The 50 Worst Albums Ever

Well, well, well. The blogging this week has been mostly serious and dense, with discussions of Hitler's mother's breast cancer and two rather long posts about medicine and evolution. I don't know why, but I got a little carried away. In any case, it's Friday, and it's time for lighter fare. And, given my huge CD collection and love of music, what better topic than music?

Q Magazine has released a list of the 50 Worst Albums Ever. Naturally, I had to see if any albums I own are on the list, which is as follows (found via D-Listed):

1. Duran Duran - Thank You
2. Spice Girls - All Their Solo Albums!
3. Various - Urban Renewal: The Songs Of Phil Collins
4. Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music
5. Billy Idol - Cyberpunk
6. Naomi Campbell - Babywoman
7. Kevin Rowland - My Beauty
8. Mick Jagger - Primitive Cool
9. Westlife - Allow Us To Be Frank
10. Tim Machine - Tin Machine Ii
11. Limp Bizkit - Chocolate Starfish And The Hot Dog Flavored Water
12. Tom Jones - Mr Jones
13. Bruce Willis - The Return Of Bruno
14. Terence Trent Diabolical - Neither Fish Nor Flesh
15. Various - Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Club Band - OST
16. Spice Girls - Forever
17. Bob Dylan & The Grateful Dead - Dylan And The Dead
18. Crazy Frog - Crazy Hits
19. Goldie - Saturnz Return
20. Mariah Cary - Glitter OST
21. The Clash - Cut The Crap
22. Robson & Jerome - Robson & Jerome
23. Alanis Morissette - Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie
24. Lauryn Hill - MTV Unpugged 2.0
25. The Cranberries - To The Faithful Departed
26. Vanilla Ice - Hard To Swallow
27. Destiny's Child - Destiny Fulfilled
28. The Rolling Stones - Dirty Work
29. Various - Christmas In The Stars: Star Wars Christmas Album
30. Michael Jackson - Invincible
31. Stevie Wonder - Woman In Red
32. Ace Of Bass - The Sign
33. Billy Ray Cyrus - Some Gave All
34. Fishspooner - #1
35. Puff Daddy - Forever
36. Kula Shaker - Peanuts, Pigs & Astronauts
37. Shania Twain - Come On Over
38. Chris Rea - The Road To Hell Pt2
39. Big Country - Undercover
40. The Others - The Others
41. Paul Simon - Songs From The Capeman OST
42. Babylon Zoo - The Boy With The X-Ray Eyes
43. The Travelling Wilburys - Vol 3
44. Kiss - Music From The Elder
45. William Shatner - The Transformed Man
46. Oasis - Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants
47. Ozzy Osbourne - Under Cover
48. Milli Vanilli - All Or Nothing
49. Neil Young And The Shocking Pinks - Everybody's Rocking
50. Beck - Midnight Vultures

Wait a minute. The Clash? OK, I'll grant Q Magazine that Cut the Crap was undoubtedly The Clash's worst album. They released it as the band was falling apart and after Mick Jones had been kicked out and had moved on to form Big Audio Dynamite. The band then completely broke up shortly after it was released. Certainly it was nowhere near as good as masterpieces such as London Calling, The Clash, or Combat Rock. But one of the 50 worst? What are these guys smoking? The Clash's worst is better than a lot of bands' best, and even this album produced one song that rates up there with their heydey, namely This Is England. True, Cut the Crap was a mediocre effort and a rather sad end to the greatest punk band ever, but it is certainly not deserving of being among the 50 worst albums of all time. (Yes, I have this album--on vinyl.)

Another album on this list that I have is Tin Machine II, which is also not deserving of such an "honor." Again, this album is merely mediocre, a misfire in David Bowie's attempt to be downplay his stardom by being just part of a stripped down band whose music bordered on metal. (Under the God from the first Tin Machine album almost borders on thrash.) Like The Clash, David Bowie's misfires are better than many bands' best stuff. (As an aside, this album demonstrates the sometimes perverse prudishness in the U.S. The cover of the U.S. release of this record featured male Kouros statues on the front with their genitalia apparently broken off. European releases showed the statues anatomically intact.)

The last album on the list that I own is Beck's Midnite Vultures. This is a very strange album, but I kind of like it. It's basically Beck trying to do soul, R&B, and hip-hop, but mainly it sounds like 1980's Prince. Surprisingly Beck does a pretty good job, and some of the tunes are quite catchy and even danceable. Maybe Q Magazine was irritated by a suspicion that this album was all just a hipster prank. Certainly I wondered. Even if it is, it's so quirky, catchy, and entertaining that I didn't really much care if Beck was serious or not or if he was being hipster ironic about it.

As for the rest of the list, it's hard to argue with including a William Shatner album or Spice Girls albums, but I find it hard to believe that Kevin Rowland (of Dexy's Midnight Runners fame), Bob Dylan, Lou Reed, the Rolling Stones, or Neil Young deserve to be included on this list (I'm not even sure I agree that Dirty Work is the Stones' worst album). I find it especially hard to believe that Paul Simon belongs on that list. I grew up listening to Paul Simon, and I've never heard him put out a truly bad album. Although I own several of his works, I don't own the one on this list; nonetheless, I find it hard to believe it's bad enough to be on the list. I may have to find out for myself.

Now, a more interesting question is: What albums you would include on this list? I can think of a few (in no particular order):

Anything by David Hasselhoff. Why he's so popular in Germany, I have no idea.

Almost anything by Journey or Steve Perry. 'Nuff said.

Almost anything by Kenny G, Yanni, The Backstreet Boys, or 'N Sync. If I have to explain why, there's no hope for you.

Whatever album in the late 1970's contained a disco version of Stairway to Heaven. Yes, such a horrific atrocity existed. I remember cringing like a whipped dog when I heard it on the radio, whining, "Make it go away!". My friends who were with me at the time started whimpering in pain in unison. However, we couldn't help but listen to almost the entire tune out of sheer stunned disbelief. Fortunately, our driver was made of sterner stuff; otherwise, I might have ended life as an automobile crash statistic before I even graduated from high school. Now, nearly 30 years later, I just can't remember the name of the band. Perhaps it's better this way. Actually, there's no "perhaps" about it.

Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart Clubs Band (Soundtrack, 1978). It was a bad movie, combining Beatles songs with a late 1970's disco sensibility, and the soundtrack matched.

Wedding Album (John Lennon and Yoko Ono, 1969). Ugh. That's all I can say. Endless minutes of John and Yoko repeating each other's name. Goody.

Permission to Land (The Darkness, 2005). I made the mistake of purchasing this because I thought that I Believe in a Thing Called Love was catchy. Big mistake. Not only did that song soon grate on me--ack, it's in my head now!--but the rest of the album sounds like an unholy fusion of Queen and Spinal Tap. Actually, come to think of it, an unholy fusion of Queen and Spinal Tap would probably result in far more entertaining and enjoyable music than these guys make. I'd probably buy an album that's an unholy fusion of Queen and Spinal Tap. In any case, I wanted to strangle the singer by the end of the CD, as his voice is so high that sometimes only dogs can hear it.

Scream Dream (Ted Nugent, 1980). You may find it hard to believe, given all my other seemingly more diverse musical tastes, but normally I like the Nuge. I really do (although I will never forgive him for Damn Yankees). I grew up in Detroit in the 1970's, and learned to appreciate the Motor City Madman's all-out, take-no-prisoners sonic assault. In fact, I own several of his albums from his 1970's heydey and, even at my advanced age, still pull them out from time to time to rock out, much to my wife's consternation. But this particular album is just plain bad. Wango Tango is just the same riff repeated over and over and over again over adolescent one-joke lyrics likening a sex act to looking for a garage while using words such as "salivilate" for "salivate." (Actually, on second thought, this album wouldn't be too bad if it werent for Wango Tango. Terminus Eldorado is fairly catchy, for example.)

Kilroy Was Here (Styx, 1983). Two words: Mr. Roboto. Need I say more? shudder>

Hi Infidelity (REO Speedwagon, 1980). If I ever hear Keep On Loving You again, I may pull a Vincent van Gogh on my ears. Hopefully I will have the presence of mind to turn off the radio before I hurt myself.

In fact, contemplating those last two entries made me feel a bit ill. I think I have to stop now, even though I'm sure I could flesh out a full list of 50, given enough time and sonic punishment. I'm going to fire up my iPod now and purge the thought of these musical atrocities by listening to some Sufjan Stevens (if you don't have his latest album Illinois, buy it now), The Arcade Fire (if you don't have Funeral, buy it now too), and then perhaps throw in a little classic Bowie and Stones to completely banish the aural horrors that I've just contemplated.

In the meantime, perhaps you could let me know what albums you consider "worthy" of this "honor" and why. I can only comment on albums that I've heard or made the mistake of purchasing. I'm sure I've missed lots of truly awful music.


More like this

I go through some kitsch phases from time to time, and explore the crappiest of what pop culture has come out with. Mostly it really is pretty bad, but occasionally there are gems that are just so *funny* I can't help but revisit them.

One is all the "remixes" of various movie themes (especially SF stuff) by Meco. Hearing the cantina band blended into the star wars theme all done to a disco background that would put Saturday Night Fever to shame is an experience. Simultaneously crap and funny.

Add Walter Murphy's "Beethoven's Fifth" to my list too. I like it, but wouldn't put it on a top 50 list - it can go on the bottom 50 just because it deserves SOME kind of recognition.

By Hello World (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

I've got almost every Dylan album and a whole mess of Dead concerts, so you would think that Dylan & The Dead would be amazing. The album cover is great! But luckily I listened to my friend's copy before buying.

OMG. Nasty, nasty crap.

But still, the first 10 or so albums should be by Kenny G, with boy bands taking turns thereafter.

By Ick of the East (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

'Now, nearly 30 years later, I just can't remember the name of the band. Perhaps it's better this way. Actually, there's no "perhaps" about it.'

The Devil made me google it: The Wonder Band?

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is NOT one of the 50 worst albums in the world. It's not nearly as good as Jagged Little Pill, but I always thought Alanis was being punished for not putting JLP 2 and instead trying to actually grow musically. And as country albums go, Come On Over isn't that terrible. I can certainly think of worse Shania Twain albums, much less country albums, to go on this list.

It's almost as if Q decided that they wanted to be too cool for the room and picked every great rock star's worst album, rather than objectively looking for the worst albums period. Seriously - there are nu-metal and boy band albums that deserve not only mention on this list but serious consideration for worst album ever.

By anonimouse (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

Orchestral versions of popular songs. I've heard:

* The London Symphony Orchestra covering the greatest hits of Bob Dylan. There was me thinking the only worthwhile thing about Dylan was the lyrics - this has everything except the lyrics.

* Neil Norman And His Cosmic Orchestra, covering sci-fi theme tunes of the 70s. The disco version of Close Encounters is especially surreal.

* The Geoff Love Orchestra, doing the same. But camper.

* James Last's "Great Western Themes" album - selected snippets from Sergio Leone westerns.

The only time I've ever known it to be good was when the Balanescu Quartet released an album of Kraftwerk covers.

The only one I have on the list is that Paul Simon album. The music's not THAT bad, although I hear the choreography in the production damns the whole thing (Men grabbing their crotches as they sing "If you got the balls, then come on mette mano. If you got cojones, come on mette mano").

By ThePolynomial (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

Wow, I was worried for a second when I saw:

50. Beck - Midnight Vultures

Fortunately I soon realized they couldn't have been referring to one of my favorite albums that deliberately celebrates the inanity of pop music, Beck's "Midnite Vultures."

Good to see Q Magazine is rigorous with its fact-checking. They may not deserve ridicule for the error, but they certainly should get some flack for not grasping the whole point of that Beck album.

Isn't Beck's whole career a bit of a hipster prank? The problem is he's actually a bit of a genius, so contrived or not, most of what he does is pretty darn good.

I think I still have that old Milli Vanilli cassette tape somewhere. What? I was in middle school. I really liked it, even when I found out they were fakes. Luckily my tastes have, um, matured. But I could still sing along to most of the songs.

The genius of Beck is that his music is both sincere and hipster-prank. On an intellectual level, he's obviously being ironic, but he's just as obviously having a blast doing it. It should be enjoyed in the same spirit.

I'd like to know what the criteria was for selecting the list. I suspect in order to be considered, an album must have sold a minimum number of copies. I mean, there are millions of really bad albums out there that nobody's ever heard of. The purpose of these lists is to generate discussion and controversy...and attention for the publication, and this list will do that. If it was a list populated by The Defranco Family, and Captain and Tenille, and the like, no one would even bat an eyelash.

Before I get chewed out by the president of The Defranco Family Global Fan Club, I owned that album, OK?

The William Shatner album being on the list was a given. It's like the musical equivilant of "Plan 9 from Outer Space" in its bad awesomeness. The only CD package I've seen that was more awesomely bad was The Transformed Man doubled with Leonard Nimoy's two albums (one as Spock, one not) which included "The Ballad of Bilbo Baggins." Scary, scary stuff.

As for what I think belongs on this list, I can't think of anything. I don't want to confuse bands that I personally hate with albums that are truly bad.

By Tara Mobley (not verified) on 21 Apr 2006 #permalink

Kenny G deserves to die for his recorded duet with Louis Armstrong on "What a Wonderful World". The album is an abomination from the pit of hell.
Pat Metheny pronounced his fatwa against the man saying:

"Not long ago, Kenny G put out a recording where he overdubbed himself on top of a 30+ year old Louis Armstrong record, the track "What a Wonderful World". With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can't use at all - as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music. "...

"when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. We ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril.

His callous disregard for the larger issues of what this crass gesture implies is exacerbated by the fact that the only reason he possibly have for doing something this inherently wrong (on both human and musical terms) was for the record sales and the money it would bring"

I thought The Darkness were great fun. It was so over the top, especially their video.
Looking at Q's list, I see Ace of Bass. Wasn't that the record the radio and mtv played continiously for like a year? It's annoying, but hardly describes the worst record ever.

Sorry, Orac, but I really do like Journey and Steve Perry. However, I don't think I own a single album on the 50 list from Q. (My husband might, but I haven't a clue what he owns, anyway). I'll admit, there are some albums that I'm surprised aren't on there, but will leave them nameless because I don't want anyone's fan club after me, either.

It seems to me that the major theme of the list was artists whose work took a serious dive (for example, Metal Machine Music, terrible as it was, probably wouldn't have made the top 5 if it hadn't been done by a founder of the Velvet Underground). Cut the Crap probably made it do to "sell-out" accusations, always a problem when a punk band records something deemed "too commercial." Dylan and the Dead illustrates the importance of the scientific method: you'd think it was a combination that would have really worked, but when tried in practice, it didn't.

It is rather odd that some of the material (Spice Girls, Westlife, etc.) is bubblegum that never pretended to be anything else, while much similar material never made the list.

They must be using a different criteria for bad than I would: most of the stuff on this list will not kill you if you listen to it. Shouldn't some nearly unlistenable outsider stuff like The Shaggs or William Hung be on this list? What about any of the albums put out by Mr. T or WWF and NBA stars? Those are awesomely bad.
Now if they wanted a list of terrible list of albums that sold hundreds of thousands of copies (or by bands that should have known better or something), that's a different story.

Don't go ragging on Journey or Steve Perry. My gradma met Steve Perry at a health spa soon after his mother died, and he embraced her like a surrogate mother. He even gave her back stage passes when he did a show in Los Angeles. The dude rocks in my book. Besides, if Don't Stop Believing comes out of the jukebox at the bar, you know everyone is singing along Any band with songs that you can't help but rock out to can't be that bad.

Oh, and I don't any of the albums on the list.

I own none of those albums but then again I have impeccable taste in music. As far as the worst album ever there is only one answer. Remember when Garth Brooks tried out an alter ego named Chris Gaines. There were plans to make a movie about the life of the character and Garth released a fictional greatest hits album which would serve as the soundtrack. At the time I was a country fan(I didn't say I always had impeccable taste in music), so I bought the album. A small yet significant part of my soul died that day.

Typical Q magazine list: militantly unadventurous mainstream and, worse, completely wrong (I lost all respect in them after they named "Definitely Maybe" as the best British album of all time. Of all time. It's not even the best British album of 1994.)

Plus, why are they suddenly insulting Oasis's "Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants" - which isn't a good record at all, but I'd rather listen to it than the Crazy Frog - when they gave it four stars when it came out and put it in their 2000 Top 50 a year later? Looks like there's a rash of short memory round Q magazine. Shame - before they started printing paparazzi photos, they were quite decent.

The only one I own is the Fischerspooner album, by the way. It only cost a fiver, and it's not actually that awful; just mostly uninspired (although when they can be bothered to put together an actual tune, it comes alive). It doesn't deserve to be on this list, that's for sure; I own worse.

And why on earth are the Travelling Wilburys in there? No-one's even heard Vol. 3 - it's been deleted for a very long time, and last I remember UK CD copies were very rare (Amazon sellers are mostly selling Russian obvious pirate 'imports' combined with Vol. 1.). Possibly that's the reason.

By getting yourselves all worked up, you've inadvertantly demonstrated the purpose of the list. Fools!

Gets 'em every time.. Tsk. Tsk. *shakes head patronisingly*

You could probably fill the whole list of famous non-musicians who tragically decided to make a record. Speaking of which, I think Terrell Owens recently recorded a rap song. (BTW, thanks Dallas for getting him out of my neck of the woods.)

Charles Manson recorded some songs before his stint as a homicidal cult leader, and somebody collected the recordings and put out a CD of them. Perversely curious as I am, I had to track it down and listen to it. Admittedly, I've heard worse music, but it was pretty disappointing. Pretty much just sounded like hippies banging on trash cans.

I like "Mr. Roboto." Some of the other stuff on Kilroy Was Here on the other hand...I downloaded "Cold War" off that one after not hearing it for a decade or more and was not impressed.

Note how a large number of the albums on the list are ones that could reasonably be found in the used bins of your local music shop, or for that matter in the hands of Q readers. They didn't include such horrors as The Plastic Cow Goes Mooooog, with its horrid cover of "The Ballad of John and Yoko." Recordings like that you have to put effort into finding.

There is no greater musical abomination than Kenny G's "duet" with Louis Armstrong's classic recording of "What a Wonderful World" on "Songs in the Key of G". Honestly bad cheesy pop music like Billy Ray Cyrus or the Spice Girls is one thing, but cynically anointing yourself as a peer to the greatest figure in American music is quite another.

Pat Metheney summed it up well at

But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, f****d up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, s**t all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. We ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril.

I will grant that "Achey Breaky Heart" is a horrible, horrible song and should never be played again under penalty of death, but the rest of Some Gave All, particularly the title track, was actually surprisingly good.

You want a bad country album? Grab some of Charlie Daniel's latest ones. The ones after he "found religion" and reworked the lyrics to his older songs, rewording anything that might possibly be deemed objectionable.

Never Mind The Bullocks - The Sex Pistols. The only okay song the Sex Pistols did was "Anarchy in the UK". Basically, every other song in the album is a variation of this song. People call them influential. They were just plain bad.

You guys are the 23357 best, thanks so much for the help.

By Caty Tota (not verified) on 23 Aug 2006 #permalink

While I happily own none of these albums, and own very few by any of the artists listed, I believe that the list is deeply flawed for one major reason:

It contains nothing by Phil Collins.

At one time Mr. Collins played some nice things in a band called Genesis. He also played some nice things with a band called Brand X. Then he decided to be Mr. Popular and all taste went out the window. When he was really dishing out the schlock big time, a friend of mine and I looked at each and jokingly said "What's he going to do next, a Dionne Warwick cover?" That, coupled with his penchant for creating album artwork that featured little more than a close-up of his own face, sentences him to music hell. Any good that he has produced is more than counterbalanced by the crap. The world of music would've been better off if he had never existed.

A list like this is always going to be hopelessly subjective and, to all intents, useless. But what the hell! It's fun! Personally I own just one of the lps on the list - Beck's. To be honest, I think that putting it at he bottom of the list is criminal, It should actually be right there at the top. I bought this (nearly always a mistake this) on the basis of a rave review in Mojo. And what a mistake. Everything about this record stinks, from its horrible artwork to its fatuous pathetic contents. Horrible.

A more interesting alternative list, I think, would be for records that are vastly overrated, usually as they are championed by critics who have little interest in quality, but a lot of interest in their own self-importance. For what it's worth (not much, I agree) here's my top (or bottom, I should say!) fifteen stinkers that I foolishly bought on the advice of critics:

1.Maria McKee Life is Sweet
2.The Clash Sandinista!
3.Stone Roses
4.Blur Parklife
5.Gram Parsons Grievous Angel
6.Pere Ubu The Modern Dance
7.Massive Attack Blue Lines
8.Travis The Man Who
9.Oasis What's The Story...
10.Grateful Dead American Beauty
11.Arcade Fire Neon Bible
12.New Order Low Life
13.Pixies Bossanova
14.PJ Harvey Dry
15.Mercury Rev Deserters' Songs

I could go on... The point is, CAVEAT EMPTOR!

By fishbonealice (not verified) on 16 Jun 2007 #permalink

4. Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music

Wait, there must have been some kind of error here. They appear to have mistakenly included an item from best albums of all time list

Also, I'm pretty certain that Midnite Vultures was intended by Beck to be taken as a joke. I could be wrong about that, but I do know it's a much, much more enjoyable album if you just give in to the humor and listen to it as a parody of pop music rather than as a piece of music unto itself.

I actually kind of like Midnite Vultures myself. It's a fun little throwaway album, basically Beck channeling his inner Prince.

It's probably my least favorite Beck album (though that's not necessarily an insult to it), but I do get what you're saying.

Either way, personally at least I thought the album was totally worth the purchase just for Debra.