I am an advocate of reviewing music with kindness, positivity and respect. Nothing upsets me more than people ripping through artists and songs just for the sake of it, or to further their own narrow vision of what is ‘good’ music. Still that doesn’t mean it’s possible to like all the music you hear and I think it’s important from a critical perspective to be honest about what you didn’t enjoy or what disappointed you. So, with a heavy heart, here are my musical lowlights of the year.
I originally made the decision to only review women on my blog as my general preference has always been ‘girls with guitars’ and I really wanted to advocate for better female representation in the music industry. Of course this choice now means I don’t have time to listen to a lot of music by men. Thankfully this year that meant I really didn’t miss much at all.
In my analysis of the end of year album lists I attempted to rectify my blind spots and ended up spending a lot of time just listening and laughing. For example the new Arctic Monkeys lounge album is one of the most inadvertently hilarious disasters I have ever heard in my life. Only a band who have moved to LA and taken a lot of drugs could think this was good music. And I tried to listen to The 1975 album without prejudice since I read so many nice reviews, even one which compared it to OK Computer (I mean, come on). TOOTIMETOOTIMETOOTIME is catchy enough, like a passable Duran Duran bside, but that song title alone tells you everything that’s wrong with this over-hyped boy band.
The ‘Low’ album which has been so well received is just unlistenable to me but I know I’m never going to be the audience for experimental music like this. Similarly I have never liked classic rock like Led Zeppelin so I didn’t exactly enjoy listening to Greta Van Fleet. The idea that an album so derivative and retrograde as this has been Grammy nominated is pathetic considering women have been single-handedly saving this genre for years and no one gives a fuck. There was some good rock music out there this year and I really did want to like Idles because I respect their agenda but I think I’ve just reached my life limit on listening to shouty man music.
I was hoping to find a great pop record that I really loved, like Kesha’s Rainbow from last year, but overall I found little to engage me in that genre. I liked some Ariana Grande singles but I found her album as a whole just sounded like it was written by committee. Even lovely Thank U, Next was let down by a bewildering video where she appeared to enjoy dressing up as a Mean Girl and cheerleader without any trace of humour or irony.
Britain appeared to be intent on producing some of the worst pop music of the year with Little Mix deciding that singing in American accents over trap beats was a cool new direction to take. But that album was genius compared to the tragic Cheryl Cole comeback single, one of the most joyless and forgettable pop songs I’ve heard in a long time. And I beg of someone to please put Take That out of their misery once and for all.
In terms of rap I liked Cardi B’s menacing ‘Bodak Yellow’ from last year so I was disappointed to hear her album which sounded to me like a sell out on a massive scale – songs like I Like That were just pretty safe and bland all round. Of course you’d choose to listen to Cardi B for the rest of your life rather than endure any second of music Kanye West has released this year, especially the detestable I Love It, a song surely only enjoyed by immature teenage boys and forty year old men who have lost all touch with reality.
In terms of indie rock I found Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy pretty disappointing to be honest – the hooks failed to grab me and the lyrical content felt light (or maybe I’m just too damn old to care about bad boyfriends anymore). And I really wanted to like Christine and The Queens as she seems really cool but synth pop generally leaves me cold. Nice dancing, though.
As for country music maybe I’m just being contrary but I actually liked Meant To Be – it was a feel-good little summery pop song with a cute video. Genre purists are the absolute worst sometimes. For example I wasn’t sure about High Horse by Kacey Musgraves when I first heard it but the more these people (mainly men) moaned about it the more it grew in my estimation. Someone needs to explain to them that it is okay to have fun once in a while. After all there are some truly offensive songs out there like ‘Bitches’ and ‘Drunk Me’ by Mitchell Tenpenny, a singer proving how easy it is for men to make it in country music despite their obvious lack of integrity, morality or talent.
I sure there’s more awful music out there but thankfully I have managed to avoid hearing it. If you want to share your musical pain then have at it in the comments.