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Worst Musical Transformations

Music | By The Top 13 on May 3, 2010

Whether it be out of sheer boredom, the need to reinvigorate one's career, or simply a desire to expand artistically, musicians are constantly transforming themselves. Unfortunately, not all such transformations go as planned, and sometimes the results are downright embarrassing. Here are the Top 13 Worst Musical Transformations.

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Garth Brooks - The Life of Chris Gaines


Garth Brooks - The Life of Chris Gaines


Let's get this out of the way: We don't think this album is as bad as its been made out to be, even if it was a complete departure for this country music icon. In fact, if The Life of Chris Gaines had just been marketed as Garth Brooks trying his hand at pop music, we think it probably would have been a radio hit. Alas, Brooks made the inauspicious decision to market the record as part of his bizarre alter ego project, planning for it to be a soundtrack for a movie about the life of the fictional rock star Chris Gaines. And because none of his fans understood, that choice sealed the album's fate as the worst musical transformation of all time.

Lil Wayne - Rebirth


Lil Wayne - Rebirth


It wouldn't be a stretch to say that by the end of the 2000s, Lil Wayne was as popular and ubiquitous as any rapper in the game. And that's what made his next move all the more puzzling. This New Orleans rapper elected to follow the enormous success of Tha Carter III with a "rock" record. Sadly, Wayne's skills as an MC didn't translate and not even an overdose of Auto Tune could help. Ultimately, Rebirth sounds like a collection of Limp Bizkit and Linkin Park B-sides.

Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music


Lou Reed - Metal Machine Music


At the time this album was released, many rock fans thought Reed - the creative force behind the legendary Velvet Underground - could do no wrong. And then they heard Metal Machine Music, and its 64 minutes of guitar feedback played at different speeds. Give Reed credit for recording the "music" he wanted to record, but Rolling Stone was correct in comparing the album to "the tubular groaning of a galactic refrigerator." And while the album is now considered a forerunner to today's noise rock genre, that doesn't make it any less hard to listen to.

KISS - Music from The Elder


KISS - Music from The Elder


Faced with declining record sales and a growing reputation as a band that favored style over substance, KISS enlisted producer Bob Ezrin - fresh off his work on Pink Floyd's The Wall - to help them create a concept album about a young boy who fights evil. If the band’s plan was to establish artistic credibility, this prog-rock embarrassment had the exact opposite effect. Music from "The Elder" was unmercifully panned by critics, ignored by fans, and ultimately laughed at by the band itself.

MC Hammer - The Funky Headhunter


MC Hammer - The Funky Headhunter


After three straight hit albums, including the massive Please Hammer, Don't Hurt 'Em, MC Hammer surveyed the music scene in the mid-1990s and decided it was time for a change. He traded in his baggy pants for a skully and his signature style of hip hop dance music for his own version of gangsta rap. But Hammer as a gangster just wasn't believable, and even the assistance Death Row's Suge Knight and an appearance by Tha Dogg Pound couldn't save this album.

Smashing Pumpkins - Adore


Smashing Pumpkins - Adore


On the heels of the Smashing Pumpkins' blockbuster success with grungy rock albums Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness, band dictator Billy Corgan hung a sharp left turn with this release. He ditched the band's long-time drummer and for the most part moved away from the distorted guitars for which the Pumpkins had become known. In their place, Corgan employed a full complement of synthesizers and drum machines. While not entirely awful, Adore largely signaled the end of the band as a popular creative force.

Chris Cornell - Scream


Chris Cornell - Scream


After a wildly successful run as lead singer of the seminal grunge band Soundgarden and then as the frontman of Audioslave, neither of Cornell's first two solo records were particularly memorable. So for his third album, Cornell sought to reinvent himself, enlisting noted hip hop producer Timbaland to helm the project. The resulting electronic, R&B-tinged album is a baffling work from such an acclaimed rock singer, and rightfully fared even worse than his prior efforts.

Jewel - 0304


Jewel - 0304


Though sales for Jewel's fourth studio album were lackluster by her lofty standards, most critics actually praised this radical departure for the folksy singer-songwriter from Alaska. But even if the oversexed dance pop songs on this record are catchy, 0304 is a head-scratcher to us, as most of its songs sound like they could have been recorded by Britney Spears. Jewel has smartly since gone in the opposite direction, releasing several country albums.

Willie Nelson - Countryman


Willie Nelson - Countryman


Nelson, of course, is an iconic figure in American popular culture, and he is one of the most celebrated country singer-songwriters ever. Beloved for his liberal activism, this outlaw singer is also well-known for nearly a lifetime of pot smoking. So perhaps this foray into reggae shouldn't have been all that surprising. Nevertheless, Nelson's blend of country and reggae simply didn't work, and the final product provides some insight into why the album was shelved for ten years.

U2 - Pop


U2 - Pop


Perhaps the members of U2 were bored with being one of the biggest rock bands in the world, but even an urge to experiment doesn't explain this over-looped and over-sampled techno mess. Not surprisingly, the band returned to their signature style for its next album and U2 has actually rerecorded and remixed at least six of Pop's songs for singles and a greatest hits compilation. Still, by most band's standards, Pop was an enormous success; its lead single "Discothèque" reached the top 10 and the album easily went platinum.

Metallica - Load


Metallica - Load


It's hard to believe that the band that gave us Master of Puppets went on to release this wildly bloated, nearly 80-minute Load. A groundbreaking band in the metal genre, Metallica is known for its aggressive, fast-paced tunes. Yet on this album, the typically fantastic thrash of this foursome was replaced by a bizarre collection of subpar Southern rock and power ballads. Somehow, this album still sold over five million copies and spent a month atop the charts.

Alice Cooper - Flush the Fashion


Alice Cooper - Flush the Fashion


The transformation of this shock rock metal singer on Flush the Fashion is downright puzzling. Nothing in Cooper's catalogue even remotely hinted at the possibility of an all-out new wave album, yet that's exactly what this is. Working with Roy Thomas Baker, who produced many of the Cars' hit records, Cooper eschewed the shredding guitar riffs we were used to for a dancy, synthesizer-based sound. If you're a fan of Cooper tracks like School's Out or I'm Eighteen, you probably don't want to listen to this.

R. Kelly & Jay-Z - The Best of Both Worlds


R. Kelly & Jay-Z - The Best of Both Worlds


While many of the projects on this Top 13 even sound like bad ideas, this one certainly didn't. Take the biggest rapper and the biggest R&B singer and set them loose in the lab to collaborate on an album of "bangers." It should have been like peanut butter and jelly. Instead, it came across like an uninspired mixtape that failed to live up to the lofty standards of either artist. Even worse, a tour in support of the album was aborted after R. Kelly accused one of Jay-Z's associates of blasting him with pepper spray, leading to nasty litigation between the two.

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Comments Leave a comment


U2 has said that Pop was "unfinished" and that they had to release it before they started their tour. I think there are several good songs on there, but it seems like the bastard child of the U2 catalog - I don't think they play any songs from that album anymore. Also, I think Metallica's Load has its strong points - Hero of the Day, King Nothing, Bleeding Me - it's more of a groove-oriented rock album than what they had done in the past. But I agree, it's not as strong as Puppets or Justice.

12:07 PM   May 03, 2010

tloveisready ★★

Steve Earle should be on here for that awful drum machine record he put out a couple years back. puke

12:22 PM   May 03, 2010

stillathreat ★★

Man, that Lil Wayne song is terrible.

3:41 PM   May 03, 2010


Jefferson Airplane to Jefferson Starship, anyone? From "White Rabbit" to "We Built This City."

5:33 PM   May 03, 2010

jason ★★

Ouch. Good call. "We Built This City" is powerfully lame.

7:42 PM   May 03, 2010


I think society would have been much better off if Katy Perry had just stuck to Christian music.

10:57 PM   May 03, 2010

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