Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Album of the Year Nominees

Even with all the good country music available in 2015, there was still a ton of bad. As the popularity of bro-country faded, Music Row seemed more and more desperate to keep the mass interested by further moving away from country roots. R&B trends with faux rapping and an abundance of pop culture references resulted in straight pop songs being thrusted to the top of the country charts. Many younger, country newcomers entered the scene to bring more authenticity to Music Row’s reach for the younger demographic. Established acts remodeled themselves in an effort to stay relevant. Overall, 2015 was a year of identity crisis for mainstream country music, and this year’s nominations for Country Perspective’s Worst Album of the Year embody the soulless spirit of Music Row’s desperate attempt to maintain relevancy.

Josh and I selected these finalists and will ultimately decide who wins the glorious honor of Worst Album of 2015. Remember that we do value reader feedback will take your opinions into consideration. Please comment and voice your vote of which of the albums below you believe to be the worst of 2015. These albums were selected because they offer no intrinsic quality to country music. They existed merely to make money for the music business, and did so in the worst possible fashion. These are the albums whose sins are too grand to be ignored.

Worst Album of The Year Nominees (in no particular order)

Luke Bryan – Kill The Lights

Immature themes pandering to the generation after Luke’s own combined with an R&B and pop production that isn’t even remotely close to a country sound. That’s what you get with Luke Bryan’s Kill The Lights. R&B grooves and half-assed club music so Luke can “dance” on stage and keep getting ticket sales from women yearning to see him shake his ass.

The first half of this album is so atrocious that it’s on level with some of the worst music I have ever reviewed on Country Perspective. The second half of the album has some decent music, but for most casual fans with taste there’s no chance in hell they make it this far into the album. Bryan at this point in his career has become Gumby for Music Row. He’ll bend and contort into whatever is the latest trend. In his last album he pandered to bro country and now he’s giving his own take on the Sam Hunt, R&B styled “country” music.

Thomas Rhett – Tangled Up

When it comes to established acts conforming to trends to appease the label managers, Thomas Rhett may be the worst offender. His sophomore album is a complete sonic shift from his debut. Thomas Rhett isn’t an artist, he’s a puppet being forced to sing and dance whatever songs will get himself and his label money. The sad thing is, they can’t even accomplish this feat without sampling and ripping off music from other artists. There’s nothing original about Tangled Up.

This album is a mess and shouldn’t even be called music. The songs that combine country sounds with funk sounds are just a hodgepodge of noise that would make a deaf person cringe. The actual funk, disco, R&B songs are shitty and Bruno Mars himself wouldn’t even try to record that mess. Mainstream country isn’t exactly moving away from bro-country. Sure, these songs aren’t pop rock corn field parties, but the lyrics are still the same trashy immature sentiments meant to boost bravado and masculinity. Tangled Up is an embarrassment to country music, it’s an embarrassment to funk and it’s an embarrassment to music in general.

Canaan Smith – Bronco

Canaan Smith has pretty much fallen off the face of the earth after “Love You Like That” completed its chart run. But we won’t forget about Smith yet as his cliche-ridden terrible album has sustained its run as one of the worst albums of the year. Seriously, let’s revisit these lyrics as a reminder of the quality that Bronco offered country music:

We got that mad love
Haters gonna hate us
Yeah, you and me together
Some kinda crazy
But that’s us
Doin’ our thing

There isn’t much else to say about Bronco, other than it is a giant train wreck with the exception of one song. Canaan Smith took the most clichéd and tiring tropes and combined them with terrible, non-country production and instrumentation to give us an album that is spectacularly bad. What’s worse is that Smith had a hand in writing almost all of these songs.

Kelsea Ballerini – The First Time 

When Taylor Swift officially left country music, Music Row was left scrambling on who they could get to replace Taylor as country music’s youthful, female idol. That void was filled when Kelsea Ballerini popped on the scene. Sure Kelsea Ballerini achieved charting success unseen by a female debut artist in the past decade, but Ballerini’s offering to country music was the same bro-country dreck sung from the female perspective.

This is pop music. It’s rap and electronic noise try to pass itself as an “evolution” of the country sound. Don’t let yourselves be fooled. Sure you’ll hear various country sounds like banjos shoved in the mix, but that serves no purpose other than to make you think it’s country music. This is a pop album, not a country music album. Kelsea Ballerini can sing well, but she is a pop singer who would be laughed out of the country genre if we lived in a just world. If you ever wondered what it would sound like when you cross Sam Hunt with Taylor Swift, just listen to Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time.

Old Dominion – Meat and Candy

Old Dominion is that kid at school who watched other students who wore Hollister and listened to generic pop to get popular and cool. Then they saved up money and bought a bunch of Hollister shirts for the next school to only find out that the cool style has changed to man buns and generic R&B. They’re the group that copied everyone else as a desperate cry for attention and recognition. These jokers released an album chock-full of bro-country BS that was old and tired in 2013. Meat and Candy is atrocious music that terribly combines spoken word and singing along with douchey, classless lyrics that are somehow supposed to be charming. Old Dominion is the what you get with you mix the worst parts of Sam Hunt with the worst parts of Florida Georgia Line. We didn’t review Meat and Candy here, but you can bet your last dollar that it would have been graded with a big fat goose egg, just like their debut single.

Michael Ray – Self Titled

Never has an artist’s success and career been more contrived than Michael Ray’s. Look at that album cover. That picture is why he has a country music career: Ray is a pretty boy who will attract women to his concerts. Ray’s debut album is full of clichéd, boring country songs. The lyrics are completely unoriginal with a vocal production that emulates the vocals of several of his male country singer counterparts. When I listen to Michael Ray’s album I only think about how he sounds like everyone else. Ray’s album has also produced not one, but two singles that have infuriated Josh and I. Michael Ray’s contrived country persona is defined through a stupid, clichéd album.

8 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s 2015 Worst Album of the Year Nominees

  1. Raymond December 10, 2015 / 11:42 am

    I’m surprised that Gloriana Three isn’t among the albums here. That album was so lifeless and such a sellout and now look at how their doing as they didn’t even bother to release a song off that album. Out of the albums here Old Dominion takes the cake. Just so much stupidity.

    Out of these albums I would rank them this
    Kill The Lights 3/10
    Tangled Up 0.5/10
    Bronco 2/10
    The First Time 1.5/10
    Meat & Candy 0/10
    Michael Ray 2/10

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    • Summer Jam December 12, 2015 / 2:35 am

      Yes, they did. There were 2 singles from that album.

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      • Raymond December 15, 2015 / 11:06 am

        No Trouble was the only one. Best Night Ever wasn’t on the album.

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  2. Fat Freddy's Cat December 10, 2015 / 12:47 pm

    I find the cover photos on most of those albums quite creepy. Why are those record labels going for the “Chester The Molester” look?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Kevin Davis December 10, 2015 / 4:11 pm

    I actually saw Michael Ray in concert recently. He opened for Kip Moore. Kip was vastly superior, of course, and that’s why I went to the show. But Ray was not quite as awful as I expected. He even has a pedal steel guitarist in his band, though you can barely hear him. When the songs are more subdued — like “Real Men Love Jesus,” the closing song for the set — his vocals are given a chance to impress, albeit still not very noteworthy. Easily the best moment in his entire set was his cover of “Dust on the Bottle,” the 90’s classic. Everyone in the large, sold-out venue was singing along, even the youngest who were in kindergarten when the song was released. As soon as he started singing, “Creole Williams lived down a dirt road…,” it was an uproar of cheers. Long live 90’s country!

    Of course, none of that makes me a fan of Michael Ray, but I consider him less offensive than the others on this list: Old Dominion, Kelsea, Luke, and Rhett. I would probably pick Old Dominion, but it’s a tough choice.

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    • southtexaspistolero December 15, 2015 / 7:59 am

      Much like Kid Rock, Michael Ray has a pretty good voice that is wasted on subpar material.

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  4. NoahHibiscusEaton December 10, 2015 / 6:22 pm

    Here’s mine, from the very worst to immeasurably less worse but still terrible.

    As you will notice, I include extended plays in my list. That seems to be the modus operandi of emerging entertainers today so I consider it fair-game for consideration since all the tracks wind up on the full-length LP anyway:

    *

    1: Old Dominion: “Meat & Candy”

    2: Chris Lane: “Fix” (EP)

    3: Canaan Smith: “Bronco”

    4: Luke Bryan: “Kill The Lights”

    5: Easton Corbin: “About To Get Real”

    6: Thomas Rhett: “Tangled Up”

    7: Eli Young Band: “Turn It On” (EP)

    8: RaeLynn: “Me” (EP)

    9: Alabama: “Southern Drawl”

    10: Gloriana: “Three”

    *

    *

    Kelsea Ballerini’s “The First Time” and Michael Ray’s eponymous debut are both spared from my listing.

    While I resent Ballerini’s album being marketed as country when it is clearly pop, and she has chosen the worst tracks thus far as the singles aside from “Yeah Boy”……………for a POP album on its own, I think it’s fairly decent. There’s some surprising nuance in the songwriting on a decent handful of tracks. I may still be angered hearing her on country radio, but that’s less her problem and more her label and gatekeepers.

    As for Michael Ray, yes: I didn’t like his debut album and he had chosen the two worst tracks as the two singles so far. However, most the rest of the album didn’t leave much of a passionate response either way. The production is actually agreeable on a decent number of cuts and he isn’t nearly as obnoxious in the songwriting otherwise. So, while I don’t recommend it, I wouldn’t consider it among the worst either.

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  5. Amanda December 16, 2015 / 10:52 am

    Alright ya’ll, please don’t judge me, but I made a pretty bad decision by buying Michael Ray’s debut album (I love his version of Run Away With You). I must have been sick that day. 🙂 As for the rest of these, Kelsea Ballerini’s The First Time would be okay as a pop album, but not a very good country album at all. I’ve never heard all of the other albums as a whole, but I’ll take your word for them, Derek. In the meantime, I think I’ll do a quick review of Michael Ray:

    1. Kiss You In The Morning: 1/10– Holy shit on a biscuit, how many references to kissing can you put in one song? This song seems cluttered and sloppy with stupid lyrics like “them jeans are faded in all the right places, got me hanging on tight to your curves like Little E races”. Um, no thanks.

    2. Another Girl: 3/10– Sounds to me like a bland, watered-down ripoff of Dustin Lynch’s Hell of a Night, another song I’m not a huge fan of.

    3. Look Like This: 2/10– Sam Hunt called. He wants Take Your Time back. I know Sam Hunt isn’t country, but he is talented and I’d take him over this shit any given day.

    4. Real Men Love Jesus: 0/10– I could have a huge, swear-infested rant on this abomination, but this is supposed to be a quick review, so I’ll just say that this song sucks in every possible way. It is a sexiest, shitty piece of garbage that is basically the male version of the absolutely terrible God Made Girls, by Raelynn.

    5. Livin’ It Up: 5.5/10– Now this ain’t bad at all. A little clichéd, but Michael sounds good here and seems that he is halfway enjoying himself.

    6. Run Away With You: 8/10– I like this even better than Big and Rich’s version. Michael sounds good and I can’t find one single thing to dislike about this.

    7. Think a Little Less: 2/10– Of course, this song is pretty damn objectifying to women with lines like “get you out of this bar, outta that dress, kiss a little more, think a little less”. Nope, not feeling it.

    8. Wish I Was There: 3/10– Yawn. Painfully boring.

    9. This Love: 0/10– What. The. Fuck. Is. Going. On. Here? This is the worst song on the album, it’s absolute shit.

    10. Drivin’ All Night: 5/10– This is pretty decent. Like Livin’ It Up, a little clichéd, but I don’t mind this song.

    11. Everything in Between: 5/10– Fairly decent song, not huge on the Sam Hunt-esque talk-singing, leave that to Sam Hunt. But this song is okay.

    12. Somewhere South: 3.5/10– Another “oh my God I love the south let me tell you about how country and southern I am!” kinda song. I almost fell asleep listening to this song. Meh.

    Final score: 3.1

    The other day, I was feeling kinda sad because I finally found a copy of Gary Allan’s Smoke Rings in the Dark, which I have been hunting for quite a while. Then I realized I was broke as hell. I blame myself for buying Michael Ray’s album. 😉 Live and learn. Oh well, maybe it’ll be there when I go back next time.

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