With the year more than half over and fall and winter quickly approaching, I was thinking about some of my favorite albums from the year, and realized something: I haven’t been impressed with many new albums that came out this year. Sure, some singles piqued my interest, and I did enjoy a handful of albums here and there, but overall, I felt underwhelmed. So today, I’ll be sharing three albums that I was excited for, but ended up not living up to my expectations.
Sweetener – Ariana Grande
After the 2016 release of Dangerous Woman, which was packed with catchy, high-energy jams (like “Greedy,” “Into You,” and the eponymous “Dangerous Woman”), people had high expectations for Sweetener. The lead single, “No Tears Left To Cry,” was promising, playing with fun retro textures, and I even called it out on a Weekend Replay as a highlight of the week. But the rest of the album sadly doesn’t live up to the hype. It feels static, with no dynamics or songs that are overly exciting. Hints of throwback vibes are present in a few of the songs, but they never carry through. The rest of the time, the album falls into experimentation. Sometimes it works, sounding slick and ultra-modern, even futuristic, and sometimes it doesn’t and sounds downright strange; it doesn’t feel like it ever amounts to anything concrete. The lone standout is “Breathin,” but even that isn’t enough to save the album.
Youngblood – 5 Seconds of Summer
I did an entire review on this album, but I wanted to mention it again here. This is another case where experimentation with new sounds didn’t work in an artist’s favor. I have warmed up to two more of the songs since writing that review, but that isn’t enough to turn my overall impression around. Playing with different sounds and taking musical risks is part of being an artist; having the same sound for 10 years isn’t conducive to a healthy career. But at the same time, having a musical identity is important, and 5 Seconds of Summer’s isn’t present on Youngblood.
Shawn Mendes – Shawn Mendes
It’s been a busy few years for Shawn Mendes. Since his breakthrough hit “Stitches,” he’s been pretty much nonstop. His third album was highly anticipated, coming on the heels of 2017’s Illuminate, and fans were waiting anxiously to see what he would do next. The lead singles, “In My Blood” and “Youth” (which features Khalid), are strong, establishing both his vocal and songwriting chops. The rest of the album is good, but just that. Individually, the songs are enjoyable, most showcasing a softer side of Mendes (in contrast to the high energy of previous hits like “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back“). But all put together, the record comes very close to dissolving in its own sad guitar chords. In addition, many lyrics feel shallow. It’s not that he’s trying too hard to be soulful and emotional; these particular songs just don’t always do the best job of showing that emotion and soul.
Were there albums this year that didn’t live up to your expectations! Let me know in the comments!