A lot of the people I follow online make a lot of comments about terrible music, and this particular time of year is known among the music reviewing community as Lismas. Lacking the sort of computer hardware to do vlogging about music criticism, I would like to comment on some of the worst trends/songs of music in 2018. Why pick on 2018? Well, it is a truth nearly universally acknowledged that 2018 was a terrible year in music. It was not even terrible in ways that were entertaining. Even as someone who does not go out of my way to listen to some types of music, the bad music of 2018 was continually assaulting one. Whether it was trying to have a friendly dinner party at a park and being subjected to repeated listens of Drake’s horrible Scorpion album (more on that below), or whether it was being subjected to terrible trap music (more on that below) on Spotify while I was trying to look up better music, there was a lot that went wrong in the music of 2018. For the rules of discussion, we are limiting this discussion to the top 100 songs of 2018, or else this rant could go on a long time.
Honorable Mention: Album bombs!
For those who don’t know, an album bomb is a phenomenon where the release of an album led to most or all of its songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100 at the same time. There are a few results of this. For one, songs would have their chart runs prematurely ended when large amounts of debuts would happen simultaneously, thus hindering their totals for the year-end chart. For another, most of the songs that debuted would be album filler of an uninspired nature, and reliance on first-week streams and sales for chart position led to quite a few songs not ending up on the year-end chart despite being well-regarded. So we have no songs on the Hot 100 year end chart from The Carters’ Everything Is Love album, nothing from Kanye’s Ye, nothing from Pusha T’s Daytona album, nothing from Eminem’s attempt to return to form in Kamikaze, despite the fact that all of these albums sold very well and all were well-regarded. The songs just didn’t stay on the charts long enough to have impact.
#10: Drake, Part One
It was a big year for Drake. This was not a good thing for the music charts as a whole. He spent more than half of the year at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with a slate of mostly unimpressive songs. It’s not that everything Drake released was bad this year. God’s Plan was mediocre, and “Nice For What,” if fan service, was at least decent. But there was a lot of terrible Drake songs that ended up on the Year End chart and most reviewers that I have seen have only gone after the whiny “I’m Upset” (#86 on the YE chart), and given the uninspired “Nonstop” a pass (#52). “In My Feelings” (#9) was pretty uninspired too, but it’s only the third worst of Drake’s five solo songs on this collection. And there was plenty of bad Drake music that hit the top ten in his debut that never made it to the year-end chart, including his grave-robbing of Michael Jackson, that we won’t talk about in more detail. Here’s hoping Drake spends more of 2019 trying to be a good father to his unexpected child by an adult film actress and less time releasing terrible music. We can only hope.
#9: Drake, Part Two
Not only did Drake release a lot of bad music on his own, but other artists in rap and R&B figured out pretty quickly that the fastest way that they could gain clout was to have Drake as a feature on their generally uninspired songs. And so not only did we have a lot of terrible Drake solo material this year as part of his double album release Scorpion, but we had a lot of bad Drake verses on other people’s terrible songs. None of the three Drake features that appeared on the Billboard Hot 100 year end list were all that good. “Look Alive” by BlocBoy JB (#23) at least provided me with a meme to use when the volleyball players at practice seemed particularly listless and inattentive. “Yes Indeed” by Lil’ Baby (#25) was a terrible song that stuck around way too long, and Walk It Talk It (#43) was a pretty boring and unpleasant song from another one of the year’s examples of stream trolling in Migos’ widely panned Culture II album.
#8 Bad Latin Music
Over the past couple of years there has been a breakout in Latin songs. Once “Despacito” showed that one could have a career, and not just a novelty act status, in having successful songs, and Mi Gente (#98) confirmed this trend, a lot of acts started having very successful songs, several of them ending up on the year end list. And while I have a hard time telling a lot of these people apart, a lot of Latino acts had very successful songs with music that was pretty terrible, even if one didn’t bother to translate the often offensive and unpleasant lyrical content of the material. Whether one is looking at X by Nicky Jam and J Balvin (#90), Dura by Daddy Yankee (#93), or the interminable Te Bote by Nio García, Darell and Casper Mágico featuring Bad Bunny, Nicky Jam, and Ozuna, none of whom distinguish themselves positively here (#81), bad Latin music showed it was here to stay on the charts, at least through the end of the year. Drake even appeared on one of these songs, “Mia,” that mercifully failed to reach the end-of-year chart.
#7 Boring Pop Music
A lot of people thought that “Meant To Be” by BeBe Rexha and Florida Georgia Line (#3) was the worst thing ever, but I merely thought it was okay. It did, however, show part of a trend where those few pop songs that managed to be popular were often not very exciting. There was a lot of very boring pop music that was released this year, some of which managed to stick around on the lower regions of the charts long enough to be on the Year End chart and survive the glut of album bombs that were released through the first half of the year. We have the mediocre “The Middle” by Zedd, Maren Morris, and Grey (#8), and I Like Me Better by Lauv (#35). It seemed as if the only pop music that could be popular was particularly bland, which made it bad for those of us who listened to a lot of pop to avoid the bad trap music.
#6 Just Go Away Already
There were some artists who definitely overstayed their welcome in 2018, and demonstrated why they need to just stop making music if they’re not going to make anything worthwhile. While Drake was certainly one of those musicians, he was far rom the only one. One of the most egregious offenders was Maroon 5, a band that has been releasing bad music for a long time now. This year Maroon 5 released one song that didn’t chart very high but stuck around for a long time in Wait (#58) and then cashed in on the Cardi B trend and had their biggest hit in some time with “Girls Like You” (#10). Honorable mention in this category goes for songs that just stuck around forever, including some from last year like “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lavato (#64).
#5 Boring White Rappers
One of the more entertaining songs of the year was Killshot, in which Eminem demonstrated some pretty fierce feelings towards a fellow white rapper. But aside from Em, who had no hits in this year’s top 100 songs, most of the other white rappers (aside from Christian rapper NF, who had a pretty good hear and one of the better rap songs on the year end list with “Let You Down” (#29)), this year was a predictably bad year for rappers like Gnash, who appeared on Max’s “Lights Down Low” (#66) and G-Easy, who had hits with Asap Rocky and Cardi B with “No Limit” (#30) and on-again, off-again girlfriend Halsey (who had some pretty bad music this year as well) in “Him & I” (#45).
#4 Message Songs
Perhaps predictably in a bad year for music, those artists who made message songs predictably did a terrible job at it. Other than the fantastic “New Rules” by Dua Lipa (#16), most message songs missed the mark, whether we were dealing with Ariana Grande’s ode to the sacred feminine in “God Is A Woman” (#62) or Marshmello and Anne-Marie’s terrible friendzone anthem “Friends” (#26). Odds are if someone had a message they were trying to deliver this year, it missed the mark considerably.
#3 Reprehensible Human Beings: Part 1
A few years ago a couple of rappers with some loathsome and unpleasant personal lives teamed together for a mixtape and album “Fan Of A Fan.” Both of them had hit songs in 2018, with Tyga coming in with the loathsome and creepy “Taste” (#28) and Chris Brown teaming up with Lil Dicky for “Freaky Friday” (#55). Both songs featured some pretty obvious and terrible lyrics and both music videos are unpleasant to watch, especially if one knows the context of both singers and their lives.
#2 Reprehensible Human Beings: Part 2
If 6ix9ine goes to jail for a long time, can he stop making bad music? Seriously, there was a lot of terrible music that he released this year, two songs of which ended up on this year’s YE chart. Regardless of whether one listens to FeFe, featuring Murda Beatz and Nicki Minaj (who had a terrible year this year as far as her music was concerned) (#31) or “Gummo” (#56), this “artist” released some of the worst music of the year. How bad was it? He released a song called ZeZe that featured one of the few more reprehensible people than he is in Kodak Black.
#1 Reprehensible Human Beings: Part 3
While JuiceWrld had the biggest hit of the various emo rappers making terrible music this year, with “Lucid Dreams” (#12), he was not the most reprehensible either in musical quality (at least he had a good sample of Sting’s “Shape Of My Heart,” even if his lyrics were terrible) or character. No, that belonged to XXXTentacion. Despite the inconvenience of being dead most of the year after he was murdered, he still managed to place 3 hits on the Year End list, and all of them are terrible in terms of their awful music, terrible lyrics, and atrocious singing. Whether one is looking at the manipulative guilt tripping of Sad! (#17), or lesser known atrocities like Moonlight (#88) and Changes (#94), XXXTentacion released a lot of music in 2018 that was just Bad! (an actual name of a single released late in the year). In a year of terrible music, he was just the worst.