The worst songs from 21 popular artists

Robb Cohen/Invision/AP,Christopher Polk/Getty,Chris Pizzello/Invision/APEven talented artists have a few not-so-great songs.
  • Some musicians, like Ariana Grande and Lorde, have trashed their own early tracks as they have grown as artists.
  • Certain songs, like Britney Spears’ “Email My Heart” and Katy Perry’s “Ur So Gay” haven’t exactly aged well.
  • Some artists hit a bad note when they try out new genres, like when Justin Timberlake went for a country-folk sound with “The Hard Stuff.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

You’d be hard-pressed to find an artist, no matter how talented, who hasn’t recorded a song or two that just falls flat.

Here are some of the worst songs by 21 popular solo artists.


Taylor Swift’s “Look What You Made Me Do” broke the internet, and not in a good way.

Big Machine Label Group/YouTubeTaylor Swift in the ‘Look What You Made Me Do’ music video.

When the lead single from Swift’s album “Reputation” dropped in 2017, some listeners were confused.

With lyrics that appeared to be the latest, petty instalment in the years-long Kanye-Taylor feud, a declaration of the “old Taylor” as “dead,” and a beat that seems heavily inspired by Right Said Fred’s 1991 turkey “I’m Too Sexy,” the new track was met with horror and fascination.

Music journalist Meaghan Garvey of Pitchfork perhaps described the song best, calling it “a half-rapped, half-assed airing of grievances.”


Bruce Springsteen’s “Real Man” doesn’t make the cut.

Spencer Platt/Getty ImagesIt’s not Bruce Springsteen’s best work.

Even one of the most-hailed songwriters alive has had some misses.

This song, off the 1992 album “Human Touch,” has a few major issues. For starters, its synthy sound was dated at the time of its recording, as though it should have come out a decade earlier.

Arguably worse is the song’s banal subject material (it’s about taking a girl to the movies) and its upbeat tone that makes the whole track sound nothing like Bruce Springsteen’s other works.

When ranking Springsteen’s 327-track discography for Vulture, music journalist Caryn Rose put “Real Man” toward the bottom, writing “The synthesiser intro is awful and cringeworthy, and Springsteen is so artificially bright that he’s completely unbelievable.”


Katy Perry’s “Ur So Gay” has not aged well.

YouTube/KatyPerryVEVOKaty Perry in the ‘Ur So Gay’ music video.

Although her much more popular song “I Kissed a Girl” has been the subject of critical retrospection for its rudimentary and arguably exploitative use of queer sexuality, “Ur So Gay,” is just indefensible.

The song, from her 2008 album “One of the Boys,” seemingly uses “gay” as an insult for a (straight) hipster guy and, at one point, Perry gets graphic and tells him to “hang yourself with your H&M scarf.”

This is not to mention that the entire song is laden with potentially harmful stereotypes that are still difficult to stomach even though Perry released the song over a decade ago.

In a 2008 interview with Prefix magazine, the artist implied that the track was never meant to reinforce negative stereotypes, saying “I’m not the type of person who walks around calling everything gay. That song is about a specific guy that I used to date and specific issues that he had … The listeners have to read the context of the song and decide for themselves.”

Still, it’s no surprise that the Entertainment Weekly staff named it the singer’s worst track in a 2017 ranking of her songs.


Ed Sheeran’s “Galway Girl” has some pretty strong detractors.

Ed Sheeran/YouTubeSaoirse Ronan and Ed Sheeran in the ‘Galway Girl’ music video.

The upbeat track about a girl from Ireland is perhaps the most-criticised single off of Ed Sheeran’s 2017 album “Divide.”

Both the melody and lyrics of the song draw vocal critics, with a number of listeners even creating memes about how much they really don’t want to listen to “Galway Girl” anymore.

Time magazine’s staff even named it one of the worst songs of 2017, describing it as “a song whose calculatedness and awkward lumber from verse to chorus may depress tourism to Dublin for years to come.”


Tim McGraw’s “Truck Yeah” doesn’t say much.

Tim McGraw/YouTubeThe song doesn’t tell a story.

Country icon Tim McGraw has released a number of timeless tracks, but his 2012 track “Truck Yeah” (which was the first single he released with Big Machine Records) from his album “Two Lanes of Freedom” doesn’t hold up.

As many listeners have pointed out, the song doesn’t have much of a storyline, which makes the lyrics frustrating to follow.

As one reviewer wrote for SavingCountryMusic.com, “There’s no story. The song just spews out stereotypical artifacts of culture while hanging on one single monotone vocal note with minor variations.”


Ariana Grande herself has said she hates her first single, “Put Your Hearts Up.”

Al Pereira/WireImageThe ‘Put Your Hearts Up’ music video used to air on Nickelodeon.

Ariana Grande has spoken publicly about how mortified she is by this early track and its accompanying video, saying it was “geared toward kids and felt so inauthentic and fake.”

The 2011 song came out when the songstress was transitioning from Nickelodeon actress (known for her work on children’s TV shows like “Sam & Cat” and “Victorious”) to pop soloist, – and it clearly doesn’t mesh with the artful style she would go on to develop.

The singer even compared the cringeworthy “Put Your Hearts Up” to “scrolling back too far on Facebook,” and said she still has nightmares about it.


Lady Gaga’s song “Jewels & Drugs” is not a fan favourite.

Kevin Winter/Getty ImagesThe track isn’t as impressive as the rest of ‘Artpop.’

“Jewels & Drugs” featuring T.I., Too $hort, and Twista is the one bad apple on Gaga’s conceptually strong 2013 album “Artpop.”

Although some pop artists can dabble in rap successfully, it would appear that, despite her vast talent, Lady Gaga is not one of those people.

As Popdust pointed out, neither Gaga nor the rappers featured are doing each other any favours.

Rather than spend the rest of our days trying to figure out what it means to “slap honey on a young pancake” (yes, that’s a lyric), even some of the most diehard Gaga fans will just skip this track.


Kanye West’s “Closed on Sunday (Chick-fil-A)” is especially strange.

Kanye West/YouTubeA shot from the ‘Closed on Sunday (Chick-fil-A)’ music video.

A number of fans and critics have found Kanye West’s latest album, “Jesus is King,” off-putting for its aggressively religious overtones, which is a departure from the rest of the rapper’s discography.

Some have singled out and criticised “Closed on Sunday (Chick-fil-A)” for combining religious lyrics (like “Follow Jesus, listen and obey”) with an artless reference to a popular fast-food chain.


Lana Del Rey’s “Lolita” doesn’t work as well as her other songs.

Joseph Okpako/Getty ImagesLana Del Rey has many impressive songs, but this isn’t exactly one of them.

“Lolita,” a bonus track from Lana Del Rey’s 2012 “Born to Die” album, hasn’t fared well with many music critics, either.

It’s easy to tell that “Lolita,” with its sung-spoken words about adolescence and older men, comes from the same era as better-known songs like “Off to the Races” and “Diet Mountain Dew” – but it lacks the rhythm, catchiness, or cleverness of those more impressive tracks.

In fact, Billboard contributor Richard S. He named it the second-worst track in the singer’s entire songbook.


Some critics don’t love Post Malone’s “Psycho,” and it might have to do with the unimaginative lyrics.

Post Malone/YouTubePost Malone in the ‘Psycho’ music video.

Although fans may disagree, Posty’s track “Psycho” featuring Ty Dolla $ign, rubbed some music experts the wrong way.

The slowed-down song from Post Malone’s 2018 album “Beerbongs & Bentleys” lacks the infectious hooks of some of the soloist’s other hits.

Plus, it features unimaginative lyrics about watches and cringeworthy ones about letting ugly girls have some of your booze.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Time magazine staff named it the worst track of 2018.


Britney Spears’ “Email My Heart” is pretty cringey.

Mike Windle/Getty ImagesThe song hasn’t aged well.

Britney Spears has had some of the biggest and best pop hits of the last 20 years, but “Email My Heart” is just a filler track off her 1999 album, “…Baby One More Time.”

There’s just something uniquely cringey about pop songs that latch onto contemporary technology for no apparent reason.

Plus with lyrics like, “Email me back and say our love will stay alive / Forever email my heart,” it’s hard to take this track seriously.

The Entertainment Weekly staff has it ranked as the worst of her songs, and Spears’ fans on Reddit marked it pretty close to the bottom, too.


Not everyone is charmed by Bruno Mars’ “The Lazy Song.”

YouTube/Bruno MarsBruno Mars and some monkeys in ‘The Lazy Song’ music video.

Despite his success, Bruno Mars has a lot of detractors who find his vintage style more generic copycat than refreshingly retro.

This particular song, off his debut 2010 album “Doo-Wops and Hooligans,” was uniquely irritating to some music journalists, like Clint Hale at the Houston Press, who acknowledged the song’s kitsch but found its sound and lyrics fittingly lazy, too.

And when you compare this track to some of Mars’ more impressive ballads and upbeat anthems, it simply doesn’t hold up.


Madonna’s “B—- I’m Madonna” is little more than an attention-grabber.

Madonna/YouTubeMadonna in the ‘B—- I’m Madonna’ music video.

From the pop icon’s 2015 album “Rebel Heart,” this single featuring Nicki Minaj was fun for its brashness but lacking in melody and believability.

Music critics also had a lot to say about this track: Alexis Petridis of The Guardian said it’s “a fantastic title in search of a song” and John Muphy of Music OMH called it a “mess” with a “seemingly now obligatory Nicki Minaj guest rap.”

Interestingly, in the track’s music video, Minaj doesn’t even appear in person – she only appears on a screen, as if she didn’t want to physically be any closer to the rest of the song.


Drake’s “Glow,” which features Kanye West, doesn’t really shine.

Prince Williams/WireImageThe lyrics are far too repetitive to be inspiring.

This track from Drake’s 2017 mixtape “More Life” is repetitive both musically and lyrically.

The line “Watch out for me, I’m about to glow” is heard far too many times over a slow, simple, and uninspiring beat.

And in 2018, The Ringer staff even ranked it dead last out of Drake’s tracks, calling it one of the songs “only Drake’s mum likes.”


Selena Gomez’s “Hold On” doesn’t strike a chord with some fans.

Paramount Pictures/YouTubeThe track is forgettable.

Music written for movies has the unique challenge of accompanying a visual narrative while also being good in its own right – and sometimes, songs miss the mark.

This particular track, which was performed with Ben Kweller for the 2014 movie “Rudderless,” was ranked as the worst Selena Gomez song by fans on Reddit.

With its uninspired lyrics (“Rely on your friends, they will get you through, they’re there for you”) and generic country-ish melody, this song just isn’t memorable, especially when Gomez has so many more impressive tracks to choose from.


Billy Joel has many greats songs, but “The Mexican Connection” isn’t one of them.

Kristian Dowling/Getty ImagesBilly Joel has released many more impressive songs.

Fans on the internet haven’t come to a consensus for which of the Piano Man’s songs ranks last, but according to Vulture writer Christopher Bonanos it’s the instrumental “The Mexican Connection” from the 1974 album “Streetlife Serenade.”

Bonanos describes the track as sounding “like the rights-free music people use in YouTube videos,” and it’s hard to disagree with him. The song isn’t terrible, just not at all memorable.


It seems that no one’s really a fan of Justin Bieber’s “Beauty and a Beat” ft. Nicki Minaj.

Justin Bieber/YouTubeNicki Minaj and Justin Bieber in the music video for ‘Beauty and a Beat.’

From the corny title to the song itself, this track just isn’t much of a winner.

Some have taken issue with the song’s seemingly implied, age-inappropriate sexual dynamic between Minaj and Bieber (Minaj was around 30 when the track dropped and Bieber had just turned 18).

Bieber himself has even said that even he was never really a fan of the song – it was just a popular style for the time.


Beyoncé’s cover of “Back to Black” isn’t a favourite.

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images For Parkwood Entertainment)Not even Beyoncé’s cover can outshine Amy Winehouse’s version of this track.

Anyone covering one of the personality-filled, near-perfect hits by the late Amy Winehouse is setting themselves up for failure – even the massively talented Queen Bey.

This track, which features Andre 3000 and was recorded for 2013’s “The Great Gatsby,” just isn’t a winner – Spin magazine staff named it the lowest out of all the powerhouse singer’s 176 recorded songs.

The rhythm is disorienting, and Beyoncé has done the seductive, wispy voice better in other songs.


A number of critics aren’t fond of Adele’s “Love in the Dark.”

Graham Denholm/Stringer/Getty ImagesAdele is talented, but not every single track she releases is a hit.

The ballad, off her 2015 album “25,” isn’t terrible – it just pales in comparison to the musical bombshell’s other work, failing to show off the same vocal talent and emotional depth found in some of her bigger hits.

Billboard writer Chuck Arnold ranked it last out of all Adele’s recorded songs in a 2018 tribute to the singer, writing “Not even the mighty Adele can rescue the maudlin overdrive of this 25 ballad. It tugs on all the heartstrings (cue the violins) but fails to really strike a chord.”


Justin Timberlake’s experiment with country music took a nosedive with “The Hard Stuff.”

Mark Mainz/Getty ImagesThis Justin Timberlake track wasn’t a hit with critics.

Justin Timberlake’s album “Man of the Woods,” which came out in early 2018, was ripped apart by critics and it didn’t fare much better with fans.

Time magazine included “The Hard Stuff” in its “Worst of 2018” list, calling it a “messy, twangy tune, his voice getting lost in its saccharine lyrics – and in overbearing production bloated with the electronic version of drum circle percussion.”


Lorde herself has trashed her hit single “Royals.”

Lorde/YouTubeLorde has released far more impressive tracks.

“Royals” may have launched the prodigal songstress’ career, but Lorde has publicly trashed the single, which is from her 2013 album “Pure Heroine.”

In an interview with the Daily Record, she said, “None of the melodies are cool or good. It’s disastrous.” She’s even compared it to a “2006 Nokia ringtone.”

Although “Royals” has received plenty of love from fans and critics (it spent a lot of time on the Billboard Top 100), listening to it side-by-side with one of her more recent songs makes it clear how much she’s grown as an artist.

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