Now that I’ve gone through all the books, albums, shows, and movies that I thought just sucked this year, it’s time to talk about all the things that disappointed me. Call it an early Festivus celebration, I guess. Now, just because something disappointed me doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. On the contrary, I either like some of these things or see how they’re objectively good. The issue is they let me down in some way, either because I had higher hopes for them or because they set a precedent they didn’t live up to. Today I’m going to talk about the five albums that really let me down this year. In order to qualify for the list, the album had to have come out this year and I had to have heard it in its entirety at least once. Now let’s get on with the list of albums that really dropped the ball this year:
- Places by Lea Michele (Release Date: April 28):
I, like many others, originally fell in love with Lea’s voice on Glee. But I also loved her debut album Louder. It was a quality pop record that found a style that really worked for her Broadway-trained vocals. I eagerly anticipated the follow-up. This year, after four long years of waiting, it finally dropped. And, truthfully, it’s not a bad album. Lea sounds wonderful and her emoting skills remain on point. My problem is it’s an entire album of ballads. There’s no variety here. Ballads have always been Lea’s bread-and-butter, but I liked the Sia-esque flair of her upbeat and mid-tempo tracks. This album is boring, unlistenable in one sitting. None of the songs stand out, so you cannot appreciate them. Despite being technically great, the album fails as a pop record. While I plan on listening to Louder for years to come, I can’t go to these new places with Ms. Lea Michele.
2. Fifth Harmony by Fifth Harmony (Release Date: August 25):
Before this record, I had never anticipated a Fifth Harmony album before. I’d given each one a chance because I always at least try to support girl groups, but only had high hopes for this one. Why? Easy: no Camila Cabello. I can’t stand her voice and she’s always been very… prominent on their songs. Now that she’s out of the group, I thought I could finally love them. I was hoping for diva-class anthems and vocal performances out the wazoo. Instead I got 7/27, but with less personality. I like a couple of the songs (“He Like That” and “Don’t Say You Love Me” among them), but the album feels like an entire record of filler songs. This record feels like the girls are just biding their time until they can also go solo. And that doesn’t make for a good sound. There’s no enthusiasm or passion on this album. This was Lauren Jauregi, Dinah Jane Hanson, Ally Brooke Hernandez, and Normani Kordei’s chance to totally rebrand as a powerhouse girl group. But if this half-assed mediocrity is what they chose to self-title, then I have no hope for their future as a pop group.
3. Wonderful Wonderful by The Killers (Release Date: September 22):
The Killers is my favorite band, so I felt no amount of small anticipation for this album. And the final product was… fine. Despite the foreboding promotional singles, I still had hope for this record. I kind of feel guilty for not loving this album, seeing as it’s almost entirely about Brandon Flowers’ wife’s depression. The problem is it lacks the bite of most Killers albums. In fact, it’s hardly a rock album at all. Even when it tries (the crescendo of the “Rut” climax, the brash confidence of “The Man,” the bluesy funk of “The Calling”), it never quite reaches the bold frankness and attitude of previous Killers works. The only song that bears any resemblance to the Killers I know and love is “Run for Cover” (uncoincidentally the best song on the record). Even when I tried to summon enthusiasm on my review earlier in the year, I still couldn’t fall in love with the album. It seems the album title promised more than the band was willing to offer this time around.
4. Beautiful Trauma by P!nk (Release Date: October 13):
I used to be a huge P!nk fan in high school, but my love for her has admittedly waned in the years since. I still think she’s very talented, but her music just doesn’t resonate with me the way it did when I was an angry teenager. Regardless, I was happy to see a new P!nk album after five years. Unfortunately, I felt let down. I had a lot of the same problems with this record as I did with Katy Perry’s 2017 release. This album felt like a rehashing of P!nk’s older work, namely The Truth About Love. That album was a decent pop record and fit the musical climate of its time well; Beautiful Trauma feels out-of-place, a few years behind everyone else. That’s not to say she should follow trends, just that she hasn’t updated her sound or come to the table with new things to say. “What About Us” is a remarkably tame call-out coming from the woman who wrote “Dear Mr. President.” “Beautiful Trauma,” though my favorite on the record, is just a rerelease of both “The Truth About Love” and “True Love.” P!nk seems to be stuck in a stalemate with herself, trying to say important things but feeling trapped within genre. However, I don’t consider it as bad as Witness because at least P!nk has talent and sincerity to fall back on. And, while this album reminded me why I once loved P!nk so much, it was filled with neither beauty nor trauma.
5. Reputation by Taylor Swift (Release Date: November 10):
Based on both my review and recent thinkpiece, you all know that I have mixed feelings about Taylor Swift. But one thing I’ve never had mixed feelings on is her music. I’ve always thought she was talented from a songwriting perspective, able to paint a vivid picture and elicit every emotion known to man and a few previously undiscovered ones. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed all her previous releases, the window into her soul personal and empathic. But this album was a letdown for me. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. But Taylor seems to have largely forgone imagery-laden lyrics for catchy ones and tonally-fitting music for dubstep and EDM. It’s a noisy record, one that doesn’t lend itself to repeated listens (at least, not in the same sitting). Thematically, this album misses the mark. She talks at length about her tarnished reputation, but never reflects on how it got that way. She simultaneously lays the blame on others while trying to embrace this “villain” persona. It’s a mess of conflicting ideas, all seated against the backdrop of another new relationship. I have no issue with Taylor dating around, but it’s a tad annoying when she acts like she’s doing something novel with this album. I was willing to give Taylor a chance but, aside from liking some of the songs, I find that Taylor has only damaged her reputation even more.
Do you agree with any of my picks? What were some music releases that disappointed you this year? Tell me about them in the comments!