5. Jane's Addiction
The Great Escape Artist
There was no way Perry Farrell and company were going to shock the world with another Ritual lo Habitual. That much we knew — if for no other reason than Farrell spends more time these days promoting Lollapalooza Chile than crafting music. But with TV on the Radio's Dave Sitek lending a bass-thwacking hand in the studio for their new album, we hoped that something at least seemingly reminiscent of the punk-slathered art-rock these flamboyant rockers concocted in their heyday would result. Instead, we got what we perhaps should have been expected: a gothic, gloomy attempt at mood-rock that's as appealing as a Dave Navarro STD.
The King of Limbs
With all the praise that's been heaped on Thom Yorke and his merry musicians over the past decade, it's almost heretical to criticize anything they do. But a misstep — especially when you are undoubtedly one of the world's most respected and beloved bands — cannot be overlooked. Radiohead challenged the music world to accept their newfound pay-as-you-want model with 2008's In Rainbows, simultaneously cooking up a batch of clean, forward-thinking electro art pop that signaled a new era for these mad geniuses. That they returned, however, with their shortest album to date, was in itself disappointing. Even worse, nary a single memorable track was to be found, though a case could be made for “Lotus Flower.” For many bands, this album might have been a coming out party. For Radiohead, fair or not, we only accept strokes of brilliance.
When this Alabama-bred tumbleweed with a punk-rock ethos and one helluva haircut officially starting buzzing in hip-hop circles with his 2010 mixtape Trunk Muzik, the cliched term that won't ever go away started popping up on the blogosphere: Yelawolf was (shudder) hip hop's next “Great White Hope.” Wolf, it seemed, had people believing it was his turn to carry on the trailer park, slumdog brand of hip hop that Eminem made a mainstream entity a decade ago. This was fueled even further when Em signed Wolf to his Shady Records label earlier this year.
But on Wolf's long-anticipated major label debut, Radioactive, we were given a flaccid attempt at crossover “radio rap.” Cheesy hooks largely come courtesy of Rihanna wannabes, and are complimented by infantile lyrics that (for real) include “YouTube killed the video star.” What once felt so promising now makes us rethink the premise that first impressions are genuine.
2. Lil Wayne
Tha Carter IV
For music fans, there's a point where you just have to let go. Whatever affection you might have for a certain artist or band must inevitably be cast aside if there's any hope in being objective. It was with this clearcut, no-b.s. mantra that we approached the newest effort from our nation's most beloved MC, Lil Wayne. And the hype surrounding the newest edition to “Tha Carter” series had never been bigger. This album came a full three years after his masterpiece, Tha Carter III, during which time Weezy had put out an utterly awful rock record, thrown together an album that felt more like a mixtape, and even logged prison time.
But when Tha Carter IV finally hit the streets, the relative silence that surrounded it made the biggest chatter. It felt, well, a bit rushed, really. Wayne's rhymes seem lazy and infantile. The beats — while progressive on cuts like “Six Foot, Seven Foot” and “President Carter” — feel recycled. Unrealistic expectations may have doomed this release from the start, but we live in a world that doesn't accept mediocrity. And Wayne, of all people, should have known better.
1. Lupe Fiasco
It takes a lot to get people riled up these days. But when they do, look out. And no, this isn't some analogy cooked up in an effort to compare Occupy Wall Street to the music world; we don't take what we do in such self-serious fashion. But we're just still trying to come to grips with the fact that fans actually protested outside Atlantic Records a year ago, infuriated over the non-release of Lupe Fiasco's long-delayed third album, Lasers. Regardless of your opinion on whether people should really be getting this worked up over an album, you'd still hope that when it was finally released this past March, it could have at least in some way, justified these dedicated fans' collective uproar.
Nope. Wasn't gonna happen. Didn't even come close. The year's most disappointing album was merely a collection of overproduced radio throwaways courtesy of a talented MC that has (had?) so much more to offer. The fruits of the protesters' labors was only a batch of synthed-up pop music bathed in elementary political undertones. And, oh, how it tried its damnedest to bridge the gap between the rapper's 9/11 conspiracy theories and the desire to get that dude in the painted-on shirt at the club up and fist pumping. An apology seems in order to a certain group of protestors, don't you think?