And so it begins—the bevy of “best of” lists that is already flooding the Interwebs as the music media looks back at 2013’s best (and sometimes worst) musical artists and releases. Some of these have already shown up here on MIMO, with more undoubtedly to come. No complaints—it’s a lot of fun to look back. But I thought I’d kick off my own year-end reviews with a bit of tongue-in-cheek snarkiness, by making a list of the most overrated musical artists of 2013.
Just to be clear—the people who made this list are not necessarily bad artists—I’ll leave others to be the judges of people’s actual talent, at least for now. (Some of these artists even got decent reviews here on MIMO for their releases this year.) Rather, these are simply artists whom this year received more positive acclaim and attention than they actually earned or deserved, or perhaps spend too much time in the news for reasons other than their musical performances. This is what is meant by “overrated”—they have a level of celebrity and attention that doesn’t match their actual artistic accomplishments.
By the way, I’ll be following up this post with at least two other lists: a list of artists who absolutely deserved the acclaim they received, and a list of “dark horse” great artists you might have missed. As with every list, this is all subjective, so feel free to disagree. But counting down from five to one, here are my picks for the top five most overrated artists of the year.
5. Phillip Phillips
I actually hated to put this guy on the list, for two reasons: first—he’s actually pretty talented (he’s one who got a decent review here for his record The World From the Side of the Moon); and second—he seems like an all-around nice guy. But remember, this list is about being overrated—that is, having a level of positive acclaim that perhaps exceeds one’s actual accomplishments. And despite some of Phillips’ songs being very catchy, it walks too frequently on ground that has already been trodden by Mumford & Sons and Dave Matthews. He’s good, but he needs to find some more originality in his sound. (For what it’s worth—he’s on the overrated list, but he’s the least overrated of the artists on this list, if that helps.)
While obviously talented enough as a rapper and producer, will.i.am already leans toward being overrated for his tendency to deliver lots of style without lots of substance. This year’s solo release #willpower simply fell flat for this very reason—there was not a lot to draw people in. The album actually got reviewed by two MIMO writers—and neither was impressed.
3. Britney Spears
If this list were for “top failed comebacks of 2013”, Britney Spears would be at the top. Most of the overrated-ness here, unfortunately, is self-inflicted. There was so much media spin about her new release Britney Jean being her “most personal album,” so much buzz about Britney being back, and even her lead single “Work B***h” was presentable. But when push came to shove, the album was a huge disappointment, as also reflected by sales that were nothing short of dismal considering this is supposed to be the comeback of a megastar. Neither is it flattering that her music is being used to scare away pirates off the African coast.
2. Robin Thicke
This R&B artist makes the overrated list not so much over a lack of talent or vocal ability (because he’s an excellent vocalist), but over one song in particular. “Blurred Lines” dominated the charts for way too long, for one big reason: Thicke’s accompanying music video broke barriers for the amount of blatant flat-out nudity appearing in a mainstream release, enough to get the video banned from YouTube. The song itself has almost no substance at all—it’s two chords, no melody line, and lyrics that are demeaning to women—and it absolutely did not deserve to be a chart topper. All it did was prove that all you have to do to get a hit record these days is make a music video with a bunch of boobs in it.
1. Miley Cyrus
This one’s a no-brainer. In fact, it’s a brain-cell killer. Miley’s whole claim to fame this year had nothing to do with her music. All she did was shake her ass (in a very unflattering manner) and defile a foam finger on national television, in the process horrifying a slew of parents whose kids grew up on Hannah Montana. From that day to now, she’s in the news almost every day for something she said or did, most of which is not really newsworthy. (Nominated for Time’s Person of the Year? Give me a break.) No way does her album Bangerz even come close to warranting the kind of acclaim she’s achieved this year. Miley Cyrus doesn’t deserve to be famous, or rich; she simply hijacked the media to get what she wanted.
Okay, snarkiness done. My next year-end list will be of artists who truly deserved their acclaim this year.