2011 is one of those transitional years where there’s a noticeable shift in the trends compared to the previous year. It’s also considered to be one of the better years, which is true. This was the start of the club boom’s waning influence. Pop divas dominated and competed with one another as they scored massive hits, but none of them conquered the charts like Adele, whose 21 album would become one of the most successful albums of the decade. There’s also the precursors to the indie boom and retro-influenced tunes that would be more prominent in later years. 2011 reminds me a lot of 1992 in that it’s a bridge between the decade before it and the one after. Of all the lists I’ve done, this is one year that has gone through several changes because I couldn’t agree on the final results. But I made it happen, so let’s get started with some dishonorable mentions.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS I
This was the beginning of what I believe is the downward spiral of Maroon 5’s music quality. Moves Like Jagger attempts to emulate the Rolling Stones, but has none of the grit and swagger that makes up the band’s best songs thanks to the colorless guitar riffs, that ugly bass, and those fake drums. Then there’s the nonexistent chemistry between Adam Levine and Christina Aguilera, with the latter sounding like a last-minute addition. While we’re on the subject of emulating the Rolling Stones, I have a feeling that most young listeners will imagine that Adam Levine will act like a floppy senior citizen in bed when comparing himself to Mick Jagger. Not saying that applies to Mick himself, who’s still got it for a man his age, but not everyone is familiar with the Rolling Stones. Overall, not the worst Maroon 5 song, but it’s still not good considering the domino effect it’ll cause in the years to come.
Over the years, I’ve gone back and forth between liking this song and disliking it. But as you can see, I’ve settled on disliking it. I’m fine with Pumped Up Kicks musically, but I have issues with everything else. I don’t like the weird filter put on Mark Foster’s voice that makes it hard to tell what he’s saying and I didn’t care for the whistling on the bridge. But the biggest blunder of this song is that it’s a school shooter anthem a.k.a. that’s exactly what the song is about, complete with cowboy imagery and the chorus warning potential victims to run. Considering the influx of mass shootings that would occur after this song came out, it’s hard to go back and listen to it. The way it handles this subject matter reminds me of how the Joker movie handled mental illness and class warfare, having ultimately nothing to say and ends up being shallow and tone-deaf in hindsight. This was one of those songs that helped usher in a resurgence of charting indie music, but that doesn’t make it good, either.
Letting Jeremih have hits still remains one of the most confusing decisions the public has ever made because this dude has nothing to offer. Well, he scored his second hit in 2011 with Down On Me, a lackluster strip club song that’s heavy on the Auto-Tune and light in terms of production, which features fragmented synths and an overmixed beat. 50 Cent shows up for the last successful song he’s ever been on and he shows why the general public stopped giving a shit about his music because he’s still creatively stagnant. Then again, creative stagnation hasn’t stopped Jeremih from scoring more hits. All he has to do is hop on whatever’s trending and thus, we get more mediocre music.
Question: who thought it was a good idea to let Lil Wayne record an acoustic guitar ballad showcasing his “sensitive side?” That person needs a serious psychiatric examination because How To Love is terrible. Aside from the production sounding cheap as hell and the awful slurred delivery, it takes a page out of the Drake playbook where Wayne turns his attention to this one girl who he wants to save from the “crooks” who stole her heart and tell her how to love. This comes off condescending and manipulative as hell when you remember that this man has made several songs about his sexual escapades and would later release Love Me. So pardon me if I don’t buy the sincerity of this track for one second.
In 2011, Eminem and Royce da 5’9 released Hell: The Sequel under the name Bad Meets Evil and it was really good. It sucks, though, that the biggest hit from that project is a tonal whiplash compared to the hard-hitting, flame-spitting bangers. Instead, we get Lighters, which features lightweight production and no focus as while Bruno Mars attempts to deliver an inspiring hook, Eminem sounds ultimately bitter and Royce is just all over the place. I’ve done an entire Target Practice on this song, so go check that out. For a song that aims to uplift, it failed spectacularly in that regards and I can’t think of any time or place where it could work. It’s best to let this fire just burn out by itself.
Now onto the list.
While we’re on the topic of Eminem in 2011 and disappointments, here’s my number 10 pick, which also drags down a legendary producer who has innovated the rap game since the 80s.
At this point, Dr. Dre was supposed to release Detox, which had been announced a decade prior, but kept getting delayed. Several songs leaked, including I Need A Doctor with Eminem and Skylar Grey. Let me get this out the way: this is not a Dr. Dre song. This is a bad Recovery reject that just so happens to feature Dre. First off, the production is a cluttered dumpster fire with some of the worst mixing ever, courtesy of Alex Da Kid. I didn’t expect to get a rehash of either The Chronic or 2001, but I expected a Dr. Dre song to have better production than this. Skylar Grey contributes a sloppily-mixed generic hook and Eminem has two verses where he’s screaming at Dre to get off his ass and finish the album. Hell, at certain points, it almost sounds like a love confession. I know Eminem owes his career to Dre, but this is laying it a bit too thick here. Speaking of Dre, he gets the third and final verse, which confirms my theory of this sounding like a love confession as Dre says Em is all he needs. Later on, Dre would scrap Detox and would instead release Compton as his third album, which is for the best because if Detox would have been released as planned with shit like this, it would have been D.O.A.
Hi, Chris Brown. You’re at number 9.
Look At Me Now is one of those cases where one single element can bring an entire song down like a rotten apple spoils the entire bunch. The only reason this song isn’t any higher on the list is because Busta Rhymes and Lil Wayne gave good verses to the song and outside of the oily synth, the beat isn’t that bad. But remember what I said about one element ruining an entire song and that element is Chris Brown, who decided that he was gonna rap on here and he SUUUUUUUUCKS. He’s mainly bragging about himself in the most douchebaggery way possible and spends most of his second verse talking about his dick. The man is the walking definition of toxic masculinity. Hell, setting aside the sewage that spews out of Chris Brown, neither Busta Rhymes or Lil Wayne were really say anything. With Busta, he’s just rapping fast, which might seem impressive then, but considering how frequently fast rapping has been abused to death and used to cover up for not saying anything of substance (including this song), the novelty has worn off. I wish we could look away from Chris Brown forever.
If you thought one douchebag was bad, how about two douchebags? Because I can’t come up with a better transition to the number 8 spot. Not like they deserve it, though.
In the last year of their relevance, the New Boyz released their second album and scored two hits from it, the Chris Brown-assisted Better With The Lights Off (which missed the YE chart thankfully) and Backseat with Dev and the Cataracs (which did make the YE chart sadly). While the former song is infinitely worse, the latter is still an overproduced gunk of messy synths and bass with some hideous mixing in the process. It’s even worse in the chorus, where the vocals are drowning in pitch-shifting and Auto-Tune and Dev remains a non-presence as usual. And let’s not even get started on the lyrics. The New Boyz are hitting on some girls and provide some half-baked punchlines this side of Lil Wayne with none of the presence or wit.
This ain't no country club we 'bout to get this party rockin
I heard you had a baby, you want a New Boy in you?
I mean, the fact that one of these motherfuckers said the last line is enough for it to make the list on that alone. No amount of backseat loving can make up for this song’s existence.
My number 7 goes to a song that I’ve forgotten about when I previously made this list. Then again, so have most people. So I gave it another listen and it all made sense.
Early in his career, Jason Derulo relied upon the sample-heavy J.R. Rotem formula for hits and that’s continued even without J.R. Rotem in Don’t Wanna Go Home. The main reason this song is on the list is the fact that it butchers not one, not two, but THREE samples: the melody rips off Robin S.’s 1993 hit Show Me Love and there’s interpolations of Lil Jon’s Get Low and, most egregious of all, Day-O (The Banana Boat Song) by Harry Belafonte. Why does the latter bother me more? Because Day-O is a classic Jamaican work song about working all night and wanting to go home when the morning comes. Jason Derulo took that and made it into a shitty dance song with horrendously dated production that’s only enjoyed when played in a club at 2 o’clock in the morning when everyone should be going home. I don’t know about you, but I would not stick around at a party when this song is playing. Oh, and Lil Wayne sampled the same song as this for 6 Foot 7 Foot the exact same year and did it better. This won’t be the last song you’ll see that butchers a classic, though. Prep yourselves for that.
There are a lot of easy targets, songs that are considered to be universally bad where even the artist themselves have distanced themselves from it. My number 6 pick is one of those songs.
You know, Bruno Mars? Just because you intentionally call your song lazy, that doesn’t mean it’s free from criticism. And there are plenty of things to criticize about The Lazy Song. First off, the music. Bruno decides to take a page out the Jason Mraz book of doughy, white-guy-and-acoustic-guitar non-effort, complete with whistling. Bruno isn’t white, but he sure is checking all the other marks of this style right down to the writing. I know that the song is supposed to be about being lazy, but that shouldn’t extend to the writing, which is filled with piss-poor attempts at humor. Highlights of the song includes jacking off, doing the dougie in a snuggie, doing some P90x, and waking around naked with his dick hanging out. Yeah, no one needs to listen to this. This panders to stoner/fratboy dudebros and they have enough songs pandering to them, so let’s not go into that well again. Thankfully, Bruno Mars has moved on from this embarrassment and has been making better music. It’s nothing groundbreaking, but I’d rather he make more retro throwbacks than another Lazy Song as long as he lives.
Before we continue, here are the final dishonorable mentions.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS II
There’s many examples you can pick for bad country/rap fusions and Dirt Road Anthem is easily one of those examples. This is Jason Aldean’s biggest hit and while it’s no Burnin’ It Down, it’s absolutely crap. The obvious flaw here is that Jason Aldean decided to rap and he sounds terrible, especially compared to an actual rapper like Ludacris, who’s featured on here. For some reason, they added a beat to Luda’s verse and it does not mesh well with the rest of the production. Expect to see more of these country/rap fusions in later lists.
Wow, there is a lot of hip-hop from the early 2010s that do not hold up and No Hands is one of those songs. It’s another strip club song that’s not fun to listen to thanks to the lifeless production with the fake horns, flimsy bass, and cheap percussion. Roscoe Dash’s high-pitched nasal voice is annoying to listen to as we have to hear him on the chorus and in the final verse, Waka Flocka Flame has one verse of limited bars and nonstop ad-libs, and Wale continues to disappoint as he wastes his talents on strip club cliches. Out of all three men, Wale is probably the one with the best career path as he’s able to notch a couple of hits for himself while Waka Flocka these days is known more for reality TV than any music. And as for Roscoe Dash? Well, nobody cares about Roscoe Dash and that’s all you need to know.
So Britney Spears had a big 2011, scoring three songs in the Year End chart. I didn’t like any of them, but I Wanna Go is easily the worst out of the bunch. It’s a good representation of why I was never a fan of Britney in the first place. It’s a song about letting loose, which the producers took literally as the production to this is a cluttered mess of synths and percussion and the constant stuttering in the vocals are egregiously annoying. This is unlistenable noise that’s represented a good chunk of the club boom that has aged horribly. I wanna go, alright, somewhere away from this song.
Empowerment anthems were huge in the early 2010s to mixed results. Keri Hilson’s Pretty Girl Rock was on the bad end of these empowerment anthems. By now, everyone has made fun of the awkward rhyme scene, especially when she goes, “My name is Keri, I’m so very.” That, plus, the drums aren’t mixed well with the pianos in the production. But the real reason this song fails is in how egotistical it is since it’s centered around Keri’s attractiveness. The real message of the song is don’t hate her because she’s beautiful. Yeah, that explains why this doesn’t hold up and why Keri Hilson hasn’t stuck around. She could have done so much better.
It always nice to know that Luke Bryan has been consistently awful as he’s one of the pioneers of what would become bro country. Country Girl (Shake It For Me) has most of the hallmarks that would define the palette of bro country. The overproduced instrumentation with an unsettling synth line, the smug, punchable delivery from Luke Bryan himself, and the asinine lyrics all centered on a girl shaking her ass. Aside from the music, how is this any different from any number of shitty rap songs made for strip clubs? I’ll tell you how, none. Because this is trash.
These days, Katy Perry is pretty much a has-been, but a decade ago, she was at the prime of her career, scoring several number one hits off of her Teenage Dream album. But while the title track and Firework are good, my number 5 pick on this list is just atrocious all-around.
E.T. is the biggest mistake with the E.T. name on it since the Atari video game of the same name back in the 80s. The music sounds like the producers just threw every alien-sounding synthesizers together alongside a beeping sound and a drum loop that rips off We Will Rock You. There’s no coherent melody to this production, it’s just noise, the type of noise that makes actual aliens avoid Earth at all costs. All the effects put on Katy Perry’s voice and the constant stuttering about the alien she’s in love with doesn’t help matters, it just makes a messy track even messier. And just when you thought this song couldn’t get any worse, here comes Kanye West, who spends most of his time talking about alien sex and oh, boy. These lyrics.
I'm tryna bathe my ape (ape)
In your Milky Way (Way)
They're callin' me an alien, a big-headed astronaut
Maybe it's because your boy Yeezy get ass a lot
Pockets on Shrek, rockets on deck
Tell me what's next? Alien sex
I'mma disrobe you
Then I'mma probe you
See I've abducted you
So I'll tell you what to do
I tell you what to do, what to do, what to do
I mean, … what do you want me to say about this? It speaks for itself. It’s very telling that whenever people talk about Katy Perry hits, this one doesn’t get mentioned a lot and for good reason. Let’s continue letting this dying star collapse in a black hole.
So in the last list, I mentioned how a lot of artists hopped on the club boom for hits at the time and Enrique Iglesias was one of them. Well, here’s the worst thing he’s ever made at number 4.
This song came so close to topping the list numerous times. That’s how bad it is. Tonight (I’m Fuckin’ You) (also known as Tonight (I’m Lovin’ You) in the clean version) is another one of Enrique Iglesias’ electro-dance tracks and it’s one of his worst songs. The main reason for that is how pushy it is. The way he tells this girl, “I don’t mean to be rude, but tonight, I’m fuckin’ you,” isn’t sexy or cool, it’s just pushy and forceful. A lot of these pickup lines have the aura of a man desperate to get his rocks off. Hell, even Ludacris is phoning it in with one of his weakest verses to date where even he doesn’t sound like he’s having fun. There’s also the production, courtesy of DJ Frank E, and it’s pretty bad thanks to the glitchy synths on the drop and a groove that sounds like a zipper going back and forth. Eventually, Enrique would go back to doing more songs in Spanish while Ludacris would eventually release an album, but he seems more focused on acting in the Fast & Furious movies. This song is a disappointment from both Enrique Iglesias and Ludacris, who are capable of doing so much better.
If the 2010s proved anything, it’s that rock music was pretty much nonexistent on the charts. It’s reached a point where the definition of rock has been stretched to include folk and indie songs. Well, I believe that songs like my number 3 pick were part of the reason why.
I’ve always hated this song when it first came out and my opinions on it haven’t changed at all since. Tonight Tonight by Hot Chelle Rae is a BAD song by every definition of the word. Let’s start with the production, which leans heavy into the poppiest of pop rock territory with its synths and basic-ass melody. This sounds like something made for Radio Disney. And then there’s the writing, which has no coherency or substance whatsoever as the lead singer mentions the bad week he had where his girlfriend broke up with him and he got a tattoo of her mixed with Zack Galifianakis. What does any of this have to do with one another, I have no idea because there’s no detail or anything that connects them. They just threw a bunch of ideas together and wrote it down without thinking about how it’ll come together. It’s cynical, disposable pop music that blew up thanks to Glee (and one of the bandmates is related to an actor from the show), but then again, Glee helped a lot of songs become successful in its run. Hot Chelle Rae is a band that was not destined to last as the last hit they had was a collaboration with the New Boyz of all people. I don’t miss these guys at all and chances are I don’t have to worry about hearing from them ever again. Good.
Number 2 goes to a song that initially topped my list and it further showed that just when you thought that this group can’t get any worse, they prove you wrong in the worst possible way.
After the success of The E.N.D., the Black Eyed Peas would release their next album, The Beginning, which ironically, was the end of their popularity. Hell, 2011 in general was not good for the Peas since critics ravaged the album and everyone hated their Super Bowl performance that year. With songs like The Time (Dirty Bit), it’s not hard to understand why. Let’s get the obvious out the way: they interpolated the 1987 classic (I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life performed by Bill Medley and Jennifer Warnes and took a big ol’ shit on it by using it as a build-up to a grainy fart of a drop along with will.i.am saying “dirty bit.” And it’s a shame because the build-up wasn’t even that bad, but then that drop comes in and squanders everything. will.i.am brings a standard verse that exists and Fergie is just drowning in Auto-Tune in a verse where she says nothing of value. And then there’s apl.de.ap, who didn’t even try. This motherfucker did the swagger/Mick Jagger rhyme and rhymed “maggots” with “baddest.” Creative bankruptcy. After The Beginning, the Peas took a hiatus and reunited a few years later without Fergie to put out a new album returning to their hip-hop roots. The crazy thing is that even though it’s nothing special, it was actually not that bad. Seriously, check out Masters Of The Sun Vol. 1 if you haven’t, it’s got some joints. Keep away from songs like The Time (Dirty Bit) meanwhile.
So what could possibly be worse than the Black Eyed Peas ruining an 80s classic? Well, for that, let’s go back to when I did my Worst of 1992 list, which was topped by Right Said Fred’s I’m Too Sexy. In that list, I compared it to what would become my number one pick since they share a lot of similarities. So it feels right that this would top the list.
It’s amazing to look back and see how quickly LMFAO rose and fell in popularity in the short window of time they were relevant. For those who either don’t know or have forgotten, LMFAO are an uncle/nephew duo related to the founder of Motown Records Berry Gordy whose contributions to the world are mindless electro-pop songs with two number one hits. I actually like Party Rock Anthem for being a dumb-but-fun song (plus, I was a shuffle master back in the day), but Sexy And I Know It is just plain dumb and not even a good dumb. The production can generate migraines with its loud, garish synths and drums. It doesn’t have the tightness or control that made the other song enjoyable to listen to. Just like the Right Said Fred song, it’s obnoxious with its in-your-face self-absorption that has nothing to say when you attempt to analyze it. It’s just some asshole bragging about his supposed sex appeal and waving his dick in front of the audience, literally in the case of the music video. It’s like those spoof movies from Aaron Seltzer and Jason Friedberg that mistakes crassness for any talent or effort being put into making funny jokes. That’s the reason why I, and many others, are kinder to Party Rock Anthem because while that song isn’t anything that amazing, it knew what it was and stuck to it while Sexy And I Know It tries to be funny and failed spectacularly. A bad comedy is really hard to get through not just because it didn’t make you laugh, but because it ultimately has nothing to offer but a waste of your time. Luckily for the world, this would be the last hit that LMFAO would ever have and after performing with Madonna at the Super Bowl, they went on a hiatus and faded into obscurity. When we reach the 2030s and that 2010s nostalgia kicks in, if people ever talk about LMFAO, I hope they mention Party Rock Anthem and leave this dumpster fire in the annals of obscure embarrassments where the likes of Disco Duck deservedly inhabit. Sexy And I Know It, the worst hit song of 2011.
And those were the worst songs of 2011. In two weeks, I’ll be doing the Worst Songs of 2012.
SONG OF THE WEEK
What A Fool Believes-Doobie Brothers