It feels like almost every year, without fail, there's just that one song. No, it's not the song you loved so much that when you looked at your "Most Played" on iTunes you realized you played it 482 times (that's your favorite song). No, it's not the song all your friends said was stupid and you even thought was stupid but secretly you totally couldn't stop playing it because it was actually pretty awesome (that's your guilty pleasure). No, we're not talking about that song you thought would be a hit but simply wasn't (that's a song that should have blown up). We're talking about that song you HATE.
You don't just hate it, you hate it with passion. It brings the hate out of your heart. And the more people you meet who actually like it and—worse yet—defend it, the more the hate bubbles up in your gut and spews out of your mouth. Your friends might even try to reason with you.
"It was such a big hit though!"
"FUCK THAT. I HATE IT."
"You just need to hear it in the club!"
"FUCK THAT. I HATE IT."
"Sorry, but I've never heard of that song."
"WELL YOU SHOULD REALLY LISTEN TO IT SO YOU CAN UNDERSTAND HOW MUCH I HATE IT."
"But Complex named it one of the 50 Best Songs of 2013!"
"THAT MAKES ME HATE IT MORE!"
And so forth.
Believe it or not, we here at Complex are actual human beings (not a bunch of list-making robots) and there are songs we personally hate too. And we can't always explain why we hate something. We just know we do. In fact, we personally hate some of the songs most of our co-workers actually enjoy—which is why some of the hits that made our Best Songs list actually appear on this list. So we let our writing team loose and asked them pick those songs that drove them crazy, that made them upset or just downright angry. Here's what they had to say...
Mike Will Made It f/ Miley Cyrus, Wiz Khalifa & Juicy J "23"
Producer: Mike Will Made It
Album: Est 1989 Pt. 3 (The Album)
Music snobs and critical thinkers are not hating Miley for the obvious reasons, and it's a shame, because Mike Will Made It's "23" is as basic, artless, manufactured and vapid as music gets. It deserves to be hated for these reasons. We get plenty of thinkpieces on the racial implications of Miley's MTV Video Music Awards performance and the complete history of one specific kind of ass-shaking, but not one person is willing to come out and say how annoying her Ke$ha-like tone is when she says, "I be in the club standing on the couch?" Come on.
Mumford & Sons, Lorde, or Vampire Weekend are all better choices for someone putting together a list of least favorite songs, and ignoring or ironically embracing horrible pop stars like Miley Cyrus is the move. But it's time to get back to basics.
In 2013, hating on the obvious has become unhip. For the cool music in-crowd, hating on something as hateable as the well-made but terribly tacky and vacant music of Miley Cyrus or Justin Bieber adds nothing to a personal brand. Mumford & Sons, Lorde, or Vampire Weekend are all better choices for someone putting together a list of least favorite songs, and ignoring or ironically embracing a couple horrible pop stars like Miley Cyrus is the move. But it's time to get back to basics.
"23" is terrible and it's proof that something is heartbreakingly wrong with the correlation between popularity and quality. It's the fast food of music. It is like walking into a burger joint but instead of finding a restaurant offering tasty food, it's just a giant pool of vomit. And millions of people are swimming in it while wearing shit-eating grins on their faces, gargling vomit in their mouths until the acidic fluids corrode their teeth into little nubs. And then instead of pointing out how terrible it is that we've all got nubs for teeth, we start pretending that nubs are attractive, and eventually we don't even realize we're pretending anymore, and suddenly it's like, "Hey, these nubs are awesome. Let's just keep gargling vomit for the rest of our lives!"
Come on guys, stop gargling vomit. The real point here is: when gargling vomit, at least realize that you're doing it and don't pretend that the nubs are actually...wait, what were we talking about? —Jacob Moore
Selena Gomez "Like A Champion"
Producer: Leah Haywood, Bebe Rexha, Daniel James and Peter Thomas
Album: Stars Dance
Selena is cute and all, but whoever talked her into attempting a cover of this dancehall classic should be relieved of their duties. Does she even know who Buju Banton is? She was born in 1992, the year his first albums were released.
Her attempt at patois is not even laughable. It's a travesty. Even as Buju Banton sits in a prison cell on trumped-up federal coke-trafficking charges, the real unjustice is this misguided recording. We can only hope that the royalties help with his legal defense fund. Ram-pa-pa-pam-pam. —Rob Kenner
Jay Z f/ Justin Timberlake "Holy Grail"
Producer: The Dream, Timbaland, Jerome J Roc Harmon and No ID
Album: Magna Carta...Holy Grail
This is a weird song to hate as much as I do. Justin T meets Jay Z—what's not to like? The reason I hate it is due to the overall composition. The work as a whole. Taken separately, each individual element of the song doesn't bother me.
In fact, I kind of like them. Justin Timberlake sings a melodramatic piano ballad? I like Elton John as much as the next guy. Fine. Jay Z raps about money over hissing trap high-hats? Sure. Both of these two together singing the chorus to Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit?" I appreciate the novelty! And then that cool, bottom-end industrial-churn part, when Jay says "You're still alive..." I love that!
But what do any of these things have to do with one another? It's like the biggest stars and producers in the music business took a bunch of unrelated musical ideas, poured them all into one of those little satchels that hold the letter tiles in Scrabble, shook 'em up and dumped them into the radio of every car that passed you on the street for a good two months this summer. Just a big pile of mess. —Dave Bry
Naya Rivera f/ Big Sean "Sorry"
Naya, you're gorgeous, you're successful, but this song is not the move. How pathetic is a song directed at Big Sean's exes? If you were a real boss chick you wouldn't feel the need to make a diss record. Big Sean confessed his love for his ex Ashley Marie in the song "So Much More" from his debut album Finally Famous, and then proceeded to release a song titled "Ashley" his most recent album, Hall of Fame, so I guess Naya felt the need to compete.
Maybe I would feel played too if my current fiancé' was still releasing songs dedicated to his ex. Whomp whomp! Big Sean musta had some ass-kissing to do, cause I am assuming that's the only reason he would hop on this track. Big Sean, I love your music, but please stop being sprung and delirious. Thanks. —Heather Haynes
Producer: Joel Little
Album: Pure Heroine
It took about three months of hyperbolic press releases, ignored industry event invites, and CW fall lineup sizzle reels to realize that Lorde was something I would have to deal with. It took exactly 13 seconds of that song—that sparkling glory of music biz mutual masturbation—to realize that no amount of insight, objectivity, or opiates could make that okay.
...After years of left-of-center artists ducking and dodging to escape the talons of Taco Bell commercials and Girls references, Lorde is the sound of 'independent' music's inflated, affected dying gasp.
There are two ways to hate: you can hate for others or you can hate for yourself. Hating for others is performative and nimble; it dips, dives, and dances with counter opinions. It's like an imaginary friend: dormant until playtime. Hating for yourself is cumbersome and acidic; it sits in you like a bezoar (Google with caution) and weighs you down like running through caramel. It's a tapeworm that steals from you for its own self-serving growth.
My visceral contempt for "Royals" is a gleaming example of the latter, shellacked and presented with a "quirky-cute" Alexa Chung-inspired Forever 21 S/S '14 bow on top.
In all honesty, I can't explain my hostility towards Lorde. It's not really about her (though I can't say I'm a fan of her willfully-ignorant and widely-excused xenophobia) and it's not really about her music (though John Cage's "4'33" is a more evocative and stimulating listen). It's that after years of left-of-center artists ducking and dodging to escape the talons of Taco Bell commercials and pithy Girls references, Lorde is the sound of "independent" music's inflated, affected dying gasp. Rest in profit. No obituary, no headstone.
Drake "Started From The Bottom"
Avicii f/ Aloe Blacc "Wake Me Up"
Brad Paisley f/ LL Cool J "Accidental Racist"
Producer: Brad Paisley
When this song debuted and made waves earlier this year, I tried to see what everyone was talking about. Well, I heard the first 50 seconds and proceeded to close all my browser tabs. All of them. I damn near cleared my computer's cache-but then I thought better of it since I always forget my passwords. But it's Worst Song of 2013 time and there was no way I wasn't going to revisit this song.
Brad Paisley had to be quite heavy off the moonshine when he concocted this idea. Son penned a song about racial perception and tension. Not because it's been ingrained in the fabric of our country's existence...no. He did it because he was informed about the offense he caused a black barista when sporting a confederate flag T-shirt at his local Starbucks. I'm sure at the foundation of this there could be some good intention, but it's buried deep under the rubble of ridiculousness and white guilt.
Then LL jumps all the way out the window with ad-libs like, "If you don't judge my du-rag, I won't judge your red flag," and "If you don't judge my rope chains, I'll forget the iron chains." I guess LL donated all his FUBU to the less fortunate.
It's really hard not to burst out laughing at the idea of this. By the time he got through his first verse, I was like, "Wait... huh?" Only for him to belt out to the black race, "I'm just a white man, coming to you from a southland/Trying to understand what it's like not to be." After that, I immediately thought "Alright, my dude Brad is drunk. What's LL Cool J talking about?"
I mean...LL kind of tries to spit some real shit, but his delivery is dreadful over that scary-ass woman's chorus singing the melody. While all of this is going down, Cool J states he feels like a "newfangled Django." Then LL jumps all the way out the window with ad-libs like, "If you don't judge my du-rag, I won't judge your red flag," and "If you don't judge my rope chains, I'll forget the iron chains." I guess LL donated all his FUBU to the less fortunate.
All-in-all this is a failed attempt at patching up race relations that just comes off sounding totally stupid and unintentionally comedic. In the history of legendary interracial duos like Jules and Vincent, Chappelle and Brennan, or Andy and Jay, this country-rap tandem will hopefully be stricken from the books.
And for the brotha at that Starbucks in Tennessee...I see you fam. Hold your head bruh bruh. —Brandon Jenkins
Miley Cyrus "We Can't Stop"
Producer: Mike Will Made It
Forget the twerk-fatigue. Forget the constant debate over whether or not Miley Cyrus is using her black dancers as props. Forget everything that happened before there was any visual component to this song at all. From its debut on Ryan Seacrest's radio show, this song was the bane of my existence.
I love Miley Cyrus. I was made to watch a lot of Hannah Montana one holiday trip to my grandparents' house and you know what? It's awesome. If you grew up watching Amanda Bynes (God bless) grow from her background player role on All That and come into her own on The Amanda Show, then Miley Stewart's antics were super charming.
So how did "We Can't Stop" end up so detestable? Because it is exactly what it is: A Rihanna reject.
So, I've been on Miley's side. When she made her first attempt to break free of her Disneyfication, she gave us "See You Again." Sure, it's poppier than the pop-punk its sound is gleaned from, but it gets in you. Not to mention the follow-up "7 Things," which was about liking a guy who is layered like an onion, which is to say there's a lot to him, and a lot of it makes you cry, but you know when you break him down, he's very sweet. That's deep, Miley! And do I even need to mention "Party in the U.S.A.?" That song is almost perfect, save her Jay Z flub. But she came back around and expressed her love of Gucci Mane and OJ Da Juiceman. I'll take them as her gateway thugs to rap culture over Hov any day.
So how did "We Can't Stop" end up so detestable? Because it sounds like exactly what it is: A Rihanna reject. It's the Kidz Bop "Pour It Up." It's full of embarrassing lines that sorority girls would say when they're dancing off-time to rap at a bar, "We run things/things don't run we," and "Remember only God can judge ya/Forget the haters, cause somebody loves ya."
"Shaking it like we at a strip club"? Rih made the strip club. And she brought bills with her own face printed on them. You wanted out of that Disney life? Then why did you make a turn-up anthem for Zack and Cody? Not to mention it's one of the most softball beats Mike Will ever made. Bands a make her dance, but this song should clear the room. But, as you sing here, "It's my mouth, I can say what I want." Go for it, Miley. But if you're really "'bout that life," you shouldn't have to tell us. —Claire Lobenfeld
Yung Gleesh f/ Yung Lean "It's Sad Boy"
Producer: White Armour & Yung Sherman
Earlier this year, a little-known rapper from Washington, D.C. named Yung Gleesh released an odd gem called "Lazyness." Over a dreamlike beat from Zaytoven, the song's lethargic, low-stakes charm didn't sound out of place next to similarly laconic tracks from folks like Chief Keef or ZMoney. The main difference was that Gleesh had a decidedly "based" self-awareness, and was a clear disciple of Lil B. Like B, this purposeless eccentricity was central to his appeal, rather than a by-product.
While this worked a whimsical charm on a coy curiosity like "Lazyness," it became something much more noxious on "It's Sad Boy," which featured novelty Euro-rapper Yung Lean. (More on him in a minute.) The beat comes courtesy of Yung Sherman and White Armor, and it sounds like four waveforms (presumably, two from each producer) laboring to mesh. It aims for high drama—when the vocal sample enters, it's something like a developmentally stunted "Carmina Burana."
His entire persona is the logical endpoint of content that is more meme than music, an inside joke that revels in its inability to articulate anything that could possibly translate as an emotional truth. Instead, everything is lost in the maudlin haze of cliche and ugly cynicism.
That tottering, off-balance feel could work, given the right personality at its center. Instead, Yung Gleesh seems lost. He works in an "experimental" melodic vein that's possibly informed by in-vogue rappers like Young Thug. But there's a listlessness to the experiment; it lacks the necessary confidence to pull something like this off. There's none of the friction of concomitant energies congealing into a living, breathing effect. Instead, it's haphazard, a bunch of received ideas about what should be "cutting edge" in 2013 soldered together with cynical workmanship that splits the difference between self-parody and sincerity.
Which is, of course, the whole purpose of the "sad boy" movement, an ironic, Internet-based one-note joke. Like the literature of Tao Lin, there's a torpid, repetitive numbness to all the music that has come out of this post-based vein. It pretends at some kind of profound generational statement but is really representative of cowardice. Nowhere is that more evident than in the disingenuous presence of Swedish guest rapper Yung Lean. His entire persona is the logical endpoint of content that is more meme than music, an inside joke that revels in its inability to articulate anything that could possibly translate as an emotional truth. Instead, everything is lost in the maudlin haze of cliche and ugly cynicism. Most of all, it's safe: if you criticize it, it's just a joke. If you dare accuse him of trafficking in a funhouse mirror of self-reflexive irony, you're the cynic for questioning his sincerity.
Any statements of generational centrality are suspect—this stuff isn't all that popular. It's also not particularly innovative: everything Lean has done existed before, musically. Instead, it's a victory of amateurism as aesthetic, an attempt not to subvert hip-hop's existing rules, but to ignore them entirely, transforming rap music into an inside joke between a group of a few hundred net-savvy kids who prioritize the same pre-set assumptions about what makes hip-hop interesting in 2013. —David Drake