Sometimes a musician gives it their all, and just doesn't make a good record. But other times, they have a terrible idea nobody can talk them out of, push it as far as they can, and don't make a good record. Many of the best musicians of all time have faltered here and there, releasing their worst album, or a record that is just plain weird, and doesn't impress fans... or the critics. What are the worst albums made by great musicians and bands?
Nobody remembers the mediocre records, but everyone knows the terrible, career-killing ones. These are the worst of the worst, awkward veers into genres outside of their strengths, insane concept albums that nobody in the band understands, contractual-obligation filler, arrogant stabs at replacing a lead singer, or just flights of fancy fueled by cocaine and ego. And they're all by musicians that have done great, timeless, platinum-selling work.
Sure, some of these albums even went platinum. But that doesn't mean they were good. In fact, they were all odd forays into musical worlds unknown, and probably would have been better left unexplored. Including Paul Simon's Broadway musical, Elvis's spoken word album, and Garth Brooks's alt-rock record released under an alter ego with a soul patch, these are the truly worst records by good musicians that would have been better left unrecorded.
Upvote the most ill-advised and terrible records by great bands and singers in rock, R&B, and pop below... and listen at your own risk.
Lulu - 2011
Cantankerous rocker Lou Reed and speed metal mavens Metallica went together about as well as oil and vodka. Their joint album, 2011’s Lulu, was derided by critics as a shambling wreck, with Reed’s off-key sing speaking smushed together with some generic bar band thrash. The lyrics, based on German expressionist plays, were all but incomprehensible, and nobody in Metallica sounded like they were playing the same song, much less working on the same album.
The nearly 90 minute mess was harshly reviewed and soon vanished. Sadly, it was the last album Reed put out before he died two years later.
Paula - 2014
Robin Thicke followed up his monster 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” with a very public split from his wife, actress Paula Patton.
A seemingly heartbroken Thicke quickly cut the album Paula, a shameless attempt to win her back through R&B schmaltz and public begging. Both the relationship and the album failed – Paula sold a fraction of Blurred Lines, and Paula Patton filed for divorce from Thicke a few months later.
St. Anger - 2003
Almost everything about Metallica’s 2003 bomb St. Anger was ill-advised, from James Hetfield’s sophomore poetry seminar lyrics to the complete cutting of guitar solos to the massively compressed sound that makes the record physically taxing to listen to.
But maybe the worst decision was Lars Ulrich turning off the snares on his snare drums, giving the backbeat a distracting metallic pinging sound. One track of this experimental sound might have been a welcome change – but over 70 minutes' worth was exhausting.
Van Halen III - 1998
In between an endless carousel of firing and rehiring lead singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar, Van Halen hooked up with former Extreme lead singer Gary Cherone to cut Van Halen III. The result was mostly an Eddie Van Halen solo record with some other guy on lead vocals and unsurprisingly, both fans and critics thought it was a terrible idea.
Cherone left the band a year later.