The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

 

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Though it produced no less than 25 great albums, the last 12 months often seemed, at best, a transitional year for music, lacking in zeitgeist-capturing, forward-thinking stunners and rife with soulless fiascos eager to fire-bomb innovation all the way to the bank. This year saw several different albums in 2014’s most barrel-scraping genre pursuing last year’s Avicii stratagem: selling off any experimentalism and integrity left in pursuit of the lowest, cash-grabbing common denominator. But pop/club EDM wasn’t the only genre eager to alienate its once-strongest defenders. Hip-hop was all too eager to follow suit, making a huge “star” of an Australian industrial-grade irritant who can most charitably be described as a surprisingly effective defense of Kesha’s musical oeuvre, and presenting continued evidence that “I like to get high” is a credible musical statement only when accompanied by the bat-shit-crazy genius of a Kanye West production. Oh, and remember that creepy asshole heretofore best known for making Pharrell Williams toss harmonies over the thinly veiled paean to fratboy misogyny “Blurred Lines”? He put his stalker letters to song this year, simultaneously ruining any chance of marital reconciliation and a pop career. See? This year wasn’t all bad. Blue Sullivan

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

11

Tony Bennett & Lady Gaga, Cheek to Cheek

Lady Gaga fancies herself a renaissance woman, capable of shifting genres as ably as she changes Halloween costumes. And though she claims to have been singing “jazz” all her life, she overzealously belts through the standards on Cheek to Cheek like a precocious teenager performing show tunes at a high school talent show. The difference is that this amateur is backed by a team of admittedly competent, professional musicians and, of course, Tony Bennett, who, though not exactly in peak form here, manages to escape the whole charade almost unscathed. Almost. It’s tempting to praise Gaga for wiping off the war paint, but that’s like giving a lollipop to a toddler for not shitting in the living room. Sal Cinquemani

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

10

Calvin Harris, Motion

This is arguably the album on this countdown of ignominy that contained the best individual track, an irresistibly brassy anthem called “Blame.” But trying to pinpoint the merits of that one ace becomes considerably more difficult when analyzed alongside the dumb, disinterested, and deeply condescending lump that is Motion. Every track sounds like the result of a chart-analyzing supercomputer that’s become suicidally bored with its own algorithms. Calvin Harris once had a confident understanding of how to craft a massive Spotify hit, but now he just sounds like a jaded pantomime of his former self who can still occasionally pick a collaborator with enough talent and energy (like John Newman) to mask the joyless indifference of the music. Sullivan

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

9

50 Cent, Animal Ambition: An Untamed Desire to Win

50 Cent is now 38, four years off his last album, and seven off his last significant hit. For athletes, this would likely mean retirement, but rap’s upper age limits are still hazy, with chameleons like Snoop Dogg cheating creative death again and again. 50’s personality is far more basic and immutable than Snoop’s, so it’s not too surprising that Animal Ambition finds him in Charles Foster Kane mode, looking back fondly on the days of his youth. The main issue is that, despite any noble intentions of getting back to his roots, 50 doesn’t have much craft to fall back on. He’s still a clumsy rapper, slow and not very creative, maintaining a willingness to jump on trends and borrowed styles. Jesse Cataldo

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

8

Jessie J, Sweet Talker

Although U.K. singer Jessie J is a also songwriter, having penned earworms such as Miley Cyrus’s “Party in the U.S.A.,” 42 different writers and producers worked with her on Sweet Talker, which is nothing more than a calculated bid to crack the American market. And boy did they check a lot of boxes: Nicki Minaj, R&B slow burn, melisma, sex appeal. It’s all mordantly topical. Unfortunately, they forgot to include a personality in the package. “Imma do it like it ain’t been done.” Famous last words. Caleb Caldwell

The 11 Worst Albums of 2014

7

Wiz Khalifa, Blacc Hollywood

Left on his own, Wiz Khalifa feels small, crying out for attention, but unsure of how to most easily earn it. On Blacc Hollywood, it’s hard to tell whether he’s genuinely torn between guilt and pride or just being pulled between diverging trends—playing up his largesse on some tracks, his emotional capacity on others. But what’s clear is that in neither mode is he especially articulate. This sense of puzzled division remains the only really interesting thing about Blacc Hollywood, an album that’s remarkable only as a ghostly portrait of a half-formed figure prowling the fringes of success. It’s a roundly mediocre effort, filled with half-cocked, unimpressive radio bait. Cataldo

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