One of the benefits of running your own music blog is that you can choose what you write about. I generally don’t write entirely negative reviews and I aim to be a place of positivity and advocacy for good music by women. Despite that, I do think it’s important from a critical perspective to be honest about what you didn’t enjoy or what really disappointed you as a listener.
Firstly I’d like to point out the limitations of this post since there will be endless amounts of bad music out there that I just haven’t heard. I don’t listen to the radio (except 6music and specialist country music shows in the U.K.) so I don’t stumble across bad music that way. Sometimes though, thanks to streaming, I do try popular albums and songs out of curiosity and also give a few random things a listen. Inevitability, I don’t always like what I hear.
Pop music in general continues to baffle and intrigue me in equal measure. I shuffled through the list of Apple Music top 100 of 2019 and I pretty much disliked everything that I heard. That doesn’t make all the songs bad – I just find the current trends in pop and rap leave me utterly cold.
I am certain though that no one released a worse song in 2019 than Miley Cyrus’s ‘Cattitude’. It is toe curlingly bad to the extreme that I would actually bet no one but her most diehard stans can actually listen to the whole song through even once. Try it and let me know how long you last before you start screaming in physical pain. It truly depressing to see an artist with actual vocal talent squander it this way and fail so badly in both her career and personal life. Her last album Younger Now actually felt quite promising to me and I was pleased to see she wrote a lot of the music for that project. I’m not saying it was great songwriting but there was a core of something appealing about her attempt at finding herself. Wherever she is just now, she seems lost.
I actually quite liked some Ariana Grande songs from her album ‘Sweetener’ but the follow up ‘7 Rings’ exposed the flaws in the persona she is selling to the public. The title track and ‘Break Up With Your Girlfriend I’m Bored’ were both painful in the extreme. The songs might be catchy but the message is depressingly materialistic and anti-feminist for her mainly young female fans.
At least Billie Eilish was original in her style and songwriting, even if it washes over me completely. I saw her miming and jumping around stage on TV and I couldn’t help but think she was just this generation’s Avril Lavigne – in twenty years time she will be wearing the exact same outfit, selling the exact same type of song, stuck forever at age 16.
I was tough on Taylor Swift and her previous album ‘Reputation’ but after watching the stadium show on Netflix the music actually made much more sense to me. Somehow the visuals worked to make the humour and petty drama of it more appealing. So I was hopeful that I might enjoy her new one Lover more. While I think it’s an improvement there were still a lot of clunkers too, especially London Boy and Me!. Paper Rings was fun but I couldn’t help thinking the purpose of that song, and much of the rest of the album could be summed up as Taylor screaming ‘PROPOSE ALREADY’ to her boyfriend. My advice: it’s 2019, just ask him yourself.
Women in mainstream country music were generally producing good songs and even someone like Maren Morris who I know is not popular with everyone, was at least trying to sing with heartfelt and thoughtful purpose. It didn’t always pay off but I’m not going to criticise her for trying or attack her for marketing a pop album as country. The song ‘Way Too Pretty For Prison’ that she released with Miranda Lambert was truly awful though and somehow it seems much worse hearing crap like that coming from two women in the genre who I like and respect.
But since I’m not the target market for most of those songs I have to conclude that the real disappointment and actual musical disaster of the year is that Sleater Kinney album. Not only did it cause the break up of the band, the songs sounded a complete mess at times. To me it just felt like a band being pushed in directions that they weren’t comfortable with and that didn’t play to their strengths at all. Even though I love her to death, I have to say that St Vincent’s style of production felt at odds with their lo-fi vocals and songwriting. Overall even if part of me admired them for trying something different, it was a painful listen at times.
I don’t usually cover men on the blog but I can’t write this post without telling you how much I despise Lil Nas X’s Old Town Road. How the hell a song with the word ‘boobies’ in it could ever be taken seriously and become used as some kind of inexplicable political vehicle for ideas about diversity in country music is totally ridiculous to me. It’s clearly a pop rap song and a terrible one at that. In the end it doesn’t matter what genre this song is in, it’s absolute garbage of the lowest kind sung by someone playing dress up, who is gaming the system for all its worth. Meme culture turning songs into hits is just like in the 90s when children’s TV characters would release songs that people would buy on CD for their kids and then immediately want to smash up. Let’s just hope this song fades away to an embarrassing memory as quickly as Gangnam Style did.
Okay I’m done. If you read this whole thing then feel free to rant away with your 2019 lowlights in the comments below!