The 50 Worst Artists in Music History
A prerequisite for inclusion into our list of the 50 worst artists in music history is notoriety. You had to be a band or singer of some renown.
That means the band you were in during your college years doesn't count. Those groups, and we're including our own college bands, were certainly worse then what follows, but since their reign of appalling music was so short, we left them off.
Also, you won't find any purveyors of one-hit wonders in our rundown. We acknowledge that those artists are unpleasant, but again, we like acts that have been around a while.
Is our list subjective? Of course, it is. Are there entries that will elicit objections? Of course, there are.
It's okay if you disagree with some of our selections. Keep reading and we guarantee you'll find several recording artists that you despise and detest.
What our list tells us about music is it doesn't always have the power to inspire. Sometimes it gives us a headache.
How Our List Works
Artists are listed alphabetically. After a brief description of why the artist is one of the worst of all-time, we list one of their successes and one of their many failures.
We listed successes to give our catalog some balance. We listed failures because we wanted to get one last dig in.
Note: This is all in good fun, so take it that way. And to show we're not so bad, check out our list of the Best Up and Coming Bands. Now, without further ado, our list:
98 Degrees is the only boy band on our list. Of all the successful boy bands, 98D are by far the worst. At least other boy bands were fun. These guys were tedious, saccharine, and extremely cheesy. Oddly enough, they formed organically. Maybe those managers and producers who assemble boy bands via try outs and interviews know what they're doing.
Major Success: Charted eight Top 40 singles.
Major Failure: Introduced the world to Nick Lachey.
Any Actors Who Cut an Album
There's a reason your acting career took off before your music career. The universe is trying to tell you something and that's stay out of the recording studio. Yes, we're talking to you Jared Leto. Listening to Thirty Seconds to Mars for thirty seconds is thirty seconds too long. Other offenders include Kevin Bacon, John Travolt, Keanu Reeves, and Bruce Willis.
Major Success: The Blues Brothers.
Major Failure: Any one of William Shatner's six albums.
Realizing that Adele made our list, aunts all over the world are throwing their Danskos at their computer screens. "It's blasphemous to deride Adele!" Sure, she can sing, and some of her songs aren't that boring. She's makes our list because of her disgusting good luck. A friend posted Adele's demo on Myspace and four months later she had a recording contract. Way to pay those dues!
Major Success: Her albums 19, 21, and 25 are pretty much owned by everyone in free world.
Major Failure: We'll let you know when she fails at something.
For about 15 minutes in the 1990s, Fiona Apple was the "it" girl. Yet, when we slowed down and really listened to her music we realized that we needed to add an "s" and "h" before the "i" and "t." Her songs are bombastic, overwrought, and pointless.
Major Success: "Criminal" won her a Grammy Award.
Major Failure: She released an album with a 90-word title.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer but without all the folksy charm.
Asia makes this list for no other reason than their album covers. As for their overproduced, soulless music, their sound is as big as the continent they're named after, but in a bad way. If you look up "self-importance" in the dictionary, you'll find a picture of ASIA. You won't know they're ASIA because the band's not on the cover of any of their albums!
Major Success: Their self-titled debut sold more than four million copies.
Major Failure: Music critics generally hate ASIA.
The Black Eyed Peas
Their music is like a trope from a bad science fiction movie. Their hooks burrow into your ear and stay there until you beam them out by listening to good music. Thank God, their songs can't lay eggs. It's amazing that one band can record so many vacuous songs. You think they'd record something of substance at least once by accident.
Major Success: They performed during halftime of Super Bowl XLV.
Major Failure: All the periods in their names (will.i.am, apl.de.ap).
The Black Keys
An alternative duo with a garage rock ethos.
On paper, The Black Keys' music is like that guy you'd think is a cool hang but about five swigs into your Heineken, you realize he's kind of an a-hole. They're great musicians and everything, but their sound is sort of like their hometown of Akron, Ohio. You don't mind that it's there, but you really don't need to check it out.
Major Success: Their album, El Camino, picked up a Grammy nomination for Album of the Year.
Major Failure: They released five albums before anyone outside of Akron cared about their music.
There are a lot of female singers who landed recording contracts because they had an average voice and above-average looks. Michael Bolton is the male equivalent of that phenomenon. He's Fabio with pipes. Bolton's songs aren't romantic. They're maudlin. He doesn't set the mood. He kills it. Bolton's voice is powerful, but it lacks finesse and nuance.
Major Success: Has sold more than 75 million records.
Major Failure: Losing a plagiarism suit to the Isley Brothers.
Is Chris Brown's music any good? Who cares. He assaulted his then-girlfriend, Rihanna. He pleaded guilty to felony assault and received five years probation. That wasn't an accident. It was a choice and it probably wasn't the first time he committed such a heinous act.
Major Success: Achieved the rare feat of having his debut single reach the top of the singles chart.
Major Failure: Hurting someone you're supposed to care about.
Contestants from Singing Competitions
Minus a few exceptions, if you competed on a televised singing competition, you're not a singer. You're a karaoke singer. There's a reason record executives go to concerts to find talent and not organize over-dramatic singing competitions.
Major Success: Kelly Clarkson, Carrie Underwood, One Direction, and Jennifer Hudson's Oscar.
Major Failure: Clay Aiken's "Invisible" is one of the creepiest songs ever recorded.
Why? Why is Coldplay so popular? You can't dance, sing along, air guitar, or bang your head to their music. Often, you can barely listen to it. Their "best" song, "Viva la Vida," has been the target of plagiarism claims from at least three artists.
Major Success: They've sold more than 90 million records and won 85 awards.
Major Failure: Their album, A Head Full of Dreams, will give you a head full of nightmares.
Creed is so hated, their fans have to enroll in the witness protection program. Scott Stapp is one of rock's most annoying frontmen. In concert, he struts around the stage, doing every cliché rock pose in the book. Creed's music is called "post-grunge." In popular music parlance, "post" is a prefix that means "ruining a great genre of music by making it as corporate and unimaginative as possible."
Major Success: Creed has sold more than 50 million albums.
Major Failure: Their original band name was "Naked Toddler."
Celine Dion is French-Canadian. That means she's snooty and nice at the same time. Her rendition of "My Heart Will Go On" would have single-handedly ruined Titanic if it hadn't already been ruined by the acting, directing, and screenwriting.
Major Success: Her shows at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas were the most successful concert residency of all-time.
Major Failure: In 1970, when she was 12, she met her manager and future husband René Angélil. They married in 1994.
Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews Band is as talented as they are tedious. They really make you rethink the fiddle. What really bugs us about DMB is their fans—they're the worst. They may look like hippies, they make eat and drink like hippies, but they shop at Eddie Bauer, drive Range Rovers, and work in cubicles. Grateful Dead fans may stink, and contribute nothing to society, but at least they're legitimate hippies.
Major Success: The band toured every year for more than two and half decades.
Major Failure: In 2004, DMB dumped 800 pounds of crap—literally crap, not 800 pounds of their CDs—onto passengers in a sightseeing boat.
Emerson, Lake & Palmer
Emerson, Lake & Palmer is a household name. They've built their entire reputation on one line: "Welcome back my friends/To the show that never ends/We're so glad you could attend/Come inside, come inside." Even ELP fans can't name the song that line comes from.
Major Success: BTW, the line is from "Karn Evil 9."
Major Failure: Any of their attempts at performing classical works (especially Pictures at an Exhibition).
Fitz and The Tantrums
For most of us, the only time we hear Fitz and The Tantrums is on television. There songs are used in a plethora of shows and commercials. While this is lucrative for them, it kills there's music. We've heard the same thirty seconds of "Handclap" a billion times. We'd still think their music is safe and derivative, but hearing an identical sample over and over again causes us to throw a tantrum.
Major Success: Adam Levine booked Fitz and The Tantrums to open for Maroon 5 after hearing them while getting a tattoo.
Major Failure: Fitz and The Tantrums released a French version of "Out of my League." Traitors!
It took a long time for Flo Rida to get his career going, but once he did, boy was it awful. In 2017, Mr. Rida purchased a juice company. That's appropriate since he squeezes other people's hits until they're nothing but a heap of flavorless pulp. Case in point, his "Right Round" ruined Dead or Alive's "You Spin Me Round (Like a Record)."
Major Success: "Low" stayed at number one for ten weeks.
Major Failure: Flo Rida has been nominated for, and lost, 49 major awards.
Florida George Line
They're not the only bro country act, but they're certainly the worst. Now, that's saying something. Their country music contains elements of pop, rock, and hip hop. Unfortunately for our ears, those elements don't add to their sound, they only detract.
Major Success: "Cruise" has been downloaded more than seven million times.
Major Failure: Telling cops they can't be backstage before their concerts, and then after, asking for an escort out of the venue.
Goo Goo Dolls
Their name is painfully bad, and their music often matches. Indeed, they did have a couple 'hits', but their mediocre ballads do little to move the soul.
Major Success: Charting
Major Failure: Their 2002 album Gitterflower
If popular music was a mall, Green Day would be Hot Topic. It's not necessarily their music that lands them on our list, it's their style (and eyeliner). Every performance, every music video, and every album cover is designed to tell you that they're punk rockers. Real punks don't have to do that.
Major Success: American Idiot was turned into a successful, and Tony Award winning, musical.
Major Failure: You need a scorecard to tell their songs apart.
Hootie & the Blowfish
Hootie & the Blowfish have a bad name, a bad sound, and a bad frontman. They took the worst parts of grunge, jam bands, and MOR bands and combined them in the worst way possible. H&TB managed to sell a boatload of albums by supplying causal music fans, who are too busy to find a decent band, with an accessible milquetoast option that's easy to listen to and completely unchallenging.
Major Success: Cracked Rear Window is the 16th bestselling album of all-time in the United States.
Major Failure: Everything else they did.
At the time of writing this article, Imagine Dragons' discography contained just three albums. Yet, those three albums propelled them into the upper atmosphere of suckitude. Their single, "Radioactive," is a milestone in the annuals of suckiness. Musicians usually need lots of time to suck as bad as they do, but Imagine Dragon is sucky beyond their years.
Major Success: They've sold ten million records and won a Grammy Award.
Major Failure: The way Dan Reynolds sings the words "lightning" and "thunder" in "Thunder" makes us want to jump into the maw of a real-life, fire-breathing dragon.
Jesus Jones' 1991 album Doubt was really good. If it was so good, why did they make our list? They made our list because their next albums were so mind-numbingly terrible, like a Ben Affleck film. How can a band make a great album like Doubt and then spend the rest of their career being terrible? We have no idea.
Major Success: Doubt went to number one in the UK.
Major Failure: Their 1993 album, Perverse, is sheer garbage, but the first album recorded completely on a computer (minus the vocals).
Insane Clown Posse
If you're afraid of clowns, we suggest you immerse yourself in the music and media of Insane Clown Posse. They're so sophomoric and ridiculous that you'll no longer be afraid of clowns, you'll be disgusted by them and embarrassed for them. Their fans are called "Juggalos" and they seem to enjoy getting sprayed by Violent J and Shaggy 2 Dope with soda called Faygo. Need we say more?
Major Success: Started their own professional wrestling promotion.
Major Failure: Violent J hitting a fan thirty times with a microphone.
Worst CD: The Wraith: Shangri-La ( 2002)
Journey is on our list because of the way they treated Steve Perry. If you disrespect one of the greatest rock singers of all-time, and turn one of America's most successful bands into a tribute act, you deserve to be on a list of crappy bands. That, and Journey can be a little white trash at times.
Major Success: Has sold more than 90 million albums worldwide.
Major Failure: Journey has had four lead singers, but Steve Perry is the only one causal fans can name.
Even the most devout progressive rock fans listen to Kansas and say, "Gee, these guys are a little cold." Kansas can make a lot sound—after all, half the population of the State of Kansas is in the band—but their music has little to no emotion. It's like Jethro Tull and Yes had a baby but instead of a baby it was a music-playing-robot. By the way, the state has a population of just under three million. The band has seven members.
Major Success: In the 1970s and 1980s, Kansas spent 200 weeks on the Billboard charts.
Major Failure: The band got a little preachy, and a little pathetic, in their 1982 album Vinyl Confessions.
Kenny G has done what few musicians have ever done. He's become the worst artist in two different genres: jazz and pop. Heck, if he dabbled in polka he'd be the worst in that genre too. Most assuredly, he's turned an entire generation off to the saxophone. This is exactly what you'd expect from a guy with an accounting degree.
Major Success: He established a world record when he held a note for 45 minutes.
Major Failure: His 1986 album, Duotones, is a cliché-ridden disc of forgettable background music.
If Le Tigre was a person at a party, they'd corner you near the potted plant that everyone's been puking in and make you listen to a 50-minute diatribe on how Big Pronoun is suppressing gender neutrality. They call their sound "electroclash." That's what bands do when they have no musical prowess. They invent a name for the rubbish they play.
Major Success: "Hot Topic" is really, really catchy.
Major Failure: "Hot Topic" gives a shout out to Yoko Ono.
If Limp Bizkit isn't the most hated band of all-time, they're definitely a big number two. But are they also one of the worst bands of all-time? Hell yes. They've managed to combine two great things, rap and heavy metal, and turn it into something that neither rap fans nor heavy metal fans can stomach.
Major Success: They've sold more than 40 million albums.
Major Failure: Limp Bizkit's performance at Woodstock '99.
It's not that Live's music is bad. It's not that Live can't put on a decent show. It's that Live is devoid of joy. They took what U2 started and sucked all the fun out of it. And U2 wasn't that fun to begin with. Also, are we the only ones who hate their name? Is it pronounced lahyv or liv?
Major Success: Live has sold more than 30 million albums.
Major Failure: Listening to Live's 1997 album Secret Samadhi will make you want to stop living.
Remember that guy in college that was always inviting co-eds into his room and serenading them on his acoustic guitar? John Mayer is that guy with a recording contract. Think about it, women swoon over "Your Body Is a Wonderland." Yet, if you were to say something like that to your wife or girlfriend, you'd get slapped in the face.
Major Success: Mayer has won seven Grammy Awards.
Major Failure: His 2010 interview with Playboy (the one in which he said, "My d**k is sort of like a white supremacist").
Richard Marx left his mark in the late 1980s. Unfortunately, his mark was medium. Marx is the musical equivalent of a shoulder shrug. From his appearance, to his stage presence, to his music, everything about this guy is middle of the road and safe. When it comes to musical Marxes, however, he's at least third behind Harpo and Groucho.
Major Success: He once played in Lionel Richie's backup band.
Major Failure: His hit song, "Right Here Waiting," is one of the worst tunes ever written.
If you can remember more ex-presidents than Barack Obama, you probably can't name one Rhianna song. Rihanna got her recording contract by basically walking into a hotel room. Her songs might be hollow but at least they're derivative.
Major Success: The fastest artist to chart 14 number one singles.
Major Failure: We know "Umbrella" was insanely successful, but if we hear it again, we're going to jab umbrellas into our ears.
Master P has an album titled MP Da Last Don. When you read something spelled in that manner you generally assume it's done on purpose. Listening to Master P's music, the incorrect spelling might not be accidental. It might be how Master P spells.
Major Success: Master P is one of the most successful figures in the hip hop industry.
Major Failure: Any song from his solo career, especially "Make 'Em Say Uhh!"
Mike & The Mechanics
You know that 1980s fashion trend of wearing a sports coat and rolling up the sleeves? Well, Mike & The Mechanics is the musical equivalent of rolled up sleeves on a sports coat. They wrote and recorded banal soft rock music typical of the corporate pablum produced in the eighties.
Major Success: "The Living Years" went to number one in 1989.
Major Failure: "Silent Running (On Dangerous Ground)" will make you violent.
Nickelback relies on a formula more than the makers of Coca Cola. They make rock music for people who want to party just enough to have fun, but not too much that they can't wake up early in the morning to get a head start on running errands. Nickleback is also the favorite band of strippers.
Major Success: They are the second most successful foreign band of the 2000s in the United States behind The Beatles.
Major Failure: Chad Kroeger.
Nine Inch Nails
If you want all the strong and independent women in a room to leave, just play some Nine Inch Nails. We acknowledge their place as the most important industrial band of all-time, but isn't that like being the best quarterback on the Cleveland Browns?
Major Success: NIN was nominated for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame during their first year of eligibility.
Major Failure: They're from Cleveland.
Paul Oakenfold is the guy you want to remix your song. He can take your piece of crap and make it palatable. In 2002, he released an album of original material. It was called Bunkka and it stunk-a. It was so bad that not even Ice Cube and Perry Farrell, both of whom worked on the album, could save it.
Major Success: Voted top DJ in the world in 1998 and 1999.
Major Failure: Bunkka
Before Danny Elfman was the twinkle in the eyes of movie fan boys, he led a band called Oingo Boingo. Music snobs call Oingo Boingo literate. Those who really listen to them call them pretentious. Oingo Boingo was nothing more than a third-rate, unpleasant, less melodic version of the far superior British band, XTC.
Major Success: "Dead Man's Party" and "Weird Science" will continue to endure as long as we keep celebrating Halloween.
Major Failure: For a while, the band was called "Boingo."
Folks, you know "a cappella" is just a euphuism for a glorified barber shop quartet, right? At any moment they can break into "Sweet Adeline." What is it with bands like Pentatonix? They always have one handsome dude, in this case Scott Hoying, and one weird looking guy, in this case Mitch Grassi.
Major Success: Their YouTube channel is one of the site's most-subscribed channels.
Major Failure: They got their start on a televised singing competition.
Armando Pérez seems like a cool, hardworking guy, but his alter ego, Pitbull, is unoriginal and uninspiring. It's like the music industry said, "We need to sell hip hop with a Latin vibe" and they picked Pitbull. Not because he's so talented, but because he fit into the suit they rented. Ever see Pitbull knock out a fan by sucker-puinching him in the jaw while singing? That tells ya something.
Major Success: He does look good in a suit.
Major Failure: His nickname is "Mr. Worldwide."
Primus frontman, Les Claypool, knows how to play the bass guitar. His band mates are no slouches either. Yet, for all the band's musical prowess, they aren't melodious. You won't be humming any of their songs. That's Primus' prime fault. Their secondary fault is trying way too hard to be weird. Les Claypool is an outstanding bass player, but the music is difficult to enjoy.
Major Success: Pork Soda peaked at number seven on the Billboard 200.
Major Failure: Their fans lovingly chant "Primus sucks!"
REO Speedwagon is the favored band among people who buy music at gas stations. Their hits, "Keep On Loving You" and "Can't Fight This Feeling," are marginal at best. What lands them on our list is their synergy of run-of-the-mill songwriting and Kevin Cronin's irritating, nasally vocals.
Major Success: Sold more than 40 million albums.
Major Failure: They named one of their albums "The Earth, a Small Man, His Dog and a Chicken."
Here's the thing about gimmicks, they should be used in support of the music, not the other way around. Slipknot's on-stage antics used to involve fighting and lighting one another on fire. Their music has also been linked to major acts of violence. They've been accused of stealing their image from a band called Mushroomhead. Really? They couldn't come up with hiding their faces and acting like idiots on their own?
Major Success: Their live shows have energy to spare.
Major Failure: They've cited Limp Bizkit as an influence.
The Spin Doctors
In the 1990s, if you didn't like grunge music, but wanted to appear like you did, you listened to The Spin Doctors and their album Pocket Full of Kryptonite. You didn't listen for long because by the time their second album dropped, everyone had spun The Spin Doctors out of their lives.
Major Success: They opened for the Rolling Stones a couple of times.
Major Failure: They've released six albums, four have failed to chart.
To be clear, we're putting Starship on our list and NOT Jefferson Airplane or Jefferson Starship. A lot of sixties artists struggled to find an audience in the eighties. No baby boomer act pandered better, or harder, than Starship. Too bad they didn't put all that energy into making better music.
Major Success: This incarnation somehow managed to keep Grace Slick around for two albums.
Major Failure: "We Built This City" is quite possibly the worst rock song ever recorded.
Toad The Wet Sprocket
Toad The Wet Sprocket gets a lot of grief over their name. We like their appellation (more on this later). Of course, their name is the least of their problems. Toad The Wet Sprocket sounds like R.E.M., if R.E.M. was from California, had no talent, and couldn't write songs.
Major Success: Their name is taken from a Monty Python sketch.
Major Failure: "All I Want" will borough itself into your brain and eat all your gray matter.
Vanilla Ice is to music what Hammer pants, leg warmers, and skinny ties are to fashion. You look at old pictures of yourself in those trends and laugh (thus our header image above!). You look back at the Vanilla Ice era and roll on the floor in laughter. Check out his movie, Cool as Ice. It's hilarious. It's not a comedy, just comically bad.
Major Success: "Ice Ice Baby" was the first hip hop single to reach the top of the Billboard Hot 100.
Major Failure: His debut album, To The Extreme, went to number one. His next five albums failed to chart.
Weezer fans something else. They wear thick-rimmed glasses, hide their hands in their sleeves, and like everything ironically. Weezer's music is relatively unmemorable, and their name sucks.
Major Success: Their debut album was certified triple platinum.
Major Failure: The song "Buddy Holly," and its video, ruined Buddy Holly, the Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Happy Days.
Somewhere between Deep Purple and Guns N' Roses, there's Whitesnake. That begs the question: do you really want to be between Deep Purple and GNR? Before fronting Whitesnake, David Coverdale was in Deep Purple. That band was never going to be mistaken for intellectuals, but they weren't dumb. Whitesnake was dumb.
Major Success: Created the cliché: "She looks like she could be in a Whitesnake video."
Major Failure: They lead rock bands in the double entendre: "Cheap an' Nasty," "Come an' Get It," "Give Me All Your Love," "Hungry for Love," "Ready an' Willing," "Slide It In," "Spit It Out," and many more.