2019 has been an unusual year in pop music. The biggest hits of the year have come from completely fresh artists (Billie Eilish, Lil Nas X, Lizzo, to name a few) while the traditional big names in pop have been floundering relative to these newcomers. The charts have become an odd melting point for a variety of genres in an (occasionally successful) attempt at a crossover hit. But for every good song that makes it onto the charts, there are five bad ones and fifteen awful ones. I’ll be counting down the top ten worst songs of this long, exhausting year to serve as a reminder of the uninspired, uninteresting, or straight-up unlistenable music we have collectively made popular.
I’ll only be picking from songs that have made it into the top ten of the official UK charts – there’s enough bad material to choose from there, I didn’t even need to venture into the US charts. I’ve also limited myself to one song per artist, for reasons that will be clear later.
10. No Guidance– Chris Brown feat. Drake
Chris Brown’s career simply will not die. No matter how arrogant, how unlikeable, or how problematic he is, people keep buying into him. I, for one, cannot work out why. On No Guidance, he sounds totally inauthentic to himself – forgive me for not finding “Flaws and all, I love ’em all, to me, you’re perfect” to be representative of Brown’s unpleasant personality. Drake’s contribution to this track is mediocre at best, and the whole thing takes place on a boring beat that makes you wonder how anyone managed to listen to the whole thing without skipping to the next track.
9. Giant– Calvin Harris ft. Rag ‘N’ Bone Man
There was a brief Calvin Harris renaissance back in 2017 when Harris was producing some excellent alt-dance tracks (e.g. Slidewith Frank Ocean; Feelswith Katy Perry.) This renaissance is very clearly over. Giantsees Calvin Harris regress into standard house tropes that we thought he had left behind. Rag ‘N’ Bone Man sings some utterly meaningless lyrics in a way that might convince the inattentive listener that he has something profound to say about… something. The crunchy horns do their best to disguise how sterile and mundane this track is but it doesn’t really work. It’s a bad song disguised as a good song, and it’s not even very well disguised.
8. Roxanne– Arizona Zervas
It’s likely you’ve only heard the first 30 seconds of this song on the intelligence-draining app, TikTok. I had to listen to all 164 seconds of the song to judge it and I can report that it is just as mind-numbing as the app that made it popular. The hook (which is the only memorable thing about the song) occurs four times in its short length, which is probably an attempt to distract from the poorly written lyrics in-between. Roxanneis, by far, the cheapest-sounding song I’ve heard this year and it could have been written in the best part of five minutes, but it does get some slack for at least having a reasonably catchy hook. And also because I expect it will make no lasting musical or cultural impression on the world.
7. 3 Nights– Dominic Fike
3 Nightssounds like someone gave Jason Mraz a lobotomy and then asked him to write a depressing version of I’m Yours. It doesn’t really make sense: Fike’s vocal performance is casual, almost throwaway, sitting against a cheesy pseudo-reggae instrumental that feels far too cheery for the song’s subject matter. The not-quite-guitar, not-quite-synthesiser chords sound like they were stolen directly from 2013, and the monotone vocals don’t exactly give a listener anything to get excited about. There is barely any emotional or musical development throughout the song – although there may be a certain appeal in that. For someone.
6. Heartless– The Weeknd
Watching The Weeknd lose all sort of artistic ingenuity over the last few years has been depressing. From the excellent Trilogymixtapes, to the reasonable Beauty Behind The Madnessto the uneventful and overly-long Starboy. But Heartlesstruly pushes the boundaries for how bad The Weeknd can make a song. There is nothing complex about this song: it’s just bragging about pussy and money over a boring trap beat. But this isn’t exactly uncommon in music Jamie, I hear you cry! I know this. But it’s hard to hear the Weeknd waste his stellar voice and clear talent on material this poor.
5. Post Malone– Sam Felt feat. Rani
It baffles me that Post Malone would be employed in a figure of speech to do with partying. He doesn’t strike me as the sesh legend Felt and Reni are implying he is. Brushing this strange analogy aside, the pop-EDM instrumental behind Post Maloneis perfect for a party. But only if that party is happening in 2015. And everyone at the party is deaf. I think it’s safe to say that these unpleasant pitched-up voice hooks are firmly outdated and really detract from my ability to listen to this song without feeling a little bit sick. Please don’t play this at a party or everyone will leave. You have my word on this.
4. Memories– Maroon 5
I really don’t think I need to write anything about this one.
3. Don’t Call Me Angel– Ariana Grande, Miley Cyrus & Lana Del Rey
This song takes the prize for being the biggest disappointment of 2019. What could have easily been a record-smashing hit was a clattering mess of a song. Despite Miley often working with this kind of hard, saturated instrumental, (see Mother’s Daughter) she sounds totally out of place here. Lana Del Rey brings the track to a screeching halt for her verse, and she doesn’t seem to know what the message of the song is. (Hint: it’s not about “dropping it low and picking it up”) Ariana Grande puts in an alright show, but it’s not enough to save this sinking ship. This is easily the worst song any of these singers has put out in the last five years.
2. Someone You Loved– Lewis Capaldi
Lewis Capaldi can’t sing. He can scream, or wail, or whatever he does during the chorus of Someone You Loved, but it certainly isn’t singing. The simple, repetitive piano chords in this song demand a moving and emotive vocal performance that Capaldi is clearly incapable of. Between “Somebody to have/somebody to hold,” “I let my guard down/ and then you pulled the rug” and “This all or nothing way of loving got me sleeping without you,” Someone You Lovedcontains some of the worst lyrics I have ever had the misfortune of hearing. The song only gets progressively worse as Capaldi screeches during the bridge. I genuinely thought no-one would be able to save me from this musical catastrophe. The only reason this song isn’t number one on this list is because I can tell Capaldi at least made a slight effort to convey some sort of emotion with his (terrible) songwriting. There is no evidence of this in the number one song…
1. I Don’t Care– Ed Sheeran feat. Justin Bieber
Anyone who knows me will be acutely aware of my hatred for Ed Sheeran. Any of the songs he released as part of No.6 Collaborations Projectcould have made it onto this list (hence why I stopped myself repeating artists.) What they might not know is that I Don’t Careis the reason why I hate him. Absolutely no effort went into the creation of this song. It sounds like Sheeran typed “pop music trends 2019” into Google and just shat out this song based on what he heard. His uninspired lyrics about “not fitting in at this party” are a desperate attempt to be relatable, despite any ounce of relatability evaporating from Sheeran’s sweaty brow back in 2016. Bieber manages to add nothing to I Don’t Care, repelling personality every time he opens his mouth to sing. No other song better exemplifies a pop star putting their feet up and flicking their career onto autopilot than I Don’t Care. There aren’t enough words in the world with which to describe how much I loathe this song. The fact that this was even in the shortlist for “song of the summer” makes me genuinely afraid for the future of pop music.