I recently started following this Youtuber who reviews music with a humorous spin. He went over the top 10 best and top 10 worst songs in 2016. I was shocked at how terrible ALL of the songs were. I could count maybe 2-3 songs that were decent and the rest were awful.
I don't listen to a lot of pop radio these days (actually, I never listen to it at all) so I just assumed it was as bad as it was in 2014. 2014 looks amazing compared to what was popular in 2016, though.
What's worth remembering about pop radio is that there have been times in the past where things looked bleak. Look at some of the trash on the radio back in '84/'85 and then good stuff came into prominence (stuff like Guns, U2, INXS etc.). Same thing with '95/'96 where the Macarena was inescapable....couple years after that, you had some pretty stellar pop-rock/alternative music. Then again around '00 when stuff like "Steal My Sunshine" and "Who Let The Dogs Out" was HUGE. Eventually good pop-rock songs (like early Maroon 5, Jet, Franz Ferdinand) took over the airwaves around '03/'04.
If you look back over the last several years, you can still see some good artists breaking through. They're not my cup of tea, but Mumford & Sons put out some pretty solid music and were huge on the radio a few years back. Same with Fun and Imagine Dragons. Heck, even OneRepublic is tolerable with most of their music and I don't totally hate Ed Sheeran.
I think at this point, pop radio is close to getting burnt out on electronic-infused music. When every song sounds the same, when every song is devoid of solid lyrics or vocals or musicality...you've got a problem. Pop radio is just begging for a solid alternative or rock artist to take the radio by storm. An artist that crafts good, catchy tracks. Someone with good, unique vocals and interesting lyrics. Rock and alternative could have a new birth in terms of pop relevance if the right artist comes along.
The question is, who is this going to be? My bet is on a brand new artist, someone we probably haven't even heard of yet. The beauty of today's music world is that the barrier to entry is easier than ever before. Songs can be recorded and mixed inexpensively on personal computers or even iPhones; they can be released easily on Spotify or YouTube. All it takes is going viral to get catapulted up the pop charts.
What I find funny, and this ties somewhat into U2, is how danceable alternative pop-rock seems to be doing well on the radio. Take, for instance, "Adventure Of A Lifetime" by Coldplay. It received quite a bit of air play and has been described by others as having a bit of a disco/dance beat to it. U2 already did this in '97 with Discotheque and it was poorly received. What if the guys were younger and put Discotheque out today? I have a sneaking suspicion the track would have been much bigger. Seems like U2 were way ahead of their time with that and the rest of the Pop album.