Music critics have either labeled 2018 a mediocre year for music or a terrible one. Personally, I found this to be a good year for music… if you look in the right places. The charts are a nightmare, but my playlists are not.
However, even I found some albums to be just god awful. Even worse, these albums are by artists I like or respect. It’s baffling that these albums are final products— that these artists listened to these songs and decided, “Yes, this is what I want to put out into the world.”
Once again, you won’t find any music from the likes of XXXTentacruel or other problematic-but-still-immensely-successful artists. I don’t listen to their music, therefore I can’t include them on my year-end lists. Just know that I think they’re awful, both as people and as “artists.”
Many albums that make critics’ worst lists also won’t appear here because I didn’t listen to them. I don’t listen to artists I don’t like. As such, you won’t find Drake, Cardi B, or Camila Cabello on here.
Basically, for an album to make this list, I had to have given the entire album a chance. If I only heard a couple songs, it won’t make the list (which excludes Man of the Woods by Justin Timberlake, which I did briefly consider). The album also had to be released in 2018. That way I don’t have to consider all the albums I listened to from previous years.
But enough song and dance. Because, trust me, these albums don’t qualify as either. (And no, I will not be including links to these albums. Why promote music I hate?)
- Expectations by Bebe Rexha (Released June 22, 2018)
If you’d asked me two years ago, I would’ve told you I loved Bebe Rexha. If you’d asked me a year ago, I would’ve said she was alright. These days, I find her to be painfully mediocre. But what changed that caused my opinion of her to drop so drastically?
Rexha used to be an incredibly unique artist who seemed passionate about the music she was making. Unfortunately, as she continuously failed to find mainstream success, her music became more generic and repetitive. All of this culminated in her long-awaited debut album.
Expectations finds Rexha retreading old ground and relying on the success of better albums (the title and album cover are both copied from prior releases by other artists). When she’s not rereleasing dollar store versions of her old songs, she spouting inoffensive platitudes and squandering her potential.
The worst offender is her collaboration with the tumors of country music, Florida Georgia Line. “Meant to Be” is cliché and contradictory. The song is neither pop nor country, just background noise to play in a grocery store. And, sadly, it’ll probably be Rexha’s only big hit.
The album isn’t without its highlights. “Don’t Come Any Closer” and “Grace” are remarkable ballads, while “I Got You,” Shining Star,” and “Sad” are notable upbeat and mid-tempo tracks. It is on this handful of songs that Rexha truly sounds like an artist.
Despite being the best album on my worst list (albeit by a small margin), this record is still a half-assed fame grab. Of course, even in that it fails. Instead, it is merely half-assed. This album is a testament to why you should keep your expectations low— you’ll only be let down.
- Sweetener by Ariana Grande (Released August 17, 2018)
It’s been almost six months and I’m still trying to figure out what happened here. How did Grande go from making her best album to date to this mess of a record? This just isn’t the Ariana Grande we know and love.
I think that, ultimately, is the issue. Sweetener doesn’t feel like an Ariana Grande album. Grande just feels so disconnected and absent. I don’t get a sense of who Grande is from this record.
Pharrell’s production is a travesty. The trap influence just doesn’t work with Grande’s style. This is most evident on “The Light is Coming.” The production is sparse and Grande sing-talks the confusing lyrics. There’s no meaning here, as the subject matter jumps from “woke culture” to dealing with trauma at random intervals. Nicki Minaj’s verse is equally as meaningless, a clear sign these two need to stop collaborating.
The highlights of the album are the only songs in which Grande sings with conviction. “Everytime,” “Breathin,” “Goodnight n Go,” and “Get Well Soon” actually feel like Ariana Grande songs because her heart is actually in them. The two singles, “No Tears Left to Cry” and “God is a Woman,” also achieve this. But alas, they’re also the only two songs on the album that have any true staying power.
I really don’t blame Grande for abandoning this era as quickly as it began. Not only is it a mess, but it’s a reminder of her failed whirlwind romance with Pete Davidson. Rather than being a triumph, this album born of a struggle is a struggle in itself. It hurts to put this on my worst list, but Ariana Grande’s music is just sweeter without additives.
- LM5 by Little Mix (Released November 16, 2018)
Do girl groups only exist to let me down? Is that their job? It seems like every one of them does at some point, but I never thought Little Mix would join their ranks. And yet, painful as is it, their fifth album more than earned its place on my worst list.
LM5 is an insult to the four albums that came before it, filled with lesser versions of previous songs. Unbearably cliché, this album is a massive step back for the usually inventive group. The girls have nothing new to say, instead parroting feminist talk points better said by others.
It’s not just the women of Little Mix with nothing new to say. Nicki Minaj offers a verse on “Woman Like Me” that is a carbon copy of her verse of Ariana Grande’s “Side to Side.” Even fellow pop stars Ed Sheeran and Jess Glynne seem apathetic on the lyrics they penned. No one on this record put any effort into it, and it shows.
The worst track by far is “Joan of Arc.” I’ve never been able to listen to the whole song. I fear if I tried, I’d die from cringing too hard. With lyrics like “I’m fanning myself/ I’m stanning myself,” this song is an embarrassment to the very historical and literary women it purports to honor. There’s an inherent lack of understanding about what made those women so significant and influential. They’re merely name-dropped to try and give the song some legitimacy.
Only three songs on this record have any sort of quality. “American Boy” finds a perfect balance between heartfelt and pop anthem. “More Than Words” is a pounding power ballad. “Motivate” is a Rihanna-esque jam set in the darkly sexy minor scale. Unfortunately, three songs on a fourteen-track record don’t affect the quality of the overall work. They’re the exceptions, not the rule.
Like Miley Cyrus and Ariana Grande before them, I hope the ladies of Little Mix decide to abandon this garbage era before it even begins. It’s obvious they rushed out whatever they could, so they can fulfill their contract with Syco. My only hope is that they decide to care again for LM6. Otherwise, they won’t need LM7 to eat their nine-year career.
- Caution by Mariah Carey (Released November 16, 2018)
Will Mariah Carey ever have another comeback or was The Emancipation of Mimi the only career resurrection she’ll get? I really liked the title track, so I had hope for this record. And then I listened to it. This album is guaranteed to make you feel two things: boredom and second-hand embarrassment.
Caution takes influence from R&B, which theoretically works great for Carey. Unfortunately, it fails in practice. There’s no soul in these songs, no life. At least even Carey’s most embarrassing tracks were delivered with some kind of heart or conviction. But this album just sounds like one long song that Carey recorded while thinking about what she was going to do when she left the studio for the day. Nothing here even remotely resembles the vocalist or artist she once was.
Carey unintentionally portrays herself as a middle-aged woman desperately clinging to her youth. Songs like “GTFO,” “A No No,” “Giving Me Life,” and “One Mo’ Gen” have such powerful Facebook Mom energy, I almost can’t breathe. The lingo is not only out of touch, it’s outdated. The lack of maturity on this record is almost alarming. I could accept her petulant and overeager attitudes if she were twenty, but she’s nearly fifty. If she hasn’t grown up by now, she never will.
Perhaps I should be cautious about lambasting a notorious diva’s work, but I have less fucks to give than Mariah Carey did when she recorded this album. I’ll forever claim Old School and Comeback Mariah Carey, but 2018 Carey? I don’t know her.
-1. LøVë – EP by Aaron Carter
I don’t like to include EPs on the list proper because it doesn’t seem fair to compare a shorter body of work to a longer one. EPs generally don’t have “album tracks,” which are often what bring a full LP down. But I have to talk about this EP. I have to let the world know how bad it is.
I loved Aaron Carter when I was nine. But the second he cheated on Hilary Duff, I left him out with the trash. Sometimes I listen to his older stuff out of nostalgia and I’ve come to realize… he was never that good. In fact, he was arguably pretty bad.
Imagine taking his original awfulness and multiplying it by a hundred. That’s this EP. He sounds terrible. If Mariah Carey is clinging to her youth, then Aaron Carter is clinging to relevance. Somehow Carter fails worse.
I don’t know who told Carter it was a good idea to release new music, but they lied. And, much like Hilary Duff, he ain’t getting any love— or should I say løVë— from me.
Do you agree with my list? What do you think were the worst albums of 2018? Tell me about them in the comments!
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