Perhaps it’s Chainsmokers fatigue, or the fact that I still don’t know what Twenty One Pilots sounds like even after hearing their music multiple times, but in retrospect 2016 was an exceptionally disappointing year for pop megahits. Granted, I can barely remember anything that happened before November 9, but if we hadn’t had Rihanna, Drake, Desiigner and a few others, the landscape would have been a hellscape of misogynist casino music (Chainsmokers) and flaccid Justin Timberlake attempts at relevancy.
DJ Earworm is famous for his end-of-year pop mash-ups, though calling them that feels a bit like undermining the deftness of his work, considering how the concept of the “mash-up” has devolved to imply half-assed and kitschy. He makes something more like sculptures, a precise reworking of the year in review into one short piece. On “United States of Pop 2016 (Into Pieces),” he uses Calvin Harris’s synths for “This Is What You Came For” as a rhythmic bed, and chooses only the most palatable excerpt of each song (could have used less Lukas Graham and more “Panda”), making a final product that all told feels better than a lot of the crap I heard on the Zara house system this year. Thank you DJ Earworm, and thank you America for a year (relatively) devoid of Taylor Swift!