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.

Album Review – Luke Bryan’s ‘Kill The Lights’, An Exercise in Avoiding Being Country At All Costs

Luke Bryan Kill The Lights

Luke Bryan just came out with his new album Kill The Lights. For weeks I’ve been telling myself that I’m not going to review this album. I told myself to just stay away from it and let this album be. There’s plenty of great country music out there that can be reviewed instead. Yet here I am reviewing Kill The Lights. The reason I ultimately decided to review this album is because the world needs negative reviews too. It’s too easy to just ignore a problem. You have to face it head on. It’s important to point out when a big artist makes such terrible music for educational purposes, critical purposes and of course for amusement. Luke Bryan has been one of the biggest stars in country music for the last several years and shows no signs of slowing down in terms of popularity. Kill The Lights went head-to-head in sales with Dr. Dre’s new album Compton. Bryan isn’t going away and he’s impossible to ignore. So I bit my tongue, held my nose and listened to Bryan’s new album. I actually half-expected for it be better than his last album Crash My Party. But I was very wrong.

The lead single and one of the worst songs of 2015, “Kick The Dust Up,” leads off the album. If you missed my take down of this horrible song, here’s a refresher: This is the same old shit we’ve heard for the last three years. As for the instrumentation, it’s a pop, rock, adult contemporary arrangement for the most part. The exception is a Middle Eastern guitar riff that cuts in on the first chorus and plays intermittently for the rest of the song. This is the only part of this song that I don’t hate. But why is it in the song? It doesn’t make any sense at all nor does it match the theme. My guess is that it was thrown in because they thought it sounded cool. Remember we’re not dealing with musicians here, just hit makers looking for more cash.

The album’s title track is next and it’s not any better. The sound of this song is just bizarre and couldn’t be any further from country. The rhythm of this song sounds almost exactly like “That’s My Kind of Night” and definitely has the same theme. The only difference is this sounds more like Sam Hunt’s version of “country” instead of bro country. This sounds like an album cut from a Starship album. Bryan’s newest monstrosity released to country radio, “Strip It Down” is next. This is basically Bryan’s version of Jason Aldean’s “Burnin’ It Down.” For a song that’s supposed to be sexy, Bryan sure sounds serious. And who the hell finds this crap to be sexy? All I picture is a 40 year-old Bryan lurching at a 16 year-old girl across the bar thinking she’s 18. The definition of creepy! Also this isn’t country at all.

Luke Bryan is joined by Little Big Town’s lead singer Karen Fairchild on “Home Alone Tonight,” a song that almost made me barf into my mouth upon first listen. And I’m just going to say it: they both sound absolutely horrendous in this song. When Fairchild doesn’t sound flat, she sounds distorted. Bryan’s charisma is completely devoid in this song. Oh and the people described in the song are completely unlikable and annoying. It’s about two people going out, partying and taking pictures of each other to send to their exes. What’s the damn point? There isn’t one. “Razor Blade” is another pointless, garbage song. The production in this song and really the majority of this album is grating on the ears. It makes Jay Joyce albums sound under-produced. It’s just another vapid drinking and hooking up song where Bryan tries to be sexy and fails hilariously.

It’s not until the sixth song on the album that there’s something that isn’t completely terrible and that song is “Fast.” It’s a song about life going too fast and trying to enjoy things happening in front of you at the moment. The lyrics are pretty decent, even though they feel reminiscent of “Drink A Beer.” But the big problems with this song are the instrumentation and production. It’s overproduced and isn’t country at all, unless you count drum machines as country because there’s plenty of those. The pace of the song is also too frenetic and doesn’t give the lyrics time to really sink in for the listener. In capable hands, this song could have possibly been good.

The overproduced bullshit continues on “Move.” This is “Country Girl Shake It For Me” version 1,529. I can imagine the only groups of people who would be entertained by such a vapid and shallow song like this are suburban teenage girls and soccer moms who lead boring lives. And you might say it’s out of line for me to mock the fans of Bryan, but you’re wrong. Their basic taste is part of the reason why country radio sucks so much. Of course it’s also equally the radio programmers’ faults for catering to them. Anyway this is another all-around terrible song on an album full of them. Bryan produces another not horrible track in “Just Over.” It’s a heartbreak song with lyrics that aren’t bad. But once again the bad production overshadows a song. There are way too much drums and not enough organ play that you can faintly hear at the beginning of the song. If you completely overhauled the sound of this song to make it country, this song would still need work though.

I said it for “Fast” and I’m going to say it again for “Love It Gone.” This love song has somewhat okay lyrics I guess, but the production is so damn annoying and overbearing that it’s hard to follow the song. I would love to post Zac Brown’s quote about not using real instruments here, but he’s a turncoat bastard on Bryan’s side now. So I’ll just point out how this sounds like every other adult contemporary song posing as country I’ve heard this year. “Way Way Back” is same shit, different song. The club beat is so damn blatant here that I can imagine Bryan was pissing on George Jones’s grave as he recorded this song. This song is a metaphor for it anyway. Bryan isn’t even trying to be country at this point. He’s accepted his role as the old guy desperately clinging to youth to continue to suck on the teat of stardom.

One of Bryan’s closest attempts at sounding country and sincere is on “To The Moon and Back.” It’s a song where Bryan expresses his love for a woman, without sounding like a misogynistic asshole. And it’s not overproduced either. It’s a Christmas miracle! But here’s the thing: it’s under-produced. This song is so lifeless and boring I nearly dozed off halfway through it. Still it’s one of the better ones on the album, but that’s not saying anything. The penultimate song on Kill The Lights is “Huntin’, Fishin’ And Lovin’ Every Day.” It’s the second Dallas Davidson co-write on the album. I hate typing that sentence. It’s one of my least favorite sentences. Usually anything associated with Davidson is just awful and something to avoid at all costs. This song is no different. Many will point out this song sounds country and they’re right, except it still stinks. This is just a callback to the “golden days” of the late 2000s when checklist country dominated radio and was the predecessor to bro country, the predecessor to the current crap on country radio. The people who call themselves “true country folks” and consider Justin Moore an outlaw country artist will love this song, as this song is a masturbatory exercise for them. Also the phrase “red dirt rich” is uttered throughout the song and I’m sure this just pleases you Texas/Red Dirt fans.

Kill The Lights mercifully comes to an end with “Scarecrows.” People who still have respect for Bryan and give him the benefit of the doubt will say this is a good song, but I’m not one of those people. This song will never be a single and that’s all that matters. Bryan is defined by what he releases to radio, not buried album cuts. The song is a heartfelt tune about not forgetting your roots and I can appreciate it in a vacuum. But I would rather imagine scarecrows coming to life and attacking Bryan and the bros hanging out in the cornfields. This image in my head is more entertaining than this album.

I didn’t think it would be possible for Luke Bryan to put out an album worse than his 2013 release Crash My Party and yet he has done it with Kill The Lights. There are so many issues going on with this album that I could have written even more about it, but it’s not worth spending any more time than I have on it. 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. There’s not a single good song on this album, only a few decent ones. Some are giving him a little credit for this, but they shouldn’t. The decent stuff won’t sniff country radio, so to me it’s all moot. Kill The Lights deserves the dishonor of becoming the second album ever on this site to receive the lowest score possible.

Grade: 0/10