The least essential albums of 2013

The least essential albums of 2013

Every year, The A.V. Club digs deep into our promo CDs, spam folders, and bookmarked celebrity sites in a quest to uncover the least essential albums of the year. These aren’t the worst records of the year, per se, but rather the records whose mere existence made the greatest contributions to the decline of the music industry, death of our global environment, and general lack of confidence in American society as a whole. They’re records that not only shouldn’t be owned, but never should have been made in the first place. As usual, the music industry unleashed plenty of crap onto the collective consciousness this year, so let’s take a moment to shake our heads and raise our noses toward the records that made the world a more pointless place in 2013. Don’t forget to vote for your favorites of the year in our readers’ poll.

Least Essential Tribute To The Butt
Various Artists, Twerking Hitz
In 2013, everyone was twerking, or at least learning what twerking is. Miley Cyrus twerked. Little kids twerked. Hell, your mom might have twerked. But how would twerking virgins know what sort of music to play to accompany such explorations? Fortunately (or unfortunately), there’s Twerking Hitz, a compilation of tracks just perfect for feverish sexy dancing. The 13-track collection includes booty cuts like Ying Yang Twins’ “Miley Cyrus,” The FiNaTTicZ’s “Don’t Drop That Thun Thun,” and Juvenile’s “Drop That Ass.” There’s no Big Freedia, but now even the nerdiest Oxford English Dictionary fanatics should be able to figure out just how to twerk it out. [ME]

Least Essential Album Released By Fisher-Price
Nick Lachey, A Father’s Lullaby
98 Degrees member Nick Lachey has managed to extend his boy-band career by somehow convincing the world that he’s an interesting adult. First he tricked people into liking him on Newlyweds, the reality show where he played Jessica Simpson’s much smarter husband. In more recent years, he’s let people into his private life with his new wife, entertainment journalist Vanessa Minnillo. A Father’s Lullaby is Lachey’s tribute to his baby son, who, not so coincidentally, is also featured on the cover of the record. The record somehow manages to make songs for babies even more juvenile, with lengthy, overwrought versions of sleepytime classics like “Hush, Little Baby” and “You Are My Sunshine.” Lachey also throws four new “classic” lullabies on the album, including saccharine clunker “Sleepy Eyes,” which absolutely grates with mentions of monsters under the bed and trips to dreamland. It’s annoying pandering at its worst. [ME]

Least Essential Attempt To Make Bob Marley Even More Accessible
Bob Marley, Legend: Remixed
A few years after his death, Bob Marley’s record label released Legend—the best-selling reggae album of all time. The compilation features hits like “Stir It Up,” “I Shot The Sherriff,” and “Get Up, Stand Up,” and has sold over 14 million copies in the States alone (most of them to college freshmen). This year, in an attempt to keep up with the increasingly electro-crazy youth market, Marley’s estate released Legend: Remixed, a 16-track collection of dance remixes of Marley’s best-known tracks. While some have been mixed by Marley’s sons Stephen and Ziggy, others have been chopped and screwed by acts like Roni Size, Pretty Lights, and, for whatever reason, My Morning Jacket’s Jim James. The results are less than ideal, with Marley’s weed-centric vibes being spaced out and tweaked up for the Molly generation. Thievery Corporation’s take on “Get Up, Stand Up,” for example, turns the track into a chilled-out slumper, complete with tons of echo on lines like “Now you see the light.” If by light, Marley meant club strobes, then yes, definitely. [ME]

Least Essential Grab At Lucrative Foreign Dollars
Rivers Cuomo and Scott Murphy, Scott & Rivers
It’s been a long time since Rivers Cuomo has done anything really interesting—really dumb Weezer cover art and album names don’t qualify. Scott & Rivers, a Japanese-language album he made with Allister’s Scott Murphy, almost gets there based only on its premise, but it ends up just spectacularly average. It just feels like two American guys—one with a history of lyrically lusting after Japanese girls—doing some shrewd marketing: If you sing in their language, they can’t help but love you, right? And wouldn’t it be adorkable if you dropped in occasional English words and phrases, just like real Japanese artists do? No, it turns out. It would be ceaselessly unremarkable. [JM]

Least Essential Covers Album By A Duke Of Hazzard
Tom Wopat, I’ve Got Your Number
Bruce Springsteen’s “Meeting By The River” is a harrowing account of a small-time crook in over his head, scared to go to the titular rendezvous. In the hands of Tom Wopat—the actor most famous for The Dukes Of Hazzard—it’s some kind of elevator-jazz short story, fully drained of life and replaced with tinkling piano. On his website, Wopat claims that this all-covers album, I’ve Got Your Number, “swings into the Mad Men era with new recordings of the Great Songbook classics and contemporary songs of Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, and more.” But putting a tux on and greasing your hair can’t give something that era’s punch, and this one is more suited for grannies. [JM]

Least Essential Album By A Castle Cast Member
Jon Huertas, Grown And Sexy Music
Jon Huertas plays homicide detective Javier Esposito on ABC’s Castle, but what he really wants to do is sing about Castle… and sex. While the first single, “Ledge Of Love,” from Huertas’ Grown And Sexy Music was actually based on “the longstanding love between” the show’s two main characters, Richard Castle and Kate Beckett, other tracks like “Silhouette Sexy,” “Wonder Woman,” and “Dance In The Dark” weren’t quite so high-minded. Huertas even released a five-song EP, Sex Tape, which featured tracks like “Sex Is The Word.” He’s not only about sex, though. Single “Champion” is a heavy-handed R&B narrative about the life, love, and alcoholism of a former boxer. [ME]

Least Essential Acoustic Re-imagining Of Rap Songs
Everlast, The Life Acoustic
Literally no one was sitting around listening to House Of Pain’s rap-rock classic “Jump Around” 20+ years later and thinking, “Man, somebody should re-record this song with an acoustic guitar. Maybe Everlast is available!” Okay, maybe Everlast—House Of Pain’s lead rapper—was. He had a short reinvention after the group initially split, hitting it fairly big with the 1998 album Whitey Ford Sings The Blues. But that glow wore off quickly, and he looks to be trying to recapture it by bringing the Whitey style to House Of Pain’s songs. Don’t get out of your seat, don’t jump around. [JM]

Least Essential Covers Album By The least Essential Glee person
Matthew Morrison, Where It All Began
Though shunted aside throughout Glee’s run in favor of the high school characters and Jane Lynch’s Sue Sylvester, Matthew Morrison has cultivated a music career parallel to the show. This summer he released his second album (and first on Adam Levine’s 222 Records), Where It All Began, full of standards reaching back to Morrison’s early days as a Broadway performer. Glee covers have lit up the sales charts since the show debuted, and Morrison is back again for his minuscule solo bite of the apple. The record has entirely superfluous versions of classic songs like “Send In The Clowns” and “It Don’t Mean A Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing)” that make the originals look even better. And if that’s not enough Morrison for one year, he tacked on a Christmas EP of his “versions of Christmas tunes that people can enjoy.” [KM]

Least Essential Covers Album, Sons Of Anarchy category
Katey Sagal, Covered
Katey Sagal is one of the most essential television actresses of her generation, with major roles in three defining series in different genres: dysfunctional family sitcom Married…With Children, twice-canceled futuristic animated comedy Futurama, and motorcycle-gang drama Sons Of Anarchy. But she’s dabbled in music (with less success) since the ’70s as a part of The Group With No Name, singing backup for Bob Dylan, Gene Simmons, and Bette Midler, and has released a handful of solo albums. Her third, Covered, features low-energy versions of songs by Joni Mitchell, Tom Petty, and Ryan Adams, and sounds about as necessary as another rant from her husband, Sons Of Anarchy creator Kurt Sutter. (At least that might have some fire to it.) [KM]

Least Essential Covers Album, Disney Channel Original Movie Star category
Emmy Rossum, Sentimental Journey
Never let it be said that Emmy Rossum isn’t a good sport—she recently followed through on a bet with Richard Roeper over a Bulls/Knicks game. But nobody was really clamoring for the Shameless actress (also of The Day After Tomorrow and the Disney Channel original movie Genius) to record a follow-up to her 2007 adult-contemporary album Inside Out, especially not with a covers album of standards from the early- and mid-20th century. Rossum got her start in the Met’s Children’s Chorus, and starred in the 2004 film adaptation of The Phantom Of The Opera before landing consistent supporting gigs in film and her regular Shameless role, but her music career has been a series of passion-project indulgences. [KM]

Least Essential Vinyl Reissue
Dane Cook, Harmful If Swallowed
In 2003, Dane Cook was an up-and-coming comedian releasing his first stand-up album, Harmful If Swallowed. It went platinum—a rare feat for a comedy album—and launched a career whose massive success was matched by plentiful derision from the comedy cognoscenti. He’s undoubtedly losing no sleep over that atop his giant piles of money, but to celebrate the album that started it all, he and Comedy Central Records are pressing a thousand copies of Harmful If Swallowed on vinyl with new, vinyl-only artwork. Comedy albums are notoriously low-sellers, but there are presumably a thousand Dane Cook superfans out there who’d want to revisit Cook’s set at a club in Houston with the analog sound that only vinyl offers. The microphone pops sound so warm! [KR]

Least Essential Christmas Album That’s Still A Huge Hit
Duck The Halls: A Robertson Family Christmas
Take a walk into a suburban Wal-mart, especially in the South, and prepare for an onslaught of Duck Dynasty stuff. The shockingly popular A&E reality series has spawned a $400 million merchandise bonanza, roughly half of which comes from Wal-mart alone. According to Forbes, some Wal-marts even devote entire aisles to Duck Dynasty crap, from the usual T-shirts to sunglasses, bandages, bed sheeting and comforter sets, and a camouflage Segway for $8,500. And just like The Simpsons did more than two decades ago, Duck Dynasty has an album now: a collection of traditional and original Christmas songs sung by the Robertson family—Uncle Si sings “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” Sadie and the kids do “Rudolph,” Willie anchors the original “Ragin’ Cajun Redneck Christmas”—with cameos by country superstars George Strait, Luke Bryan, and Alison Krauss. Like seemingly everything with the Duck Dynasty imprint, Duck The Halls is a hit, topping the Billboard country charts for three weeks straight at press time—shows what The A.V. Club knows about essentialness. [KR]

Least Essential Christmas Album, Atheist Punk Division
Bad Religion, Christmas Songs
With a name like Bad Religion, the long-running SoCal punk band’s feelings on religious orthodoxy and faith have never been unclear—and just in case they were, the band has recorded myriad songs in its 30-year history to settle any doubts. Christmas Songs seems like a band in-joke that somehow became a reality: eight Christmastime standbys (“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” “Angels We Have Heard On High,” “White Christmas”) re-imagined in Bad Religion’s propulsive punk style. The songs actually the suit the band pretty well, as the opening harmonies of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” show. (The press release notes that Greg Graffin got his start in a church choir and even received a scholarship to “choir school.”) Twenty percent of the proceeds from this release benefit the Survivors Network Of Those Abused By Priests, so SNAP can expect a check for a couple hundred bucks come January. Somewhere, Me First And The Gimme Gimmes wonders why they didn’t do this first. [KR]

Least Essential Comeback Album, Reissue Category
Ugly Kid Joe, Stairway To Hell
Aside from members of Generation Y who may recall the days when “Everything About You” or the band’s cover of “Cat’s In The Cradle” briefly found a home on the airways, Ugly Kid Joe is a footnote in music history. (Its debut, As Ugly As They Wanna Be, was the first EP to go platinum, trivia buffs!) The band broke up during the early days of Clinton’s second administration, but 15 years later, it made an improbable comeback with Stairway To Hell, with an even more improbable video starring Neil Hamburger, of all people. The highly inessential EP was reissued this year with some bonus tracks, making it inessential in two consecutive years. On the one hand, it’s commendable that Ugly Kid Joe sounds exactly the same as it did back in the early ’90s. On the other, that’s the problem. [KR]

Least Essential Reissue That Needs To Put On A Fucking Shirt Already
Lenny Kravitz, Are You Gonna Go My Way
Lenny Kravitz is no slouch when it comes to recycling riffs that create the vague notion of “hard rock,” but even when he’s taking a break from music and turning up in the Hunger Games films, he’s still got the desire to just rock out with his shirt off. With the 20th anniversary of Are You Gonna Go My Way upon us, Kravitz has kicked open his vault, weeded through his piles of denim vests, and found just enough rarities and unreleased tracks to get diehard fans to pony up some cash. Thankfully those involved had the foresight to omit the now-customary vinyl pressing, but since it’s a double-disc reissue of an album that can be found in most record stores for a dollar, it proves as fleeting any musical endeavor bearing Kravitz’s shirtless mark. [DA]

Least Essential Because Of Course They Are
Nickelback, The Best Of Nickelback Volume 1
Buckcherry, The Best Of Buckcherry
Most best-of collections are largely inessential, given their hodgepodge nature. Rarely do they offer anything new for fans that own the proper studio albums, and for the radio bands with a deep enough discography, it’s rare that it will serve as a means of conversion for those sitting on the fence. However, the albums collecting the supposed “best” of Buckcherry and Nickelback are such transparent cash-grabs it’s hard to imagine who they were even created for. Both serve as a reminder of the dire state of popular rock music, and though it could potentially serve as a joke gift it would ultimately result in a sad, acknowledging groan of acceptance instead of a chuckle or smirk. That’s how inessential these collections are: Even as a joke they prove ineffective, making it an ironic paradox that may crash our culture entirely. Thanks for that, guys. Also: Volume 1, Nickelback? That might be wishful thinking. [DA]

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