As an addendum to Saving Country Music’s Worst Songs list, 2015 necessitates we also single out some of the worst albums released in 2015. Take note that in most years, such a list is not necessary. Not that there aren’t bad albums, but even when you’re speaking about country music’s worst offenders, many actually release fairly decent songs on their albums. Take Luke Bryan’s 2015 Kill The Lights for example. It’s not a good album by any stretch, and includes some of the worst songs released in 2015. But believe it or not, the 2nd half of the track list is not as terrible as one may suspect.
Many of country music’s worst artists didn’t release albums in 2015. Sam Hunt, Jason Aldean, Chase Rice, Florida Georgia Line, Cole Swindell, and others spared us this year. That also means we’re likely to get new albums from these dudes in 2016, but it generally thinned the herd for who could release bad albums in 2016. But still, the permeation of the new Metro-Bro trend caused some of the most terrible, most non-country albums to be released in the genre’s history. Where someone like Luke Bryan will spare listeners by at least trying with a few songs, artists like Old Dominion, Thomas Rhett, and Brett Eldredge, include one R&B-inspired abomination after another.
Old Dominion – “Meat & Candy”
There’s not a single song on Old Dominion’s new album Meat and Candy that shouldn’t have been aborted in the womb. This is the type of material professional songwriters throw together to crack themselves up in writing sessions to lighten the mood. But in an utter breakdown in the system, it somehow found its way completely unabridged onto a record, encompassing the entirety of the material from cover to cover, and offered with the hopes of being taken seriously by idiots whose first introduction to country music ever was Luke Bryan.
Old Dominion is the music people with $700 cars with $7,000 rims paid for with a payday loan listen to while they work at the prepaid phone kiosk in a pawn shop. I’ll give them this: Meat & Candy is about the perfect title for this audio abomination since it offers nothing more than an artery-clogging sugar rush with no nutritional value for the listener whatsoever. (read full review)
Chris Young – “I’m Coming Over”
Look, Chris Young has a tremendous head of hair, seems like a super swell guy, and heretofore has never done anything to run afoul of Saving Country Music for any particular reason. But man, listening to this record was like the most non-listening experience ever. That’s about the only way I know how to put it. It’s not that this album is bad necessarily, or wrong. Those things would still be senses one feels and would raise the pulse, even if it was adversely. And that’s not what’s going on here. I didn’t think you could get more generic and Wonder Bread than Cole Swindell, but Chris & Company have figured out how. At least Cole Swindell is so lily white it gives him some modicum of character and uniqueness. With I’m Coming Over, there’s no character at all.
The lyrics of I’m Coming Over are incredibly whitewashed with clichÃ©, beset with predictable turns, and fall back on often used default hooks. It’s like a living compendium of popular country love song tropes. The vocals are so aggressively pristine and perfect, it’s jarring. Not a speck of dirt, or a drop of sweat could ever be gleaned from these recordings. (read full review)
Thomas Rhett – “Tangled Up”
The hubris, the insult of calling Tangled Up “country,” the effrontery to the institution and the brazenness of the act are unparalleled, and start country music down a brambled path towards a terrible demise where it can’t define its own borders or distinguish itself from the rest of American music. For the first time, we ask the question, “Will The Circle Be Unbroken?” and cannot give ourselves a reassuring answer.
A product of nepotism and an incarnated machination of the Nashville machine, Thomas Rhett doesn’t possess particularly impressive songwriting skills. Rhett has not ascended to his station in music from the strength of his vocal prowess or musicianship. Thomas Rhett isn’t especially pretty or charismatic, or artistically talented as a performer. Thomas Rhett’s ultimate gift is his ability to relinquish his free will unconditionally, suppress any and all inclinations to express himself artistically in anything resembling an original form, and allow producers to do their worst with his name and likeness as their fully indentured economic vehicle, with the ultimate result being capital acquisition on a grand scale. (read full review)
Easton Corbin – “About to Get Real”
2015 has been especially sinister in how it has turned the knife in the heart of steadfast country fans by making turncoats out of what used to be the last vestiges of substance and country roots in the mainstream. Where Bro-Country was at least compartmentalized, in 2015 it is sell out or shut up and go home. Virtually nobody has been spared a bite from the “commercial relevancy” bug, and you can now add Easton Corbin to the list of the infected.
About To Get Real is Easton Corbin going fake, no matter how much steel guitar you slather on the chest wound he leaves in the trunk of his core listeners. Yes there’s steel guitar, and a twang to his voice. There’s also Easton giving Florida Georgia Line a run for their money for the amount of times he says “girl.” There’s also a song called “Yup” (and yup, it’s bad). About To Get Real evidences the modern resignation to rhythm at the expense of lyric and melody, and does so through unfortunate dalliances with electronically-generated sounds. It’s also about as laundry list and “Bro” as it gets. It’s Easton Corbin turning in his pearl snaps and T-shirts for a metro tie. (read full review)
Brett Eldredge – “Illinois”
We have entered a new era in country music where the ambitions and influences an artist shows up to Nashville with are patently irrelevant, and all that matters now is finding a seat at a shrinking table and making whatever concessions one must to secure your spot. It’s a cutthroat version of musical chairs, with the participants most willing to sell out the hardest having a distinct advantage, though nothing is guaranteed. As the window shrinks, the prospect of jettisoning your entire image, sound, and principles, and still just being one of many vying for attention who gets lost in the shuffle while losing whatever fan base you showed up with, are very real.
It’s not that this R&B style of “country” is remarkably worse than its Bro-Country predecessor. Truth be known, it’s probably degrees more palatable. But it doesn’t make it any less offensive in the way it flies in the face of truth in advertising. Illinois would be a much more natural fit in four or five other genres before you would get anywhere near country. I fail to identify one song on the entire album that would be considered to have even country leanings. (read full review)
Eli Young Band’s Turn It On EP
(Note: This list only includes albums reviewed by Saving Country Music)