Oh boy. Oh boy oh boy oh boy. I am thrilled to make this list this year but I need to preface this by saying something, something pretty shocking. I actually had trouble making this list. Seriously, I don't think I heard much terrible music this year to the point where I can't come up with a Worst Songs of the Year list (though I will point out multiple awful songs on this list). And even putting this list together, I had to think about if albums I listed were actually bad or if they just didn't meet my expectations, namely the new Kacey Musgraves and Twenty One Pilots albums. But nonetheless, there's still a list here, so let's get to it. Here are what I think are the 5 worst albums of 2021.
5. Coldplay - Music of the Spheres
All combined, there are three things that I like on this album. I think the songs Higher Power and Coloratura are fantastic, though the former has some painfully basic lyrics. I also think the stuttering synths at the end of My Universe are really neat but outside of that, any hope I had of Coldplay returning to form after Everyday Life was essentially crushed with this album. Everyday Life was actually a very bold album and actually felt like the Coldplay everyone fell in love with on Viva La Vida and A Rush of Blood to the Head. The Coldplay on this album almost feels like a parody of themselves. Sure, that's Chris Martin singing, but that's about the only thing on this album that makes it feel like Coldplay. Outside of Coloratura, I don't think there's much here that hasn't been done better by other artists. Human Heart or Heart Emoji (whatever the stupidly titled emoji songs are named) sounds like a bad Bon Iver ripoff, I can't confidently put my finger on it but Human Kind gives me shades of The Killers and Arcade Fire, and People of the Pride sounds like any of Muse's heavier songs (think Uprising or Psycho). And if a song isn't wearing its influences on its sleeve then it's either painfully basic or painfully boring. For example, the rest of My Universe, which has a feature from BTS for s
treaming money no reason. Have we not heard the build-up and drop leading into the chorus a million times before? Or the song Biutiful (I know I butchered spelling that but so did the band) which sounds like its only purpose is to be played in the background of a clingy girlfriend's TikTok compilation with a bunch of pictures and videos of her boyfriend. The chipmunk vocals don't help matters much either. All around this is just a very poor showing but Coldplay being inconsistent honestly shouldn't be as surprising as it is at this point. At least Higher Power slaps.
4. Drake - Certified Lover Boy
|Yes, this is the real album cover.|
I was reading through Rolling Stone's Best Albums of 2021 list the other day and unsurprisingly, this album was featured on it. In the write-up, the author writes, "Is it Drake’s best album? Well, no. But Certified Lover Boy is still a highly enjoyable cruise on autopilot from modern pop’s most charming blob of resentment and self-pity." And those sentences right there are the reason why Drake can still get away with putting out bloated, boring albums of material that are good for maybe a couple singles and Instagram captions. Any album being praised because of its artist being on autopilot is cause for concern because everyone is just accepting of Drake's level of mediocrity at this point. I don't even hate Drake either, I'm one of the many who thought he showed a lot of promise in his early records, I think Take Care and If You're Reading This, It's Too Late are two of the best rap albums of the past decade with the latter probably being his best project to date. That's a different argument for a different day though, just know that the Drake on If You're Reading This, It's Too Late could probably put the Drake from this album in the hospital after one punch. There's a lot that's wrong with this album to the point where I think I'll just have to make passing mentions rather than going in-depth, so I'll start listing off my issues now. It's wild that this album is 21 songs long and there are only 3 that are memorable (2 aren't for good reasons), it's sad that most of the features on this album are meh yet they all still outshine Drake, and it's sad that every. single. label. executive. who heard this album heard Drake say, "Say that you're a lesbian/girl, me too!" and didn't hear anything wrong. The only song that I think I'll ever see myself returning to on a constant basis is the song Knife Talk and that's mainly because of how hard 21 Savage goes on the song before Drake comes in and drops a line saying, "Checked the weather and it's gettin' real oppy outside." I think that's a great omen for almost all of this album, flashes of greatness that get ruined when Drake decides to show up.
3. Tom Morello - The Atlas Underground Fire
You guys know Tom Morello right? Guitarist for Rage Against the Machine and Audioslave. Well noted activist. Dude known for writing super heavy, super cool riffs and playing guitar solos with all different types of effects and filters that makes it sound like he hates the sound guitars make. Well, let me break down this for you. On this album, noted rock legend Tom Morello decides to be DJ Khaled and make an album that's kind of a rock album, kind of an EDM album, and completely a trainwreck. I think what upsets me the most about this album how he managed to make things that could be great sound terrible. For example, do you know how hard it is to make a song that Chris Stapleton is singing sound bad? It's gotta be close to impossible. Yet Tom Morello somehow manages to put Chris on top of one of the most boring instrumentals he's ever sang over while Tom also wails away on his guitar pitched up one octave so it sounds like a chipmunk. There's also a cover of Highway to Hell by AC/DC that features Bruce Springsteen and Eddie Vedder. This has to be one of the easiest songs in the world to cover and with Bruce and Eddie in tow, it should be amazing right? Of course not, because Tom blows out and distorts the song way more than it ever deserves to be to the point where his guitar and the drums don't have a distinct sound, they just sound like noise. Things don't get much better as right after this there's the song Let's Get This Party Started featuring Bring Me The Horizon which is another song that's compressed to hell and just isn't good. There's a line in the chorus where Oli Sykes says he's feeling "50 shades of f*cked up" and there's also the bridge where he's literally just screaming, "I'M SO HAPPY I COULD DIE RIGHT NOW, SOMEONE F*CKING KILL ME!!!" This song is awful. The only song on here that I think is somewhat decent is the song Hold The Line featuring Grandson given that Grandson has been copying off of Zack De La Rocha's notes for a long while now. Of course the guy who wants to be Zack De La Rocha would have good chemistry with Tom. I really hope that with the Rage Against the Machine reunion coming up soon, Tom can ditch this solo project for a while because this is doing absolutely nothing for me.
2. Morgan Wallen - Dangerous: The Double Album
Do you ever see something that's popular and want to understand what the hype is? Something that all of your friends love and you want to see what it is that they love about it but you just can't? That's me and this album because no matter how many times I tried, I still just don't get the hype around Morgan Wallen and this album. For starters, the only thing "dangerous" about this album is its title, and an hour and 40 minutes of this album is way longer than I think anyone needs of this album. I also want to make something clear really quickly, my ranking of this album is not because of anything Morgan has said or done in the past year and a half, it honestly is strictly because of the music, though I could easily bash him because of his character for this whole writeup. On my first listen through this album, 30 songs up, 30 songs down, I counted 9 songs that I liked. Surprisingly, that number is still close with the count of songs on this album I like at 8 now as, over this year, I've become a huge fan of Jason Isbell and I've come to realize how badly Morgan butchered this version of Cover Me Up. It's also just a strange song for Morgan to cover given that Isbell wrote the song fresh out of rehab for his now-wife Amanda Shires with lines about getting sober "forever this time" and how Shires helped him reach the sober and mentally stable state he's in right now. It just feels very contradictory given when Wallen got out of rehab, the first time he came back out on stage was to throw back shots with Jason Aldean and Luke Bryan. I digress, however. Again, this is about the music and I've said enough about Morgan and his character. I do have to say, I think this album starts and ends on its strongest songs. Sand In My Boots is super compelling from a songwriting perspective and Quittin' Time definitely puts a nice bow on top of this but everything in between is rough. There's also minor adjustments that could be made to make a lot of these songs better. Like if the song Warning had real drums versus that god-awful snap beat and trap drums, I would probably like it so much more. Or even more beneficial would've been cutting the song Country A$$ Sh*t entirely because this might be one of the worst songs I've had to subject myself to this year. There's a lot of reasons why but I'll just paste the chorus down below:
’Cause I just wanna do country-ass sh*t
With my country-ass friends
But my country-ass been
Havin' to make them dollar bills, y’all
Ask me how my country ass feels, y'all
Between workin' it off and gettin' it chewed
There ain’t much country ass left in these old blue jeans
But wait a minute, the whole world can kiss it
'Cause me and my country ass gone fishin'
Depending on how much you like those lyrics will probably also determine how much you'll like this album so if this for some reason appeals to you, maybe you'll also be giving me earfuls like I expect to be hearing from many people who love this guy.
1. AJR - OK Orchestra
Last year I put out a list for The Worst Songs of 2020. In the #1 spot was a song called Bummerland by AJR. I said in the write-up that I would rather have to endure coronavirus than have to purposefully listen to the song again...yet somehow, someway, Bummerland is the best song on this album. If you haven't put the pieces together yet, this album is really bad. Let me give this album some very slight praise real quick. I still commend the fact that this trio of brothers is writing, recording, producing, and mixing their music in their apartment still, even with the levels of success they've been having, and there are a few songs on here instrumentally that I actually enjoy, mainly the songs 3 O'Clock Things and Way Less Sad, there's something about them having horns in their songs that always get stuck as earworms for me. Also, of their music I've listened to thus far, I guess you could say that this is their boldest, probably even their best album, but this is AJR, so that means nothing in the grand scheme of things.
I'm not even putting this album on this list just for the meme or to make this a "HAHA AJR BAD!" writeup, though I could easily make this memeable. And I'm not doing this to knock on AJR either, their music is just not for me. If you've never heard of AJR and need to know whether you need to feel offended or not by this placement, here are some actual lyrics from this album:
It's kinda funny how I paid for college
When YouTube was an option
But then I would've had to spend
My best years
Skipping ads and readin' comments
And when the hell did advertisements get so good?
They're like narcotics
So now I'm spending every penny I own
I should have allotted to finishing college
I keep losing my socks
Where the hell do they go?
I bet they're finally free
Floating somewhere in the sea
Do they miss my feet?
I keep losing my socks
I got nothing to wear
I bet they're at her place
A house where I can't show my face
How I wanna be there
Feel like I'm gonna puke
'Cause my taxes are due
Do my password begin with a one or a two?
Been a hell of a ride
But I'm thinking it's time to grow
My grandpa fought in World War II
He was such a noble dude
Man, I feel like such a fool
I got so much left to prove
All my friends have vaping friends
They're so good at making friеnds
I'm so scared of caving in
Is that entertaining yеt?
Humpty Dumpty, when Humpty Dumpty
When Humpty Dumpty went down
He said, "Screw it, I'ma smile right through it
And I'll scream when no one's around"
Much like the Morgan Wallen lyrics I attached, your opinions on these lyrics will probably shape your opinion on this album. I think that these are awful and I can't believe an actual human being sat down, wrote these, recorded them, and still said, "Yeah, these are great." Yeah, this album is really a great package of everything a bad pop album today needs. Overproduced, basic instrumentals with lyrics that at times actually circle back and make you think...is this genius? There is no doubt in my mind that this is the worst album of 2021.