It's been an unlucky year for planet Earth. The sea gods became enraged and struck out at humanity, an election divided Americans neatly between rednecks and hippies, and the deaths of Jacques Derrida and Susan Sontag brought the world's average IQ down by 0.0034 points. But did anything happen in pop music? Well, yeah, but none of that was good either.

I probably shouldn’t even have to tell you this, but I will anyway because it’s easy to misjudge just how stupid internet audiences can be: it’s 2005 now. For those of you who weren’t such hot scholars, that means it’s been two thousand and five years since God was born, or since the world began, or something like that. It also has something to do with the Earth rotating around the sun, or vice versa. The ultimate meaning of this, of course, is that it’s time to look back upon the last three hundred and sixty-five days and fondly reminisce about how much we hated all the records that came out.

As far as I’m concerned, that means that it’s time for me to write the 2004 edition of the World’s Greatest Dad Awards. In case you weren’t alive yet last year, allow me to explain: I’m going to be presenting awards to musicians who have royally botched my year with their artistic ineptitude. You’d be justified in asking why these awards are called the World’s Greatest Dad Awards, so here’s the deal: I didn’t want to have to make artwork or sculpt trophies or anything, so I just chose a title that would already have plenty of prefabricated artwork available. Wasn’t that clever? Now, instead of belaboring it further, how about I get on with the show.

The World’s Greatest Dad Award for Most Hilariously Bad Hip Hop Single
The Diplomats – S.A.N.T.A.N.A.

DIP-SET TALIBAN!All the other year-end list-writers, caught up in the giddy delight of being able to write lines like “The Year of Crunk,” have been trying to sell us the notion that it’s okay to enjoy stupid party-rap again. Sure, Lil’ Jon and his merry Eastside Boys may turn out mountains of hilarious, morally bankrupt, and nearly identical hits, but this year’s real story on bad rap has nothing to do with him. Instead, we turn to notoriously heterosexual rapper Cam’ron’s jaw-droppingly terrible crew, The Diplomats (Or, as they like to call themselves, the Dip-set. They also like to be called the Byrd Gang and the Taliban, as evidenced by the fact that they shout out “Dip-set Byrd Gang Taliban!” or “Purple City Taliban Byrd Gang Dip-set!” or some variation of it on every track). The group is made up of Cam’ron’s amazingly unpromising protégés, most notably the manic young Juelz Santana, whose lyrical style suggests that he’s only vaguely heard of rap in passing. In S.A.N.T.A.N.A., which probably doesn’t stand for anything, the teenage MC sloppily shouts his unearned bravado with all the machismo and Scarface references of a seasoned moron. I cannot even begin to describe the lack of effort apparent in the lyrics; in fact, almost every single rhyme in the song is hilariously clumsy. I can’t even pick the best one, but here’s an example of some particularly relevant lines to give you a whiff of what Juelz is dishing out: “Fuck driving reckless, my mind is reckless / Plus I stay with two time crime offenders.” My particular favorite section of the song, which comes right after he threatens to kill a waiter for forgetting to bring him pasta with his lobster, manages to make Jesus-comparisons while rhyming the same word four times: “Yeah, but I be right back at ya / Twice back at ya, like Christ back at ya / You be like damn That's one nice ass rapper / I kinda like that rapper, I wanna be like that rapper / No, but if you bite that rapper, I might bite back at ya.” And I haven’t even mentioned the production yet. I can’t think of any other word to describe it but “bewildering”; it’s a hyperactive whirlwind of high-pitched voice samples and menacing strings that sounds like it was cobbled together from the soundtracks of lesser Puppet Master sequels. While it may be one of the worst rap singles of the year, it scores off the charts in the “unintentionally funny” category.

The World’s Greatest Dad Award for Mercifully Dropping off the Radar

Thank you, sweet Christ, for no follow-up single to “Headstrong” and “Echo.” Those two singles made listening to the radio in 2003 and early 2004 feel like coughing up a throwing star. Or maybe it was more like having a highly-trained team of lobsters attacking my dick. Basically, I’d describe the feeling that those songs gave me as comparable to having a broom handle wrapped in sandpaper pushed and twisted into my ocular cavity, slowly and terrifyingly crushing and rending first the eyeball, then the surrounding bones and muscles, and then encroaching further and further in my brain as I prayed for merciful death. So, you know, they weren’t bad, but I didn’t much care for them.

The World’s Greatest Dad Award for Most Unbearable Summer Pop Anthem
Hoobastank – The Reason

What a ghastly visage.For this song, Hoobastank, you should only drop dead. Actually, that would be too easy. Now that you have unleashed this abomination on the world, the onus is on you to somehow stop it. I don’t care what you do. Buy up all the copies you can find and destroy them. Spout racist doctrine in television interviews until you’re boycotted. Build a time machine and unwrite the song. Just stop the song somehow. It’s been more than six months since the single was released, and yet I still hear that cloying riff ooze out of my radio twenty times a week, and I’m murderously sick of it. I’d imagine that it’s even worse for you, Hoobastank guy, because you probably have to sing the piece of shit on stage five nights a week in front of lovesick teenage girls who somehow haven’t noticed that your eyes are an inch and a half too far apart. In fact, I’m willing to bet that you’re terrified of the song. You know it’s terrible. You came up with the lyrics in your head in the shower and almost didn’t bother writing them down. You feel like it was too easy. You’re paranoid and guilty, like you’ve pulled the wool over the public’s eyes and sooner or later they’re going to rise up against you and say “hey, not only is this song as irritating like a flea in my eyeball, but the lyrics barely even make sense!” I hope this song eats you up inside, Hoobastank guy. I never want to hear your stupid song again, I never want to see your stupid face again, and most of all I never want to read your stupid name again.

The World’s Greatest Dad Award for Least Interesting New Artist

If you’re trying to place the name, allow me to remind you of the summer crunk anthem “Goodies.” Now, honestly, “Goodies” was not that offensive. It’s a c-list minor hit. It occupies the lowest tier of pop hits: it’s not really catchy enough to be a hit, since it basically has naught but the most rudimentary tune (supposedly an R&B singer, Ciara sings a maximum of three separate notes during the verse; she may as well be rapping extremely slowly). Its success comes only on the back of its producer, the ubiquitous Lil’ Jon (the Trevor Horn of the 00s). Basically, the single is forgivable and forgettable. However, what makes Ciara worthy of a World’s Greatest Dad Award is her second single, the currently overplayed “1, 2 Step.” The thing just really fucking sticks in my craw. Why? Because it’s exactly the same song as “Goodies,” only slightly worse. It’s like a blurry photocopy. Ciara, I put up with one shitty single out of you without too much fuss, because you’re just a poor dumb kid with no talent who got a big break when some half-insane dreadlocked flyweight decided to add some blazing synths to your disquietingly empty non-song. But don’t try to pull another one over on me. It’s ignoble and embarrassing. I feel like I slipped my niece a quarter for singing “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and now whenever I visit she tries to spring it on me again for more change.

The World’s Greatest Dad Award for Worst Rock Band
Maroon 5

Maroon 5: No longer existentIt breaks my heart that the sort of person prone to listening to insulting fake soul music likely spent his “fun money” on Maroon 5 CDs last year rather than suicide implements. Maroon 5 manages to combine the musical chops of a failed pop-punk band (Kara’s Flowers, in case you don’t recall) with the crystalline artistic vision of gangly doofus hipster-poseurs imitating Lionel Ritchie. They’re sexy, fun, and non-threatening, just like a chaperoned junior high school dance with a relaxed dress code (which is, of course, one of the events at which you’re most likely to hear Maroon 5 songs). Oh no, somebody spiked the punch with Fanta! Their only saving grace is that they’re probably too dull to ever be truly loathed; their chart-burning pop singles have about the same emotional effect as a minor mosquito bite. Let’s try a little experiment: let’s all just refuse to acknowledge their existence from now on. With enough willpower, we can probably ignore them right out of the material plane. Next time one of their songs comes on the radio, I want you to say to yourself: “this song no longer irritates me, because Maroon 5 does not exist in my world.” When you’re watching some VH1 show about how wonderful 1995 was and the bright-faced lads appear on screen to talk about how much they dug Oasis, just stare right through them, for they are nothing but an insubstantial blur of pixels on a glass screen. If you’re driving and you see the lead singer step into the crosswalk in front of you, hit the gas. He’s not really there.

World’s Greatest Dad Award for Lifetime Achievement in Dismal Comebacks

Just give up already.Why is U2, a band who has sustained their popularity for over two decades, one of those bands whose every album seems like a comeback? Well, there are two main reasons. First of all, of course, is the massive publicity push that comes with each new U2 record; for all the promotion they get, you’d think they hadn’t made an LP in ten years. Secondly, it’s because after every album comes an extended period of wishing that U2 would just fucking go away. Therefore, each time a U2 single hits the radio, your heart sinks anew. Especially when that single is as god-awful as “Vertigo.” I’m going to come right out and say that U2 has made their share of decent and unobtrusive songs over the years, or at least, songs that wouldn’t make me snap the radio off in disgust. However, in recent years, U2’s been making records that bring new shame to the venerable institution of coasting on reputation (people like Leonard Cohen and Lou Reed still manage it without looking like failures). Instead, U2 made such a feeble stab at experimentalism with “Pop” that an album of tepid crap was seen as a return to form. Their lofty musical ambitions have entirely dried up, as evidenced by dismal singles like the 2000’s “Beautiful Day,” “Elevation,” and now “Vertigo” (which might as well be called “The Record Label Wouldn’t Let Us Release Elevation Again, So Here’s This”). It’s clearly intended to be a vigorous and upbeat single, but instead it sounds like the work of tired old phonies who have totally ceased to understand rock and roll but are willing to take a stab at it out of some sense of obligation. Be sure to check out the latest issue of Spin for a touching story about their artistic decision to hawk IPods.

Yuck. Anyway, maybe 2005 will bring about a return to decent music, but I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. How about this: if there still isn’t anything good coming out in 2005, let’s just end music. It’s had a good run, and it’s done a lot to enrich our lives. It’s probably made all of us some friends, and given us something to dance to. Maybe you were listening to “Sweet Jane” the first time you kissed someone. Maybe when you got your first car you drove around town with the radio blasting “Runnin’ With The Devil.” Music probably has some sentimental value, but at this point it’s pretty much run its course, hasn’t it? To put it crudely, it’s time for music to shit or get off the pot. Let’s meet up this same time next year, and if nothing worthwhile has happened we’ll just quietly bring it to a close.

– Dr. David Thorpe (@Arr)

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