldn’t be able to pick her out of a line up.

I really can’t believe this is a 2017 pop hit; it sounds like it came from 2011. That’s one common thing with a lot of these songs I’ve picked this year. Dated. They sound dated the minute you hear them, so the fact that they remain to be huge baffles me.

I know songs like this are made for clubs, but when you’re not drunk out of your mind and you actually pay attention to songs like this, you realise how flavourless they are.

So yeah, that’s the list. Ten bad songs from a year that really wasn’t that bad, fairly decent overall. I know I’m miserable and cynical, but I do really mean that.

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