ACRN’s Top 10 Disappointing Albums of 2019

10. Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water, [BMG; 2019]

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor

If you told me Avril Lavigne would release an album with cover art of her naked behind a guitar as a way to show a raw and emotional edge, I wouldn’t have flinched. That’s a classic comeback move for a lot of female musicians. If you told me that same album would be akin to a praise and worship session at your local nondenominational church, that would be a different story—well, that’s what happened. 

The best tracks on the album, especially “Head Above Water”, have that youth group feel but bring the most power in writing and vocals. Other than that, the tracks aren’t great, and a lot of them harken back to a time when Lavigne had more punch and originality to her music, specifically on “Dumb Blonde”, which has a lot of crossover with the sound of her iconic “Girlfriend”. She also tries to rhyme goddess and bananas in “Goddess”, which is cringy on its own but worse when it’s about being loved by her husband. It’s not a total failure, but by no means does it have the same power and influence of her earlier works.

Listen for yourself: Avril Lavigne – Head Above Water

Read the full review for Head Above Water here.

9. MARINA – Love + Fear, [Atlantic; 2019]

By Lauren McCain, Contributor

Mumble the words “Marina and the Diamonds” in the presence of any indie crowd and heads will snap. The Welsh singer-songwriter first came to the scene by pairing bold lyrics that dealt with themes such as mental illness, misogyny and female “purity” with a new-wave bubblegum pop sound. However, her return with the release of her fourth studio album, Love + Fear (now under just MARINA) feels overwhelmingly safe for a star who once sang, “Instead of being sixteen and burning up a bible/Feeling super super super suicidal.” Her once daring vulnerability and complex sadcore lyrics that gave her moniker a shine seem to have been sucked out right along with the “Diamonds” in her stage name. 

MARINA’s iconic, glowing effervescence shines in some moments of this album, like in her Grecian memoir “Orange Trees”, but the album overall feels suppressed in all the wrong ways. Her lyrics come off vapid and unoriginal as she croons, “Sit back and enjoy your problems, you don’t always have to solve them, ‘cause your worst days they are over,” in “Enjoy Your Life”. The album is fine at its best, but fans are unfortunately left reminiscing about the deep-digging pop anthem days of Electra Heart

Listen for yourself: MARINA – Love + Fear 

8. Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride, [Columbia; 2019]

By Jackson Stein, Staff Writer

Six years is a long time to wait for an album. Since the release of Vampire Weekend’s latest project, Modern Vampires of the City, the band saw the exit of founding member Rostam Batmanglij. Although Rostam’s production presence is still felt throughout Father of the Bride, the album feels like the indie-pop legends are trying to re-center themselves, and the results are a mixed bag. Nearly an hour of material, the record too often focuses on quantity over quality. Creatively blending multiple genres and oddball instrumental choices are what made the group’s music so enjoyable in the first place, but on Father of the Bride, frontman Ezra Koenig often fails to deliver on that endlessly exciting trajectory. While it’s certainly not a bad album, it’s full of Vampire Weekend’s most underwhelming material so far.

Listen for yourself: Vampire Weekend – Father of the Bride

7. Melanie Martinez – K-12, [Atlantic; 2019]

By Trinity Bryant, Contributor

K-12 keeps pursuing Melanie Martinez’s youthfully influenced music in the same way as Cry Baby, but the fantasy character she is drawn to is getting dry as the soft and dangerous songs pile on. Martinez is a young artist who has been involved in serious issues outside of her music, but she certainly keeps striving forward in hopes to recover her innocence and fanbase in this album. This baby-doll fantasy she uses to express herself is likable and palatable most of the time, but the execution of her creativity can be amped up. The artistic and individualized style she uses as a front to her personality as a whole seems like it has been tooting its horn for long enough—maybe this album is a new idea she is striving to achieve, which is the goal of slowly growing up and finding herself for who she is. 

Listen for yourself: Melanie Martinez – K-12

6. blink-182 – NINE, [Columbia; 2019]

By Marvin Dotiyal, Features Editor

As bands like Green Day, Jimmy Eat World and Sum 41 try to push pop-punk on its last legs, it would be rather questionable if blink-182 didn’t partake in this attempt to somehow revive the genre one last time. As a genre-defining band that brought pop-punk to new heights and captured the zeitgeist of early-2000s youth culture, it’s difficult to top that success—especially after lineup changes, side projects and an indefinite hiatus that only raised the bar for a hefty comeback.

Although California was passable at best, NINE didn’t do the band justice to further a milestone. “The First Time” is like a bait-and-switch that pulls you in with a drum intro similar to “Feeling This”, which only sets up for disappointment—a $5 throwaway hook with Matt Skiba yelping in the background. Along with that persisting predicament, the glossy production on this record fails to complement its “experimental,” genre-bending tracks with edgy, cringe-inducing lyrics. I mean, these 40-somethings are singing about a “girl dressed in black from another world,” which sounds like it’s straight out of an air-headed e-girl’s TikTok bio. 

The least you could do is sell out completely like Fall Out Boy or Panic! At the Disco and still maintain a legacy. 

Listen for yourself: blink-182 – NINE

5. Miley Cyrus – SHE IS COMING, [RCA; 2019]

By Trinity Bryant, Contributor

If there was an album for a recurring Nike commercial to montage on, Miley CyrusSHE IS COMING would be the one I could fall back on—this can be both good and bad. The repeated tempo similar to an upbeat trap song fails to flow well with the reality of Cyrus; it’s not the new hot-hot, it’s actually quite cold-cold. But this EP does give enough insight on her: she is not as tame as we thought. She may convey female empowerment but not enough to change the game.

Trying to pick apart this EP is confusing, and it’s hard to avoid a gust of secondhand embarrassment wind. Cyrus’ sweetheart and good girl persona is dead and gone; she confesses her sins and raises a hallelujah in “Mother’s Daughter”. Her spotlight has been shining for a long time. From Disney Channel stardom to swinging on a wrecking ball to twerking with dollar bills flying, we have watched and listened with open ears for long enough. It’s hard to enjoy an album when it steers away from passion and personal evolution to an agenda. This EP is a reminder that every artist can have an album that glitters but is not gold. 

Listen for yourself: Miley Cyrus – SHE IS COMING

4. Mac DeMarco – Here Comes the Cowboy, [Mac’s Record Label; 2019]

By Jonah Krueger, Contributor

Strange, isn’t it? Only a few short years ago Mac DeMarco was an inescapable crossover indie phenomenon. Playing damn-near every music festival, single-handedly giving a second life to the thrift store and cigarette industries and dominating the landscape of online interviews, DeMarco was a cult of personality that infected every inch of independent music. Hell, the man inspired so many copycats that he was declared the death of indie rock as often as he was hailed as its savior.

But alas, as a new decade begins, it seems as if DeMarco and the industry have moved away from the goofball aesthetic that was so prominent circa 2014. While some may consider this a much-needed move, at least in the case of Mac’s music, it has yet to yield any interesting results. That is not to say that his latest effort is devoid of effort or fun moments, but compared to the excitement that came with his most acclaimed work, Here Comes the Cowboy pales in comparison. Low-key to a fault, it’s hard to imagine any track from this album having quite the impact that “Chamber of Reflection”, “My Kind Of Woman” or “Ode to Viceroy” did in the past. And if every dorm room in the country isn’t playing DeMarco’s new music, it must be a disappointment.

The Mitski debacle was pretty entertaining, though.

Listen for yourself: Mac DeMarco – Here Comes the Cowboy

3. Weezer – Weezer (Black Album), [Atlantic/Crush; 2019]

By Maria Lubanovic, Copy Editor

The fact that a Weezer album is in the most disappointing category isn’t a surprise. Frankly, it shouldn’t be on here because it’s bad and was expected to be, so it’s not even disappointing anymore. Weezer’s last few albums have been critical misses when it comes to new exciting music. The Black Album’s tracks are largely forgettable and repetitive. “Can’t Knock the Hustle” and “Living in L.A.” specifically fail on this album, with cheesy choruses and shallow lyrics that give no pull on the listener. Of course the production sparkles, but it doesn’t matter when the songs are so vapid. There are a few glimmers of hope, like some of the guitar solos and “Byzantine”, a beachy, breezy track with references to ’60s French pop, but overall the themes and instrumentals are underwhelming. Looking back on the tracklist, not a single melodic line from any of these songs is memorable, and I reviewed this album only a few months ago, which means I had to listen to it again—the embodiment of forgettable and disappointing.

Listen for yourself: Weezer – Weezer (Black Album)

Read the full review for Weezer (Black Album) here.

2. Chance the Rapper – The Big Day, [Self-released; 2019]

By Jackson Stein, Staff Writer

Chance the Rapper’s previous mixtapes have enamored millions and cemented him as one of modern music’s most beloved figures, and The Big Day was easily one of the most anticipated albums of 2019. Unfortunately, this long-awaited commercial debut is one of the most colossal train wrecks in recent hip-hop history. This 22-track, 77-minute monstrosity effectively destroyed everything that made Chance’s preceding music enjoyable.

Continuing to assert himself as Kanye West’s pupil, Chance attempts to forcefully fuse multiple genres, but the result is far less harmonious than intended. John Legend, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard, Shawn Mendes and Randy Newman all make for head-scratching collaborators that sound miserably lost in this sea of garbage. Other features, such as Megan Thee Stallion and Nicki Minaj, boost the quality of a few tracks here, but it’s not nearly enough to undermine Chance’s obnoxious vocals and horrible lyrics. At its best, The Big Day is boring. At its worst, it’s downright unbearable.

Listen for yourself: Chance the Rapper – The Big Day

1. Kanye West – Jesus Is King, [GOOD Music/Def Jam; 2019]

By Jackson Stein, Staff Writer

Kanye, Kanye, Kanye. Simultaneously the most anticipated and disappointing album of 2019, Jesus Is King is easily Kanye West’s most unfulfilling project to date. Spending nearly the entire year hyping up the release of the now-scrapped project Yandhi, he abruptly announced that he’s a recommitted Christian and will no longer release secular music. Kanye recording his first gospel record could have been a rewarding experience; however, Jesus Is King is a gospel album in advertisement alone.

Loaded with lyrical missteps, the album reveals much more about Kanye’s ever-expanding ego than any genuine spiritual reawakening. Whether he’s trying to justify his merch’s ridiculous price tags or comparing how the media treats him to the betrayal of Jesus Christ, Kanye manages to sound more self-absorbed than ever. Instrumentally, the album is utterly incomplete and fails to fully develop its occasional moments of genius. Jesus Is King is an unfortunate follow-up to Kanye’s creatively saturated 2018. Hopefully, Kanye’s now-announced Jesus Is Born—which was set to release last Christmas—will not add to this string of disappointment.

Listen for yourself: Kanye West – Jesus Is King

Read the full review for Jesus Is King here.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s