The 8 Ball 6.21.14: Top 8 Artists Who Should Retire
Posted by Jeremy Thomas on 06.21.2014
From Lil Wayne and Rihanna to Limp Bizkit, KISS and more, 411's Jeremy Thomas counts down the top 8 artists who should retire!
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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Top 8 Acts Who Should Retire
Hello out there internet! Welcome to another edition of the 411 Music 8 Ball! I'm your host as always, Jeremy Thomas, and this week we got what some might consider happy news and others...not so much. Lil Wayne had been on record for a while as saying that he was going to make Tha Carter V his final solo album before retiring. Well, not so fast as it turned out. Ol' Weezy said in a video this week that not only will he be releasing two albums this year, but he may be releasing as many as nine by the end of 2015. That got me thinking about artists that may not be retiring any time soon, but who certainly should give it all up. The old rock and roll adage is "It's better to burn out than to fade away" but many in the music industry find it hard to do that and there are many artists who hang on long past their expiration date. This week we're going to look at the artists and acts who most need to hang it up.
Caveat: For this list I'm looking at acts who are well past their creative prime and really need to let it go, as the Disney song says. It's important to note that this isn't just "the acts who are terrible and I never want to hear from again." All of these acts are ones who were once successful in a creative and commercial capacity but who have fallen from that peak and just need to go away to their deserved permanent vacations now. This means you won't be seeing Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus, Nick Cannon, Nicki Minaj or any other acts who are either at the height of their commercial success (and I don't like) or who still have some potential. Consideration was given to how successful they've been both as musical acts and in other ventures; if someone has found a lot of success in another field like acting or the like they got more weight than someone who just has music as a career.
Just Missing The Cut
• Avril Lavigne
• LL Cool J
• Sean Combs
First on our list is one of the saddest falls in pop music over the last several years. You may or may not be a huge pop fan, but either way you have to at least appreciate what Rihanna brought to the table when she burst onto the scene in 2007. She was a fresh face in an increasingly stale genre and while the song is almost a permanent punch line now, "Umbrella" was one of the most downright catchy songs of that year. Good Girl Gone Bad was a true breakthrough album and in 2009 she showed that she was growing up and maturing musically with Rated R. Unfortunately it's been all downhill from there. I hate the idea of tying an artist's personal life into their music, but I believe that the domestic abuse incident with Chris Brown in January of 2009 was a factor in the startling change of direction that her music took and it's clear that she's never really moved past it in how she consistently refers to it in her music. Suddenly her albums went from a maturing pop/R&B sound into a darker and more sexualized aspect, with songs like "S&M," "Man Down," "Cockiness" and "Birthday Cake" to name just a few. She appears to have thrown herself into her work and last year was the first that she hadn't released a new album in since 2009. She seems to be taking a break but it's more along the lines of a train wreck capacity as she's more interested in her tabloid exploits than anything else. In Rihanna's case I think there's a good pop artist still in there, but she needs to cut out her career so she can be a healthy person. And it will spare us all from terrible albums like Talk That Talk and Unapologetic in the meantime.
#7: Limp Bizkit
Limp Bizkit is only down this far in the list because they were never the greatest band in the first place. But c'mon...you have to admit, back in the late '90s you've found yourself grooving along to "My Way," "Nookie," "Break Stuff" and "Rollin'" as much as anybody. Bizkit was the Nickelback of its generation and I don't even mean that as a full-on insult. They were never a great band--among rapcore groups they rank behind most of the more well-known ones--but they made fun and easy music to listen to. Sadly, Fred Durst began to lose his mind a bit and the band's music suffered on 2003's Results May Vary. That LP includes the abhorrent cover of "Behind Blue Eyes" among several other travesties as the group tried to branch out musically and it proved how one-dimensional they really were. We didn't hear anything about Bizkit for years after that; they released The Unquestionable Truth (Part 1) in 2005 which was mostly ignored and then went on hiatus. If that was the end of it, it would have been a sad but acceptable way for the group to go. But no, they decided to get back together and released Gold Cobra in 2011. That disaster of an LP was their least successful to date and yet they're trooping on with Stampede of the Disco Elephants dropping in July through hip-hop label Cash Money. I love seeing what ridiculous album titles they're coming up with as much as anyone, but the fact of the matter is that Limp Bizkit is a group who the music industry left behind and who are trying desperately to catch up. Unfortunately they have no idea how to do that and it's time for them to just leave it where they're at.
This one might be controversial for some, because there are those who believe that KISS has earned the right to do whatever they want for as long as they want by virtue of their stature among rock and roll groups. And I will certainly not doubt that stature; KISS was a band who deserved to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame years before they were because of the impact they had on live shows. I love listening to their classic albums as much as the next guy; they weren't always hits (hello, Music From the Elders) but they had more good albums than bad. The problem is that these days--and frankly, for years--they've been more of a marketing machine that happens to make music every now and then as well. And the music that they've released over the past several years just doesn't hold a candle to what they were capable of at their peak. Their last studio album was 2012's Monster, which could be charitably described as lackluster. Listen, I have no problem with the fact that KISS plasters their name across anything that they think they can sell to their fans. They have that right. But they make enough money off their merchandising that they really don't need to shell out more albums. Let the corporate empire reign supreme and leave your musical legacy intact guys, because the passion for the music just doesn't seem to be there anymore.
#5: Lynyrd Skynyrd
This one hurts to admit. I'm a huge Southern rock fan, and Lynyrd Skynyrd was the driving force behind my becoming an appreciator of the genre. The group is responsible for some of the flat-out greatest rock songs of all-time, from "Freebird" and "That Smell" to "Simple Man," "Saturday Night Special" and more. Now, do you notice something about that list? All of those songs come pre-1980. Of course, it's impossible to talk about Skynyrd as a group without discussing the tragic plane crash that took the lives of Ronnie Van Zant, Steve Gaines, Cassie Gaines and others. That incident led to the band's dissolution for a decade before a reconstituted group with Van Zant's younger brother Johnny taking over as lead singer and songwriter. And in truth, there have been some good times in the post-1987 Skynyrd. Unfortunately those times are long passed. All of the original members of the band have left, been forced out or passed away with the exception of Gary Rossington and the group that we now have has almost no remnants of the original greatness. If you need evidence of that look at their last few albums and particularly the most recent, 2012's Last of a Dyin' Breed. It's clear that the band has no chance of capturing their former greatness and as sad as it is to say, it's time for Lynyrd Skynyrd to fade out.
#4: Jennifer Lopez
One might argue that Jennifer Lopez shouldn't be on this list because of my caveat but there was a point in the early '00s where the singer/actress was the hottest thing in pop music. And it didn't hurt that while she was in no way an all-time great, she had the ability to work her way around ridiculously catchy hooks. Albums like On the 6 and J.Lo were mega-albums, the kinds of LPs that pop starlets dream of having. Unfortunately, that time came and went a long time ago. Lopez had the unfortunate situation of finding success in both music and acting but not really knowing which to focus on. As a result both suffered drastically. She hasn't done anything as an actress or a singer that has been worthy of consumption for a while, but that doesn't mean that she's not been successful. We can laugh at her American Idol runs all we want but Lopez laughed all the way to the bank and in the meantime she's become a very successful TV producer with shows like The Fosters and ¡Q'Viva!: The Chosen doing well. Lopez is one of those artists who doesn't need to be a musician anymore; at this point it's a vanity career for her. And frankly, it's not one she's very good at at this point in her career. Lopez's new album A.K.A. released just this week and is a travesty of an album, a full-blown dance-pop mess. Lopez should focus her efforts where they'll be better utilized for her career, and music just isn't that place anymore.
#3: Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi is an example, much like Limp Bizkit, of a band who time and the music industry has passed by. It's hard to explain to people who weren't around or cognizant in the 1980s just how huge of a band this New Jersey-based rock group were; Slippery When Wet is one of the most successful pop-rock records of all time and their follow-up New Jersey was a juggernaut as well. The band is one of the few who survived the fall of rock music in the early 1990s with hit albums like 1992's Keep the Faith and 1995's These Days. Even after taking a hiatus in the latter half of that decade they came back to sales numbers in the millions during the 2000s. But time has not been kind to the group and their style of earnest rock has been passé for a while. It took them four years to release 2013's What About Now and those years weren't enough for Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and company to deliver anything worthwhile. The first single and opening track "Because We Can" had a title that perfectly encapsulated the LP's purpose; the group had nothing left to say and no tales left to tell. They only released the album because they could and wanted to make some money of people who got off on 1980s nostalgia. At this point they seem to just be going through empty motions and that's the point when a band really should call it quits.
#2: Lil Wayne
The man who inspired this list certainly earns his spot on it. I've never been a huge fan of Lil Wayne, but I can't deny that there was a point when he was one of the best things going in rap. Tha Carter II and Tha Carter III were very well-done albums and showed a man who was at the top of his game, delivering incredibly entertaining wordplay and an ability to be quite funny without going over the top into cheeseball antics. The latter of those albums proved to be his peak as an artist and he's been going downhill ever since. It began with his very poorly though-out rock album Rebirth, followed up by the minor rebound that was I Am Not a Human Being before he went into freefall with Tha Carter IV and the truly abysmal I Am Not a Human Being II. Wayne has seemed to hit a point where he is more interested in his Young Money label than he is in performing as an artist, and that's fine. Hip-hop needs people like that and it's certainly going to be a more profitable use of his talents. But when he still comes out to deliver increasingly-tired metaphors about sex, drugs and his own genitalia it only makes him seem more and more out of touch. And with as many as nine albums set to release in the next year and a half, it's not going to get any better. Please, Wayne, just give us Tha Carter V and go. We'll be happier for it.
#1: Geoff Tate
There's only one artist who could take the #1 spot away from Weezy, and that is the tragic case of Geoff Tate. There was a time when Queensryche was my favorite rock group without question. Empire, Operation Mindcrime, Promised Land...I loved all of these albums and can't even tell you how often I listened to them. The prog-metal group had a few stumbles and trips along the way (like any metal band that came along) but even those lesser efforts I appreciated and Operation Mindcrime II was pretty damned good as well. So when the band imploded in 2012 due to internal frustration over Tate's family having more control of the band than the other members did, it was a very sad moment. Sadder still were Tate's efforts to continue on his own way; he released a solo album, Kings & Thieves, which is one of the worst single albums I've heard in many years...and that's saying a lot. He also tried to compete with the other band members for the Queensryche name despite having been fired from them and tarnished the group's legacy with last year's Frequency Unknown, an LP that was only a few degrees better than Kings & Thieves. Tate has since given up on his quest for the Queensryche name and worked out a deal with the band; he now intends to continue working solo. I really wish he wouldn't because every song he puts out is a slap in the face to the artist he used to be. His voice is largely gone and he's without a creative direction at all. Of all the acts I wish would retire for their own sake, he's #1 with a bullet.
MUSIC VIDEO A-GO-GO
For this week's Music Video A-Go-Go, we're going to go with one of the videos from Queensryche's greatest years. "Silent Lucidity" is their biggest breakthrough hit, a ballad that is really stunning in its beauty. Check it out below:
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.