Dec 28, 2021

Bobby's 15 Worst Songs of 2021

By Bobby Peacock


15. "Beer Beer, Truck Truck" by George Birge

This guy used to be one-half of Waterloo Revival, a duo who somehow worked Siri into their generic-ass "party in the woods" anthem "Backwood Bump". You can tell this is made for the TikTok crowd because it's barely two minutes long. The premise is a failed attempt to staple a "country music doesn't live up to stereotypes" hook onto a "chase your dreams in the city"-type song, but all it does is reinforce the clichés by pretending not to use them. (If it "ain't all beer beer, truck truck", then what is it? He never says.) Ash Bowers, who produced this track, knew how to play with small town tropes right with "Stuck", and I think re-releasing that would have been a better move.

14. "Glad You Exist" by Dan + Shay

I debated whether I should include this, for fear that I'd be bashing the artist and not the song. (Spoilers: This is why a certain mulleted racist isn't on here.) But analyzing this song entirely on its own merits, I think it's justified. D+S pitched this on Instagram as "a message to[...]our fans, our friends, our families". But the lyrics mentioning drunken late-night calls, "bad decisions", and meet-cutes don't even try to fit the tone of that sugar shock-inducing post. It's just a list of random sweet little nothings that sound like a zillionth-degree dilution of "Bless the Broken Road" with a weak chorus and even weaker hook; it doesn't even try to sound country, and it's so half-assed in its execution that it barely breaks two minutes. I'm not glad that Dan + Shay exist.

13. "Drinkin' Beer. Talkin' God. Amen." by Chase Rice feat. Florida Georgia Line

I have a coworker who mostly listens to hip-hop. Recently he heard this song in lobby and told me how awful he thought it was. Good to know that he and I can agree on something. This song's mentions of God are tangential at best, and feel stapled onto yet another stock "party in the woods" anthem. Unlike FGL's two best songs "Confession" and "Dirt", there's no attempt at introspection or thought. It's just campfire, beer, radio, backwoods, girl, Amen. While it is one of the least-bad vocal performances from all three parties, it's still dragged down by the awful lyrics and mediocre-at-best production from Corey Crowder (who, by the way, blocked me on Twitter for having the audacity to say anything negative). Chase Rice is way less cringe than he was in the "Ready Set Roll" days, but he still has a long way to go before he can even reach mediocrity.

(Editor: Now is a good time to remind you that the views and opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent that of the website as a whole and Trailer in particular (though he does agree with most of the choices, just not the one below))

12. "Things a Man Oughta Know" by Lainey Wilson

With all the hype this song gets, all I can notice is how it just doesn't add up. Verse one tries to push against gender stereotypes by saying that she can hunt, fish, and change tires too -- but I feel that by saying a "man oughta know" how to do these, all she's doing is reinforcing outdated archetypes of masculinity. (Of course women can hunt and fish; anyone can. It's the use of "oughta" that chafes here.) While it can be a good thing to patch up a faltering relationship, this song (like far too many) forgets that sometimes, truly loving someone can mean letting them go. And what the hell is the second verse even talking about with "if I can't have it, I can do without / I can hang a picture same as I can take it down", which has nothing to do with the rest of the song? And why does this have the same three-note stair-step melody over and over and over? And why am I the only one who seems to see this song's myriad flaws?

11. "If I Didn't Love You" by Jason Aldean feat. Carrie Underwood

Jason's music has just been mildly irritating white noise for so long (unlike, say, his personal behavior) that this one at least has the advantage of a different soundscape -- unfortunately, it's not a better one. His already weird voice is no match for Carrie's dynamics, but they're both buried under so many layers of Auto-Tune that this is only a minor complaint in comparison. Just the idea of pairing these artists makes about as much sense as mixing Great Value ranch dressing and Diet Coke. The lyrics are the kind of cliché pop balladry that I thought we'd left in the '90s: "all that I want", "tell a lie when somebody asked", "find someone new", "still cry sometimes". Can he just go back to being forgettable?

10. "Country Again" by Thomas Rhett

Don't you have to be country in the first place before you can be "country again"? Thomas Rhett -- the guy who finds it a bragging point that his wife has a verified Instagram account -- could hardly be less convincing in his tales of hunting, fishing, driving a truck, and listening to Eric Church (I bet he can't even name a single song other than "Springsteen"). The boots that he claims to own probably cost more than every piece of footwear I've owned in my life combined. And his attempts at sounding "down to earth" with that acoustic guitar are utterly undermined by the drum machine and vocal processing. But maybe that's TR's perception of country -- maybe to him, it is just an image that a rich white boy can put on when he feels like it, just long enough to pander to the masses, and then slip back off in time to cut another florid ode to his wife or duet with Chris Tomlin.

9. "Like a Lady" by Lady Antebellum

Maybe in an alternate timeline where the dispute with Anita White (the real Lady A) did not exist, I might not be as hard on them as a whole. But separating the art from the artist, this still sucks. Like too many of Pre-Civil-War Female's other songs, Hillary Scott is just too bland to convey any semblance of "fun" or "emotion" or "singing in key". (And why the hell are Charles and Dave singing most of the hook?) The lyrics, other than the extremely out-of-place name-drop of "Hips Don't Lie", find literally nothing even remotely interesting or original to say about womanhood. And they have the gall to compare this to the powerhouse that is "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!"? It's a grab-bag of you-go-girl clichés at best, and tone-deaf virtue signaling at worst. Go listen to Anita White's music instead. (Just not on Spotify, because it can't tell the two Lady As apart.)

8. "No Sad Songs" by Niko Moon

Obvious joke: more like "no good songs", am I right? As "Good Time" established, Niko can't sing for shit, so here, he just hides it under multi-tracking. (Just because it worked for Eddie Rabbitt doesn't mean it'll work for you, Nicholas Cowan. And stop removing your birth name from your Wikipedia article already.) Unlike "Good Time", there isn't even a token acoustic guitar, just skittery snap beats and practically the same premise about drinking beer, dancing, and cranking tunes (he name-drops "Chicken Fried"!). The fact that he also blocked me on Twitter for saying anything negative about his music, combined with the uniformly empty-headed content of said music, has me convinced that Niko is utterly unable to handle negativity. Or hell, even artistry. I have a feeling we'll be hearing No Niko Moon Songs in 2022.

7. "Smoke in a Bar" by Travis Tritt

I remember when you could smoke in a bar. But I spent nearly three decades of my life watching my dad smoke himself to death, and I'm glad that smoking is on the decline. Like a poor-man's "Grandpa (Tell Me 'Bout the Good Ol' Days)", this is a whiny, rose-colored-glasses look at a time when parents never divorced, child safety wasn't a thing, and "everything" was better because shut up and respect your elders or I'll whoop your butt with my cane, sonny boy. Of course he gets sociopolitical with lines about honesty in the news (people have been criticizing American news media for bias since before we were even a country) and respect for the flag (he's forgotten about Vietnam War protesters). Tritt sounds like a sad, bitter old man pissing into the wind, not helped by his unnaturally feeble vocal performance. If I miss anything about the "old days", it's when Tritt still made good music.

6. "Throw It Back" by Breland feat. Keith Urban

Getting back to the subject of horribly mismatched duet partners... Forcing Keith Urban to sing in African-American Vernacular English is probably the most cringe-worthy thing he's done since "Female". Add on repetition of the title instead of coming up with a rhyme (really? you can't find a rhyme for "back"?) and a shoehorned-in reference to LMFAO of all artists, and... really, it's just a horny, obnoxious, droning trap song that sounds like every other horny, obnoxious, droning trap song out there. It just has a six-string banjo that's been crudely sewn on like some sonic equivalent of The Human Centipede and a 53-year-old man continuing to embarrass himself by straining for cred that he doesn't need. Throw it back, indeed.

5. "The Worst Country Song of All Time" by Brantley Gilbert feat. HARDY and Toby Keith

I love subversion. But there's more to it than just "do the opposite of what you're setting up" -- that's just a Wayne's World "NOT!" joke, and those died out in the '90s. This upholds the stereotype that country music still has to be about hunting and fishing, drinking beer, driving your truck down dirt roads, and name-dropping other songs. And that's before we get into a few dodgy politically-charged lines and glorification of child beatings. It's all sung by a mush-mouthed dullard far removed from his few okay songs, a newcomer who vacillates between decent and awful at the drop of a hat, and a blustery jingoistic has-been... It's not the worst country song of all time, or even the worst Brantley Gilbert song of all time, but it is the fifth-worst of 2021. Perhaps the only enjoyment I got out of it was watching how quickly radio 

4. "Fancy Like" by Walker Hayes

Walker has lived the kind of life where Applebee's is considered fancy, and so have I. So on concept, this isn't the worst. But the execution is less "celebrate the simple pleasures" and more "rub your own tackiness in everyone's face" (can you tell this song made it big because of TikTok?). He's so aggressively un-country that it almost seems like trolling, what with his incessant AAVE-peppered slang, snap beats, and talk-singing. Lyrically, it's no better; the first verse is about Wendy's, and the second shows us that the trailer trash Natty Lite-drinking protagonist somehow owns a Vespa. Overall, there's no self-awareness or coherence to the idea, and the fact that this is actually being used in commercials just drives the smug cynicism home. If you want a good song about eating fast food with your lover, then how about "Common Man" by John Conlee?

3. "Happy Birthday America" by Toby Keith

Most of the red-state MURICA songs of the past, even others by Toby himself, at least had passion. But between this and "Smoke in a Bar", it seems like most of the right-leaning music is just extremely bitter and dour. His primary target is as non-specific as ever ("everybody's pissin' on the red, white, and blue" -- who's "everybody" and what specifically are they doing?), ignorant to America's role in both World Wars (giving me horrible flashbacks to "The Good Lord and the Man"), dubiously hyper-focused on minor points (do we really burn flags more than anyone else?), and of course, ad hominem toward "the left's design". (Sure, he tries to balance it with "the right can't seem to get it right most of the time", but after that line, it seems half-hearted at best.) His voice is whiny and Auto-Tuned, and the melody is just a boring slog. Maybe Sawyer Brown was onto something by wishing for another side.

2. "Where the Country Girls At" by Trace Adkins feat. Luke Bryan and Pitbull

Between the title and the artists, do I even need to say anything else? Even in his heyday, I remember how cool it was to hate on Pitbull (I do like "Timber" though). Dragging him into a "country" song seven years after his last major hit is almost as laughable as watching 59-year-old, grey-bearded Trace Adkins trying to convince us that he's still got his game on... or hearing Luke Bryan say "brotha" non-ironically. And are we supposed to believe that Mr. Worldwide even knows what the Daytona 500 is? (I at least believe that his idea of "country" is "hot girls drinking in short shorts"...) Thankfully this song didn't go anywhere. I guess these three old farts can't find the country girls because even they have better taste now.

1. "Am I the Only One" by Aaron Lewis

And we complete the "old man yells at cloud" trifecta that Travis and Toby started. Droning and growling over a guitar riff that sounds way too close to The Calling's "Wherever You Will Go", the former frontman of Staind starts with generic worldly complaints before launching straight into infuriating awfulness. All the while, he doesn't seem to have even one positive thing to say. Claiming that he'd "take a bullet" when you know he won't (unlike, say, many of the protesters who have) and a failed diss of Bruce Springsteen (one of the most openly patriotic musicians ever) are bad enough. But all of that pales in comparison to the verse where he bemoans the removal of Confederate statues (dude, you're from goddamn Vermont). At that point, he's crossed the line to overt racism. And in the current climate, that is the last thing we need in country music.

Dishonorable mentions: "Best Thing Since Backroads", "Waves", "Single Saturday Night"

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