“The whole year put you in the worst mood,” The Weeknd croons to kick off DJ Earworm’s annual hit extravaganza, “The United States of Pop.” True, Abel, and thank you for noticing.
The mash-up features 25 of the year’s biggest hits, including Rae Sremmurd’s “Black Beatles,” Sia’s “Cheap Thrills,” and Fifth Harmony’s “Work From Home.” Where last year’s track synthesized 50 songs into one sultry bedroom slow-jam, this year’s product uses fewer pieces and delivers something more frantic, anxious, and occasionally scary. At one point, former One Direction member Zayn Malik’s hit break-out single “Pillowtalk” is sped up by a factor of at least four and paired with a shot of 14-year-old Sia muse Maddie Ziegler covering her eyes and sticking out her tongue.
But dizzying doesn’t equal “unenjoyable,” and reliving the songs that defined your year for better or worse in rapid succession is still inherently fun.
There’s ample Rihanna, Drake, and Justin Bieber, hitmakers approaching a decade on top, as well as more than enough of the year’s biggest newbies — Lil Yachty, D.R.A.M., The Chainsmokers, and Twenty One Pilots. Queen of pop Taylor Swift took the year off from recording her own music, but she’s still represented by the Calvin Harris and Rihanna song “This is What You Came For,” which she co-wrote.
Two notable absences are Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, whose collaboration “Side to Side” has felt ubiquitous for months now. But most glaringly: no Beyoncé. How are you going to include Joe Jonas in a 2016 round-up and leave out Beyoncé?
DJ Earworm told The Verge in an email: “On Billboard, ‘Hold Up’ peaked at number 13, ‘Sorry’ peaked at number 11, [and] ‘Formation’ peaked at number 10. While she had a really big cultural moment, it didn't translate into smash singles.”
What the heck, you guys? We dropped the ball!