The worst music of 2020: 10 miserable songs from the miserablest year
Think of it as a victory lap for arguably the worst year ever. Now that every list-maker with ears has run down the albums and songs that made 2020 a little easier to endure, let’s take a minute as we approach the end — finally! — to spotlight some of the music that reflected, defined or simply lived down to the appalling crumminess of the past 12 months.
1. Gal Gadot and her celebrity choir, “Imagine”
Give Gal Gadot this: Nine months later, she still hasn’t taken down the video. Perhaps the first agreed-upon hate object of 2020, the Israeli actress’ miserable all-star rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine” — posted on Instagram in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic — was immediately ridiculed by folks who heard the attempt at we’re-all-in-this-together as a patronizing pat on the shoulder; the generally terrible singing by Gadot and her celebrity friends didn’t help. What strikes you now about the clip, though, isn’t its self-satisfaction but its naivete: “Day 6 in self-quarantine,” Gadot says to the camera, scarcely able to believe that regular life has been disrupted for so long. That she had no idea what was coming — that none of us did — makes a stupid thing kind of sad too. (Mikael Wood)
2. David Guetta, tribute to George Floyd
Sampling racial justice oratory for your dance-music track was right up there with licking subway seats or attending a maskless Trump rally as a self-destructive act in 2020. David Guetta, the French prince of doofy pop-EDM, threw caution off the roof of a New York skyscraper as he dropped MLK’s “I Have a Dream” speech into a tech-house livestream, where even his fans visibly recoiled. “Last night, I made a special record. This record is in honor of George Floyd. I really hope we can see more unity, more peace when already things are so difficult,” Guetta said of the just-murdered Floyd as he cranked his filters and cued up the track’s big drop. “So, shoutout to his family.” (August Brown)
3. Trey Lewis, “Dicked Down in Dallas”
We’re all for a supremely bawdy country song — and with a largely unprintable chorus running down the many ways (and cities) in which the singer’s ex is enjoying herself, this filthy viral hit certainly qualifies. But as expertly pitched as the songwriting is, “Dicked Down in Dallas” ends up a bummer thanks to its slut-shaming moralism: “I wonder what her daddy’d say,” Lewis sings with a plaintive twang, “Maybe he’s the one to blame.” Womp-womp. (MW)
4. Van Morrison, “No More Lockdown”; Eric Clapton, “Stand and Deliver”
It’s hard to think of anyone less qualified to offer public-health guidance than two aging rock stars who’ve inhabited bubbles of privilege for decades. But here were Van Morrison and Eric Clapton anyway with beyond-tired complaints about how nothing we’ve heard regarding COVID is true. (“No more celebrities telling us what we’re supposed to feel,” Morrison sings in an irony apparently lost on him.) In Clapton’s laughably bland blues tune, he even goes ahead and compares a face mask to the chains of an enslaved person — pretty rich for a guy who’s been trying to live down a history of racist comments since the late ’70s. (M.W.)
Well, this one won’t go viral: Eric Clapton sings “Stand and Deliver,” the new anti-lockdown tune by Van Morrison. Eye-rolls strongly encouraged.
5. Tory Lanez, “Money Over Fallouts”
Tory Lanez, alleged shooter of Megan Thee Stallion, tried to hunt for exculpatory medical evidence on this track like he’s Ice-T in “Law & Order: SVU.” “How the f— you get shot in your foot, don’t hit no bones or tendons,” he sings on this ghoulish, self-pitying song off his career-immolating album “Daystar.” It’s now exhibit A of how Black women — even famous ones — can be abused, mistreated and disbelieved even by supposed friends and colleagues. (A.B.)
6. The 54th CMA Awards
Awards shows were difficult to pull off this year for even the best-intentioned presenters. But at a certain point you had to wonder if the Country Music Assn. was even trying to make the right choices for the latest edition of Nashville’s premier telecast. With an in-person audience of unmasked guests, the mid-November event felt like a lengthy exercise in pandemic denialism, one with plenty of time for cheery performances of songs like Darius Rucker’s “Beers and Sunshine” but with not even 10 seconds to acknowledge John Prine’s death from COVID-19. A month after the show, Charley Pride — who’d appeared on the CMAs to accept an overdue lifetime-achievement honor — died of the same disease, leading more than a few skeptical country artists to wonder aloud where he’d caught it. (M.W.)
7. 6ix9ine, “Gooba”
The controversy-courting rapper made all kinds of non-musical noise in 2020, from being granted an early release from federal prison (due to the threat of the coronavirus) to accusing the record-industry scorekeepers at Billboard of allowing charts to be manipulated by bad actors. But 6ix9ine’s actual songs — including the shouty, typically pugnacious single he dropped shortly after leaving jail — were so predictable that they just made you resent his abuse of your attention. He was a villain nobody had any fun rooting for. (M.W.)
8. Jon Bon Jovi, “Fairytale of New York”
Jon Bon Jovi, Fairytale of New York
Raising the ire of the Irish Republic is no small feat, but the New Jersey rocker’s new take on the bawdy, foul-mouthed Pogues song was universally panned on the island. Not only did Bon Jovi neuter the song’s energy by singing it by himself instead of as a duet, but he neutered the lyrics by making it “family friendly.” One Dublin DJ, Rob Smith, called it “the worst thing to ever happen music, and I am including … the murder of John Lennon.” The Pogues’ Twitter account retweeted the critique and adding, “What Rob said.” (Randall Roberts)
9. Animal Collective, “Piggy Knows”
Animal Collective, “Piggy Knows”
It’s eight minutes long and features an extended build that promises epicness. Staticky noise drifts in. A distant choir echoes. A timpani-toned drum punctuates the accumulated layers. Then, as if having a life-altering epiphany, a voice arrives to sing: “Piggy knows, piggy knows / When it looks up from its nose / Another morning, so it goes ...” OK, not sure what that means, but it gets repeated word for word in verse two. Then arrives the glorious chorus: “Piggy piggy piggy piggy. / Piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy. / Piggy, piggy, piggy, piggy.” The band adds another layer of complexity in verse four: “Hairy nose, hairy nose / How I love my hairy nose / And in the morning, see, it flows.” Thanks, piggy piggy, but no no no. (R.R.)
10. Black Eyed Peas feat. Nicky Jam and Tyga, “Vida Loca”
On their 2020 Latin-pop fusion album, “Translation,” Black Eyed Peas rolled out flashy bilingual collabs with all-stars like Shakira and J Balvin for cred — but otherwise fell back on juvenile rhymes and tired Latina fetishist tropes. “Squad it up with these hot baes / And they stay south of the equator,” sings Will.i.am on “Vida Loca,” the kind of song you might write begrudgingly for extra credit in an eighth-grade Spanish class. The prolific reggaeton MC Nicky Jam has to share real estate with Tyga, who shamefully rhymes “Dark skin like cake” with “Mhm mhm — OK.” (Suzy Exposito)
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