Although 2012 wasn't a particularly awful year for music, we still had to contend with a few dozen all-time stinkers. I wish I had room to fully address all the year's egregious pop crimes — Matchbox Twenty's "She's So Mean," 2 Chainz & Drake's "No Lie," Ed Sheeran's "The A Team" — but I'll focus my efforts on a few of the very worst.
SECOND RUNNER-UP: OF MONSTERS AND MEN, "LITTLE TALKS"
Not only did I always think this was going to be Mighty Mighty Bosstones when it came on the radio, I was always a little disappointed that it wasn't. What could bring on such a perverse reaction? Well, picture a slightly lamer Icelandic version of Mumford & Sons. Check out how mad you're getting.
FIRST RUNNER-UP: DAVE MATTHEWS BAND, "MERCY"
Dave Matthews shuffles up to "Mercy" with cap in hand; his voice is soft and humble, like Garrison Keillor singing a self-composed hymn. Dave Matthews has a Message for us. Dave believes deeply that the world's problems should be fixed. How can we do it? I don't expect Brookings Institution nuance from my pop songs, but Dave comes at us with a pretty lightweight policy platform. First, stop whining about the world's problems — uh, check yourself, Matthews — " 'cause crying won't save or feed a hungry child." (Instructions for feeding a hungry child are not included.) Second: big surprise, it's the ol' smile-on-your-brother chestnut: "Love is strong, so we got to get together/till there is no reason to fight." Hug it out, Syria.
Stick around for the aftertaste. Under its false gentleness, this is a haughty, scolding track. "We spend a lot of time bickering at great cost, and very little time actually coming up with solutions," Matthews told CNN. "And I think that's sort of pathetic and desperate." You heard the man. Stop being the problem. Roll up your sleeves and get it done, people.
Note to shoppers: if you're interested in being passive-aggressively blamed for the world's ills and taken to task for not fixing them, shop carefully. There was another song called "Mercy" in 2012; it's the same price, and it's about getting jerked off in a Lambo.
WINNER: IMAGINE DRAGONS, "IT'S TIME"
When we look back on the worst indie pop of 2012, "It's Time" might not be the first thing that comes to mind — that honor probably goes to Fun.'s "Some Nights," which was more grating, ridiculous, overplayed, and overpunctuated. But Fun.'s towering terribleness was propped up with idiot pomp and misapplied ambition, and in 10 years we might even look back on "Some Nights" as funny-bad rather than toxically awful (don't get me wrong: for now, fuck 'em).
I don't think the ages will be as kind to "It's Time," with its undisguised Creed video and its nauseating aw-shucks humblebrag chorus ("don't worry guys, I'll totally be the same down-to-earth dude when I'm famous"). So-called "indie" acts like Fun., Gotye, Neon Trees, and Mumford & Sons ruled alt-rock radio in 2012, but most had some kernel of not-3-Doors-Down-ness to them. Imagine Dragons might just mark the permanent deathblow to the "indie" descriptor.