The 20 Worst Albums Of The '90s: 20-11

The 20 Worst Albums Of The '90s: 20-11

Sure, you had the Bill Clinton blowjob scandal, OJ, Pakistan and India going nuclear, mad cow disease, the Rodney King decision, and Titanic. But what made the '90s truly awful was its music. That's not to say that there weren't bright spots -- early Beck, say, or Ok Computer and much of hip-hop's golden era -- but what passed for mainstream rock was awful, particularly when it was tagged with the "alternative" qualifier.

See also: The 20 Worst Albums Of The '90s: 10-1

And considering that internet music platforms hadn't much gotten going, too often the crap on the radio was what we were stuck with. As a mode of catharsis, then, let's take a look back at what was so dispiriting about this pivotal time in our lives. We promise there is no C+C Music Factory. -Ben Westhoff

20. Garth Brooks 

Chris Gaines' Greatest Hits (1999)

Yes, all multimillionaire megalomaniacs attempt a Slim Shady/Sasha Fierce move at some point. Country titan Garth Brooks dipped his toes into pop as a fictional "rock star" in the late '90s, preceding a feature film that never came to fruition because he couldn't sell these "greatest hits." Using the Gaines disguise (complete with chin hair) as a failsafe parachute was the only good idea about this crossover bid. Remember that "Smile on your brother/ Everybody get together" song by the Youngbloods? Imagine it literally remade with Cake-style talk-rap verses, and you have an idea of how lost Garth was. "I say black/ You say white/ I say day/ You call it a night" is as clever as this infamous failure gets. Few recall that Garth's locomotive '90s fame was enough to drag this number two to #2. Briefly. -Dan Weiss

19. The Presidents of the United States of America

The Presidents of the United States of America (1995)

Forged in the horribly mistaken notion that America needed just that much more wackiness, Presidents of the United States of America's (Pot USA, get it?) self-titled debut pops out like puffs of skunky weed smoke from Deen Ween's basement. It's as if they asked themselves, "Hey guys, let's, like, do a whole Butthole Surfers / Ween / They Might Be Giants / Dead Milkmen kind of album...but for the whole grunge scene. It will also lack any shred of cleverness, insight, and humor that all those other wack-rock bands have...but like we'll sing about ironic things, like peaches." And then they responded, "Can we have a really pedestrian and uninspired sound, too?" "You bet man, you bet." -Paul Bradley

18. Alanis Morissette

Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie (1998)

Have you ever been cornered at a party by a girl who talks rapturously and somewhat incoherently about her recent discovery of Eastern spirituality, then goes into an hour-long monologue about all of her ex-boyfriends? This is that girl in album form. The only moment of restraint on Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie is when Alanis tells one of those ex-boyfriends, "Let's name 30 good reasons why we shouldn't be together," and then doesn't proceed to sing all 30 of them. That is, by far, the best part of the album -Andy Hermann

17. Michael Bolton

Time Love & Tenderness (1991)

Let's play Shitty Early-'90s Adult Contemporary Bingo. Vapid lyrics - check. A soul classic ("When A Man Loves A Woman") butchered and an "original" ("Love Is A Wonderful Thing") which led to a successful copyright infringement lawsuit - check. Keyboards and horns played with as much soul as a Pepsi jingle - check. Kenny G cameo - check. Perfectly-groomed mullet - check. Bingo! -Jason Roche


16. Pat Boone

In A Metal Mood (1997)

In A Metal Mood is 53 minutes of your out-of-touch uncle screaming about how this is what the kids listen to these days. The family-friendly '50s pop icon performs big-band lounge-jazz covers of iconic rock and metal classics. Have you ever wondered what "Paradise City" would sound like without any balls? (Now, same question, except with "Enter Sandman" and "Crazy Train.") Wonder no more! But his biggest crime was making one of the most treasured metal anthems of all-time, Dio's "Holy Diver," sound lame with a sort of swingin' vocal cadence. Not even Dio himself on background vocals could save it. -Jason Roche

15. Billy Joel

River Of Dreams (1993)

No wonder the Piano Man stopped making albums after 1993's River of Dreams, a bombastic downer on which he bitched about everything from suburbia (the faux-Springsteen "No Man's Land") his own depression (the faux-Robert Palmer "A Minor Variation") and the very act of songwriting itself ("Famous Last Words," on which he admits to his fans, "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn anymore"). Joel was reportedly broke at the time, having been embezzled out of millions by his former manager -- but that still doesn't excuse him from ending an otherwise solid career on such a sour note. -Andy Hermann

14. Hammer

The Funky Headhunter (1994)

True to his word, Hammer did not cease making music after Too Legit To Quit. But in the ensuing two-and-a-half years following that 1991 work, gangsta rap had exploded, and Hammer responded by adopting a "hard" persona that didn't fool anyone. He talked about being a pimp and a gangsta in "Pumps and a Bump," going to the Player's Ball in "One 'Mo Time," and upped the f-bomb and sex quotient generally. Music videos for the album saw Hammer and a posse looking awkward and uncomfortable in gangsta get-ups cribbed straight from Dr. Dre and Snoop . Sadly, the only thing that wasn't fake about the whole affair was, true story, Hammer's (unintentional?) erection in the video for "Pumps and a Bump." Where were the Hammer pants when he needed them? -Jason Roche

13. Van Halen

Van Halen III (1998)

Extreme vocalist Gary Cherone was recruited to fill in for Sammy Hagar, who'd vacated David Lee Roth's spot, and his overwhelming lack of vocal charisma here nearly killed the band's career. But he doesn't deserve all the blame, considering that Eddie Van Halen's playing is uninspired and the material is abysmal. Van Halen III is so riddled with limp blues-rock, so devoid of fire or energy, that even Roth, much less Hagar, couldn't have saved it. -Jason Roche


12. Marcy Playground

Marcy Playground (1997)

Marcy Playground's eponymous LP was the ultimate bait-and-switch, I learned after blowing bar mitzvah money; only "Saint Joe on the School Bus" remotely resembled the comfort-food Nirvana hit "Sex and Candy." The rest was folksy, opiate-obsessed bullshit ("Poppies," "Opium" and "Ancient Walls of Flowers" were three different tracks), with both a co-write from the singer's ex and a separate tribute named after her. And with their, uh, limited perception of New York ("You might even see a murder") they'd best stick to what they know: "A Cloak of Elvenkind." -Dan Weiss

11. The Rolling Stones

Bridges to Babylon (1997)

"Hi this is Michael. Sir Mick, if you will. Look, we'd like to order an album, please. No no, it doesn't have to sound like music. Frankly, it doesn't have to even be playable -- it really just has to be a disc of some kind in a plastic case with the Stones' logo on it. Really it just has to be something tangible that over-50 failures can tell other over-50 failures that they own. Sure...some art would be nice...but totally unnecessary. Oh? A lion, huh? Whatever. Look, you can deal with the rest of the particulars, I've got a comfortable chair I'd quite like to sit in. Many thanks. Have a good afternoon." -Paul Bradley

See also: The 20 Worst Albums Of The '90s: 10-1

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