Luke Nuttall (Editor / Writer)
Asking Alexandria – See You On The Other Side
Honestly, this year’s worst generally fell out rather easily, which makes an album like Asking Alexandria’s See What’s On The Inside the low-hanging fruit that’s practically straining the branch it’s coming from. But really, is that any surprise from a band whose laziness seemingly knows no bounds, and for whom a dated, uncreative hotchpotch of metalcore and radio-metal clichés is enough to build an album from in 2021? This thing was dead on arrival from the second it dropped and has seen no change since; Asking Alexandria have developed an uncanny knack for leaching away their own personality as efficiently as possible, and the total nonexistence of this album’s impact is enough to show that they’ve honed that skill to a fine art. It takes a special kind of boring to make it onto a worst list, but the lack of anything noteworthy whatsoever is what’s ultimately the clincher.
LILHUDDY – Teenage Heartbreak
Not the last of the wretched spawn of Machine Gun Kelly’s pop-punk appropriation on this list, and only at this point because LILHUDDY has a marginally better idea of what he’s doing that others. That still amounts to virtually nothing at the end of the day though, on an album that’s no less devoid of ideas than its peers, alongside the flimsy cheapness that’s become endemic within the scene. That all goes without saying among this horrible trend, with an army of TikTok followers clearly being enough to sway the scorn that playing among a genre’s table scraps should rightly be afforded to. It’s just not even worth acknowledging this exists.
Maroon 5 – JORDI
Here we go—time for a creative and novel list of reasons for why the new Maroon 5 album is awful! Jokes aside, the sinking ship that Adam Levine insists on calling a band has never been more submerged than on JORDI, a gutless shell of chasing pop trends that haven’t been relevant in about half a decade, funnelled through a presentation that can’t even pretend as though it cares. Beyond that, all the usual trappings of modern Maroon 5 are present and accounted for—the music sounds cheap and lazy and never indicative of an actual band coming near it; guest stars are dramatically mismanaged across the board; and the writing has no intrigue factor to speak of in Levine’s ever-present void of humanity. All of that, and it comes bannered as a tribute to the band’s deceased manager, adding an unusual dash of ick to Maroon 5’s regular blancmange of abject mediocrity.
MOD SUN – Internet Killed The Rockstar
It really is splitting hairs deciding which of these pop-punk shambles is worse than each other, but MOD SUN is here for the sheer fact that he should know better. He’s actually an experienced, regarded musician, not some TikTok brat looking for a new trend to hop on, so to see him so eager to hump MGK’s leg for the promise of a crumb of relevance is a development that’s been bafflingly overlooked this year. Because this is far from a good album by anyone’s standards, but the fact that it’s stooping so low by design feels borderline insulting when the means of breaking out are right there. Instead, Internet Killed The Rockstar plods through the usual motions in earnest, remaining willfully generic and uninspired at every turn, and betraying a desperation for success that MOD SUN himself probably won’t admit to. It either sounds like the last gasp of a floundering career, or the beginning of a resurgence solely reliant on scum-sucking, and it’s frankly hard to tell which is worse.
jxdn – Tell Me About Tomorrow
Here he is, folks—the new face of a genre! That’s really what sets jxdn’s Tell Me About Tomorrow away his pop-punk brethren, in that the big co-signs and hurrahs follow him around more than most, for no adequate reason. jxdn himself is far from a standout presence, be that as a singer, songwriter, performer or human being in general, and clutching onto the most bottom-of-the-barrel pop-punk has somehow found him surpass both the rest of the TikTok crèche and, more exasperatingly, the acts who are actually looking to break into the genre organically. Travis Barker’s status as pop-punk’s town bike has been widely realised and criticised, but here is where it feels probably the most unearned, on an album that says literally nothing of its own yet has leveraged the star power behind it to an almost unassailable degree. It’s another nail in an already firmly closed coffin about music being any kind of meritocracy, and when it’s this nakedly shameful to prop up an individual as moribund of talent and creative thought as this, something really has to give. If failing upwards was a person, it would look exactly like jxdn.
Georgia Jackson (Deputy Editor / Writer)
easy life – life’s a beach
In terms of cohesion of an album’s overall vibe, easy life’s debut record life’s a beach gets high marks, sunny and chilled out almost the whole way through. But their delivery of that is a whole other thing. Frontman Murray Matravers’ spoken-singing cheeky chappy vibe is grating and more lackadaisical than laidback, making it hard to really chill out like the band intend for you to with their songs. life’s a beach fits right in with today’s cutesy TikTok generation, but it feels like being talked at by some jack-the-lad who doesn’t know when to quit when you’re just trying to sunbathe. Perhaps it’s a phenomenon we’re just not getting, but when the main selling point of a record (and band) is as irritating as this, it’s best to just leave it well alone.
Chase Atlantic – BEAUTY IN DEATH
Plenty of people know Chase Atlantic from their not-always-justified coverage in rock-adjacent magazines, but they’re far from classic status with what they’ve released thus far. This year’s BEAUTY IN DEATH continues that journey but brings down their apathetic trap-emo down to new levels. Most of the songs here follow close to the exact same uninspired beats and tongue-sticking-out drug metaphors as always. They’re so dead behind the eyes that it’s easy to zone out and let five songs go by without noticing, but when you do pay attention it isn’t exactly a fun listen. Mitchel Cave always feels completely detached from every song he sings, even on the title track, where he cancels out the natural warmth the 1975-esque instrumental has. BEAUTY IN DEATH says nothing interesting, which is a crime in itself, but also completely fails to package itself as though it does hold any weight.
Rag’n’Bone Man – Life By Misadventure
No one expected Rag’n’Bone Man to come through with a generation-defining, game-changing record this year, but lord is his second album Life By Misadventure dross. It’s just shy of an hour’s worth of plodding balladry with not the tiniest hint of personality to it, not even on P!nk duet Anywhere Away From Here. It’s not even that the idea behind this record—stripping back the singer’s pop production of old to showcase more vulnerability and his wonderful voice—is flawed, it’s all in the execution. Songs like Fall In Love Again might have been the emotional centrepiece of previous album Human where it’d have room to breathe, but it leaves you completely cold when swamped by 13 other lifeless, repetitive tracks. Rag’n’Bone Man has shedloads of talent and heart to showcase, but Life By Misadventure certainly does nothing for that.
A Day To Remember – You’re Welcome
A Day To Remember’s seventh album was originally slated for release in 2019, and its eventual drop in May of this year is an unfortunate snapshot of two years ago. There’s a horribly outdated feel to You’re Welcome, be it odd Spanish guitar inclusions (a hangover from reggaeton being all the rage) or flirting with more programmed instrumentation and vocal manipulations after their then-recent collaboration with Marshmello. There’s always something not quite right on You’re Welcome’s songs, things that range from the guitars of Mindreader feeling held back, stopping them from feeling fully fleshed out in its chorus and the track itself not meeting former ADTR glory, or the pure dread that seeps in during Bloodsucker’s chorus that becomes fully realised when that ill-judged robotic voice hits. This is evidence of a band coming out of their glory days and losing a point of view, and it’s sad that a band as musically well respected as A Day To Remember have gone so downhill in this way.
Tones And I – Welcome To The Madhouse
Tones And I’s smash hit single Dance Monkey made her a household name, but her debut record this year snatched that title away as quickly as she got it. Welcome To The Madhouse deals in base level dichotomies—feeling lonely but wanting people to leave you alone, feeling like odds are stacked against you but bragging about your song going to number one in over 30 countries —but never once seems intelligent enough to know what it’s doing or wanting to get its hands dirty and go into these emotional concepts further. It does dip its toe into some other genres, but not far enough to be an out-and-out risk and always funnelled through the same blaring, irritating production. Some horrific choices are made musically, consistently too, and Tones And I’s vocals are a major hindrance on any morsel of success any of these tracks might have, the nasal baby voice almost always in direct competition with the overblown pop backgrounds. Not only is Welcome To The Madhouse a deeply unpleasant listen, but there’s absolutely nothing going on under the surface.