10. “7 Years,” Lukas Graham
Good luck explaining the meteoric popularity of this (yes, catchy) chewy contemporary pop-rock ballad, which makes a listener yearn for the artistic integrity of a band like Maroon 5.
9. “Private Show,” Britney Spears
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Britney Spears has never sounded like more of a caricature of herself than on “Private Show,” an attempt at a perky, minimalist pop track. But the superstar’s girly-girl voice gets distorted in overproduction, while uncomfortable allusions to working a stripper pole feel more forced than enticing.
8. “NO,” Meghan Trainor
When it was released in March, “No” was quickly labeled a feminist anthem—an ode to consent that was danceable to boot. Trainor has been criticized in the past for espousing anti-feminist messages in her lyrics and interviews, and “No,” on its surface, seemed like a corrective. But its message of empowerment is as flimsy as the melody is uninspired and repetitive. More troubling still, the song showcases what some have called her “blaccent,” a noteworthy example of the kind of cultural appropriation that has plagued popular music throughout its history.
7. “i hate u, i love u,” gnash
Forget the Chainsmokers and Halsey’s chart-conquering smash “Closer”—the most depressingly zeitgeist-defining song of 2016 is gnash’s piano ballad “i hate u, i love u,” with singer-songwriter Olivia O’Brien, which inexplicably rose to the Top 10 of the Hot 100 this year. The singsongy melody is obnoxious as an ice cream truck jingle, while the lifeless production drains it of any energy.
6. “I Took a Pill in Ibiza,” Mike Posner
Originally conceived as a folksy pop song in the vein of Jason Mraz, there was something clever about Posner’s withering takedown of drug-taking EDM bro culture. But the much more popular Seeb remix sapped it of its wit, turning it into the exact thing it was satirizing. What a comedown.
5. “Bad Things,” Machine Gun Kelly
Bless anyone who has the audacity to sample Fastball, and Fifth Harmony songbird Camila Cabello’s vocal hook is just fine. But if Cabello wants to make it big as a solo star, she’ll need more wattage than she finds with Machine Gun Kelly, whose milquetoast contribution takes this promising concept and deflates it.
4. “Ghostbusters (I’m Not Afraid),” Fall Out Boy & Missy Elliott
Sure, we were all rooting for the Ghostbusters movie, but this Hot Topic-friendly track, which features singer Patrick Stump repeatedly yelping the phrase “I’m not afraid” while a nameless chorus whispers the word “Ghostbusters!” is not the look. Poor Missy Elliott’s guest verse does nothing to improve the end result. This reboot deserved better.
3. “Team,” Iggy Azalea
Iggy Azalea’s slow-moving wannabe rap never picks up momentum, instead settling into a yawn-worthy rhythm that relies on heavy use of synth to provide needed texture. Even the chorus fails to switch it up. And while it’s good that Azalea’s lyrics aren’t particularly offensive, they just end up as forgettable filler.
2. “Mom,” Meghan Trainor
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On “Mom,” a bizarre humblebrag that frequently rhymes the word “mom” with “the bomb,” the pop star uses a phone call with her mother to remind listeners—in case you didn’t know—that she loves her mom.
1. “Can’t Stop the Feeling,” Justin Timberlake
Timberlake hadn’t debuted a solo track in nearly three years when he dropped this uninspired “song of the summer” contender. The insipid earworm—which was ostensibly recorded for an animated movie about trolls—became essentially unavoidable at any social gathering where someone in attendance was likely to use the phrase “cut loose.” Forget the feeling—just please, please stop this song.