Friday, November 15th, 2019

Highly Suspect – 16

It took us almost sixteen years to find it: our lowest rated song yet.


Ian Mathers: One of the things I love most about TSJ, and value the most personally, is the constant reminder it is, year in and year out, of the wonder and glory of pop music. The dark twin of that wonderful quality is that it reminds me with just about equal frequency and intensity that plenty of pop music is just dreadful crap. The fun of the world, of course, is that we all do our own sorting. 

Kylo Nocom: Active rock radio fosters its own ridiculously insular universe to the point where most publications don’t seem interested in covering newer acts at all unless they can take easy shots at them, à la Greta Van Fleet. These bands are never going to hit pop airplay and aren’t typically congruent with the tastes of most indie rock writers, so the only situations most people are likely to make contact with them are Grammy nominations season and specially catered alternative publications. The fans exist, though; it’s just that nobody that reads Loudwire likely cares to see what anybody else is saying from the outside. That myopia is where the problem lies: “16” hasn’t been called out for being the flagrantly evil garbage that it is because this group’s audience is comprised of none of the people that would be harmed by this. Now, this is horrid enough to skip if you were flipping through radio channels just on sound alone, a “7 Years” style take on the end of a relationship complete with faux-soul yarl. The holy choirs and plucked strings evoke a band foraging for the last scraps of Alex da Kid, self-importance held above all in condescending fashion. But even if that wasn’t enough to make this abomination a miserable experience, then Johnny Stevens repeating fucking red pilled propaganda should. For all his moans of “oh, God,” for every forced desperate enunciation in self-victimized drama, Stevens still exposes himself as a misanthropic rat by leveraging sex against his ex in the first verse. “Remember all the nasty shit you used to do with me” is not a remembrance of “puppy love” more so than a manipulative attack on his target and a shit-eating grin shown to his friends — really, his sympathetic listeners — about how disgustingly freaky his ex is in bed. Most of what follows revels in Stevens’s own audible disdain, lyrically dull filler meant to lead up to the second verse and what is likely the most morally bankrupt minute of the year. You see, his girlfriend is cheating on him, which is understandably awful. The revelation isn’t hinged on that, though. The big twist, the dramatic reveal, the fucking punchline, is that his girlfriend is cheating on him with a black guy. Playing into the stereotype of cuckolding in 2019 carries obvious, knowing implications: either Highly Suspect are aware of its usage in alt-right circles and willingly play off that, or they’re simply dense enough to believe this is clever. Either way, the fans don’t seem to mind at all. Take a gander in the comments and notice folks that “wonder how she felt when she heard this song the first time” and display hurt for him not getting cheated on but getting “cucked by a black guy.” I don’t expect all critics to suddenly become experts on Kerrang! fodder, but when a song as overtly malicious as this is allowed to prosper to nobody’s chagrin, an audience whose tastes are rooted in “real music” conservatism will further confirm their own terrible real-world politics. At least never let these guys collaborate with Young Thug again.

Isabel Cole: Aurally repulsive AND self-pitying, I hated this way before I picked up on the cringe-inducing “I’m not a brother” line. And it just won’t end!

Alfred Soto: I suppose “16” works as a “character study,” only the elements that the aptly named Highly Suspect marshal on its behalf cohere into a song of startling ugliness: the strings; the haranguing vocal that won’t shut up about babies he didn’t make and, worse, about the innocent puppy love that his girlfriend destroyed by acting like a sentient person; the length. But a market exists for this shit, and this market probably voted for Clinton in 2016.

Oliver Maier: Ignorant, lowest common denominator dreck. Let us pretend for a moment that the second verse is not a display of both shockingly incompetent penmanship and racist paranoia. Let us pretend that the first verse hardly fares better even without him referring to himself as “not a brother”. This would still barely scrape a [1], an excruciating four and a half minutes spent listening to a guy who thinks that the best way of communicating soulfulness is to break out the Kings of Leon vocals over what I’m tempted to snidely call a Moby deep cut, if that didn’t feel like an insult to Moby. I sincerely cannot find a single thing to redeem this.

Will Adams: “Where did I go wrong?” wails Johnny Stevens. Well, since you asked: 1) Those cheap-as-free choirs and strings. I know East West samples can be expensive, but they offer month-to-month subscriptions now. You can use something that’s not GarageBand. 2) Outlining the timeline of this relationship so haphazardly that the line “you were only 17” horrifyingly appears in the same verse as “do you remember all of the nasty shit you used to do with me.” 3) The Maury twist in the second verse, which, assuming this actually happened, probably should beget emotions stronger than “that puppy love is over.” 4) “Baby’s a different color.” Um. 5) “Baby I’m not a brother.” Dude. 6) That awkward fade-out. 7) Making “7 Years” sound competent by comparison. 8) Not making your song shitty enough to have 16 ways you went wrong, because that would have been a commendable level of commitment.

Reader average: [0] (7 votes)

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9 Responses to “Highly Suspect – 16”

  1. Mistrust all songs that mention seven years.

  2. Jesus Christ who thought ANYTHING here would be a good idea

  3. I’ve been following along with TSJ since the Stylus days, and this entire entry just has me feeling so, so giddy.

  4. Wait… if it took 7 years for him to “hold her” and she was “only 17” when they got together… Idk how literal he was with the numbers but if there’s something that’s highly suspect it’s this.

  5. i would like to formally repent for overrating this

  6. *confused math lady gif*

  7. An Alt Rock Caricature of the highest degree…except Highly Suspect genuinely believes in it, and I’ve heard more personality from edits of fictional characters singing on YouTube *insert “toad sings chandelier” here*.

  8. necessary precedent reminder for will’s (excellent) blurb here

  9. Genuinely appreciative of all who went into the breach here, and also to Oliver in particular for nailing that these are Kings of Leon vocals, because it spared me a second listen.

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