The act of listening to music should ideally be pleasurable, but as fans, we don’t always get that privilege. This year was full of disappointment. Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes promoted and performed their collaboration “Senorita” with reckless, kissy abandon; and Taylor Swift provided a wealth of material to be mocked, in the form of her album Lover. As a bookend to Jezebel’s list of life-saving music, here are the songs of 2019 that came mired in mediocrity and which we would like to catapult off the surface of the moon. It’s not us. It’s them.
Featuring the worst opening line of a proposed love song maybe ever (“We could leave the Christmas lights up till January,” which is Swift giving permission to do something everyone in the United States already does), Swift makes her cynicism apparent. This is not an actual love song; it’s a limp declaration posing as a love song, the kind of thing someone writes about a person they’re pretty sure they’ll one day break up with, if in fact it was inspired by an actual human at all. Now Swift is a pop singer, so speaking to the masses part of her job. But the lyrical vagueness throughout her Lover album signals artistic stasis. Her writing simply is not more sophisticated now than it was five or even 10 years ago. It’s clear now that really good bubblegum is what Swift is (and perhaps only can) aspire to.
“Lover,” though is not really good bubblegum. It doesn’t even seem like she’s trying to convince us that any of these words are lived in (“And at every table, I’ll save you a seat,” are the words on which the song climaxes—wow so romantic, exercising the most basic of social graces to your significant other, I’m swooning). This sounds to me like she went for something iconic along the lines of Ed Sheeran’s wedding infiltrators “Thinking Out Loud” and “Perfect,” and when the song received a rather tepid response from the general pop audience, she doubled down and slapped Shawn Mendes on it. Ah yes, the king of unconvincing romantic chemistry rolls in to do his thing, leaving anyone above the age of 9 underwhelmed. His presence shot the song up the charts for a week or two before it resumed its decline. The culture remained unpenetrated. It’s one thing to write a mediocre song; it’s another thing to miss realizing that mediocre song’s diabolical, world-ruling ambitions multiple times. “Lover” fails on its own craven terms. Nice Mazzy Star reference, though. —Rich Juzwiak
Though the message is certainly worthwhile—take care of the Earth, because “it is our home”—Lil Dicky’s “Earth” is so idiotic and chaotic, it stresses me out to think about all the pop stars who lent their voice to become part of it. Like, why is Ariana Grande here? Or Bieber? Halsey? Wiz Khalifa? Snoop Dogg? Miley Cyrus? Miguel? Bad Bunny? I mean, even the Backstreet Boys showed up. Sonically, this is profane children’s music, and I hope to never hear it again. If VH1 is currently working on an “I Love the 2010s” series, I pray they skip over this cultural abomination. It really isn’t worth further evaluation. —Maria Sherman
I once heard this song at a Dennys in the middle of the desert at 3 a.m., while on a road trip after driving for five hours straight in a thunderstorm. The pancakes were dry, the coffee long soured, and a man in a corner booth was slowly using his knife to stab holes in the table. But the true nightmare that morning was this horrific melody blasting through the fluorescent-lit chain-diner. —Joan Summers
It’s easy to forget that Katy Perry dropped new music. But lest you do, she released a handful of songs, including this one, “365” (with Zedd), and “Harleys in Hawaii.” I love the concept: rumination about the awkward void created after a breakup. The chasm that leads to questions like, “So how’s your family...?” The problem with new Katy Perry songs, however, is that all of them feel like Katy Perry trying to capture the magic of old Katy Perry. The fact that part of this song’s hook is “blah blah blah blah” says enough. —Clover Hope
Selena Gomez’s popularity as an artist has always confounded me. I find her terrifyingly blank and not in the usual pop star way. Every once in awhile she releases a song and it gets wildly popular, but it sounds like a stranger is singing it, dosed up with extra autotune. All of this is to say when I saw Gomez struggle though this song on the American Music Awards (“She was nervous!” her fans cried) I wasn’t surprised, nor was I surprised by how boring this song is. Don’t make me stay awake to this. —Hazel Cills
The only good thing about Maroon 5 is the fact that Adam Levine was scummy-hot at one point in his life. Everything else about Maroon 5 is bad, including but not limited to this song, which to my very untrained ear has some sort of flair that is largely unearned and unnecessary. —Megan Reynolds
I could mildly deal with watered-down Daddy Yankee fusing reggaetón with white pop-reggae via “Con Calma,” theoretically connecting Snow’s 1992 hit “Informer” to the way Jamaican dancehall birthed a world of genres (reggaetón, jungle, grime, and the like). It hypothetically traced the way, over the past several decades, dancehall snaked through cities and countries and continents and paid homage to the way Daddy Yankee heard it on the radio as a kid. But when Katy Perry popped onto “Con Calma,” I had to tap out. Her wild little lyrics about “feeling spicy” (HEY, LATINAS!) and how “we don’t speak the same language” are so typical of the generic way she approaches features and cameos; she always invokes stereotypes, it’s just how musically she executes them, which so often are off-key and offbeat. I am fine if I never hear any version of this song again. —Julianne Escobedo Shepherd