Written by Jeff Williams | @jeffaraoh

What makes a bad song popular?

First….Let’s start by defining what makes a song, bad.


Simplicity, excessive repetition or too little repetition, infectious melody, beats, lyrical content, feelings, and context.


Context, for example, “Gimme That” by Webbie. This is a good song at a freshman year college party; but, it’s a bad song at a church revival. Unless your church is the club (no judgement if it is).


The list goes on of what makes a song bad. And, if you read the list and thought that those things certainly could apply to a good song, then like me, you probably have come to the conclusion that bad and good is perception based like literally everything else humankind debates.


So, for the sake of this post let’s identify a bad song and break down what makes it popular:


Swag Surf. Yikes.


Let’s be honest…..Swag Surf is a bad song. I’m sad I had to use it as an example. But, it’s the perfect example, as it checks all the bad boxes I listed above. None of us actually know what they meant by “I’m on exotic” without going to rap genius.  Even worse, most don’t even know who performs it! Imagine that. A song so popular that it’s in discussion to be the new aged Black National Anthem. A song so popular and catchy that it’s bigger than the artist. It must be played at any feel-good social gathering and if you asked 10 people, only about 3 could actually tell you who performs it.


(Extra Points to anyone who can Not only Name the Group but the Group Members)

If you break the song down it checks all of the bad boxes. So, why is it popular?


For all the reasons it’s a bad song. At the core, it’s popular because of how it makes us listeners FEEL. Or, in the case of Swag Surf and many songs connected to a dance, how it makes a collective of people who share common traits feel together. It’s powerful.




Swag surfing at the White House:




The emotions that a popular bad song provokes supersede the lyrical content. Add in the additional layer of what the popular bad song inspires you to do and boom! You’re hooked to a bad song.


It’s often times why we don’t even pay attention to the exact words we recite. Other relevant examples include “Bad and Boujee”, “Laffy Taffy”, “Crank That”, “White T”, “XO Tour Life”. Revisit these songs and their lyrical content.


Then meet me back here:


Music is a vibration. Sometimes, we can’t even explain why we like songs because it connects to us subconsciously. The purpose is to interpret these songs. They’re meant to be felt. We’ll even excuse the poor content.


Conclusion: Think about some of your favorite songs good and bad. Take some time to describe why you like it or the feelings you get when you listen to it?



What are some of your favorite popular bad songs? Post them and your reasoning for liking it below.


I look forward to responses!

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