Ah, yes. 2012. The year I graduated from high school and Obama was re-elected for a second term. Out of the entire decade, 2012 is easily one of the best years of the 2010s for popular music. This was the beginning of the indie boom where songs from the alternative side of folk, rock, and pop would notch hits that would define the year. Hip-hop was in a transitional period heading towards what would become the dark, dreary sounds of trap that would dominate the latter half of the decade. R&B, pop, and country were also pretty solid this year. While 2012 was a good year, it’s not perfect, either, as it still has some real stinkers. So let’s begin our look at the worst songs that 2012 had to offer. But first, some dishonorable mentions.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS I
So this year, I gave Carly Rae Jepsen another chance after not initially buying into the hype and I can safely say that I’m a fan. While she’s not one of my favorites, her brand of catchy synthpop hooked me in and I was just enjoying it. Her last two albums are really good (though I prefer Emotion, which I might review sometime this year). While this has softened my stance on Call Me Maybe, which originally was in the Top 10 due to annoying the piss out of me through overplay and memes, it’s still an idiotically immature “love at first sight” song where Carly Rae gives a guy she like her phone number and waits for him to call like a hormonal teenage girl (BTW, she was 26 when this song was released, so ponder on that). The most egregious part is where she says she misses the guy even though they just met. It reminds of I Knew I Loved You from Savage Garden, which had a similar premise in loving somebody whose name you don’t even know. The reason this song isn’t on the list proper is because I can see its appeal and it is catchy enough for some people to forgive (not forget) the shitty writing. Now, Carly Rae Jepsen is cool in my book. It’s just a shame that her biggest hit sucks ass.
Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded is a terrible album, a garish mish-mash of mediocre rap tracks and overproduced dance gunk for the clubs. It was clear that Nicki Minaj sold out to appeal to the lowest common denominator and no track from that disaster is more indicative of this than Starships. It’s horribly mixed, the drop sounds like synthesized ass, and Nicki turns the annoying brainlessness up to eleven with nonsensical lyrics. It isn’t the worst Nicki Minaj song in 2012 since the public was smart enough to not make Stupid Hoe a hit (remember that one?). No amount of personality could save this starship from crashing and burning.
Ah, here’s the Maroon 5 that we all love to hate. The soulless shell that now operates as an Adam Levine vanity project released Overexposed in 2012, which featured One More Night. The production features stiff guitar riffs co-opting a reggae groove that has been watered down and Adam Levine’s falsetto has gotten worse through the years. The same can be applied to his douchebaggery as this is another bad relationship song where Adam wants this girl to stay because he enjoys the sex so much. Even worse is that this song is the reason why Gangnam Style never hit number one on the Hot 100. I know this was before Billboard made it easier for viral songs to become bigger hits, but did anyone outside of soccer moms really wanted to hear this screeching turd? This won’t be the last time that I’ll talk about Maroon 5 on this list, though, so stick around for that.
At this point, it was clear that the public would eat up anything with Drake’s name on it regardless of the fluctuating quality of said material. This brings us to The Motto, which popularized the phrase Y.O.L.O. (you only live once), which had been repeated by obnoxious numbskulls chasing trends. That is the only noteworthy thing about this song as the production is dull and flaccid, both Drake and Lil Wayne sound bored, and the lyrics don’t really say anything that profound or deep, it’s just a bunch of bragging. You could play Rap Mad-Libs with this song and get the same result every single time, that’s how utterly worthless it is. Here’s a motto to go by: make better music.
I never got a chance to talk about Jason Mraz here, so this is a perfect opportunity to do so. I’m not a fan. His brand of doughy, whitebread acoustic guitar music has never been that appealing to me. I’ve listened to I’m Yours and I did not need to listen to that again, especially the Lil Wayne remix. He scored his second biggest hit with I Won’t Give Up. In it, Jason Mraz is trying to get back into a relationship that didn’t work out and it comes off very pushy when you analyze the lyrics where he goes “God knows we’re worth it,” and how he’ll wait until this woman decides to be with him again. Bro, move on. Also, the music is a saccharine snoozefest that sounds at home on adult contemporary radio. So, yeah. This isn’t good. Let’s move on.
Now onto the list.
The number 10 song goes to Justin Bieber. At this point, the Biebs had turned 18 and is at the point of his career where he wants to be taken seriously as an adult. This is one of those attempts at maturity, but as you’ll find out, it ultimately falls flat on its face.
Aside from taking its title from a much better Backstreet Boys song, As Long As You Love Me is a mess of a song. First, the production uses a dubstep sound and like a lot of dubstep, it does not hold up. Bieber is selling a love that could never be broken, even through the roughest times and it doesn’t hold weight because of how awful the writing is. It’s full of cliches and empty platitudes.
As long as you love me
We could be starving, we could be homeless, we could be broke
As long as you love me
I'll be your platinum, I'll be your silver, I'll be your gold
I'll be your soldier,
Fighting every second of the day for your dreams, girl
I'll be your Hova
You could be my Destiny's Child on the scene girl
Oh, but Bieber’s not the only one subjected to bad writing because we also have the featured artist Big Sean and his corny ass dad jokes. Get a taste of this.
I don't know if this makes sense, but you're my hallelujah
A couple of things I can't spell without 'U'
You, you the one that I argue with, I feel like I need a new girl to be bothered with,
If you have to say that you don’t know if your comment makes sense, chances are high it doesn’t make sense. Oh, and that last line? Kinda undercuts the whole “love is forever” message that this song is trying to push. Yeah, no. This is insufferable. Get it out of here.
Number 9 is an obvious choice for a list like this. Nearly every worst songs of 2012 list that I’ve seen has included it somewhere. It’s an easy target, but it’s earned its scorn for a reason.
Let’s get the obvious out the way: the chorus is one of the most obvious blowjob innuendos in music history. Seriously, blow my whistle? What else could that mean? The rest of the chorus is also poorly thought-out as it implies that Flo-Rida is going to demonstrate to this girl how to do it. What, is he gonna pull a banana and fellate it? That’d be a sight to hold. All joking aside, Whistle has other problems outside of the chorus. The production is a slimy mess of acoustic guitars and over-compressed drums. And let’s not forget the whistling because that’s what a song called Whistle needed. While analyzing the lyrics to a Flo Rida song is mostly pointless because it’s more of the same empty content, there is a lot more doozies within the verses than I realize. This dude said he pulled a hamstring “trying to put it on ya,” which makes me think that Flo Rida has a dick so big, he has a hard time lifting it up. He also says his whistle is “ready to blow,” which is disgusting, and that his girl hits the same notes as his Bugatti. Do I even need to know what that means? This song was evidence enough for why we don’t need Flo Rida around.
The number 8 spot to a song that isn’t just boring, but it further enabled the career of a sexual predator. You’re damn right, I’m not letting that one go.
I can make a case that Rack City by Tyga has done some significant cultural damage not just to hip-hop, but to popular music as a whole. Let me explain why. For one, it was the first hit song produced by DJ Mustard and he introduced a formula that would be repeatedly imitated throughout the rest of the decade involving a minimalist beat with gang vocals. There’s also Tyga, who seems to mistake monotone non-interest with cool as he raps with the enthusiasm of going to the DMV. If he doesn’t care, why should we? The lyrics contain terrible punchlines relating to Michael Jackson, weed, and having a girl’s grandmother on his dick. Lovely. There’s also the fact that half of the song consists of the phrase “rack city” being repeated over and over. This is one city that I would never visit and you shouldn’t, either, especially if you want to avoid catching STDs. So I ask again, why did the music world let Tyga stick around?
I’ve mentioned several times how disappointed I was in Nicki Minaj and 2012 was one of the breaking points for me. And it’s not limited to the Roman Reloaded album. Here’s my number 7 pick.
At this point, David Guetta was starting to overstay his welcome. Without You with Usher was decent enough, but he was working on a limited formula that’s starting to dry. I got sick of hearing Titanium with Sia constantly and that song does not hold up well. But it’s nothing compared to Turn Me On with Nicki Minaj. Sweet buttery Moses, Turn Me On is awful. The production is a barrage of shrill synths and migraine-inducing percussion that dilutes into incoherent noise. Then, there’s the copious amount of Auto-Tune and other effects put on Nicki Minaj’s voice that transforms her from an eccentric character to a generic pop diva wannabe. In the very little rapping she does, it’s just incoherent nonsense. Annoying sounds like this are a complete turn-off to me.
For the number 6 spot, I initially struggled with what Maroon 5 song was going to be on the list, One More Night or what eventually did make the list. I eventually went with the song that bothered me more.
Payphone was one of the earliest songs I did a Target Practice on and looking back, it deserves all the scorn it has gotten. It’s another song where Adam Levine is trying to get back with an ex-girlfriend who clearly wants to move on and the big turn-off of this song is how pissy Adam is, forced profanity and all. Geez, I wonder why things didn’t work out between you two. There’s also Adam’s singing and this is where his falsetto dives straight into tedious territory, especially with the Auto-Tune used here. It makes him sound more like an entitled whiny douchehole. The music does nothing to help, being this bland keyboard-driven glob that sounds like it was made by a studio producer rather than a band. Then there’s Wiz Khalifa, who aside from not trying to rhyme anything, comes in with an completely unrelated verse about his car and haters. It’s like they told him what the song was gonna be about and he said, “man, fuck that shit,” and dropped this. It’s not the worst song that Maroon 5 have ever made, but it’s one of many soulless cash cows that signified the creative bankruptcy of Adam Levine.
Before we continue, here are the final dishonorable mentions.
DISHONORABLE MENTIONS II
This song was doomed from the moment it started. Bieber worked with Mike Posner for Boyfriend, which is an attempt to emulate Justin Timberlake’s early hits like Like I Love You, but watered-down and all of the cool elements of that song gone. This leaves us with an empty, unconvincing, wimpy, charisma-free counterfeit that features some embarrassing lyrics where Bieber compares himself to Buzz Lightyear and constantly says “swag,” tryin way too hard to be cool. Did I ever mentioned that he raps in this and he sucks at it? Did I also mentioned that this is how he begins the song? That was his first step forward and he instantly fumbled it. Like I said, doomed from the start.
One of the biggest conceptions about Taylor Swift is that she just makes music about boys and breakups, which is missing the big picture when it comes to her discography. She’s made songs about other subject matters if you bother to dig deeper. However, with her first number one hit, We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, she became the stereotype of what her detractors view her as, employing the voice of an annoying teenage valley girl who broke up with her boyfriend and is throwing unsubtle shade at him, going at his indie record that’s cooler than hers (it probably is) while dipping her feet into making straight-up pop music, though I’ve always viewed her as a pop artist. With this song, Taylor began her metamorphosis into Regina George from Mean Girls, with the same vindictive cattiness. It’s just sad and immature.
Honestly, the main reason Blow Me (One Last Kiss) is on here is because of the chorus, which is a blaring, overproduced clusterfuck of synths and punchy drums that don’t mix well with Pink’s over-singing, which makes listening to this song a chore to get through. And when you look at the writing, it’s sloppy and it’s sending mixed messages as a kiss-off to an ex where Pink exclaims that both parties had a “shit day.” As someone who is a Pink fan, I’m disappointed in this track. She’s capable of doing so much better.
So Fortune was a thing that happened. It was Chris Brown’s fifth album and it’s not just his worst album, but it’s one of the worst albums of the entire decade. Turn Up The Music is a good representation of what most of the album is like. The production consists gaudy, overblown synths, and thin percussion that’s horribly mixed. It’s just rampant, unlistenable noise. Chris Brown is drowning in Auto-Tune that amplifies his obnoxiousness up to maximum levels with his constant yelping and interpolating a nursery rhyme. Seriously. This is supposed to be a song to dance to, yet I don’t get the feeling of wanting to dance, I want to leave the place immediately.
And on the subject of club songs that doesn’t sound any fun, we have We Run The Night from Havana Brown. The original is a forgettable club song with Havana Brown’s nasally Auto-Tuned voice, empty content, and a shrill drop, but then it became a hit thanks to the RedOne remix with Pitbull. That version compressed the vocals even more, added more pulsing synths, and made the drop even more shrill. And you’d expect Pitbull to be this song’s redeeming factor, but he does not sound enthusiastic here, especially when he ends his verse with, “now fuck you, pay me.” Yeah, I sympathize with Pitbull here. I’d want my money quick if I had to contribute anything to this shitty song.
In 1996, Men In Black was released in theaters. It had the title track in its soundtrack performed by Will Smith and it was awesome. In 2002, Men In Black II was released and had Black Suits Coming (Nod Ya Head), also performed by Will Smith. It was alright, but it was no Men In Black. In 2012, Men In Black III was released and had the number 5 song on this list performed by you all know where this is going.
This was long overdue, but now, I can finally talk about Back In Time by Pitbull, which ties in to the third Men In Black movie that you’ve all mostly forgotten about (be honest). It’s an example of how not to do a song for a soundtrack. First, the sample. The stiff production samples a guitar riff from the 1956 hit Love Is Strange by Mickey & Sylvia, which doesn’t make sense since MiB III takes place in 1969, a whole 13 years after that song. A lot can change in that timespan, so they got the wrong decade. Seriously, you couldn’t sample anything from the 60s? There’s plenty of sample-worthy material to go around. Second, Pitbull is phoning it in. He spends the entire song bragging about himself and what little references there are to Men In Black are peripheral at best. If you removed those lines, you wouldn’t think that this was a song for Men In Black. And finally, the dubstep bridge. Yeah, it’s one of those last-minute additions that tonally doesn’t fit the song at all and makes it even more dated. Clearly, Pitbull didn’t give a NUMBER TWO about making this a good song. Let’s not go back in time for this mess.
Number 4 is a tie from two near-identical songs from a band who have overstayed their welcome. Train, ladies and gentlemen.
I had a hard time picking which song was going to be on this spot, so I went with both because they suck in similar and different ways. In Drive By, Pat Monahan falls in love with a girl he had a one-night stand with and wants to pursue a relationship with her. Like a lot of bad Train songs, it suffers from bland instrumentation and some truly asinine lyrics.
Just a shy guy looking for a two-ply
Hefty bag to hold my love
On the upside of a downward spiral
My love for you went viral
I didn't need you until I came to
Oh, and there’s also this little gem.
'Cause you moved to west LA
Or New York or Santa Fe
Or wherever to get away from me
This implies that this woman has moved away in order to get away from Pat Monohan because he wouldn’t stop stalking her. And this is framed as romantic. No. This isn’t romantic, this is creepy. I wouldn’t be surprised if this woman filed a restraining order against this dude. And then there’s 50 Ways To Say Goodbye, where Pat admits he can’t accept getting dumped, so instead of facing reality, he lists off all the outlandish ways that his girlfriend died and we’re supposed to find this funny. Considering its place on this list, it didn’t work because Pat Monahan portrays himself as an idiot. Also, the mariachi horns is flaccid and the melody rips off Phantom Of The Opera. Well, the one upside to this is that after these two songs, Train never got another Top 40 hit again, though they came close with 2016’s Play That Song, which peaked at number 41. It’s for the best because I don’t think we can tolerate any more Train like this.
If you want a song to get on my bad side, annoying the shit out of me is a good way to do so and that’s exactly what my number 3 pick did the moment I first subjected my ears to it.
How appropriate that this song starts with the sound I make whenever I hear it, a pain-induced grunt. Get used to that when you listen to the song in full, BTW. Cher Lloyd was a contender on Simon Cowell’s X-Factor where she finished in fourth place. Afterwards, she signed to Cowell’s label Syco where she released songs like Swagger Jagger, which thankfully didn’t make a dent here in the US, and Want U Back. Want U Back is the sort of insufferable, unlistenable pop music that I can’t stand. Cher Lloyd comes off REALLY unlikeable here as she disses an ex-boyfriend after seeing him in town with his current girlfriend. A reminder that she was the one who dumped him in the first place because, in her own words, he had no game and now, she wants him back because she felt some type of way about him moving on. It’s that petty, childish sense of entitlement that kills any enjoyability for this song. It’s the music equivalent of Stan Twitter at its worst. Also doesn’t help that the production is compete garbage, a mesh of cheap synths burying the guitar riff in the mix. It’s not pleasant to listen to. There is an audience for this type of pettiness, I’m not in that audience.
I’ve seen people defend what would become my number 2 pick as a “so-bad-it’s-good” song. That’s fine, people have their opinions and I can see where they’re coming. I just want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that a rose-shaped and tinted turd is still a turd at the end of the day.
I mean, look. The title of the song is the real punchline here. I’ve always been lukewarm when it comes to Big Sean. He’s capable of making some great music, but he’s also got a bunch of stinkers under his belt, including Dance (A$$). The main reason this song is as high as it is on this list is because it’s repetitive as fuck. The word “ass” is repeated ad-nauseum (dance in the clean version) like a torture technique that even the people who run Guantanamo Bay consider it too inhumane. As for the production? What production? It’s just 808 bass, hand claps, and a sample of MC Hammer’s U Can’t Touch This used in the drop and pitch-shifted to chipmunk levels on the verses. While we’re on the verses, there’s not much to talk about. It’s about asses, end of story. And because this song isn’t annoying enough, there’s a remix with Nicki Minaj at her worst, who decided to stretch out the last syllable of one line and while I was already checked out from the rest of the song, this sealed it for me. This shit is a cartoon and not even a good cartoon like Avatar: The Last Airbender or Samurai Jack, but one of those cheap Spongebob knockoffs that amplifies the worst, most annoying aspects of that show up to its limit. Long story short, Dance (A$$) is ass.
Once again, my number one pick is an obvious choice. Most people have this song on their worst list, some topping them. But like I said in the past, there are moments where the general consensus is correct and this is one of those moments. A collaboration that should have NEVER happened. Even the artists involved viewed this as a colossal mistake and have furthered distanced themselves from it as the years go by, hoping it’ll be forgotten in the cracks of history. Ladies and gentlemen, Birthday Cake.
Decades from now, music historians will look back upon Birthday Cake and ponder, “how did we get to that point in time?” Birthday Cake was an interlude on Rihanna’s Talk That Talk album that was a minute and 18 seconds. Then, she worked with her ex Chris Brown on an extended remix. Both Rihanna and Chris Brown hit career lows at this point, so they thought working together was a good idea. Big mistake that was because sweet mother of Mary, this song is atrocious. The production is a disaster of buzzing synths that sounds like a dentist drill burrowing into your brain along with some horribly mixed drums and alarm sounds like they’re warning you to bail out while you still can. This can generate migraines and just as migraine-inducing is the word “cake” being repeated numerous times on the hook. This is more like a collection of noises rather than a complete song. Let’s talk about the content. It’s one thing if Rihanna wanted to make a sexually provocative song that pushes a few buttons on taste, but there is such a thing as going too far, especially when you use cake as a metaphor for sex. And they go super explicit with the metaphors to where it’s not even sexy, especially with how checked-out Rihanna sounds. We also have Chris Brown, who can’t seem to stop making himself look worse with the ways he wants to fuck Rihanna. He’s been missing her body for a long time and he wants to do it in the worst way. Not the kind of words one wants to hear from an abuser. Yes, I know she forgave him for what he did, but not everyone has nor will they forget. This is gross, cheap controversy bait that shouldn’t have even made it outside of the studio was made in. In a better world, this would have ended the careers of both Rihanna and Chris Brown. But sadly, we don’t live in a better world. Let’s dump this expired cake into the black hole of obscurity. Birthday Cake, the worst hit song of 2012 and possibly the worst hit song of the entire decade.
And those were the worst songs of 2012. In two weeks, I’ll be doing the Worst Songs of 2013.
SONG OF THE WEEK