I Listened So You Don’t Have To: Odd Monster Reviews the Billboard Top Ten

There is nothing inherently wrong with pop music, even modern pop.  So why are the Top Ten songs so consistently terrible?  I occasionally make the heroic gesture of listening to the Billboard Top Ten to report back to you, faithful reader, as to prevent your delicate ears from being sullied by the likes of the Bieb.  I typically haven’t ever heard these songs, and just as often have never heard of the artists, so it’s a learning experience for us both.

Let’s get to it.

Many of these songs have NSFW lyrics, just so you’re aware.

(This is the Billboard Top Ten for the week of November 18, 2017 if you’re keeping score)

10. “Too Good at Goodbyes” by Sam Smith

  • Thoughts before listening: Who is Sam Smith?  Why is his name so anonymous?  If I was going to be a pop star, I’d make sure to have a cool name like Johnny Powers or Mr. Cool Guy or something catchy and memorable.  I’ve already forgotten this guy’s name.
  • Bluesy guitar.  Someone muttering in the background.
  • Oh no, a falsetto.  A creaking chair?  What is this, a first year film student audio montage?
  • “You must think that I’m stupid” is the opening line.  No comment.
  • Gotta admit, this guy has an incredible range in his voice, going from low to a falsetto almost in the same breath.  That’s really impressive.
  • Oh no, a gospel chorus. I believe I can fly.  I want to know what love is. Just like a prayer you know I’ll take you there.

Grade: C (this song is almost instantly forgettable, boring but well executed.  It’s right in the middle of the curve, almost exactly what a C was invented for.)

9. “Mi Gente” J Balvin & Willy William Featuring Beyonce

  • Sam Smith.  Willy William.  What’s with the names?  Beyonce.  Now there’s a name.  If she had a male counterpart could we call him Boyance?  Should I call Jay-Z that?  No?  Okay, moving on.
  • Sounds like hip hop Muppets at first.  Like “Mahna Mahna” played through a keyboard.  Kinda cool. A reggaeton beat.  A decent one, if I’m to be honest.
  • It’s in Spanish, so I don’t understand anything he’s saying besides Mi Gusta.  Mi gusta the bassline, which is thumpin.
  • “Uno, dos, tres, [something else]!”
  • Where’s Bey? Damnit, I listened to the wrong version, the one without her.  Listening again.  At least it’s not a bad song.  Is she rapping in Spanish?  Is there anything she can’t do?  She’s probably also a trained surgeon and pilot too, like a real life Buckaroo Bonzai.
  • Adding a female voice to the mix actually makes the song better, more layered and rich.  It’s one of the few times adding someone else who wasn’t originally in the song actually works.
  • I like this song!  It’s so rare to find a Top Ten song I actually like, let alone don’t mind listening twice in a row.

Grade: A (Uno, dos, tres, [something else]!)

8. “Sorry Not Sorry” by Demi Lovato

  • I’ve heard of Demi Lovato.  That’s like a demi-glace, right?  Right?  No one?  Okay.
  • I think I might have seen her on tv or something, but don’t think I’ve ever heard her sing, and I’m not looking forward to it, as I know she’s ex-Disney channel, which means this is going to be a crappy ballad or a generic overproduced dance song.  Let’s find out, shall we?
  • So far it’s sounding like the latter.  She can sing well, I guess.
  • The song moves like a sine wave, LOOOOOW to HIIIIGH to LOOOOOW to HIIIIIGH.  Wait, is she dropping f-bombs?  That’s not very Disney of her.
  • Meh.  Sounds like something you’d hear blaring out of the speakers at a clothing store at the mall.  Come to think of it, that’s probably exactly what it is.

Grade C+ (not great, but at least sonically a little interesting.)

7. “Gucci Gang” by Lil Pump

  • Lil Pump?  LIL PUMP? What kind of name is that?  Is he insinuating that he has a lil’ pump? Were all of the better names taken?
  • I hate his name.  Let’s see what he feels about designer fashion, shall we?
  • Mumble mumble bitch.  Mumble mumble cocaine.  Mumble mumble bitch.  Gucci Gang.  Gucci Gang.
  • The production sounds like it was done on Garage Band, completely generic and repetitive.  When I can understand the lyrics, they are…um…less than inspiring.
  • Mumble mumble bitch.  Mumble mumble cocaine.  Mumble mumble bitch.  Gucci Gang.  Gucci Gang.

Grade: D (Mumble mumble this song sucks)

6. “Feel It Still” by Portugal. The Man

  • I think I might have heard this band at some point or another, but I have no recollection of how they sound.  Are they a band that was once cool but is now famous and boring, or are they a good band that got famous and is still good?  I have no idea.
  • Why is their name spelled that way?  It makes the editor in me have a little aneurism.  Just a little one.
  • Good bassline to start it out. Like surf rock.
  • Oh no, a falsetto.  Oh no, a dance beat.  Oh no, synth horns.
  • It sounds like a knockoff Danger Mouse produced song.  Like it’s produced by Caution Rat.
  • I’m very disappointed.  Obviously I was thrown off by their errant use of punctuation, this is definitely not what I was expecting.  The vocalist just doesn’t have any there there.  Like, if Justin Timberlake sung this song, he would infuse the vocals with a sense of personality.  This guy just sounds like Random Falsetto Guy.

Grade: C (Instantly. The Forgettable)

5. “Thunder” by Imagine Dragons

  • Imagine Dragons sounds like a prog rock band for kids.  That would be awesome.  Thunder.  Dragons.  Okay, I’m in.  I put on my robe and wizard hat.  Let’s roll that d20!
  • Uh, what?  Bad rapping?  This isn’t what I was looking for.  Where are the elves?  Magic Missile?  WHERE ARE MY DRAGONS?
  • Instead, this sounds like a sound generated by an algorithm.  Competently produced, super repetitive and generic.
  • Doesn’t anyone play guitars anymore?  The video should have a guitarist on a cliff playing a solo in the wind with lightning bolts flashing all about.  Instead (I looked) it’s a bunch of skinny white fashion models dancing in a CGI city.

Grade: D (Critical fail!)

4. “1-800-273-8255” by Logic featuring Alessia Cara & Khalid

  • If this song isn’t as good as “876-5309 (Jenny)” I’m going to hate it.
  • I’m going to hate this.  I can just feel it in my bones.
  • Synths.  So many synths in these songs.
  • “I just want to die today.  I just to diiiiiiiiiiiieeee.” I was wrong, the lyricist knows exactly how I feel listening to this song.  It’s not like I’m in hell, it’s like I’m in limbo, just sitting in the nothingness with something really boring going on.
  • Synthy syruppy strings.  Oh great, another anonymous singer.
  • Oh shit, is this song about suicide? I just googled the title, it’s the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • Great, now I feel like an asshole.
  • The song is still boring and generic and lame, but at least it’s about SOMETHING.  I’ll give it credit for that.

Grade: C (yes, I’m giving it a slightly higher score because a) it’s actually about something rather than nothing and b) I feel guilty)

3.“Bodak Yellow (Money Moves)” by Cardi B

  • That title may as well be in Hungarian, as it is incomprehensible to me (no offense due to any Hungarians out there. Sajnálom, magyarok!).  Is Bodak yellow like a paint color?  What does it have to do with money? I guess I’d better listen to the song, so Cardi B can tell me all about it.
  • “Bitch, you can’t fuck with me.” That’s the opening line.  No comment.
  • It sounds like I’m hearing this song underwater, and not in a good way.  It’s muffled and slow like molasses.
  • I typically like very simple repeated riffs, but this one sounds like it was the very first attempt to make a riff and they were like, good enough, time for more cocaine!
  • OMG I hate this song.  It’s aggressively bad.  I actually want to stop this song so I don’t have to hear it anymore, but I’m soldiering through.  For YOU.  You’re welcome.
  • This song should have been prevented by the Geneva Convention.
  • I still have no idea what the title means.

Grade: F (This song literally gave me a headache.  And I mean literally as in “taking words in their usual or most basic sense without metaphor or allegory”)

2. “Havana” by Camila Cabello featuring Young Thug

  • Please don’t suck.  Please don’t suck.  I don’t think I can take another terrible song after “Bodak Yellow (Money Moves).” I need some ibuprofen.  The name Young Thug doesn’t inspire confidence in me.  It’s almost 7 minutes long.  Uh oh.
  • Okay, I’m watching the video, which is a send up of a telenovela, and is pretty amusing.  Two and half minutes in and the song finally starts.  At least I’m smiling going in.
  • It’s basically the same generic synthy ballad that’s always on the Top Ten, but benefits from being set to a Cuban rhythm, which keeps it from complete anonymity.
  • I’m surprised that Young Thug isn’t terrible.  Huh.
  • It might be the video setup, it might be because it is coming after an atrocity of a song but I don’t hate this.  It’s okay!

Grade: C+ (Thank you for being slightly better than adequate, Camila Cabello)

1. “Rockstar” Post Malone featuring 21 Savage

  • We’ve made it to number one, and there hasn’t been a single song by Justin Bieber on this list, which is the very first time this has happened.  Post Malone…sounds like…post-punk Pogues?  Probably not.  Also, have you noticed how 4 out of 10 songs on this list are “featuring” a guest?  Just an observation.
  • Number One.  Drumroll please.
  • More synthy strings.  Another generic beat.
  • “I’m a fucking hoser man mumble mumble rockstar!”  At least that’s what I think he’s saying.
  • More cocaine.  Oh no, he’s totally singing like that dude with one eye…lemme google him, whatshisname.  No, not Slick Rick.  Fetty Wap!  That’s who.  That guy sucks too (not Slick Rick, he’s great).  Like a whiny weeping Jamaican lilt.  It’s so weird.  I can’t believe anybody would try and copy that, it’s such a weird vocal tic.
  • Aaaaand it’s over.  At least it’s short.  And I think he called himself a hoser. *googles the lyrics* Nope.  Oh well, that’s what I heard and I’m sticking with it.

Grade: D- (Take off, hoser)