Sam Bernstein managing editor
“Old Town Road” is everything a number one song should be. It’s catchy, fun, the beat is high quality, and Billy Ray Cyrus killed it on his feature verses. On top of that, the song’s success is great for independent artists in any genre and should serve as inspiration for musicians everywhere. It is the epitome of the traditional underdog tale, and Lil Nas X deserves all the fame he’s received from this song.
With that said, this trend of ironic music is disappointing. “Irony Music” is a new subset of music that, while lacking in overall skill, makes up for it through humorous lyrics and effects. While “Old Town Road” is blessed with a quality beat and a high production value, most other irony tracks do not have that. Old Town Road” is the outlier. Lil Nas X took advantage of a growing trend and made it his own, and he killed it. Unfortunately, his efforts aren’t reflective of the state of ironic music. Artists are putting little to no effort into songs, making quick jokes and shouting profanities with no real flow or purpose, and putting that over a $50 beat.
Lil Pump’s big songs “Gucci Gang” and “Esskeetit” are awful. The lazy beats and repetitive, boring lyrics make the songs some of the most unlistenable in the rap world. XXXTentacion’s “Look at Me” is one of the worst songs ever created. The song’s disgustingly vulgar lyrics combined with it’s similarly putrid beat makes it also unlistenable. And, 6ix9ine’s new album Dummy Boy is the lowest possible bar for music. It sounds like it was made in 15 minutes and I wouldn’t be surprised if it took less. Every song on the album was carried by the other artists on the tracks who were taking it somewhat seriously.. “Wondo,” the only song without a feature, highlights just how musically incompetent 6ix9ine is. This is legitimately bad music, and casual rap fans are letting it slide, further enabling artists to continue putting out horrible music.
Radio hits don’t have to be bad. Radio hits can also be humorous and lackadaisical without being unpalatably bad. “Bad and Boujee” by Migos is hilarious and profane, but it’s evident that Migos actually cares about the quality of the music they’re putting out. While it’s repetitive and somewhat lazily put together like Lil Pump’s music, it’s listenable. It’s fun, and while it does have an expiration date like all other music, it is both mainstream and appreciated.
This new wave of careless screaming over a beat is ruining rap music for a lot of people, and it isn’t just oldheads who feel this way. While Lil Nas X’s song and success is great, what isn’t great is that it’ll encourage even less effort and actual artistry from rappers. A song doesn’t have to be “No Role Modelz” or “Humble.” It doesn’t even have to be “A Lot” or “Nice for What.” It just has to be respectable. Incorporating humor in music is something that’s been done in all genres all throughout the history of contemporary music, and it’s been done at a high level. Humor can make a good song great. However, artists are relying on unfunny edgy humor to carry a cheap beat as well as little to no artistic talent, and it’s working. This trend needs to die.
We let “Gucci Gang” become the number three song in the country (Billboard Hot 100). That’s unacceptable. It’s an objectively bad song, and while it’s fun to listen to, it gets old after one or two listens. “Bad and Boujee” is still fun three years later, and “Old Town Road” will be too. While those songs have expiration dates (as does nearly every other song), they’ll still be nostalgic and enjoyable in moderation for years to come. “Gucci Gang,” and “Gummo,” are the late 2010’s equivalent of “You’re Beautiful” and “Wonderwall” (sorry BritPop). Once the initial charm of the songs wear off, as it has, they’ll only serve as two awful examples of what this generation had to offer musically. I’m not proud of that, nor should you be. We have so much incredible rap music right now that we absolutely should be proud of. Listeners should expect far more from our artists because we know what our generation is capable of, and we’re capable of greatness.