The Eight Worst Albums Ever: Let's Give Them a Second Chance

The Eight Worst Albums Ever: Let's Give Them a Second Chance
Emily Tan for the Village Voice. More here.

Reviewing music is, at best, an inexact science. You may say, "I don't like The Mountain Goats because John Darnielle's voice is annoying." I would respond with, "Fuck you, his voice isn't annoying at all, you just don't get it." That's pretty much divisive music discourse in a nutshell.

But that hasn't stopped us from critically evaluating millions of records. I ventured to Metacritic and found the worst of the worst. What is the absolute bottom tier of music, according to critics? Does it deserve to be there?

See also: The Ten Shittiest Nu-Metal Bands

8. Phil Collins - Testify

There is perhaps nobody more fun to bash than Phil Collins. Still, I like feeling that everything is going to be OK, so I like Phil Collins' music in all its oceanic, faux-epic, National Geographic glory. Do I have a reasonable argument for the stadium drums on the title track? Or a song title like "Thru My Eyes?" Not at all! But I don't care! Testify really isn't all that different from Bon Iver!

7. Viva Brothers - Famous First Words

If searching through the bottom of Metacritic's rankings will teach you anything, it's that being a mid-tempo guitar band and stumbling into a minor alt-rock radio hit is an absolute death knell for your band. There's no better example than Viva Brothers, a well-meaning British quartet that seems a lot like Bowling For Soup in their bullshit rock-mythologizing. They manufactured a flavorless single in "Darling Buds of May," which naturally forced a bunch of writers to cover the debut record. Viva Brothers were not ready for prime time, much less the collective disdain of a bunch of Bowie fan. Famous First Words is actually so derivative it's hard to disagree, but I think we can still feel bad for them.

6. Limp Bizkit - Results May Vary

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You know what? Fuck this. I lived through the '90s, I remember all these rags taking Limp Bizkit uber-seriously. I remember seeing KoRn on the cover of Rolling Stone, man. Obviously nu-metal's cultural standing has taking a rather comprehensive beating over the last decade, but that's not necessarily because of the music.

I'm here to tell you that Results May Vary sounds exactly like the Limp Bizkit

you remember, except that it was released in 2003. You know, a year after Interpol made Turn on the Bright Lights. Hipness had moved on from the JNCO-panted rap-metal of the '90s and into the dusky black jackets of the early 2000s. Is Results May Vary good? No, but WHATEVER MAN. You know Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water? The Limp Bizkit album you probably bought from a Sam Goody? THAT GOT A 7/10 FROM SPIN! IT'S INDISTINGUISHABLE FROM RESULTS MAY VARY! NOW SOMEHOW IT'S ONE OF THE WORST ALBUMS EVER RELEASED???

I think it's high-time we admit that every music magazine in the universe is deathly afraid of looking uncool.

5. Lil Wayne - Rebirth

If you're unaware, this is Wayne's rock album. You can tell because he's holding a guitar in the cover image. I was really excited about the prospect of talking about how this album is actually good. Unfortunately I cannot do that, because this album is not good. There's a song called "Da Da Da" and it's like the worst N.E.R.D. song of all time.

There's a specific moment where you realize you need to prune the people you hang out with, because they might be empowering you to make awful mistakes. For Lil Wayne, it was probably around the time he was starting off rap songs with drum rolls.  

4. The Pigeon Detectives - We Met At Sea

This is a really strange one. The Pigeon Detectives were a generally well-liked (if scarcely remembered) British indie-rock band, in the same vein of Arctic Monkeys or Kasabian or the dozens other of that generation. Seriously, if you have nostalgia for that particular moment in pop culture, you really ought to go back and check out 2007's Wait For Me. But last year The Pigeon Detectives put out We Met At Sea, which was absolutely lambasted by the British press. The Metacritic database encapsulates exactly four reviews, two of which scored it below a 3/10. And that was NME and Q, two publications that often give their homegrown talent way too much of the benefit of the doubt.

I have absolutely no idea why this happened. Maybe the Pigeon Detectives committed some sort of hyper-localized PR crime overseas, but I'm hearing the same jangly, self-deprecating pop songs they've always written. Seriously, opener "Animal" is worth a couple review decimals all by itself. Maybe this is just some statistical anomaly, but this sort of savaging feels a little bit uncalled for.

3. The Twang - NEONTWANG

We continue our run of English mags destroying a well-meaning band's reputation with the Twang, a psychedelic Britpop revival sextet who actually had a moment of relevance back in 2007, when its debut record Love it When I Feel Like This climbed all the way to number three on the UK charts. Over the next couple of years, everybody on the face of the planet completely forgot who the bad was, and out trots NEONTWANG, a legitimately garbage album that got a particularly vile whipping due to some internet politics.

There's this thing that music writers do where they try to bury their own miscalculations in succeeding years, and the schlacking of NEONTWANG is a textbook example. Yes, it is bad, bad enough that it reminds you how once upon a time you wrote really nice things about the Twang, and in order to destroy those earlier dalliances, you double-down on your hatred of the new record.

2. Bloodhound Gang - Hefty Fine

My first thoughts had me trying to figure out just how different Hefty Fine was to, like, The Green Album. Primarily, it's that Weezer probably wouldn't write a song called "Farting with a Walkman On."

I probably would've thought this album was pretty great back when I was eleven years old, and I'm fairly certain that Bloodhoung Gang is pretty okay with being a band for middle-schoolers. Today, it actually makes me physically uneasy. It's not the potty humor. It's more the abysmally sub-par mastering, or the terrible speaker-shifting on "Something Diabolical." No major-label album has cost less to produce than Hefty Fine, and not coincidentally, no album has ever before featured the lyrics "I've got your fingers snapping like this, all you need is my uhn tiss uhn tiss uhn tiss."

1. Kevin Federline - Playing With Fire

It has been at least five years since Kevin Federline was the most hated man in America. Naturally, it's also been about five years since Britney Spears has mattered in any concrete pop cultural sense. The dust has settled, and now K-Fed is just some cast-off former headline who probably very much wishes he could still write a song like "America's Most Hated" and have it be true. After all, his debut album Playing With Fire has the unsurprising privilege of being the worst reviewed record of all time, according to Metacritic, it holds a whopping 1.5/10 normalized average among the seven interns who reviewed it back in 2006. This is not a battle I'm especially keen to fight, but I'm still here to tell you that Kevin Federline's album is absolutely, categorically, indivisibly, not the worst album of all time.

Don't get me wrong, there are few positive things to say about Playing With Fire. It's a wallpaper, privilege-blind artifact of offensive tabloid-driven opportunity. But let's be real, this is just another generic, cut-off Dickies rap album. Flavorless beats, formless flow, two-note hooks, you've heard this before, because it's uploaded on DatPiff every single day. Here's the thing: If you were stuck on a desert island and could only bring one record with you, Playing With Fire would never be the last thing on your list. It's so utterly unremarkable that it has no chance of earning your chagrin. That might make you sad, because hating K-Fed is fun, but it's the truth. There's a fine line between incompetence and mediocrity, and Playing With Fire earns the dubious distinction of being on the right side of that separation.

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