Most pop music is disposable. That’s a simple fact most of us who have been alive long enough to know must face. Both good and bad hits come and go awfully quick in the grand scheme of things, most of them leaving little impact other than becoming stuck in a lot of people’s heads and being blasted at a few too many house parties. While a few truly unique, clever, or just catchy pop songs manage to endure and influence future musicians, most of the bunch serve as nothing but forgettable, hopefully enjoyable noise to fill FM airwaves each week. These are some of the worst selections (in our humble opinion, at least) of the latest crop of disposable pop music.
1. “Work” by Rihanna ft. Drake
The biggest problem with pop music is how often one is subjected to certain songs. It’s easy to enjoy or at least tolerate a song if you hear it once, but it’s much more difficult to have it constantly shoved down your throat by society, as is the case with Rihanna’s latest hit, “Work.” This is a song all about doing work for the sake of getting paid, and it seems appropriate for a song so basic in its hook that it seems like a lazy ploy to create a hit single. Since this is Rihanna, it works, despite her trying, unintelligible vocals and the baffling autotuned rap from Drake. It might have been okay once or twice, but after a few weeks atop the Billboard charts, “Work” is becoming nearly intolerable.
2. “My House” by Flo Rida
Flo Rida’s been around since the height of crunk in the late ’00s, and his latest hit sounds like a time capsule from that unfortunate chapter in popular music that somehow managed to fool listeners into thinking any of this was something new. Rida’s lousy brand of pop rap features boring verses and overblown choruses that deal in house party cliches about playing “that music too loud,” opening up champagne and taking “another shot of vodka.” “My House” gives listeners something easy to sing along to but little else.
3. “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE
The Jonas Brothers have moved onto bigger, more adult endeavors, including frontman Joe Jonas, who’s now fronting a faux-rock band DNCE whose hits sound about as engineered as anything the Brothers did while under Disney’s thumb. “Cake by the Ocean” wisely doesn’t take itself too seriously, but the lack of pretension doesn’t make up for the song’s lazy aping of old funk guitar riffs that made “Uptown Funk” such a hit, along with an overproduced club-friendly chorus designed to give dance crowds that extra dose of dopamine they so crave.
4. “Dangerous Woman” by Ariana Grande
There’s nothing inherently wrong with the music of Ariana Grande’s latest hit single. It might be a little simplified, but such things happen with pop music. There’s an effectively emotive guitar riff that repeats every few second and a plodding drumbeat that never really varies, but it’s all mixed so low between Grande’s showy vocals it might as well not matter. By turning the lyrics up loud and repeating the chorus slowly enough, Grande has tried and succeeded in making a radio hit out of a song that’s really lacking in any sort of catchy melody. It aims for slow power but only achieves blandness — with the exception of that guitar solo in the middle. That part’s cool.
5. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza” by Mike Posner
If I had to pick a song that sums up the monotony of popular dance music today, I just might choose “I Took a Pill in Ibiza.” The hit checks all the major boxes for a boringly engineered club banger, including a repetitive instrumental break, casual references to drugs, simplified melody, a hushed breakdown with artificial syncopated rhythms and a constantly repeating synth effect you’ve heard repeatedly. It may get people moving, which is the intention I suppose, but it certainly won’t stand the test of time.
6. “No” by Meghan Trainor
Meghan Trainor might easily have been a one-hit wonder with her ubiquitous hit “All About the Bass,” but she’s still all over the radio airwaves with an unfortunate followup single, “No.” The song epitomizes pop songwriting laziness, given its lack of much actual content — how many times do they say the title word? It sounds so artificial in production, and not even in a modern way, but instead in a way that recalls some of Britney Spears’ worst early singles.
7. “Work from Home” by Fifth Harmony
Did I say “No” epitomizes pop laziness? Because I may have been wrong, given the sparse musical production that characterizes the eye-rolling verses of Fifth Harmony’s “Work from Home.” The members of the female group take turns singing similar lyrics harping on the same repetitive, even regressive theme of a woman waiting for her man to return from work to give her a few hours of good loving. The choruses are appropriately awash in synths and hooks but even they can’t hide how unfinished “Work from Home” sounds.
8. “One Call Away” by Charlie Puth
The big single off Charlie Puth’s debut album sounds tailor-made to receive a few hours of radio airplay a week, simply because it’s so inoffensive and derivative that most people will probably assume they’ve heard it before. The false, gospel-like reverence and obligatory references to “superman” help this song feel like something bigger than it is, when in fact it’s nothing more than a bland ballad that sounds just like “See You Again” (which Puth cowrote) or any number of Ed Sheeran songs.
Follow Jeff Rindskopf on Twitter @jrindskopf
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