Picking the year’s “worst” songs (an admittedly subjective matter) is quite a bit more difficult than picking the year’s best, because while any song from any artist may aspire to greatness, a benchmark for what to include on a “worst of” list is set arbitrarily. We get hundreds of CDs in our mailbox here at The 9513, many of which come from independent, self-reorded or vanity projects that contain music that would surely qualify as some of the year’s worst. Including songs from those sources would be accurate, however, doing so would make little sense, as they had little audience and little impact. The goal of this countdown is not to pick on small-time artists and songwriters or to unnecessarily and selectively choose targets, but to reflect on the year’s worst music that somehow managed to slip onto our radar.
So for this list, which I’ve compiled at my own discretion, I’ve decided to only include singles (not album cuts). Click here for our staff’s selection of the year’s 50 best country songs.
So a cowboy walks into a bar…stop me if you’ve heard this one before. In the year’s most ridiculous scenario, Jake Owen gets laid thanks to his big ol’ tires and his charming dipping habit (note: country girls love seeing your spittoon), which apparently makes him a wild man/”true country boy.” Who knew it was that easy?
A song that starts out as a meditation on one woman’s emotional struggle after her husband died on 9/11, “To Say Goodbye” is derailed by a jarring narrative switch; the second verse abandons the widow, instead focusing on an Alzheimer’s patient and her caretaker husband. We’re never given a link between the two couples which appear in the two different scenes, which leaves us feeling disoriented. Likewise, we’re never given any emotional resolution, which renders this a very literal (and depressing) portrait of pain. “To Say Goodbye” isn’t a terrible song, but it was a wasted single that stood no choice of attaining any kind of mainstream momentum.
When Johnny Cash covered Trent Reznor’s “Hurt,” it was an instance of one groundbreaking bad-ass covering another groundbreaking bad-ass. Jack White, of White Stripes/Raconteurs fame, is a bad-ass, and one of modern rock’s most respected figures. The Oak Ridge Boys are legends, icons and enormously talented singers, but with their most famous songs being “Elvira” and “My Baby is American Made” one thing the group is not is especially bad-ass. Their cover of one of modern rock’s most identifiable (and bad-ass) songs bought the quartet some time in the news cycle, but the record itself sounded awkward and totally unnecessary.
What better project to follow up a collection that contained some of the decade’s best swanky drinking songs and heartbreak ballads than a nugget of religious propaganda that denounces the entire enterprise of “science?” “There is a God” says that what we don’t understand proves the existence of a higher power, but what I don’t understand is why that high power didn’t save us from this circular logic.
In “What it Takes,” Adam Gregory asks a series of questions about a particular woman’s likes, dreams and needs, all culminating in the statement that he needs to know what it takes to be her man. When she answers, I bet she’ll tell him that he shouldn’t have to ask. “What it Takes” completely misses that very real point, and is thus a tragically flawed song from the onset.
Who better to dole out spiritual advice than Jessica Simpson? Aside from putting one of music’s least-eloquent and least-respected figures in the ill-advised role of religious counselor, “Pray Out Loud” embraces some of country music’s most horrendous songwriting (“Just close your eyes and let it all out/All your fears and doubts”) while at the same time managing to run in conflict with biblical teaching, as Matthew 6:6 says, “When you pray, go into your room, close your door, and pray to your Father.”
No one really understands why our new Japanese emperor would have forced us to speak German, but particulars weren’t especially important in Rich’s weighty criticism of people who go on TV and “Take shots at Uncle Sam.”
Da dang dang industry savant Scott Borchetta missed the mark with the signing of Fast Ryde, a duo whose first single–a generic rip-off of “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk”–was just plain ba bad bad.
2.”Make it Rain” – Fast Ryde
What’s worse than melodramatic farm ballads? Actually, as Fast Ryde proved in 2009, not much. Like “That Thang” with “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk,” “Make it Rain” milks “Amarillio Sky” to generate a thematically identical but generic clone. Uninspired and strangely literal, “Make it Rain” is a farm song for people who have never heard any songs about farms before…and since “Amarillo Sky” broke in 2006, I suppose this song’s appeal is quite limited.
In Justin Moore’s “Small Town U.S.A.,” you’ll spend your life performing back-breaking manual labor for a subsistence wage, that toil punctuated only by weekends of reverie and repent. In a sad acceptance of economic and social caste, the song’s narrator admits he doesn’t even want to see what the rest of the world has to offer, succumbing to the rote existence set out before him as legions of rural American youths sing along. Especially patronizing is that Moore, having escaped that Everytown prison to move to Nashville and chase fame and fortune, rejects his own narrator’s sense of apathy.