The Year in Stupidity: Music's Biggest Lowlights of 2015
If the world at large seems to be regressing in terms of intelligence or just plain old common sense, then it stands to reason that the music world will be a microcosm of such brainlessness. So, yes, the stupidity that continues to destabilize our perches atop the food chain was on full display in 2015’s music scene too. Should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind? Yes, it should be, when it’s reflective of dumb stuff like this.
The Year in Dumb began as soon as the calendar flipped with unnecessary and visceral backlash to the musical pairing of Kanye West and Paul McCartney. The duo unveiled “Only One” on New Year’s Eve 2014, and Twitter — never mistaken for an intellectual think tank — exploded with empty-headedness. “Who is this Paul McCartney guy that Kanye is helping?” people joked (we think), which resulted in an avalanche of vitriolic responses normally reserved for groups like ISIS, or maybe Nickelback. Turns out, many classic-rock fans simply objected to McCartney working with West.
Include us among those who believed it would take someone pretty remarkable to outshine Katy Perry on Super Bowl Sunday. While the long-absent Missy Elliott arguably stole the show from Perry, the undisputed star who outshone them both was “Left Shark,” a dancer in one of Perry’s halftime routines with “two left fins.” The costumed performer’s inability to follow the painstakingly-planned choreography made Left Shark a meme to remember. When the hired help in disguise is more memorable than the music, it's a sad commentary on the music.
Comedy Central’s Roast of Justin Bieber aired, and was predictably crude. What wasn’t predictable was the effect hours of cruel, nationally televised insults would have on Bieber. "If Anne Frank heard your music, she would Uber to Auschwitz," offered “Roast Master General” Jeff Ross. "No wonder he's got moves; he was in the womb trying to dodge a coat hanger," Natasha Legerro sneered. You have to give it to Biebs. The kid’s baby face is taut with tough skin. Not only did he withstand the taunting, it did not kill him and made him stronger. Forged by the fire, he went on to exhibit more questionable behavior in 2015, like carousing naked around Bora Bora and driving his Ferrari like a maniac around Hollywood.
Celebrities amusing themselves by miming songs like “Baby Got Back” was an unfortunate 2015 trend that many of us grew tired of the second or third time we saw it. But this form of entertainment somehow evolved into a television show called Lip Sync Battle, which debuted in April and included former rapper LL Cool J’s gawdawful camera mugging and Chrissy Teigen annoying us by being Chrissy Teigen. We may be wrong, but it’s doubtful Bogie, Bacall and Jimmy Stewart ever fake-sang songs by Frank Sinatra and Doris Day while Uncle Miltie oversaw the proceedings. Hollywood’s self-aggrandizement was somehow deemed funny enough to ensure the dismal show scored an encore season.
People who use #squadgoals should be visited by a death squad with the shared goals of killing you— Dog Mayor (@MorganCordell) December 28, 2015
Sometime in the spring, I remember hearing about “squads” and “squad goals” for the first time. Attributed largely to Taylor Swift and the company she keeps, this verbiage wormed its way into the lexicon and is a contender for word(s) of the year. Even The Atlantic published a piece about squads, though here’s all you need to know about them and their goals: Squad < Posse < Rat Pack. And, all of those are still < Teen Girl Squad.
Silento’s “Watch Me” was a summer hit and the perfect chart-topper for the age of narcissism. Once we had songs about dances that were inclusive. "Harlem Shuffle" and "The Hustle" were group events played during parties to get us all on the dance floor. But in the era of Kardashians, in a country prepared to elect a vulgar megalomaniac president, the big dance song of the year was titled “Watch Me.” Of course it was. Worse, the song was uninventive, simple and reminiscent of a far superior tune, Bo Burnham’s satirically scathing rant, “Repeat Stuff.”
Americans were outraged when, Ariana Grande and her boyfriend went to a donut shop and licked the store’s baked goods. While this was juvenile, bratty behavior, people everywhere considered these acts akin to those perpetrated by Brad Pitt and Juliette Lewis in Kalifornia. Grande was mildly reviled for a short time for saying she hated America on the donut shop’s surveillance system. Surely, we all have harbored such opinions at times, if we’re reasonable and not jingoistic robo-sapiens. Maybe only hardcore rappers and old-school punks are allowed to make such statements. Shudder the notion that a pop princess might have a real thought in her pretty little head.
Straight Outta Compton, the hit NWA movie, may have been fraught with revisionist history, but it was probably a good deal less bothersome than the “Straight Outta” memes that jammed up social-media feeds around the film’s debut. Everyone and their mama was straight outta somewhere suddenly. Fortunately, the fad passed quickly and everyone once again forgot from where they’d come.
Our haphazard research indicated September was not the dumbest month in the music year, so this entry is a wild-card of sorts dating back a few months prior, when Complex ran an article which suggested music lyrics had gotten simpler over time. The article noted songs by Kanye West and Beyonce could have been penned by little Johnny, your local neighborhood second-grader, since the lyrics required less than a third-grade reading level to comprehend. Not sure about the science behind this one, but it seems pretty clear you don’t need Tolstoy to dream up lyrics like “Watch me whip, watch me nae nae.”
Lady Gaga was game and tried to elevate American Horror Story: Hotel to some form of art. But watching this season’s installment, all I can think is the last time a Shark got jumped so badly it was being attacked by Jets with cabrioles and pirouettes. For better or worse, Mother Monster repeatedly showed off her assets, which were at least much less gruesome than most of the gore that replaced interesting dialogue or a comprehensible plot line this season. This Hotel should have been condemned and razed weeks ago.
The sincerest form of flattery might be imitation, which means Adele’s “Hello” is not only the most viewed video of the year, it’s also the most flattered. The video’s admirers paid homage to the sepia-toned bit by changing the lyrics to comment on the challenges of motherhood, the 2015 NFL season and Miss Piggy’s rocky relationship with Kermit the Frog, among other topics. Some were clever — especially one that mashed-up Adele's "Hello" with Lionel Richie's — but for every single clever one there were ten dumb ones.
R. Crumb cartoon come to life Nicki Minaj traveled to Angola (can you find it on a map?) to perform for its president, Jose Eduardo dos Santos. In addition to being a ruthless dictator with a 35-year legacy of political oppression and corruption, he enjoys the music of pop chanteuses like Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, Nelly Furtado and Erykah Badu, who all shamelessly ignored pleas from human-rights groups and took the money to perform for him. In Minaj’s case, it was $2 million. Guess Meek Mill needed extra Christmas gifts.
The best/worst part of this all was Minaj’s comical warning that “Every tongue that rises up against me in judgment shall be condemned,” proving she’s not above biting the style of that O.T. O.G., the prophet Isaiah. Maybe she plans to hire a super-lawyer to defend her brother, who allegedly raped a 12-year-old on repeated occasions. Or, if she wants to absolve herself, maybe she’ll donate the money to people in need. We’ll give her an opportunity to make this right before we risk drawing her ire and being turned into pillars of salt.