The 8 Ball 1.04.14: The Top 16 Worst Albums of 2013 (#19 - 9)
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.04.2014
From Robin Thicke's Blurred Lines and Bon Jovi's What About Now to Megadeth's Super Collider, LL Cool J's Authentic and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas begins his look at the top 16 worst albums of 2013 with #16 through 9!
Welcome, one and all, to the 8 Ball in the Music Zone! I'm your host Jeremy Thomas and as always, I will be tackling a topic and providing you the top eight selections of that particular category. Keep in mind that this list is meant to be my personal opinion and not a definitive list. You're free to disagree; you can even say my list is wrong, but stating that an opinion is "wrong" is just silly. With that in mind, let's get right in to it!
Before you start reading, have you bookmarked 411Mania.com yet? It's the easiest thing in the world to do, and it'll get you your daily dose of entertainment news that much quicker! Typing the URL out in the address bar is such a pain, don'tcha think? Hell, make it your home page and it'll be that much easier for you!
Also, do you Twitter? If not, you should! And while you're at it, add these to your list of people that you follow so that you can get the latest updates!
Welcome to the first 411 Music 8 Ball of 2014! 2013 is behind us and now it's time to look at the best and worst that music has had to offer over the past twelve months. In a couple of weeks we'll examine the best albums of the year but first we look at the worst. 2013 saw some absolutely terrible albums from tired albums sequels and sketchy concept albums ideals to breakout hits that shouldn't have been breakouts. Let's roll our sleeves up, put on some nose plugs and dive into the worst that the year had to offer!
Caveat: All you had to do in order to qualify for this list was release an EP or LP of new music (not a compilation or live album) in the year 2013 within the United States, and do a poor job at it. Pretty straight-forward. Of note: I did not get a chance to listen to absolutely every album out there, and certainly there was probably some stuff worse than this which were released by minor independent labels, self-released or the like. If I had the time I would listen to everything, but there was a lot of music released, so that's the way it is.
Let's be honest, people...it's been a long time since LL Cool J was relevant in the music industry. Ladies Love is undoubtedly one of the greats of the early hip-hop era but he is a man who rap music moved past years ago. In response, LL moved onto his acting career, where he has carved a steady niche out with NCIS: Los Angeles and several film roles. He still feels the music itch and comes back from time to time, but it has become consistently more obvious with each attempt that he doesn't have a handle for great rap anymore. It had been five years since his last album, Exit 13, before he released Authentic in April. The irony of course is that LL was anything but authentic. As if he knew that he didn't know where he belonged in the music scene anymore, the rapper recruited a staggering sixteen music acts to feature on just twelve tracks and the result feels less like a solo album than a giant group collaboration. There are moments where the album shines, don't get me wrong. However, those moments belong to the likes of Seal, Fitz & The Tantrums and Melody Thornton as opposed to LL Cool J himself. The songs are superficial and even embarrassing at times; on "Give Me Love" he drags Seal's singing heights down by speaking at the end as if he's writing a diary entry complete with "Dear Diary..." That's the kind of thing you expect from Justin Bieber, not the guy who once said "Mama said knock you out." There are a lot of strange elements thrown together on this album; some songs go full-on R&B while others are aggressive crunk-heavy bluster. Snoop Dogg features on a track along with Blink-182's Travis Barker. And unfortunately all of those elements add up to one conclusion: LL Cool J is now a follower, not a leader, when it comes to music. And a lackluster follower to boot.
#15: The Pigeon Detectives - We Met At Sea
One genre that has brought me around over the last couple of years has been that of indie rock. While pop and hip-hop have dominated the charts for the last several years, rock was left to start over and it floundered. The rise of independent rock began and while it initially seemed to be a race to see who could copy the next big indie rock act the quickest, the genre has spread its wings and several groups have broken out to form their own identities. Then you have the Pigeon Detectives. This British indie rock group has released four albums to date and while they have yet to really make a splash stateside, their latest shows that they're clearly on a downward slide. We Met At Sea is derivative in so many ways. The sound is the indie playbook completely by the numbers: pounding drums and alt-pop elements inserted in with questionable production values to sound low-fi. The album comes off as the genetically-engineered offspring of Modest Mouse and All-American Rejects while Oliver Main and Matt Bowman give us lyrics that alternate between banal ("I don't wanna hold your gaze/'cause it will only make me fall in love with you") and nonsensical ("Light me up a cigarette/I'm in a lesson, I gotta go"). I'm all for the return of rock music into the charts, but We Met at Sea reverberates with the kind of hokey nonsense that helped bury the genre the last time around.
#14: Tyga - Hotel California
Before anyone accuses me of being a rap music hater, let me be clear: there were many, many great rap albums released in 2013. But that doesn't excuse the fact that there were some truly bad ones as well. Tyga somehow managed to become a known commodity from the atrociously-bad "Rack City" in 2012. That song practically represents everything that's wrong with where certain artists want to bring the genre. Not one to rest on his laurels, Tyga decided to top himself with an album even worse than Careless World with Hotel California. The album consists of fifteen tracks replete with lazy beats, recycled production samples and lyrics that are frankly more than a little embarrassing. Whether you're looking at the rote sounds and by-the-numbers, Lil Wayne-assisted rhymes of opening track "500 Degrees" or the dishwater-dull slow-jam rap on the Chris Brown-featured "For the Road," Tyga has nothing to say here. He has a decent flow but nothing in the game on any other aspect. A decent flow does not a good album make, nor does it make up for crap like "Pussy, money weed, got that/n***a talk shit, get ya head cracked." There are a lot of great rap artists out there, but Tyga isn't one of them and the fifteen tracks of Hotel California are all evidence of that.
#13: Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
Oh, good old Robin Thicke. The R&B star is without question one of the two most-talked about music stars of 2013. (We'll get to the other one next week.) His breakout hit "Blurred Lines" was everywhere--except for the number of universities that banned it over allegedly date-rapey lyrics, the radios of others who felt the same or the hearts of anyone who had a hope for good music hitting the charts in 2013. And let's make it clear: "Blurred Lines" is in no way a good song. I consider it a morally-repugnant piece of music (albeit perhaps unintentionally by Thicke) but more to the point it's a catchy-yet-irritating piece of music. And the sad thing is, it is not the worst song on the album of the same title. Don't get me wrong; "You wanna hug me/What rhymes with hug me" is certainly a contender for worst couplet of the year. But let's move on and look at the rest of the album. On "Take It Easy On Me," Thicke sings, "I wanna shop for your underwear/I wanna do it all so cold." What? And at least that one has a decent sound to it. Most of the songs on Blurred Lines are R&B-lite, the kinds of numbers that you could easily fall sleep to if they weren't so aggravatingly reminiscent of better songs from other artists. Listen to "Ooh La La" and tell me it doesn't sound like a Michael Jackson rip-off. And then there's "Give It 2 U" where he goes full-on electro-dance in the worst possible way. That track even manages to make Kendrick Lamar's verse sound dull and uninspired. That's an accomplishment, and the rest of the album isn't much better. When it comes to Robin Thicke, I'm not arguing whether he's a misogynist or not (that's a debate for another place). I'm arguing whether he made good R&B music with this LP and the answer, unequivocally, is a resounding "No."
#12: Bon Jovi - What About Now
Jon Bon Jovi mostly proves on What About Now that he has no idea it's not 1994. Don't get me wrong, folks; I think it's a point of pride when someone doesn't follow musical trends just to stay on the charts. But there's a difference between establishing your own identity and being stuck in the past; in this case Bon Jovi hasn't really changed in a good twenty years. Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and their bandmates teamed up with producer John Shanks for empty fist-pumping; the fifteen tracks that make up this LP speak to no one in specific and say very little in the process. This is a perfect example of what happens when empty arena rock continues past the point where they have anything to say and just need to keep the cash flow going. You can hear echoes of the group's previous hits in the tracks here; "I'm With You" desperately tries to invoke the nostalgia of "Living on a Prayer" while the title track just retreads the sentiments behind "It's My Life." And I fully admit, that it is competently performed and produced. There is something to be said for the fact that Bon Jovi is still delivering music thirty years later when most people thought they'd burn out within five years or less. But I'd like it even better if they were delivering music that didn't just make me want to put on one of their older albums to hear the same themes done far better.
#11: French Montana - Excuse My French
Similar to Tyga, French Montana is an artist who I just can't understand the success of. I mean sure, he looks good in a promotional photo and he has the attitude, but I don't hear anything particularly talented when he picks up the mic. On his debut LP Excuse My French, Montana shows right off the bat that he doesn't have much to offer. I know we shouldn't be caring about the ability to hit notes when rapping, but in the chorus he hits a note on "Cold-blooded murder" that just bunches my neck up. One has to wonder; was it intentional, or were they just unable to get someone to sing the chorus after throwing a host of labelmates on to support him and get him on the charts? Whichever the reason it's embarrassing, and it just gets worse when you move onto "Trap House" and hear a cookie-cutter beat mixed with meaningless lyrics. Rick Ross and Birdman have as little to offer on this as Nicki Minaj has to offer on "Freaks," a track that makes the stuff on her 2012 disaster Roman Reloaded sound good by comparison. Bad Boy overloads the stars on "Pop That" with Drake, Lil Wayne and Rick Ross all showing up and not only do they overwhelm Montana, they don't do anything worth really listening to while they're there. This is the kind of music that makes people hate rap and French doesn't seem capable of doing anything else, at least at this point.
#10: Icona Pop - This Is…Icona Pop
You know Icona Pop. Even if you've never heard the name, you know their music. "I Love It" was absolutely everywhere and for some reason people seemed to have a fondness for it, while at the same time complaining about the encroachment of dance music into mainstream pop. And make no mistake; "I Love It" is a banal piece of pop, the musical equivalent of Schnapps. Sure, it tastes fun and fruity going down but partake too long and you have a pounding headache and want to throw up. But it's not the only bad song on this album, which is basically word salad set to a dance beat. Some songs, like "All Night," sound like the unholy love child of the Spice Girls and LMFAO. Is it fun and bouncy and carefree? Yes, sure. But there are groups that do this and manage to maintain not only some level of substance, but a variance in melody from one song to another. The only time that This Is... changes gears is when it's for the worse, like "Girlfriend" in which 2Pac's "Me and My Girlfriend" is co-opted for a line about girl party power. There's nothing wrong with girl party power, but considering how substandard and half-assed of a song as it is, that's a rare level of sacrilege. Icona Pop didn't release the absolute worst pop album of 2013, but they came pretty damned close.
#9: Megadeth - Super Collider
Welcome to one of the most widely-hated metal albums of 2013. Again, it's not the absolute worst album of its genre but it comes damned close. Megadeth's music often seems to take a backseat these days to the paranoid political agenda of Dave Mustaine, and that's fine. I have never cared about a performer's personal politics unless it is a direct influence on their art. The problem is that no matter how controversial you want to be, you still have to deliver and this is one of Megadeth's most lackluster albums that I can remember. It starts off fairly well with "Kingmaker's" hard-hitting riffs and driving rhythm, but almost the second that song is over with you can practically hear the seismic drop in inspiration as the band shifts into more "commercially-acceptable" metal. And again, there's nothing wrong with having an album that is built for successful sales numbers, as long as it resonates. Super Collider fell on deaf ears in the metal community and deservedly so, because there is nothing here worth listening to. It's Mustaine and company shelling out a by-the-numbers, mellowed-down LP just so they have an excuse to tour and that's no way to make a worthwhile piece of music.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
She didn't release a full album in 2013, but her return almost automatically makes her a contender for worst single of 2013. Check out Rebecca Black as she delivers her sequel to "Friday." That's right, it's "Saturday":
And that will do it for us this week! Join me next week for another edition of the 8-Ball! Until then, have a good week and don't forget to read the many other great columns, news articles and more here at 411mania.com! JT out.