Monday, May 2, 2011 at 9:15 a.m.
It happens to all of us at some point: A band we have tremendous respect for releases an album that just leaves us shaking our heads in sadness and/or disbelief. Musical disappointments come in many forms, from blatant cash-in attempts to experimentation that just falls flat. Some bands recover quickly from disappointing albums, while others just keep churning out more head-scratching material. Sometimes, the disappointing album will come out of nowhere, but more often than not, it comes right on the heels of either the band's best album or after a long period of inactivity.
As a service to Up on the Sun readers, I have compiled a list of the 12 biggest musical letdowns of all time. Call them the "Disappointing Dozen." Not all these albums are necessarily bad albums. Not all of them are even the worst albums released by that particular act. They're just the ones that most failed to live up to the expectations set by the artists' previous work.
Of course, any list of this sort is highly subjective. In order to put a list like this together, you need to have experienced that disappointment firsthand. For example, some people would probably argue that Kings of Leon's Only by the Night belongs on this list, but I didn't include it simply because I was never a fan of KoL back when they supposedly didn't suck. So if you feel like there are albums I've overlooked, please feel free to share your personal disappointments in the comments section. (I'd also tell you to leave a comment if you disagree with any of my selections, but I know you're going to do that anyway, so it seems a little redundant.)
So without further ado, here are my 12 Most Disappointing Albums of All Time...
12. Beastie Boys - Ill Communication
Might as well generate some controversy right out of the gate. As I noted earlier, not all of these albums are bad, and Ill Communication is certainly a solid addition to the Beasties' oeuvre. It's also better than anything they released after it, and arguably the best album on this list. What makes it disappointing is that it's their first album that didn't really break any new ground. License to Ill was a party rap classic that -- for better or worse -- paved the way for white rappers to be taken at least semi-seriously. Paul's Boutique was a mash-up masterpiece that was well ahead of its time and is rightfully considered one of the greatest albums in hip-hop history. Check Your Head was the Beasties' triumphant comeback album, pushing the boundaries of rap with punk songs and live instrumentation. Ill Communication is a good album, but let's face it; it's basically just Check Your Head Part 2.
1. Metallica - Metallica (a.k.a. "The Black Album")
How can a band's most commercially successful album -- not to mention one of the best-selling albums of all time -- be considered a disappointment? How about when it alienates a large percentage of that band's diehard fans and replaces them with an even greater number of lemmings and meatheads. Metallica spent the majority of the '80s pioneering the genre of thrash metal and cultivating one of the most fiercely loyal fan bases in all of music, but apparently, that wasn't good enough. Why sell millions of albums of complex, genre-defining music to hardcore loyalists when you can sell tens of millions of albums of by-the-numbers butt rock to jocks and frat boys? By enlisting veteran hair metal producer Bob Rock (Bon Jovi, Mötley Crüe), Metallica seemed to be conceding defeat. Metallica was a disappointment because it not only signaled the end of the classic Metallica sound that fans had grown to love, it also served as a death knell for the entire thrash genre. Grunge may have succeeded where thrash couldn't by finally killing hair metal, but with nothing left to rebel against, thrash metal essentially fell on its own sword. The "Black Album" is the sound of thrash metal committing suicide. How much more disappointing can it get?