The 8 Ball 01.11.14: The Top 8 Worst Albums of 2013
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 01.11.2014
From Lil Wayne's I Am Not a Human Being II and Miley Cyrus' Bangerz to 2 Chainz's B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME, will.i.am's #willpower and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 worst albums of 2013!
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!
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Welcome to the 411 Music 8 Ball, folks! This week we're picking back up with the second half of our look at the worst albums of the year! I have nothing else to say, so let's get right to it!
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.
16. LL Cool J - Authentic
15. The Pigeon Detectives - We Met At Sea
14. Tyga - Hotel California
13. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
12. Bon Jovi - What About Now
11. French Montana - Excuse My French
10. Icona Pop - This Is…Icona Pop
9. Megadeth - Super Collider
#8: Beady Eye - BE
There are those who may well leap to the defense of Beady Eye's second LP, calling me a Gallagher hater. And let me cut that argument off by...well, by agreeing with you, to some degree. I have always considered Noel and Liam Gallagher to be overrated as musical artists. Oasis was a decent Britpop band that tried to present itself as the second coming of the Beatles, which it was nowhere near being. That being said, when the famously-feuding brothers broke up and went their own ways I followed them out of sheer curiosity to see what they might have to offer. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds isn't my favorite group out there, but it has shown that Noel had a lot more to offer musically than he showed in Oasis. Liam's group Beady Eye, on the other hand, has continued to pump out lackluster music with delusions of grandeur. The band's second album BE is a sonically flat effort, with a dull and uninspired moodiness about it which barely seems to have enough energy to even lift its head long enough to care. From opening track "Flick of the Finger" all the way through to the sleep-inducing tones of closer "Start Anew," this lifeless LP comes off as not only joyless, but also pretentious in its sobriety. The few actual musically-uplifting efforts on the album come off as little more than crass attempts to recapture the magic that made Oasis so popular (exhibit A: "Second Bite of the Apple," which sounds like it could have been a re-recorded B-side off of Standing on the Shoulder of Giants). Bottom line: if I'm a Beady Eye hater, it is only because they've earned it by virtue of their musical output.
#7: Falling In Reverse - Fashionably Late
There is something to be said for post-hardcore as a genre. As I mentioned in the comments of last week's part one of this column, it isn't my favorite genre in the world but I have enjoyed a lot of it in the past. That being said, there were some absolutely atrocious post-hardcore albums released and the topper was easily Falling in Reverse's second studio album Fashionably Late. This album from the Las Vegas-based band epitomizes the worst aspects of the genre without even brushing along the side of the positives. Frontman Ronnie Radke decided to incorporate hip-hop elements into the sophomore LP and managed to make it a fair sight worse than their average debut in 2011's The Drug in Me Is You. Radke can never seem to tell if he should be emo-whining, Atreyu-style growling or failing to rap on a level that makes Limp Bizkit sound like Nas by comparison. The tonal shifts aren't just jarring; they're practically schizophrenic. The songs are simply all over the place, but they don't ever approach anything resembling true musical quality. This is the kind of music that really gives the genre a bad name; Fashionably Late's spectacular failure easily earns it its place in the bottom eight of the year.
#6: 2 Chainz - B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME
I will say this: to 2 Chainz' (very shallow) credit, B.O.A.T.S. II: #METIME is an improvement on his debut Based on a T.R.U. Story. That statement is the very definition of "damning with faint praise." While the rapper's sophomore LP shows improvement over T.R.U., that improvement is faint and METIME is still a crystal-clear example of how far the mainstream elements of Southern rap have fallen. The main improvement that we have here is in production; T.R.U. seemed to be a low-rent production and the sequel sounds like a professional effort. Unfortunately you still have lazy beats and distinctly uninspired lyrics from a rapper who is being slowly pushed down our throats whether we like it or not. Where to even begin with the bad lyrics? I suppose we can look at the most glaring examples; how about two songs in a row ("Used 2" and "Netflix") about sex tapes? Because you see, one track about a sex tape wouldn't have gotten the message across correctly. "Used 2" is easily one of the worst rap songs of the year. Most of the time Chainz is rhyming a word with the same word, which is fine to do on a very occasional basis. But just throwing "yeah" at the end of every line doesn't fly, nor does making an entire stanza repeated lines of "Lemme see you twerk it, lemme see if you can twerk it." And that is just one of the fourteen subpar songs on this mess of a rap album. In a year when hip-hop was featuring inspired LPs from some of the top names in the game, this was just embarrassingly bad.
#5: Miley Cyrus - Bangerz
Oh Miley. Oh Miley, you little dear. Miley Cyrus was the most talked-about person in the music business in 2013. Whether you were flipping out over her MTV Video Music Awards performance, rolling your eyes at her hilariously bizarre "We Can't Stop" video or YouTubing your way through the (literally) hundreds of parodies mocking her "Wrecking Ball" video, you probably spent far more time than you should have listening to, reading about or talking about the former Hannah Montana. But all of that might have been worthwhile if she had delivered an album worth listening to. Unfortunately she instead gave us Bangerz, a disastrously bad album that showed us how unsure Miley is of her career. This album is all over the place in a bad way; Cyrus swings from club bangers to hip-hop and from banal pop to hilariously trashy country hip-pop. The latter example is the bizarre "4X4" in which she pretty much combines all of the above elements into one confused spackle of a song that includes the single-worst musical line I have heard this year: "Driving so fast, 'bout to piss on myself." Gee, thanks Miley. There's just so much wrong with this LP that it even overshadows her choreographed train-wreck activities away from the music. What's so depressing about this is the fact that Cyrus has a good voice, even without the digital twists and turns her voice is given here. She could deliver a great pop album, but instead she couldn't seem to figure out what she wanted to be as an artist and the result was this sad disaster.
#4: Black Flag - What The...
There was a time when Black Flag was one of the greatest names in punk rock. That time, sadly, has long passed and instead we have a group of middle-aged men who don't really know what they're doing anymore. Need proof? Their 2013 effort What The... is exhibit A. This LP, the band's first full-length album since 1985, features Ron Reyes. Reyes was actually ousted from the band in the middle of a concert in November after the album had been released and that can only be a good thing because his vocals--never the strongest in the band's history--aren't even at the level they were at during the late 1970s. But the problem doesn't just fall on Reyes for this album; the songs feature stock punk riffs and dull, uninspired themes. Punk rock only works when your passion and attitude inspire the music. With What The..., Black Flag feel like they're just out there to make a cheap buck and cash in on the band's name. That's egregious in any genre but in one as anti-establishment as punk that is unforgivable. I certainly didn't expect What The... to be great music, but I at least hoped it wouldn't be perfunctory. Sadly, my hopes went unfounded and the result is my second least-favorite rock-oriented album of the year.
#3: Queensryche - Frequency Unknown
I need to be perfectly clear here: this is the Geoff Tate version of Queensryche. One of my favorite prog metal bands of all time made identifying the band exceedingly difficult after Tate was fired from the band last year and a legal battle began over the name and trademarks. That still hasn't been resolved, and as such both Tate and his former bandmates released separate LPs under the Queensryche name. The rest of the band's self-titled album is actually quite good, but Tate repeats here in the 8 Ball bottom eight for the second year in a row thanks to Frequency Unknown. Tate can dress his wannabes up in the Queensryche name, but it is still the same band that helped make last year's Kings & Thieves a complete disaster. Frequency Unknown isn't quite as bad at first glance; the album rocks harder and Tate thankfully never goes into rapcore. But his voice is showing continued ruination over the years and his skills as a songwriter have deteriorated to the point of complete atrophy. Tate tries so very hard to recapture the magic he once had but he's way too far gone and he exacerbates it by including re-recorded versions of some of the band's biggest hits, including "Empire" and "Silent Lucidity." It goes without saying that he falls fall short of his heyday on these efforts--the strain and scratches in his voice on "Silent Lucidity" is absolutely painful to listen to--and they put a distressingly sad final note on his latest failure of an album.
#2: will.i.am - #willpower
will.i.am is everything that is wrong with pop music today. I'm not here to complain about his ego or his KISS-like obsession with finding ways to monetize his art; none of that has anything to do with his music. But the man is utterly useless when he's outside of the Black Eyed Peas--and some (though not I) would argue he's pretty useless within them as well. 2013 saw him just about everywhere in pop music as he produced music for Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga, Britney Spears and Dizzee Rascal among others. He also released his debut solo album after several delays, #willpower. The album already had considerable derision because of its hashtagged title and the multiple delays, but when it was released it very quickly earned some of the worst reviews of the year--and deservedly so. Over the past several years will has taken an increasing interest in EDM, but where other artists have chosen to innovate in the ways they blend electronica with their genre will assembles the pieces like a simple puzzle. For #willpower he has a host of big-name stars guest appearing including Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, Cyrus, Juicy J, Skylar Grey and Nicole Scherzinger and none of them are able to add much of anything of value to add to will's passionless music. This is an album that shows why pop music still needs to have emotion and feeling behind it; without all of that, it loses its essence and becomes a hollow experience.
#1: Lil Wayne - I Am Not a Human Being II
Here it is, ladies and gentlemen: the single-worst album of the year. And I honestly doubt I'll get much disagreement (although you never know). Lil Wayne was one of the leaders of the rap game not so many years ago, but he has been on a downward slide for quite a while. His latest, I Am Not a Human Being II, is possibly his worst effort to date. When you consider that includes the incredibly ill-advised rock album Rebirth, which started said downward slide, that's quite a statement. Wayne is no stranger to making "album sequels," as his dedication to Tha Carter as a franchise has shown. However, like many movie sequels, the Carter albums have progressively been becoming just rehashes of the same material. Sequel-itis also infects Human Being II, particularly in the way he is just relooping what made him popular in increasingly less-inspired ways. This album essentially gives Wayne a chance to throw out as many childish metaphors for sex and drugs as he can and bring his label artists on to guest for him. They offer nothing more than limp rhymes along the lines of "2 Chainz, my first chain had a twin." And Weezy's lazy, just-got-out-of-bed-with-a-hangover flow makes the whole thing seem even more half-assed, while he comes up with lines like ""Had a dream that my dick turned to Megatron/But my girl was sleeping with Decepticons." This is the album where it became clear that Wayne just has nothing to offer anymore, either lyrically or musically, and that helps makes it the worst album of the year by far.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
Since we're looking at the worst this week, here is one to follow in that trend: the single worst single of 2013. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Major Lazer's "Bubble Butt." Try not to scream:
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.