Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

As our week of highlighting the best and worst of the first half of the year closes, we spend today looking at some of 2016’s worst albums thus far. As mainstream country has shifted away from bro-country and into pop, we’ve seen albums that are one of three things: completely pop music, bro-country hanging on by the very last threads, or a hybrid of the two. Needless to say, these albums have done nothing but continue to dig mainstream country into its hole.

As you’ll notice, we haven’t reviewed most of these albums, mainly because we didn’t want to spend the time to write a review about the album and complain about the same old things we’ve complained about time and time again. But we have listened to the albums. For the most part, mainstream country music released several boring, middle of the road albums, but there were a few that sank lower than that.

Without further ado, here are the worst country albums of 2016 so far…

Cole Swindell – You Should Be Here 

Cole Swindell’s second album pretty much did the exact same thing as his first album and any EPs he’s released. The album kicks off with an awful duet with Dierks Bentley called “Flatliner.” A majority of You Should Be Here is straight bro-country with a hint of Nashville Pop thrown into the song’s productions. “Middle of a Memory” finds Swindell lamenting over the fact that a girl he wanted to hook up with left the bar without him. The party never stops for Cole Swindell, with “Home Game,” “Up” “Party Wasn’t Over”, and “Stay Downtown” combining scenes of drinking and hook-ups. You Should Be Here is full of shallow music, and the album’s best song, “You Should Be Here” only mustered a 4/10 grade here. The icing on the cake of the album comes with the final song, “Remember Boys.” After making a name for himself as one of country’s bros, not to mention hit song after hit song about random hook-ups for just one night, Cole Swindell thinks he can be taken seriously as a “remember boy”: someone who’s serious about a relationship with someone. Please. Cole Swindell has been and continues to be a joke.

Randy Houser – Fired Up

The biggest flaw of Randy Houser’s Fired Up is that the track list is 15 consistently boring party songs with awful puns and terribly juvenile words and phrases. There’s a bonus track called “Whiskeysippi River” and “Little Bit Older” that features the phrase, “a little bit older a little Budweiser” as if it’s supposed to be some clever pun. Fired Up starts off strong with “Back,” but the rest of the album falters. The first single, “We Went,” was one of the worst singles in 2015. And the album’s second single, “Song Number 7,” essentially rips off Luke Bryan’s “Play It Again.” There was no originality brought into the album, with bro-country after bro-country. Perhaps the only bright spot of the album is that there isn’t as much pop music in the production, but at the same time, the music isn’t all that country.

Keith Urban – Ripcord

No matter which genre you stick Ripcord in, it’s a terrible album. This album felt like a to-do list of stuff Urban wanted to try because he felt like it and there was absolutely no direction planned for it. Some of it sticks like on “Wasted Time” and “Sun Don’t Let Me Down.” The rest however is pretty much a complete mess. I hear so much from country fans that an artist’s songs aren’t bad as pop music if I dismiss it as not country music. So the overall point I wanted to make with this review was to show that genre lines really don’t matter the most when it comes to judging music’s quality. Many refer to bad country music as pop and that’s insult to pop music because there’s a lot of great pop music (see Beyoncé’s Lemonade). This album even insults pop. It’s pretty simple: there is great music and there is bad music. Ripcord is bad music.

Kane Brown – Chapter 1 (EP)

Kane Brown exploded onto country music proclaiming himself to be country’s Justin Bieber. If by Justin Bieber, he means pop star, than he hit it right on the nose. Brown’s music is nowhere near country, and his first EP with Sony proves that Kane Brown is just another metro-bro clone making the same kind of music as every other solo male act. “Wide Open” is sung with no charisma and terrible vocals. The vocal effects on “Last Minute Late Night” are annoying, while Kane Brown begs for a late night booty-call. “Excuses” and “There Goes My Everything” are straight pop songs dealing with heartbreak, but Brown’s monotone vocal delivery is terrible. Chapter 1 is completely corporate manufactured pop music sung by a different puppet.

 

Dan + Shay – Obsessed

Obsessed is bro-country attitudes wrapped up in boy band pop. Sure, Dan + Shay have “From the Ground Up,” a well written love song, but it’s impossible to call this album country music. Slick computer generated beats with R&B influences, Dan + Shay are the poor man’s Justin Timberlake. This album is produced and the songs are written solely to appeal to the teenage girl demographic. As with most of the albums on this list, Obsessed falters because it’s a pop album marketed as country music.

 

Maren Morris HEROMaren Morris – HERO

Maren Morris’ debut album is anything but country music, despite how good the music actually is. The songs are well produced and well sung by Morris. When you look at Nashville Pop, HERO is an example of how it’s done right. It’s not a country album, but it’s marketed as such. Therefore, we can look it through the lens of country music and call it one of the worst “country” albums of the year. HERO will probably be the most polarizing album of 2016. Undoubtedly the biggest sin this album commits is it being called a country album. It shouldn’t have any business charting on the country albums chart too. If you’re angry about this and this prevents you from enjoying it, I don’t blame you because it would get a zero as a country record.

9 thoughts on “Country Perspective’s Worst Albums of 2016 So Far

  1. Nadia Lockheart June 17, 2016 / 1:23 pm

    The funny thing about the state of full-length “country” albums released so far is that while they should all be disqualified altogether in that they’re not remotely country………………they nonetheless don’t get me riled up when I evaluate them regardless of genre.

    None of these albums are particularly awful like Old Dominion’s “Meat and Candy” or RaeLynn’s “Me” EP were before. In contrast, I mostly draw a shoulder shrug response with regards to each of these but nothing akin to a blood-curdling tirade because, when I put these albums in their proper place as pop albums, they’re just all that objectionable aside from a few choice songs.

    If I was forced to pick one, I’m most likely choosing Kane Brown’s EP. Mostly because of his complete lack of charisma and identity as an artist or entertainer and how painful his vocals usually are. But even there, it doesn’t ignite nearly as visceral a response as RaeLynn’s EP did.

    The real tragedy of 2016 has been the lack of distinguishable country albums among mainstream artists. But when it comes to their content from front to back, nothing has been as objectionable so far this year than what Old Dominion haunted us with last year. Let’s hope, at the very, VERY least, it stays that way.

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  2. OlaR June 17, 2016 / 3:09 pm

    The list is not complete without “The Fighters”. LoCash sound like a FGL cover-band. “Highlight”: “Drunk Drunk”.
    Canada: Cold Creek County – “Till The Wheels Come Off”
    Mix of FGL with Old Dominion. “I want a girl that will blow my speakers” (from “Blow My Speakers”), “Truckin’ in a trucker hat” (from “Trucker Hat”) or songs called “Good Thing We’re In The Country” & “Beer Weather”, let’s not forget “Ain’t Nothing But A Party”. The “highlights”: a banjo (!) & the woooh-aahh chorus is changed to ooohh-woooh chorus.

    New: Tara Thompson – “Someone To Take Your Place” – Ep – Big Machine – released 6/10
    Five tracks. Hard to compare a five-track ep with an album like “Hero” (Maren Morris), but “Someone To Take Your Place” is better. It’s only my opinion, but i prefer voice, songs & (country-)production. My highlights: “Side Effects” & the ballad “Pregnant At The Prom”. 8/10.
    (On “Google Play” the Ep is 2,49€ here)

    And it’s (not) getting better:
    Aaron Lewis – “Sinner” – Album – Dot Records – 9/16 – Source: Music Row (Single: “That Ain’t Country”)
    Justin Moore – “Kinda Don’t Care” – Album – Valory – 8/12 – Source: Music Row (“More Middle Fingers” – duet with Brantley Gilbert & Ross Copperman is listed as a co-writer for two songs)
    The Cadillac Three – “Bury Me In My Boots” – Album – Big Machine – 8/5 – Source: Music Row
    Dylan Scott – “Dylan Scott” – Album – Curb – 8/12 – Source: Music Row

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  3. seak05 June 17, 2016 / 5:28 pm

    How you know a whole lot of bad country albums have been put out this year…..neither Blake’s nor Dierks’ album made the list (probably more surprising in Blake’s case, although this year I think his album was better than Dierks’.

    I’ll stand up for Maren though, yes it’s pop as opposed to rock or americana, but it’s not any less country really than Sturgil or some other names, and it’s actually good music, unlike the rest of those albums.

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  4. Jason June 17, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    Cole Swindell- Meh, it was better than his previous shit. It’s got some much better vocals, some maturity on Swindells part, and “No Can Left Behind” is downright awesome. On the deluxe, “Gettin Forgotten” is actually pretty solid. Ultimately, no songs are downright bad, but only one is truly good.

    Randy Houser- Shit. Three of the last four songs are good, but I’m not willing to wade through 13 awful songs to reach the end. Yesterday’s Whiskey is alright too.

    Keith Urban- I can’t find anything positive to say about this dreck.

    Kane Brown- I like his voice. Unfortunately, everything else about him seems…. Off… And for good reason. He’s essentially nothing more than a puppet that Sony can do anything with, mainly because he’s sold his soul to the Music Row devil to quench his untamable lust for fame.

    Dan+Shay- They’re like the country (“country”) equivalent of One Direction. I did like Obsessed and From The Ground Up, but the rest of these songs are downright boring.

    Maren Morris- She’s alright, but she’s not country. If you want country, don’t touch Hero. If you just want decent music, give it a shot. It’s not mind blowing, but some tracks are alright.

    Worst album has to go to Keith Urban.

    Worst EP- For me, it goes to Levi Hummon. For those who don’t know, Levi Hummon is pure shit. His music sounds like nails on a chalkboard, and his website is essentially one big ad for RAM trucks, proving he’s nothing more than a tool for corporations to manipulate. Listen to his EP and you’ll see just how bad he is.

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    • Nadia Lockheart June 17, 2016 / 7:10 pm

      I agree with you on Cole Swindell’s latest. To me, its main sin was being incredibly boring and relentlessly slightly-below-mid-tempo: interrupted only by “No Can Left Behind”, “Flatliner” and “Broke Down”. But the album isn’t nearly as obnoxious as his eponymous debut was by any stretch. I wouldn’t consider it one of the year’s worst.

      I actually feel the same way about Randy Houser’s latest as well. But Houser’s case is much more disappointing because, with “Shine”, Houser proved he could effectively have it both ways in selling songs that have distinctive country flavor and some deep cuts that had some heart while also peddling fodder for radio. And it was successful. I don’t get why he even felt the need to change the formula from a business standpoint.

      Haven’t heard Levi Hummon yet, but I know I’m in for a probable field day once I find some downtime to check out his catalog out of toxic curiosity.

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      • Jason June 17, 2016 / 10:23 pm

        It’s only his one EP, thankfully 🙂

        Seriously, he’s essentially a glorified RAM truck advertiser, with some thinly veiled bro-country tropes mixed with painfully stiff electronic production and truckloads of auto-tune. Good luck…

        Also, his website is seriously 50% ads for trucks.

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        • Nadia Lockheart June 18, 2016 / 1:48 am

          So, essentially the Pitbull of bro-country then? (meaning self-professed hustlers masquerading as musical entertainers who nonetheless name-drop their products in every song) 😉

          At least Pitbull legitimately sounds charismatic and that he’s having a good time when he shrills to beats. My guess is Hummon isn’t an eighth as charismatic as Pitbull! -__-

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        • OlaR June 18, 2016 / 3:54 am

          Levi Hummon is the son of Marcus Hummon. The Ep is boring & Levi Hummon can’t sing. I like “Window Down Days”. Since the BMLG is signing all & everybody Levi is not on the high priority-list. Too busy promoting the other son of a Music Row-father Tucker Beathard.
          RAM trucks is the “Levi Hummon Guts Glory Road Trip” sponsor or to be correct “RAM powers & presents the Levi Hummon Guts Glory Road Trip”. Visit ramtrucks.com. You can win prizes. Wrong again: “you can win great prizes”. There is a photo of Levi in a RAM truck & a photo with Michael Ray. Lot’s of RAM truck photos. With or without Levi Hummon. Ram trucks in all colours & you can “Learn more about the trucks Levi will driving on his Guts Glory Road Trip!”

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  5. Amanda June 18, 2016 / 12:15 pm

    I actually love Maren’s album. But is a great pop album, you are right, it is not a country record.

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