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The Songs We’ll Leave Behind In 2021

Looking back at the year that was and the worst songs of 2021

Amit Vaidya Jan 01, 2022

(Clockwise from top left) Jason Derulo, David Guetta and Maroon 5. Photos: Courtesy of the artists (Derulo, Maroon 5), Guerin Blask (Guetta)

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While there was plenty to sing along to in 2021, the year also had its fair share of duds. This year there seemed to be a particular joy some artists had in criticizing the pandemic, the vaccine rollout and the government – sadly most of these tracks were just so awful that the songs actually stunk more than the politics. Then there were big artists from the 2000s that tried to make comebacks with songs that tried to take us back to their heydays – only we didn’t really care anymore. Of course, there were some terrible samples and covers as to be expected and then a few superstars tried phoning it in to get another big hit (ahem, or that Oscar!). Here’s a look at the songs we’re more than happy to leave behind in 2021.

“Fake Woke” – Tom MacDonald                       

Canadian rapper Tom MacDonald has a point, but somewhere between taking a stand against “white privilege” and dissing Black Lives Matter, his “Fake Woke” loses any shred of insight, particularly because he chooses to present his music in a genre and style of music that actually undercuts everything he says.

“ZAZA” – 6IX9INE         

On the complete opposite end of the rap world is 6IX9INE who released yet another nonsense single in the form of “ZAZA,” hoping to bank another Number One hit. Thankfully audiences have smartened up a little but there is seriously still no excuse for this man or the music video garnering 80 million views on YouTube. Seriously, 6IX9INE makes Tom MacDonald’s single feel like Mozart in comparison.

“Don’t Tell Me How To Live” – Kid Rock, Monster Truck

“Don’t Tell Me How To Live” is the equivalent of the stinking garbage you simply have to remove from your house the minute you recognize the smell. Don’t get fooled by the quasi-patriotic drivel that Kid Rock presents here, banking on his 20-year celebrity status to actually carry any weight. His lyrics are as asinine as 6IX9INE and there is just no place for this music besides at a Trump rally.

“Bite Me” – Avril Lavigne

One of the greatest challenges of former teen superstars is the fact that with age, the next wave of teen superstars come along and define the next generation. Without Avril Lavigne, it’s quite possible we wouldn’t have Olivia Rodrigo today but because we do have Rodrigo, Lavigne’s comeback single “Bite Me” feels beyond dated. While she may still look young, the industry ages every artist and sadly, Lavigne tried to capitalize on the rock revival on the chart with a track that feels like a B-side from her debut album Let Go rather than anything current.

“Slow Clap” – Gwen Stefani, Saweetie                          

And speaking of dated, “Slow Clap” by Gwen Stefani has to be one of the most ridiculous attempts at the artist trying to reclaim her place on the Top 40 again. While I vehemently oppose Top 40 radio literally restricting play to artists under the age of 40, this song reeks of desperation. Yes, “Hollaback Girl” is now considered a retro classic but here, even with the help of rapper Saweetie, the track just feels awkward and a sorry attempt to feel relevant by the artist. 

“Boyz” – Jesy Nelson, Nicky Minaj                   

Probably the dumbest debut single by any boy or girl group member to depart their respective band has got to be “Boyz” by former Little Mix’s Jesy Nelson. Even with the help of Nicki Minaj and a sample (and cameo) from Diddy, this track is pure throwaway trash. Forget the criticism the singer received for the “appropriation” in the video, it really doesn’t matter when the song is this insipid and frankly annoying.

“F*****g Fans” – Drake                        

Whoever gave the green light to let Drake include this track in his Certified Lover Boy album should really be reprimanded. While the overinflated album left a lot to be desired, “F*****g Fans” is just a mean-spirited four-minute shoutout to himself, rather than saying anything sincere or even attempt to serve as even a half-apology to his ex, the song plays like the rapper’s justification checklist for his lifestyle. It’s dumb and more than that, it makes the rapper feel out of touch with reality.

“Rumors” – Lizzo, Cardi B                      

After the phenomenal success of “Truth Hurts” and “Good As Hell,” fans were super excited to finally hear new music from Lizzo. What they got, “Rumors” featuring Cardi B, was just meh. Like Drake, the singer felt out of touch from the greater reality. While artists have every right to share their truth and express themselves, the song felt like a major miscalculation, especially at a time when Lizzo was being seen as such a breakthrough performer and talent. The song actually seemed to distance the artist from fans who actually were rooting for her because she was like one of them. It probably didn’t help that Cardi B was already all over the radio post “WAP” with her own solo hit “Up” and was also heavily featured in a better single “Wildside” with Normani.

“NDA” – Billie Eilish

Yet another artist who caught the “woe, is me” virus this year was Billie Eilish. While her Happier Than Ever album is another strong body of work, “NDA” sticks out like a sore thumb. Despite the track’s darker themes and an attempt by the artist to share her truth about the reality of being a teen celebrity and the resultant challenges, the subject matter about non-disclosure agreements is so far removed from anyone in her audience that it makes the singer look less humble and more out of touch. Perhaps the track would have worked better on an album or two later but for now, this just feels completely unnecessary.

“Lost” – Maroon 5                     

Nobody was expecting Maroon 5 to suddenly become cool again, but when you release a single like “Lost” and then feature a song right after it on the album Jordi (“Echo”) and you literally can’t tell the difference between both songs, that’s a problem. This Billie Eilish meets The Police track is repetitive and dull, it’s hard to believe anyone at the label thought it was a good idea for the song to be released as a single. The track is beyond forgettable, which is unfortunate because while I may not always like every single Adam Levine and band have released over the years (here’s looking at you “Memories”!), they were all at least memorable. The song really lives up to its name.

“Be Alive” – Beyonce                

Okay, “Be Alive” from the film King Richard isn’t necessarily a bad song. It’s also definitely not one of the worst Beyonce songs I’ve ever heard. But the song is just seriously boring. And more importantly, the song feels calculated to the T. Everything about the song, from the production, to the lyrics to even the singer’s vocals feel designed as Oscar-bait. While it’s likely the star won’t be getting her dues in the acting department anytime soon, here is a more surefire way for her to garner that gold. Of course, by the looks of it, it’s likely her stiffest competition in the upcoming race could actually be her husband Jay-Z for his contribution to The Harder They Fall. Let’s see who wins – my money is on them splitting the votes and Billie Eilish going home with an Oscar (sigh).

“Why You No Love Me” – John Mayer            

So I’m not going to even discuss the obvious intentional grammatical error in the title of the song, which was a dealbreaker for many. My issue is actually less about the song title or its ridiculous placement in the otherwise decent The Eagles-sounding track – it’s actually more about self-awareness and modern culture. Mayer has spent a great deal of the past two decades creating some spectacular music and more often than not, he’s found a way to navigate all the controversies (many of which he’s created for himself) by giving us great music. But his Sob Rock album was more focused on an aesthetic and a sound than anything content wise. “Why You No Love Me” is no “Yah Mo B There” and this isn’t the Eighties anymore – this is a new world where even artistic expressions, regardless of how they are intended can and will leave an impression. It’s unfortunate that at this point in Mayer’s career, the title choice seemed more about getting a conversation going than actually about the song’s real meaning.

“Family” – David Guetta, Bebe Rexha, Ty Dolla $ign, A Boogie Wit da Hoodie

At some point, DJs and electronic music producers need to stop with these endless collaborations. “Family” brings David Guetta with Bebe Rexha again, but this time joined by Ty Dolla $ign and A Boogie Wit da Hoodie. The melody is beyond basic, the beats are just okay and the raps feel like they were recorded in 2012. While each artist has produced far better music – in this year itself – songs like this ruin an otherwise fun genre where we get unexpected pairings to dance along to. Guetta needs to perhaps collaborate with more diverse players and Rexha – well, her features often outplay her own material. Give your own work a chance to get spins, it’s better than this!

“Lil Bit” – Florida Georgia Line, Nelly                

Florida Georgia Line are basically harmless and every song has the same structure in place. Nelly joins them for this ride and it’s exactly what you’d expect bringing these artists together. Is it bad? Is it good? Is it needed? The artist would probably say a “Lil Bit.” But then again, if you can get millions of streams across the globe with a song that literally has zero originality – then why not?

“Acapulco” – Jason Derulo                   

Much like “Lil Bit,” “Acapulco” by Jason Derulo is literally exactly what you expect from Jason Derulo. In fact, it’s so much what you expect from Derulo that you begin to wonder, is this even a new song or are they playing one of his older hits? At this point in time, Derulo is a TikTok legend and while he’s not jumping on the next big discovery (this year that happened to be “Jalebi Baby” with Tesher), he’s cranking out harmless music that makes everyone feel like they are reliving a moment again and again but each time with a new song.

“Mad World” – Demi Lovato

Okay, I get why artists want to cover songs they love. But this very ordinary cover of Tears For Fears “Mad World” by Demi Lovato just felt completely out of place on an otherwise wonderful album Dancing With The Devil. The cover offers literally nothing new creatively, it’s very similar to previous versions by Gary Jules and Michael Andrews as well as Adam Lambert. Lovato may feel that the song added heft to their album but the truth of the matter is, the song took us out of their world.

“Talk About” – Rain Radio, DJ Craig Gorman

My annoyance for this track is twofold. First and foremost, I can’t for the life of me figure out why the song that basically is a remix of “Big Hoops (Bigger The Better)” by Nelly Furtado doesn’t actually credit “featuring Nelly Furtado” on the track. For as big as this song/mix/remix whatever you want to call it became, it was also a wonderful chance for a younger audience to discover the Canadian singer who hasn’t really had a hit since this song. Second, how in the world did this song – which basically derailed Furtado’s career – manage to become a big hit? I’ll be honest, the original was an acquired taste but clearly there was some brilliance in the track and even Furtado’s much-maligned (at-the-time) vocals were responsible for this hit!

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