2017 offered up some amazing albums (click here to check out our best albums list), but the year also regurgitated some less-than-stellar releases. While we have no definitive list for the “worst” albums, we do have a handful of picks for the most disappointing and most overrated full-lengths. As always, this is just my personal opinion, and keep in mind that theses lists are in no exact, particular order since my views fluctuate relatively frequently.
Most Disappointing Albums of 2017
These artists have set some pretty high standards with their past discographies, but their albums unleashed in 2017 did not live up to those expectations. These albums are not necessarily terrible by any means but are simply underwhelming compared to the artists’ earlier releases.
8. Ultralife by Oh Wonder
Alt-electropop singer/songwriters Oh Wonder’s self-titled debut in 2015 was atmospheric, stirring, and entertaining. It put them on the map as an up-and-coming indie pop act, but Ultralife failed to pack the same punch with its forgettable melodies and poor, overcrowded production quality.
7. Gossip by Sleeping With Sirens
Sleeping With Sirens loosely maintains their rock edge for certain tracks on Gossip but just ever so slightly. A vast departure from their previous efforts, Gossip loses everything that gave the band their “melodic hardcore” or even “rock” label … and credibility in the scene. I don’t even know if “pop rock” is remotely suitable here; it’s pop, I think. It’s something.
6. Something to Tell You by HAIM
2014’s Days Are Gone delivered energy, vibrancy, and angst, proving that HAIM was a promising newcomer in the alternative pop scene. With their ’80s throwback sound and youthful attitude, we expected their follow-up to be even better, something more mature and expansive. But Something to Tell You didn’t really leave us with much to say after all. The emotion and sonic gusto felt muted, to say the least, and nothing kept me coming back to this album, which was frankly a let-down.
5. Going Grey by The Front Bottoms
Going Grey marks a change of pace for The Front Bottoms, signifying a tonal shift to a more colorful array of electronic tinges throughout their indie pop rock blend. Still retaining their organic instrumentation, The Front Bottoms crafts a savory kaleidoscope of sounds begging for repeated listens. … However, I just wasn’t truly impressed. After a couple spins, none of the melodies or lyrics really stuck with me. The sound didn’t work for me after going back and listening to their earlier releases, and I’m ultimately disappointed by Going Grey. Seems as if Fueled By Ramen is attempting to transform another rough-around-the-edges band into a more pop-friendly act, and I’m honestly not here for it.
4. Evolve by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons burst onto the alternative pop scene in 2012 with their debut LP Night Visions. It scored them multiple hits and also big points with me personally. (“Selene,” “Amsterdam,” “Hear Me,” “The River,” all amazing, timeless songs.) 2015’s Smoke + Mirrors put them on rocky ground among critics, including myself, but most let it slide as the almost inevitable sophomore slump. I didn’t have high hopes for Evolve upon listening to the singles, but I held out a little longer and wished for a return to form, a revival of the sincerity, passion, and exploration of Night Visions. But no. It’s an uninspired pop record. A big skip for me.
3. Pacific Daydream by Weezer
For me, Weezer has always been a hit-or-miss kind of band. One year they put out a fantastic album and then they put out a mediocre album the next. Their discography is like a checkerboard of alternating qualities, but after 2014’s exceptional Everything Will Be Alright In the End and 2016’s self-titled “white album,” I actually set my standards pretty high for Rivers & Co. Really, I can’t say I was immensely surprised that Pacific Daydream was relatively second-rate considering my past experiences with their other releases. (And the fact that I’ve never been one to favor yearly full-lengths.) Still, I was expecting Weezer to keep up their positive winning streak and yet…
2. Last Young Renegade by All Time Low
Pop rock veterans All Time Low transition to a more electropop rock vibe for their seventh studio album Last Young Renegade. The band clutches on to their organic instrumentation for a number of tunes, but many are dazzled by synth-driven melodies and artificial beats. While there were some outstandingly redeeming songs on this record, Last Young Renegade overall is a weak, unoriginal outing for All Time Low. If this was a debut effort from a new band, I’d be pretty impressed and interested to hear more. But taking into account All Time Low’s history, this is a veritable misfire in their catalog.
1. ÷ by Ed Sheeran
From our full review of the album: “Ed is acclaimed for his diversified styles, from upbeat hip-hop to syrupy sweet love ballads to acoustic campfire singalongs. His earnest lyricism and authentic intimacy is one of the many reasons to love this amiable redhead. ÷ is a typical Ed Sheeran album, a mixture of those various approaches and then some. But unfortunately, ÷ plays it extremely safe in personality, although he does tiptoe outside of his comfort zone on a few moments. This is his most noticeably commercial record to date, which thus sacrifices risk-taking and is ultimately underwhelming. After 2014’s phenomenal ×, touring the planet, and taking a year off social media, we set the bar high for Ed. We expected something more personal, something introspective and astonishing, but ÷ really does not meet those standards. It’s the same-old-same-old but yet not as stunning and gripping as his earlier material. Of course, ÷ is alright; it’s not a terrible release by any means, but it certainly is disappointing in multiple categories.” Continue reading the review here.
Most Overrated Albums of 2017
Before we finally delve into what I think are the most overrated albums of 2017, let’s discuss what it takes to make this list. For me, a record must have garnered positive ratings or mainstream attention when it was not entirely deserved. These LPs have some decent songs sprinkled throughout (well, some of them do) but the quality of the albums as complete works is overall weak and contradictory to mass reviews or public perception.
4. hopeless fountain kingdom by Halsey
Is this even alternative? Halsey’s edginess and blatant desire to make some kind of, um, statement has always crept on my nerves a bit, but at least I could enjoy a few moments throughout 2015’s Badlands, like “Castle,” “Drive,” and even bigger hits like “Hold Me Down” and “Colors.” But hopeless fountain kingdom aims to be a Romeo & Juliet-influenced concept album with all the edgy, modern-day melodrama. Her vocal delivery sounds like a poor man’s Ellie Goulding impression, and the atmospheric production seems so overblown. It’s a cringe-worthy record, but yet it seems to be faring pretty well in the “alt”-pop circle.
3. Evolve by Imagine Dragons
Imagine Dragons utilizes their knack for creating bombastic, robust tunes with pounding percussion and over-the-top energy like on “Believer,” which was the prevailing lead single for their third album Evolve. While this track isn’t terrible, it does grow to be quite grating after multiple listens. “Thunder,” the other big hit, is artlessly annoying between its pitch-shifting and lyrical repetition. The clumsy experimentation on Evolve causes it to fall flat on its face and conjures a feeling of disjointedness throughout the record.
2. The Click by AJR
I mean, this album isn’t too overrated considering most critics perceive it to be infernal excrement and it didn’t seem to be a popular success, but yet, AJR fans will fiercely defend The Click as some of their best material to date. The Click, the sophomore effort from those guys who somehow incorporated a SpongeBob sample in their biggest single in 2014, is a mixed bag of electronic “indie” pop music and God knows what. Supposedly (messily) drawing influences from Jon Bellion and fun., AJR tries to be experimental and fresh but The Click really just doesn’t click. The lyrics are mediocre and at times childish and the production sounds like it was done in their living room. Oh, wait. It was. I’m not against that DIY, homemade attitude, but God, couldn’t it have been executed better than this? (Especially on that Warner Brothers budget.) I will give them credit where it is due; I did find myself getting some of the more enjoyable melodies stuck in my head. But when the best thing I can say about an album is, “Well, some of the hooks were nice,” does it really deserve to be espoused as a masterpiece? (Also, those high-pitched vocal harmonies sound like a bunch of crooning cats in an alleyway.)
1. ÷ by Ed Sheeran
(Read my full review of ÷ before you decide to tear me apart for this.) Listen, I’m not saying Ed doesn’t deserve his success. He’s crafted a very accessible, easily listenable, pop-oriented record, arguably his most commercial outing to date. He’s scored big #1 hits from ÷ and all of the tracks charted in one way or another. But I think that coupled with my personal disappointment is why I find ÷ to be overrated. “Shape of You” and “Perfect,” the two prominent chart-toppers, are some of my least favorite tracks on the full-length. While most critics are predominantly lukewarm on ÷, a major portion of Ed’s fanbase touts this record as his magnum opus. For me, I always enjoyed Ed at his most vulnerable and authentic. I adored cuts like “The Man,” “Nina,” “Runaway,” and “Afire Love” from his antecedent × largely due to their intimacy and personal subject matters. They felt like pages from his diary, snapshots of his deepest thoughts and experiences. However, those songs were unfortunately overlooked by mainstream casual listeners, and Ed even regrets including “The Man” on × because it was “too personal.” So I can’t say I was exceedingly shocked to realize that ÷ was brashly insincere, disingenuous, and slanted for a more pop-desiring, widespread audience. So yeah, I guess Ed accomplished what he loosely set out to do: take over the charts and earn some monstrous radio hits, sell millions of copies, and capture that general audience. But from an artistic standpoint, ÷ is hugely underwhelming and frankly overrated. I’m not saying Ed “sold out,” but he really didn’t hit the mark concerning the true quality and potential of his songwriting, especially in comparison to his previous releases.
Keep in mind this is all my personal opinion. Let us know your most disappointing or overrated albums of the year down in the comments below!