These aren't the worst albums of this century. Those are hopefully locked away on somebody's laptop or buried in someone's basement never to see the light of day again. No, these are the biggest turkeys of the 21st century, albums by major artists (usually) on major labels that had major budgets. These are cautionary tales and enduring reminders to lots of people who should have known better.
Britney Spears, “Blackout” (Jive, 2007)
Everything about this album is sad. The fact that it exists is sad. It chronicles a time when Britney Spears was clearly breaking down in public after her divorce from Kevin Federline. And rather than give her the time and space she needed to recover, her team thought it best to push her into the studio and use every bit of techno-trickery to make it sound like everything was fine. It wasn't. Her over-processed voice sounds like a cartoon on "Hot as Ice." The Auto Tuning isn't even in key on "Why Should I Be Sad." This is rock bottom, but luckily it just made her comeback that much bigger.
Chris Cornell, “Scream” (Interscope, 2009)
Experimentation can be good. Or it can be disastrous. The idea of Chris Cornell abandoning the legendary grunge of Soundgarden to team up with Timbaland and his space-age dance music made some sense on paper. In practice, though, it was a howling mess and that’s if you made it past the opener “Part of Me,” where Cornell repeats “That [expletive] ain’t a part of me” for large stretches of time over a cheesy beat.
Lindsay Lohan, “A Little More Personal (Raw)” (Casablanca, 2005)
There's no reason not to believe Lindsay Lohan on her sophomore album, "A Little More Personal (Raw)," when she sings, "I wait for the postman to bring me a letter; I wait for the good lord to make me feel better" in "Confessions of a Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)." Life sounds wrenching for her in Merrick. However, someone should have told her that singing was not for her, especially after hearing what she does to "I Want You to Want Me" and "Edge of Seventeen." Such embarrassment doesn't really help anyone.
Soulja Boy, “iSouljaboytellem” (ColliPark/Interscope, 2008)
Soulja Boy’s second album was everything that his surprise breakthrough hit “Crank That (Soulja Boy)” wasn’t. It’s filled with clichés about swag – “Turn My Swag On,” “Booty Got Swag” – and self-referential boasts, all delivered with same ham-fisted, leaden rhymes that make it hard to take seriously.
Paris Hilton, “Paris” (Warner Bros., 2006)
The hotel-chain-heiress-turned-reality-star Paris Hilton parlayed her “stardom” into a recording contract that even yielded one, not-terrible song, the single “Stars Are Blind.” The rest of her self-titled album, though, is ridiculously bad, especially the cover of Rod Stewart’s “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” that sounds worse than a happy-hour karaoke session. So not hot.
Nickelback, “Dark Horse” (Roadrunner, 2008)
When Nickelback's Chad Kroeger and friends were talking about “How You Remind Me,” it was clear they weren’t very deep. On “Dark Horse,” though, they charged to the bottom of the barrel. “We got no class, no taste,” they boast in “Burn It to the Ground.” No arguments here, especially after the crass “Something in Your Mouth” with the awful chorus “You look so much cuter with something in your mouth.”
Limp Bizkit, “Results May Vary” (Flip, 2003)
It’s one thing for Limp Bizkit to belch out another collection of rap-metal about doing it all for the nookie. It’s another entirely different thing to ruin The Who’s “Behind Blue Eyes” with what sounds like a Speak & Spell typing out “L-I-M-P” as some sort of rhythmic element, as they did on “Results May Vary."
Three 6 Mafia, “Last2Walk” (Columbia, 2008)
The Memphis rap group Three 6 Mafia seemed perched on the edge of something big after they won an Oscar for “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp” in 2006. Instead of capitalizing on that, they regressed on their "Last2Walk" album, to simple rhymes like “Play with your Playstation/Don’t play with me, boy” and indistinguishable beats.
Creed, “Weathered” (Wind-Up, 2001)
Never mind that with “Weathered,” Creed's Scott Stapp and friends were still rocking the same grunge sound pioneered a decade earlier. Or that they were doing it so joylessly by this point. But then Stapp clumsily bellows, “I’m just a freedom fighter, no remorse, raging on in holy war. Soon there'll come a day when you're face to face with me.” And he just needs to stop.
Crazy Frog, “Everybody Dance Now” (Universal, 2009)
OK, somehow the Euro-dance phenomenon Crazy Frog survived to release “Everybody Dance Now,” their third album, which included nightmarish versions of Van Halen’s “Jump” and Salt N Pepa’s “Push It” delivered by a cartoon frog that also sings the synth parts.
Alanis Morissette, “Under Rug Swept” (Maverick, 2002)
Somewhere along the line, someone should have stopped Alanis Morissette from making this record, “Under Rug Swept." Sure, she was still riding high from her “Jagged Little Pill” triumph, but this album was where she finally went too far. Too many words with wrongly emphasized syllables. Too many awkwardly phrased lyrics. Too much preciousness with “21 Things I Want in a Lover.” Just too much.
will.i.am, “Songs About Girls” (Interscope, 2007)
Black Eyed Peas mastermind will.i.am has certainly proven his skill as a rapper and a producer with his multi-platinum act. However, left to his own devices here, he kind of lacked a certain boom-boom-pow on “Songs About Girls." “If her mama real ugly, I guarantee she gonna be ugly like her mama,” he declares in “I Got It From My Mama.” Yeah, it’s that deep.
U2, “No Line on the Horizon” (Island, 2009)
This was all that they should’ve left behind. After a stunning comeback earlier, as U2 stripped down their arrangements to cultivate deeper emotional connections, they threw that idea out of the window with this album, “No Line on the Horizon." And layer upon layer of production couldn’t hide the fact that they were betting their future on a song with a chorus/punchline of “sexy boots.”
Jay Z & R. Kelly, “Unfinished Business” (Roc-a-Fella/Jive, 2004)
“Unfinished Business," Jay Z and R. Kelly's collection of leftovers from the already-hit-challenged collaboration, “The Best of Both Worlds,” was a mess from the start. “She’s Coming Home With Me” sounds like a copy of a copy of “Fiesta.” Even the remix of “The Return” with Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh sounds dated. Luckily, Jay has learned a lot about quality control since this album.