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.

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.

Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of 2014 Goes to…

Country music in 2014 saw some highs and lows. Here at Country Perspective we recognize the best of both. Today we focus on the later. What was the worst country album in 2014? Well there was a lot of bad country albums put out this year. Jerrod Niemann’s High Noon was the early favorite in 2014. After all it included auto-tune and electronic beats. It didn’t sound like country music at all. He then remixed “Drink to That All Night” with Pitbull. That wasn’t even the worst of the album. The worst was “Donkey,” one of the worst songs I have ever heard.

Surely nothing could top this pile of crap, right? Wrong! Along came Chase Rice’s Ignite The Night. Other than one giant outlier at the end of the album in “Jack Daniels and Jesus,” this album was straight garbage. I think my asshole could write and sing better music than the rest of Ignite the Night. The amount of auto-tune and EDM incorporated is so gut-wrenchingly bad I’m surprised Waylon Jennings didn’t come back from the dead to just slap Rice in the face.

Yet as terrible as this album was another album went even lower than Rice’s. No it isn’t Sam Hunt’s Montevallo either. It’s a straight pop album, yet Hunt did enough to not garner a 0 in Derek’s eyes or my eyes (shockingly I might add). There was one album that did earn a 0 overall and to this day it’s the only album to receive a 0 on Country Perspective. After listening to this album, I thought…. wait words can’t describe it. I’m going to need some help here. Jeff could you assist me here? Here were my thoughts after listening to this album:

pile_of_shit

Thanks Jeff! Keep up the fine work. What album am I referring to? The winner of Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of 2014 Award is…

Derek and myself chose this album to win because quite frankly it’s offensive in every single way a country album can be offensive. Other than “Dirt,” every song on this album sucks. The songs don’t sound country at all and sound more suitable for a pop album. The lyrics are so horrendously offensive to intelligence that I felt like I lost a few IQ points after listening to Anything Goes. Their worst song, “Sun Daze,” was nominated for our worst song of the year award and is quite a strong contender. The thing is we could have chosen another song easily and it would still be a top contender to win. When the lyrics weren’t sexist and misogynistic, they were just outright cheesy and cliché. Take for example “Angel.” They use the cheesiest pickup line ever as the chorus. So hilariously dumb! And I don’t know how many alcohol brands are name-dropped.

You know what else is terrible about this album? How everyone at the mainstream country outlets and people in the mainstream industry just accept this as an “evolution” of country music. They’re missing a letter. Devolution is the proper word. How in any way, shape or form is this helping the genre? It’s just maintaining the status quo of country music being a laughing-stock to anyone outside of the genre. I don’t know how many people laugh off and dismiss country music because of asshats like Florida Georgia Line putting out terrible music. Casual observers judge country music based on what they hear on the radio and what they hear on radio is garbage.

Mainstream country music appears to be improving for the most part. That’s a good sign. There are still a lot of problems though and Florida Georgia Line represents one of the biggest. Bro country is slowly dying, but I guarantee Florida Georgia Line and other bro country artists will fight to the bitter end to keep it alive. In the end though it is a fruitless endeavor. Bro country will be gone in 2015 and so might Florida Georgia Line’s stardom.

So stand up with me and boo Florida Georgia Line’s album Anything Goes. This is a historically bad country album that may never be topped by another album in horribleness ever again.

The Worst Country Albums of 2014 (So Far)

Niemann Review

After covering the best of country music in 2014 last week, I’m now going to take a look at the opposite side of the spectrum. That’s right I’m going to take a look at the worst of country music in 2014. It’s going to be painful, but we’re going to get through this crap together. Bad country music has been served to us in a variety of ways this year. Whether it’s the same old bro country stuff or trying to implement rap into country, we have a whole smorgasbord of awfulness to digest. At the end of the year Country Perspective will crown the Worst Country Album of the Year. Without further ado let’s hold our ears and look at the worst country albums of 2014 so far (in no particular order):

Jerrod Niemann – High Noon

This is the clear front-runner for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of the Year. Never before have I seen somebody “sell-out” so hard. With this album, Niemann pretty much bent over and let Music Row have its way with him. There is nothing redeeming about this album at all. I think he committed pretty much every offense to the roots of country music you possibly could in it. There’s EDM, rap, a Pitbull appearance, a Colt Ford appearance, bro country clichés and several lyrics that are offensive to any intelligent human being on this planet. The worst song on this album by far is “Donkey.” It’s an absolute abomination in every single way and perfectly sums up what Niemann has turned into. “Drink to that All Night” is one of the most annoying songs I have ever heard. What makes it so annoying is not the EDM that permeates throughout the song, but how easy it is to get it stuck in your head. Niemann pretty much admitted in a recent interview with Rolling Stone Country that he’s trying to make hit songs and not quality music. He’s also starting to show he’s getting a pretty big ego. I’m stopping now because I could go all day about the awfulness of this album.

Cole Swindell – Cole Swindell

Once upon a time Cole Swindell was selling merchandise for Luke Bryan. He got this job because he went to same fraternity as Bryan did at Georgia Southern University. And then for some reason he was given a chance to start writing bro country songs. He wrote several songs before finally co-writing the mother of all bro country songs, Florida Georgia Line’s smash hit “This is How We Roll.” This led to him getting signed by Warner Music Nashville and releasing his self-titled album debut. Swindell is basically a Luke Bryan clone. He uses his looks and clichéd bro country songs to wow girls across the country. What’s scary about Swindell is I think this isn’t even close to the worst music he’s surely capable of making. This entire album is full of boring, generic lyrics that have been recycled so many times on country radio. While this album is truly awful, I don’t think it will even make my end of the year list for Worst Country Album of the Year. It’s not bombastic enough to even standout amongst the worst. But I predict his next album will be.

Eric Church – The Outsiders

Out of all my choices for worst country album of the year, this is probably my most polarizing choice. Let me say that I have enjoyed some of Church’s music in the past. I thought the albums Carolina and Chief were solid all the way through. Before I discovered the worlds of independent country music and Texas country music, I thought Church was one of the best in country music. But then Church started to slowly get a bigger and bigger ego over the last few years. Trigger over at Saving Country Music summed this up pretty well last week. He already annoyed me with his insistence on having an “outlaw” image, which I find hilarious because Church is one of the last people I think of when I hear the word outlaw. Now in his latest interview he had with Rolling Stone Country, he pretty much says that he’s the father of bro country. Look at the paragraph titled “On Being Forward-Thinking.” So he wants to take credit for the worst period in country music history? Okay pal. I don’t even know what to make of The Outsiders. It isn’t country music, bro country or even rock. It feels devoid of a genre. I guess Church was trying to go outside the box and instead produced the most confusing country album of the year. Whenever I hear a song off this album I just sit back and laugh because I can’t take it seriously. Some songs on the album are well-written, but have a confusing sound. Others are written poorly and have great instrumentation. The Outsiders is all over the place and is basically a giant mess.

Dan + Shay – Where It All Began

Ladies and gentlemen, meet the new Rascal Flatts. Since Gary LeVox and his band is getting too old for country fans, Music Row found these two pretty boys to take their mantle and produce bubblegum, pop country. The first time I heard “19 You + Me” on the radio I thought for sure it was Rascal Flatts (seriously I did). And then when I saw it was these two I knew exactly why they were chosen for country. These guys will make the ladies go nuts over them and find their music to be deep and romantic. And sure enough that is the case. Dan + Shay is a clean and polished version of Florida Georgia Line. While I don’t hate them as much as Florida Georgia Line, Dan + Shay still make me turn the radio dial because their music stinks of corporate influence (all about the demographics!). And what is with their obsession with the “+” sign? Is this part of their branding? Where It All Began is among the worst country albums for now, but this will probably fall off the list by the end of the year because at least Dan + Shay don’t use EDM or rap in their music.

Big Smo – Kuntry Livin’

Speaking of country rap, let’s talk about Big Smo and his latest album. It appears Colt Ford now has some company in the country rap arena. As I’ve stated on this site, there is absolutely zero room for rap in country music. Nobody has ever made a great country rap song, in my opinion. The genres simply do not blend well together, no matter how hard Nashville tries to make it happen. I tried my best to have an open mind to this sub-genre a few years ago when “Dirt Road Anthem” was a huge hit. I tried my hardest to like this type of music and I just can’t like it. I can enjoy regular hip-hop music, but throw it in with country and I want to barf. There have been several country rap albums released this year, but the reason I single out this album is because it has the most potential to impact the rest of mainstream country music. In case you haven’t been watching TV for the past few weeks, there have been several commercials for Big Smo’s new show on A&E. Kuntry Livin’ is being promoted heavily by Walmart. This is country rap’s biggest chance at making inroads to mainstream country music. I got a few songs into this album and gave up. To me it’s just hot noise. Darius Rucker, who is attempting to ride off his success of “Wagon Wheel” forever, makes an appearance on the album. He doesn’t help it. If this album has a lot of success, it will give Jerrod Niemann and High Noon a run for its money for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Album of the Year.

Come back later this week for Country Perspective’s Worst Country Songs of 2014. It’s a long list…