Bad to the bone: The worst albums of 2020

Our writers tell us which albums they think were the worst of 2020

multiple writers
3rd December 2020
They say it's not wise to dwell on the negative, but whoever they are we ignore them. Our writers have put together the albums they were most disappointed with this year.
The 1975 - Notes On A Conditional Form

Feeling energised and excited after a number of fairly funky singles- including the nostalgia invoking ‘Guys’ and ‘People’, a thrashing heavy-metal track straight out of Def Leppard’s back catalogue, I pressed play on Notes on a Conditional Form. Maybe it was in the albums mid-section, numbed by pointlessly drab instrumentals, that I decided to switch off and have a listen to the band’s critic-lauded album A Brief Inquiry into Online Relationships. The difference was staggering.  

From the instant hit ‘Love it if we made it’, through to the gorgeously melancholic ‘Sincerity is Scary’, the album represented purpose in everything it did- even down to the tiny and minute details such as the gorgeous jazzy arrangements on ‘Mine’. Notes on a Conditional Form had none of this, instead it piled boring acoustic arrangements on top of another, with lazy production and such meaningless self-deprecation in the lyrics (‘don’t worry’ being a notable offender).

Increasingly it feels as though The 1975 has become a vehicle for frontman and spoilt ex-private-schooler-with-rich-parents Matty Healey to incessantly complain about his issues, and indulge in some fairly crass and ostracising wordplay, such as on Roadkill: “And I took shit for being quiet during the election / Maybe that’s fair, but I’m a busy guy”.

The 1975 are by no means lost, and maybe I expect too much from them- but it’s certain that this album was a blip probably long overdue, such was the strength of their previous releases.

Thomas Wrath

Green Day - Father Of All

In the late '90s and early '00s, Green Day dominated their niche. Dookie and American Idiot still stand as some of the greatest albums that the genre of pop-punk has ever produced. The fact that the trio are clearly capable of making good music makes their latest album even more disappointing.

Dancy, poppy and air-headed, Father of All… sees a once brilliant band devolve into a bloated, watered-down husk that, for some reason, is obsessed with claps. Formulaic song writing, vacant vocals and downright irritating production are thrown into a nice little boiling pot to create a genuinely painful listen.

There's nothing really inherently wrong with the bare essentials of each song on the record. Just a lot of mediocrity. When all is said and done, though, and the garish clap sound-effect gets its greasy hands on the tracklist, the album is left unsalvagable.

Father Of All… sees Green Day reach their lowest point musically. The record would sound amatuerish from anyone, nevermind a genre-defining great. It's quite hard to believe that the band actually set out to create a thoughtful artistic endeavour with this project. It feels hollow; insincere. For Green Day, at least for now, the spark is missing.

Oren Brown

Ariana Grande - Positions

The follow-up album to her back to back Sweetener/Thank U Next sell-out streak muses on new bonds and feeling. It has all the elements of success, except the actual execution. 

Debuting with close to 174 million streams, yet another Billboard No. 1, and the fourth artist of 2020 to achieve a double chart with release ‘34+35’ and title track ‘Positions’. This sixth studio album feels helplessly targeted at pop success without a matching stylistic effort. You simply can’t help but feel lost in one endless song, with only brief respites. The melodic first track ‘shut up’ brings the album out of monotony with a lullaby and R&B moment, with upbeat eleventh track ‘love language’ bringing a polished, choppy, bit of fun.

Ariana claims Positions to be her “favourite album yet”, rallying mass fan support over social media. Her single ‘Positions’ landed a fifth of the YouTube views achieved by its parallel track ‘Thank u Next’ even despite tapping into the Presidential election, and has so-far paled with a deficit of 1 billion streams.

Above all else, Positions lacks the range that catapulted its predecessors into the limelight. Maybe Ariana’s pop perfection framework has become too rigid.

Sophie Mcnally

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