Maroon 5: “Sugar”
There are no cool points given for hating on Adam and the Levines. They make hits, it’s impossible to deny this, but fuck it — I continue to resist their Top 40 charms. “Sugar” is a lite-funk answer to Daft Punk, Pharrell and Robin Thicke for those that enjoy a sweet chorus, a hint of sex, but not too much sex. Maroon 5, to their credit, scored success with worse hits, but “Sugar” appears to show that it doesn’t even matter what they release, the world is constantly craving their music. Their latest single is called “This Summer is Gonna Hurt Like a Motherfucker”; they clearly stopped giving a shit and we as a society just need to meet them the rest of the way and end this unhealthy relationship. David Turner
Andy Grammer: “Honey I’m Good”
I am not disparaging this one because it’s not catchy or doesn’t lack some necessary anthemic punch. Indeed, it might be one of the most potent earworms of the year. But any faux-hootenanny angle in a Top 40 song categorically makes my blood boil; I hate bluegrass-y, square-dance overtones in music, coming from pop stars sitting on top of their little Scrooge McDuck money bins in LA. Perhaps the aversion also dates back to the days of “Cotton Eyed Joe” blasting at my middle school dances, and ties in with some Proustian recollection of wallflowering, pissed off, ready for the DJ to concede to some Korn, or something that would express a bit of my emotional turmoil; all the while, I’m too paralyzed to talk to my crush. In any case, there’s the video on top of it all, which is some kind of nuclear-family, square-ass, Target-commercial-ass propaganda I’m not with, even in the remotest. It practically cries out: “The American dream is buying a house in the ‘burbs; making stacks is more important to being in tune with your feelings; repress everything and keep the human race basic.” The whole aura of this thing repulses me. Winston Cook-Wilson
Wiz Khalifa: “See You Again” [ft. Charlie Puth]
The line on this song has been, “Yeah, it sucks, but that Paul Walker montage is so good!” Well, I have never seen a single Fast and Furious movie, and I don’t think a cheesy, lifeless song is any way to honor anyone. Not a single word in this song means anything. It’s got cliches on the level of Katy Perry’s “Roar.” Wiz has absolutely zero flow on the track, and the light piano line doesn’t give the song much more zest. Charlie Puth sounds like a cheap Sam Smith and is entirely replaceable. His voice has about as much depth as Wiz’s does in the bridge; he just has a higher vocal range.
The worst part of the whole song, though, is probably how it tells you how it wants you to hear it. The song slows down and speeds up to really try to wring out those emotions. You know when the pace nears a dead halt with a couple of piano keys still clinking along, you are supposed to cry. I don’t want a bad song telling me how to hear it. Matthew Strauss
Tove-Lo: “Habits (Stay High)”
Tove-Lo is going to be A Thing and I’m developing the equipment to Deal With It. But I’m not into her hit “Habits” at all, even though the industry’s machinery is trying to shove it down my throat. To me, Tove-Lo kind of co-opts a few things going on right now — Sia’s alt-friendly pop, Lana Del Rey’s on-brand moodyness, the plain-but-ringing-vocal-over-EDM fad — and makes them into something less than the sum of their parts. (She’s also a beneficiary of Katy Perry, who brought the singer along for some of her Prism dates.) Alongside “Habits (Stay High)” is her vocal on Alesso’s “Heroes”; both have become hollow chart-toppers by default in a weak summer class of hits. I’ve seen critics call her music “unfussy,” which can also be code for “boring” — “Tove-Lo” sounds like an acronym for a focus group.
Above all, the whole thing strikes me as “pop music for people who don’t like pop music,” which is a concept I categorically resent. Corban Goble
The Weeknd: “I Can’t Feel My Face”
Okay, I get that The Weeknd is trying to work the sex-drugs parallel here. Problem is, unlike Miguel, who makes it super sexy, The Weeknd just makes it dumb. Are you serious dude? Is that supposed to be hot? It’s like he took the worst part about doing drugs, realized how fucking unsexy it actually is, then tried to balance it out with elements of songs that do it better: He borrows a drawling nonmelody from MOTHXR, lays the whole thing over a shuffling bassline wishing it belonged to Thriller, and gives the final product a Bruno Mars pop-funk sheen. But it just doesn’t work. It doesn’t matter how hard you try to make it a Thing. If you’re at the point where you can’t feel your face, you probably look like an idiot. Yasmin Tayag