It's right there in the name: Supergroups are supposed to be “super.” Too often, however, these gatherings of musicians already famous for other projects end up being less than the sum of their parts. Whether it's a lack of ambition, lack of chemistry or both, many so-called supergroups just leave fans wishing everyone would stop dicking around and get back to their regular gigs.
The supergroups listed below aren't all bad, necessarily; some just fail to measure up to the lofty expectations set by their loaded lineups. And OK, some are just downright terrible. These are the 20 worst supergroups of all time.
20. Tinted Windows
Tinted Windows are probably the most head-scratching combination of musicians on this list. You’ve got Smashing Pumpkins’ James Iha, Taylor Hanson of Hanson fame, Fountains of Wayne’s Adam Schlesinger and Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos. While everyone in this group is good at what he does, the result is some pretty beige power pop. It’s certainly not the worst thing you’ll hear embedded in this list, but it never really congealed into anything besides some basic rehashes of better bands — like, say, Cheap Trick. — Jonny Coleman
19. Monsters of Folk
A classic example of a supergroup adding up to less than the sum of its parts, this ironically named project features singer-songwriters Jim James (My Morning Jacket), Conor Oberst (Bright Eyes) and M. Ward (She & Him), plus producer/multi-instrumentalist Mike Mogis (Rilo Kiley, First Aid Kit). Their 2009 debut album was a pleasant-enough collection of whispery folk ditties with some nice harmonies, but most of it had the feel of leftovers from everyone's main bands and solo projects. They did a one-off mini-reunion at the Hollywood Bowl last summer during an M. Ward set, but otherwise have failed to deliver on occasional vague threats of a follow-up. —Andy Hermann
18. The Firm (rap)
Nas, Foxy Brown, AZ and Cormega (who was later replaced by Nature) with Dre and Trackmasters on production sounded like a perfect East Coast/West Coast super collabo to help quell the coastal rap rivalries and assassinations that in part defined mid-’90s hip-hop. The Firm’s album was highly anticipated but seemed to underwhelm expectations. It’s probably one of the better efforts you’ll find on this list, yet the project never lived up to its own hype. —J.C.
17. The Power Station
Despite sounding like a watered-down version of their component parts — singer Robert Palmer, former Chic drummer Tony Thompson and Duran Duran’s John and Andy Taylor on bass and guitar — this mid-’80s band’s self-titled debut wasn’t half bad, even producing one single (“Some Like It Hot”) that holds up, mostly thanks to Thompson’s forceful yet funky rhythms. A decade later, they dropped the dreadful Living in Fear, anchored by a clunky single, “She Can Rock It,” that was the quartet's attempt at strip-club hair metal, or something. They also did a seven-minute cover of Marvin Gaye's “Let's Get It On,” which still stands as the worst thing any of The Power Station's members ever contributed to. (Yes, even worse than that time Duran Duran tried to do Public Enemy — although, in fairness to John Taylor, he left before recording sessions for Living in Fear began.) —A.H.
16. Ringo Starr and His All-Starr Band
A partial list of All-Starr Band members since the ex-Beatle started the project in 1989: Joe Walsh, Dr. John, Billy Preston, Clarence Clemons, Todd Rundgren, Bonnie Raitt, John Entwistle, Slash, Stevie Nicks, Ray Davies, Sheila E., Jeff Lynne, Steve Lukather, Edgar Winter and Colin Hay. I get that it's a glorified cover band, but with all the talent involved over the years, you would think the band's not-insignificant output (no fewer than 10 live albums and DVDs) would include something more memorable than the one time Paul McCartney showed up to sing “Birthday” to Ringo. But nope. That's about as good as it gets. —A.H.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t include at least one super jam band. Primus’ Les Claypool, Phish’s Trey Anastasio and The Police’s Stewart Copeland came together in 2000 at Jazz Fest initially as a one-off proposition of the noodliest proportions. But that turned into an album, a tour and then a reunion at Bonnaroo a decade ago. This may not be the worst music ever, but if you were to strip off the famous names attached to this band and throw this music out into the world, no one would care … unless they were hippie-flipping or something. But if you dig it, more power to you, I guess. —J.C.
14. The Firm (rock)
Bad Company’s Paul Rodgers on vocals, Zepp’s Jimmy Page, drummer Chris Slade of Manfred Mann's Earth Band (who would later join AC/DC), and bassist Tony Franklin put out two albums. But it seems like these tunes were all first takes and more of an excuse to get together and party. Lord knows Jimmy Page had done all the heroin in the world by that point in the mid-’80s. Funny that one of their singles was called “Satisfaction Guaranteed,” because the only thing certain about this project is that satisfaction will, in fact, not come at the hands of The Firm. —J.C.
13. Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe
Prog-rockers' tendency to name their bands like law firms reached its apotheosis (a word that, come to think of it, would be a great title for a prog-rock album) with this short-lived, late-’80s supergroup made up of former members of Yes. Their sole, self-titled album basically served as bathroom-break fodder between Yes tunes on the band's 1989 tour. Songs — sorry, song cycles — like “Brother of Mine” combine the aimless noodling of prog at its most self-indulgent with tinny, overly processed late-’80s production and embarrassingly corny, faux-inspirational lyrics. No wonder the other members of Yes sued to try to get all mention of their hallowed group removed from ABWH's promotional materials. —A.H.
12. Velvet Revolver
Velvet Revolver was STP’s exiled Scott Weiland joining with GNR’s Slash, Duff and Matt Sorum and Wasted Youth’s Dave Kushner to make what’s probably the most turgid, forgettable music of all of their lives. As musicians they’re certainly competent enough, but the songwriting is just so damn clunky. You can hear tinges of Slash's and Weiland’s brilliance, but they’re never given the opportunity to really shine. The result is muddy dross. —J.C.
Poor Tom Morello, Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. I'm sure they'd rather do nothing more than tour forever with Zack de la Rocha as Rage Against the Machine. But their mercurial frontman keeps ghosting on them and forcing them into second-rate projects like Audioslave, their commercially successful but creatively stagnant early-2000s pairing with Soundgarden's Chris Cornell. Audioslave's post-grunge riff-rock wasn't bad, exactly — it just sounded like four talented guys treading water, unsure of where to go next. “The original fire has died and gone,” Cornell sang on one of the band's last singles. Truer words were never howled. —A.H.
10. Damn Yankees
Whatever you may think of Ted Nugent's politics, you have to admit that the man made some pretty good cock-rock in his day. But by the time he joined forces with Styx's Tommy Shaw and Night Ranger's Jack Blades for this half-assed, late-to-the-game foray into hair metal, he was clearly just goofing around and collecting a check. Add a thin layer of The Nuge's trademark jingoism to the band's formulaic riff-fests and you've got one of the worst relics of the glam-metal era. —A.H.
Afroki was a short-lived (thank God) collaboration between superstar “DJs” Afrojack and Steve Aoki, which was about as underwhelming as the dopey, obvious portmanteau they used as their name. Not much to say about this one, except that it probably took these producers (or whoever ghost-produces their music) less time to make the above song than its 4 minutes and 26 seconds of running time. —J.C.
In the ’80s, prog-rockers finally began tiring of 11-minute keyboard solos and audiences made up entirely of dudes and started making forays into straight-up pop music. Some of these were quite successful (if you haven't listened to Yes’ 90125 lately, it totally holds up); others, not so much. Asia, a supergroup made up of King Crimson's John Wetton, Steve Howe of Yes (and the aforementioned Anderson Bruford Wakeman Howe), Geoff Downes of Yes and Carl Palmer of Emerson, Lake & Palmer, was of the latter category. Aside from one undeniable single, “Heat of the Moment,” their stuff always sounded less like pop music and more like a bunch of prog guys making a very half-hearted attempt to be the next Journey. —A.H.
Van Halen’s Sammy Hagar and Michael Anthony joined forces with guitar guru Joe Satriani and Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith to put out some very forgettable tunes. “Chickenfoot started off with me, Michael Anthony and Chad Smith jamming at my club, Cabo Wabo, in Mexico,” Hagar once told Classic Rock magazine, which is about as much as you need to know about this project. Wasted on margies, this probably seemed like a great idea. If only they had waited until they sobered up to really think it through. The resulting sound reminds me of the fake group Blueshammer from Ghost World. —J.C.
6. Hollywood Vampires
It was be easy to slag off this L.A. supergroup purely over the fact that their second guitarist is Johnny Depp. But the bigger issue is that his band, which also features Alice Cooper and Aerosmith's Joe Perry (plus Guns N’ Roses’ Matt Sorum and Stone Temple Pilots’ Robert DeLeo in the current touring lineup), just writes crap songs. Of the original tunes on their 2015 self-titled debut, “Raise the Dead” is the best of the bunch, which isn't saying much. it sounds like Buckcherry trying to do Alice Cooper, and not quite pulling it off. Their covers are even worse. I'm sure pairing Cooper with AC/DC's Brian Johnson on “Whole Lotta Love” sounded great on paper, but the results are cringeworthy. —A.H.
Skid Row’s Sebastian Bach, noted dickface Ted Nugent, Anthrax’s Scott Ian, Biohazard's Evan Seinfeld and Jason Bonham (John Bonham’s son) got together in Vegas to make music. If it sounds like the cast of a reality show like Celebrity Rehab, that's because it basically is. They were on a short-lived reality contest show called Supergroup where (just like in reality) washed-up musicians would recombine to try to rinse out any remaining commercial viability they might still have. During their short tenure, Damnocracy mostly played covers, but they did manage at least one original, the utterly throwaway “Take It Back,” which we can only assume is a message to themselves. —J.C.
4. Methods of Mayhem
Tommy Lee left Mötley Crüe (and Pamela Anderson) to muck about with Methods of Mayhem, which was essentially just an excuse for Lee to make more music for strippers, sprinkled this time with a little nu-metal. It’s his midlife-crisis album, which trades groupies and hookers for more groupies, hookers and millennial rap-rock. The group featured a revolving door of guest spots from the likes of Fred Durst, Mix Master Mike, Lil Kim, George Clinton and U-God. Guitar and bass parts were supplied by Phil X (Bon Jovi, Andrew W.K.), Chris Chaney (Alanis Morissette, Jane's Addiction) and Randy Jackson (yep, the American Idol judge). But the real core of this team was Lee and rapper TiLo (aka the even douchier-looking white dude with goggles in the video), who left the group in 2000 to pursue being a footnote in music history. —J.C.
3. Lou Reed and Metallica
Technically the 2011 album Lulu was a collaboration between Lou Reed and Metallica, rather than a supergroup. But the results were so spectacularly disastrous that they deserve special mention. Based on German playwright Frank Wedekind's “Lulu” plays, Lulu was a double-disc, 87-minute pile of pretentious, unlistenable nonsense that peaked when James Hetfield starting yelling “I am the table!” — a moment that will forever live in meme history and that Metallica fans have squashed down into the darkest corners of their hearts next to Napster and St. Anger. In hindsight, it's tempting to believe that the late, great Reed knew the whole thing was shit and was just punking the earnest thrash-metal bros the whole time. But more likely, Lulu is just a classic case of otherwise great talents bringing out all of each other's worst traits and none of their best. —A.H.
2. Swedish House Mafia
No one’s gonna argue that Swedish House Mafia didn’t make heaps of cash as producers and DJs. The three douchekateers — Steve Angello, Axwell and Sebastian Ingrosso — came together at just the right time to fleece an entire generation on pills and make out like bandits. Individually, they’re grating. Together, they’re unbearable. The music is utterly forgettable, and their DJing style is basically nonexistent. Alas, Swedish House Mafia were not long for this earth, as they broke up in 2013 after just five years. They now all tour as individual bad DJs pretending to mix records, instead of as a group of bad DJs pretending to mix records. There aren’t enough drugs or irony in the world to be able to tolerate this trash for more than a few bars. It just sucks. —J.C.
The best music is often built on mixing different styles and cultures together into a brand-new sound. That probably was the intention behind SuperHeavy, which featured the head-scratching combination of Mick Jagger, Joss Stone, Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley, Dave Stewart of Eurythmics and A.R. Rahman, the Indian singer-composer of Slumdog Millionaire fame. Unfortunately, it sounds more like the half-baked result of a drunken conversation at a Grammy afterparty. Everyone's clearly having a great time, but no one's really getting outside their comfort zone enough to vibe with the others. Stone warbles soulfully, Marley toasts lame shit he probably freestyled in the vocal booth (sample: “You make me want to conquer every conquest”), Jagger sneers like the aging British millionaire he is — but there's not a shred of chemistry in any of it. It's the ultimate example of a supergroup being less — in this case, way, way less — than the sum of its parts. —A.H.
[Correction: An earlier version of this article said The Power Station's second album, Living in Fear, was released a year after their debut, in 1986. It was in fact released in 1996. We regret the error.]