I love pop music. I love rap music. But the two together often frustrate me – not when the song is a blend of both genres, but when a rap queen or king suddenly hops on a pop track that’s just starting to blow up on the charts.
It’s an obvious marketing move that usually feels forced and uncomfortable. Even worse is when the featured verse feels like it was written and recorded within five minutes as a quick cash-grab.
Here is my list of some of the worst offenders of late.
“My Oh My” – Camila Cabello
“My Oh My” off Camila’s 2019 album Romance is a dedication to a mysterious womanizer who makes the former X-Factor contestant swoon. He’s older, he’s got a black leather jacket and he’s only here for one thing – but so is she!
DaBaby’s feature fits on this track’s R&B-pop beat, and lyrically, I actually like his part of the song better than the rest. However, the infectious melody that was created with the help of hitmaker Frank Dukes loses its luster after ten or so plays on the radio, and sitting through the song just to hear DaBaby’s shining moment gets old.
“Levitating” – Dua Lipa
25-year-old Dua Lipa is a powerhouse of pop. Her 2020 album Future Nostalgia features hits I’ve been dancing to all year, including “Don’t Start Now” and “Break My Heart.” Unfortunately, as with many pop songs, both tracks wore off quickly for me – but neither was an immediate “NO” in the way that “Levitating” was when I first heard it.
The rising track feels extremely fun and danceable until the humdrum lyrics slowly ruin it. Is there anything worse than when a line in a song feels like a filler that they just decided wasn’t worth punching up?
While Lizzo’s famous “bom bom bi bom bi dum dum, ay” in “Truth Hurts” is an example of a filler line that fit perfectly in the song without needing a more meaningful lyrical replacement, the “YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH, YEAH!” line from “Levitating” sounds like it’s fresh off a Kidz Bop remix.
I actually wish Dua Lipa had just given the whole thing to DaBaby, putting him on the verses and leaving her on the chorus. The beat is super fun, and DaBaby’s endless energy elevates the grooviness of the track. Unfortunately, his verse is a diamond in the rough on this one.
“Bad Blood” – Taylor Swift
I was genuinely shook the first time I heard one of the most legendary rap artists of our generation on a Taylor Swift track. Taylor’s a princess of pop and Kendrick is a prince of rap, but was that really enough of a reason to put these two together?
Kendrick is famously smart with his money, and I could understand why he would want the likely enormous paycheck he got for this feature. But was it worth it? This collab felt like a very confusing step down for Kendrick, and no matter how much money or exposure he got out of it, trying to imagine how he thought this was a fun idea makes my brain hurt.
“Girls Like You” – Maroon 5
Adam Levine and the rest of Maroon 5 accepted their transition from being cool to being repetitive cogs in the music industry’s wheel long ago. I can’t begrudge them for making themselves rich as heck, but I will no longer stand for embarrassingly uninspired tracks like “Girls Like You.”
The slow beat is really not the most inviting for a rapper, and while I do love Cardi B, she didn’t have the chops to make it work. Maybe a better talent when it comes to lyrics and flow could have salvaged this already-bad song, but this one was just not in Cardi’s wheelhouse.
Her lyrics are as cheesy and boring as the rest of the track, and the way she forces her flow into such a slow and unmemorable beat makes the verse clunky and awkward.
So, rappers, I beg of you: Stop saying yes to these pop stars’ people. You can do better, and we’d all be better off if we stopped trying to fit the square pegs of your talent into the round holes of these money-printing pop machines.