The ’90s came back in 2014. While there was certainly some great music made before Friends went into syndication, it is important to remember that the ’90s spawned demons like 4-Non Blondes and Dishwalla. It was the decade that brought us Jock Jams and the Macarena. Now, because of either nostalgia or sheer laziness, today’s pop music has decided that the age of Shaggy is worth celebrating.
Eager for the opportunity to postpone death, bands from 20 years ago are dusting off their frosted tips to cash in on this renaissance. Most of these bands’ efforts are embarrassing failures; they mistakenly believe that the secret is to simply do what they did before.
Early-’90s snooze-a-thon O.A.R. released “Peace,” a song that proves they are as adept as ever at making boring and unoriginal music. The poor, sad Goo Goo Dolls put their hair helmets back on for “Come To Me,” which sounds like the same old thing without Nicolas Cage to back it up.
Although the music industry gave up on lyrics years ago, the number of “woah ohs” and “doo doos” has reached a fever pitch, forcing one to wonder if singers are really necessary at all anymore. Most pop music singers could be replaced with auto-tuned samples from episodes of Saved By the Bell.
Repeating the same word over and over has replaced rhyming as an acceptable form of expression. Instead of even half-hearted effort, what we get is a meaningless mishmash of cultural references and eager statements about “how much fun we’re having at this party.”
Pop music’s booty obsession has reached a new high, as well. Embracing diversity and developing a positive self-image is a good thing, but that’s not what is happening here. It is the same age-old preoccupation with having the “right” body type, simply swung in the opposite direction.
Three-year “Worst of…” veteran Nicki Minaj is once again the primary offender, constantly reminding us about how much she hates “skinny b*tches.” Thanks for the new rash of teenage overeating, Nicki. Meghan Trainor is a little subtler with her pseudo-Dove commercial, “All About That Bass,” which is better, but not by much.
There were far more than ten bad songs in the running this year. Paris Hilton’s “Come Alive” is absurd, but her vacuity has always felt a little tongue-in-cheek, and a video full of supernovas and unicorns has a certain slyness. There’s enough hatred out there for Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” without us adding fuel to the fire, but his apparent sincerity places it slightly above the garbage below.
Many people will point a finger at Wang Rong Rollin’s completely unintelligible (even with translations) “Chick Chick,” but like Psy’s “Gangnam Style,” it is so far outside the scope of popular music that it can’t be meaningfully categorized as either good or bad. DJ Snake and Lil Jon’s “Turn Down for What” is an accidentally brilliant (however empty) song, with the most absurdly wonderful music video since Twisted Sister’s inadvertently hilarious “We’re Not Going to Take It.”
All of that being said, here are the ten worst songs of 2014: (Prepare to be disappointed in the progress of mankind.)
- Fall Out Boy: “Centuries” – This makes the list primarily for sampling the most annoying song of an entire generation. Two notes of Suzanne Vega’s sonic waterboarding “Tom’s Diner” is enough to trigger a flight reflex that obliterates the rest of the song. This video gets an extra fail point for trying to make a band full of goofy dudes look like tough gladiators.
- will.i.am / Cody Wise: “It’s My Birthday” – No “worst of” list would be complete without an appearance from will.i.am. He has built a career on not doing much of anything by himself, and this time it’s greenhorn Cody Wise who has to wheel the old man around in his platinum-plated wheelchair. As at every other point in his career, will.i.am auto-tunes a bit of mumbled nonsense and waits for Pepsi to call with a sponsorship offer.
- Godsmack: “1000hp” – Godsmack has been selling derivative fart-metal to rural American dudes for 20 years now. This particular bit of asinine macho posturing insists that they deserve credit simply for being around so darn long. Instead, they come across as silly, disgruntled old men. It glorifies how much they’ve been ripping off Alice in Chains for over two decades. It’s precisely this kind of victimized whininess coupled with indiscriminate angst that has always given gun-toting hillbillies a bad name.
- Jason Derulo: “Trumpets” – Lyrics are clearly at the bottom of the priority list for this shirtless automaton. Clearly, it’s impossible to auto-tune the emo out of Derulo’s nasally whine. Four minutes is gratuitously long for a song that goes nowhere. Yes, Jason, it’s weird.
- Florida Georgia Line ft. Luke Bryan: “This Is How We Roll” – After the complete debacle that afflicted country music last year (see “Worst Songs of 2013“) it is encouraging to see that most of the genre has toned it down. Most. Of course, country music is still having enough trouble navigating its current identity crisis without these two ham-fisted frat boys mucking up the works. The addition of Luke Bryan’s shiny teeth and designer jeans is what ultimately jumps the shark for a sound that will be mocked for decades to come.
- Shy Glizzy: “Awwsome” – Intentionally misspelled song titles are nature’s way of saying “stay away.” This is yet another example of pop-rap that has decided one or two words is enough for a full song. After the success of Migos’ disastrous “Versace,” why not? Apparently any idiot can do it. With a voice that sounds like an SNL skit, this video has poor Glizzy looking like a scared puppy who just wants to go back home.
- Nicki Minaj: “Anaconda“- Sir Mix-a-Lot sold 2.3 million copies of “Baby Got Back” in 1992. Why mess with perfection? Because it’s easy. Minaj is expert at riding coattails, so it is not surprising to watch her take someone else’s success and drop it to the lowest common denominator. For everything that’s wrong with Iggy Azelea, Nicki Minaj takes the trophy as the true sign of the apocalypse.
- Avril Lavigne: “Hello Kitty” – Now that Nickelback is done ruining their own careers, front-perm Chad Kroeger’s silliness has fully rubbed off on his wife, Avril Lavigne. This screechy farce of dubstep Japanimation is borderline culturally offensive and just plain annoying.
- Buck 22: “Achy Breaky 2” – Billy Ray Cyrus must have lost a bet. Watching him bring back the most ridiculed song of the ’90s is completely humiliating. The whole thing is an act of desperation, which would explain why he doesn’t show his face through half the video. Not that you’d notice, though, with all the booty shaking. The video comes across as an attempt to out-twerk his daughter. Which is kind of messed up. Just saying.
- MAGIC!: “Rude” – Not since the Spin Doctors ruined jam bands with “Two Princes” has pseudo-reggae been so offensively bad. Two hours locked in a room with this song would end the war on drugs for all time. It’s the too-embarrassing-to-repeat lyrics that finally kick the hacky sack over the fence of respectability. It’s a safe bet that the girl will only need about three weeks of dirty hippie marriage to realize the value of a shower and a steady job.
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