If there's been one unifying theme to 2008, it's that there really are no sure things. No one — not even his label — expected [content id="510062"]Lil Wayne[/content] to sell a million copies of Tha Carter III in a week. Everyone suspected Usher's Here I Stand would be a massive blockbuster. As you probably know by now, only one of those statements actually proved to be true.
So, in celebration of Thanksgiving, and to the year that was (or, more specifically, wasn't), I've written a list of the year's 10 biggest turkeys. These are albums and artists that disappointed commercially, critically or — more often than not — both. Misfires. Miscalculations. Missteps from the usually surefooted. In the following weeks, I'll also be writing my annual Best Songs and Albums of 2008 lists, but I figured I'd get the ugly stuff out of the way first.
Oh, and a special note — this isn't a list of actual turkeys. Because then this one would totally come in at #1. Anyway, if you're angered by what's below, feel free to drop me a line at BTTS@MTVStaff.com ... and now, let's talk turkey (wow, sorry).
10. [artist id="1165852"]Simple Plan[/artist]
Raise your hand if you're aware they released an album this year. Well, they did ... a self-titled stinker on which they attempted to reinvent themselves as a serious-minded rock outfit with broken dreams and heavy hearts (you know, despite a back catalog that includes albums called No Pads, No Helmets ... Just Balls and Still Not Getting Any ... ). The buzz was bad on this one from the very beginning, as frontman Pierre Bouvier touted several "very synthy, very beat-oriented" songs they were working on with Timbaland protégé Nate "Danjahandz" Hills. Then the album's release date got pushed back from December to February, and finally, to add insult to injury, when SP premiered the (unintentionally hilarious) album cover, fan reaction was so negative that they were forced to scrap the idea and just go with a simple black-and-white job. Not surprisingly, the album stiffed, debuting at #14 on the Billboard charts, then dropping quickly into oblivion.
9. [artist id="1841713"]The Pussycat Dolls[/artist]
A brief recap of the past 12 months in PCD Land: Lead singer Nicole Scherzinger spends the first half of the year promoting a solo album that never sees the light of day. Carmit Bachar (a.k.a. "the scary one") leaves the group in March to start a solo career. She is never heard from again. In September, PCD release Doll Domination, an album so full of Scherzinger retreads, touch-ups and water damage that it should've come with a complimentary Carfax report. Their label spends the remainder of the year hastily flinging singles from the album against the wall, hoping one will stick. Ultimately, none do, and to date, Doll Domination has sold less that 167,000 copies in the U.S. Scherzinger would finally admit that "some" of the songs on the PCD album were, in fact, intended for her failed solo album, which she promises will be out in 2009 as a companion piece to Domination. You have been warned.
8. [artist id="440"]Weezer[/artist]
There is a very good chance Rivers Cuomo has gone insane. That's about the only way to describe what happened to Weezer in 2008. From the inexplicable cover of their Red Album (on which Cuomo looks like a nerdier version of Bruno Kirby in "City Slickers") to the inexplicable video for "Troublemaker" (in which Cuomo dresses like a Cholo and rocks a neck tattoo), it's been an annus terribilis for the rockers, who now resemble their sweater-clad glory days in name only. Barely. All those transgressions would've been forgiven, however, if Red were any good — sadly, it's not. And die-hard Weezer fans seem to agree with me. Not only have I not been able to find one person who will give the album any more than "eh, it's better than Maladroit," but it' sold only 375,000 copies to date ... a far cry from 2005's Make Believe, which moved more than 1.2 million units.
7. [artist id="1245169"]Jessica Simpson[/artist]
Simpson kicked off 2008 by cursing the Cowboys and ended it being cursed by them. In January, she drew the ire of many a 'Boys fan when she and boyfriend Tony Romo (who just so happens to also be the Cowboys' starting QB) took a trip to Mexico while the team was supposedly preparing for an upcoming playoff game against the New York Giants. The Cowboys lost, and many — including players and members of the media — mentioned the trip as the reason Romo looked less-than-sharp in the game. In July, she decided that a country-music makeover was just what she needed to revive her stalled career, and she premiered her first single, "Come on Over," on her Web site. That same month, she made an appearance at the Country Thunder USA festival in Wisconsin, where she was booed off the stage. One concertgoer summed it up best, telling "Access Hollywood": "Just because she's dating Tony Romo, it doesn't make her country. ... She doesn't fit in with country, and I'll have to drink a lot of beer to sit through her concert."
6. [artist id="1270"]Usher[/artist]
Sure, his Here I Stand album debuted at #1 and eventually went platinum, but it didn't go nine times platinum like its predecessor, the massive Confessions, did. Couple that with the lack of follow-up singles, the messy "you're fired, just kidding, you're rehired!" game he played with mom-ager Jonnetta Patton and the bizarre tirade he launched into during a May 28 appearance on "TRL," in which he ripped into fans and shattered the unintentional-comedy scale by shouting, "My wife is not 40 years old!" into the camera, and 2008 was one to forget for Ush. And let's not even get into his harebrained attempt to re-establish himself as a sex symbol with his ladies-only One Night Stand Tour — which, as it turned out, anyone could attend, though many probably didn't want to.
5. [artist id="2400155"]Danity Kane[/artist]
[artist id="1244169"]Diddy[/artist]'s girls did plenty right in 2008: Their sophomore album, Welcome to the Dollhouse, debuted at #1 on the Billboard charts in March, and the single "Damaged" made a splash both on the Hot 100 and as a digital download. But in October, things started to go really wrong. First, Aubrey O'Day — who had spent much of the past few months boasting about her breasts and posing for demure photo shoots like this one — was kicked out of the group by Diddy. He booted O'Day's BFF, D. Woods, too. Diddy has insisted that DK will continue on as a trio, which means the group now consists of three girls who could casually be described as "the plain one, the (other) blond one and the one who dates the guy in Day26."
4. [artist id="2008947"]Panic at the Disco[/artist]
Really, these guys deserved better. And believe me, they'll get it when I write my "Best Albums of 2008" column in a few weeks. But for right now, I'd be remiss if I didn't point out the colossal tanking of their Pretty. Odd. album, which debuted at #2 on the Billboard albums chart back in April but quickly disappeared from the public consciousness within a few months. Of course, all the warning signs were there: the writing sessions in a cabin, the subsequent scrapping of everything from those sessions, the dropping of the exclamation point from their name. But in the end, Panic fell victim to the same trap that befalls many a rock act with: A) a young fanbase, and B) something to prove — they changed the formula up too much, overshot just about everyone and are now crashing back to Earth. This is not to say ambition is a bad thing (it isn't) or that Pretty. Odd. isn't good (it is), but I'd be willing to bet that in five years, it'll also serve as the prime example of what happens to up-and-coming bands who get a little too big for their britches.
3. [artist id="1098"]Madonna[/artist]
As if the cover of Madge's Hard Candy album wasn't terrifying enough, consider the sentiment contained within that album: Here is Madonna, one of the 20th century's greatest icons, reduced to chasing trends and looking (and sounding) for the very first time like a 50-year-old mother of three. A blatant attempt to cash in on the "urban" market (check the collabos with Timbaland and Pharrell!), Candy doesn't have a single moment that doesn't recall a better one by Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado or even — gasp! — Britney, which made me feel rather sad for Maddy. On top of that, Candy hasn't exactly burned up the charts, selling selling just over 670K here in the U.S. Of course, all that sympathy was quickly lost when she decided to name her tour "Sticky & Sweet," wore an unending stream of Wonka-esque top hats and began taking ham-fisted potshots at politicians from the stage. And then, to top things off, she divorced her husband and (allegedly) started dating New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez, which sort of makes me wonder whether she's actually a terrible person. Had she started dating Kevin Youkilis, I would not even consider this.
2. [artist id="976"]Mariah Carey[/artist]
It's difficult to think of an album that flopped harder in 2008 than Carey's E=MC2, which, given the fact that it's currently the sixth-best-selling album of the year, is saying something about just how impossibly high the expectations were. The long-in-the-works follow-up to her career-reviving The Emancipation of Mimi, it debuted at #1 and has sold nearly 1.2 million copies to date. But the fact remains that no one seems particularly excited about it — especially not Carey, who promoted it with a ho-hum interview on "Oprah" and a downright bizarre video for the first single "Touch My Body," which featured "30 Rock" actor Jack McBrayer wailing on a fake guitar, wearing a Viking helmet and parading around with a unicorn. As a follow-up, she married actor Nick Cannon and basically disappeared from public life. Neither of the three subsequent singles from the album did much of anything, and to date, E=MC2 has sold less than one-fifth of what Emancipation did. Oh, and her big year was topped off with the announcement that her much-discussed film "Tennessee" will not open in December but rather, in February. Always a good sign.
Why? Well, here's a list of my 2008 highlights: Took countless potshots at Britney Spears. Insisted that her career was over despite mounting evidence to the contrary. Proposed that Soulja Boy Tell'em is a 21st-century Marcel Duchamp. Insulted a massive portion of Tom DeLonge and Mark Hoppus fans with a sappy column in late September. Royally pissed off tons of cougars when I suggested that David Cook was "the reason the rest of the world hates us." Offended Diddy on an episode of "FNMTV," then rather than standing up for myself, wrote a passive-aggressive column about it the following week. Drafted Brian Westbook over Adrian Peterson in not one, but two fantasy-football leagues. Spent two-thirds of the year telling anyone who would listen how much I disliked Panic at the Disco's Pretty. Odd. album, only to discover that it's actually pretty great. Made borderline racially insensitive comments in a story I wrote about Lollapalooza (prediction #6 if you aren't sure). Killed a man. Actually liked Coldplay's Viva la Vida album. Killed another man. Bought a car even though I don't really need one, thereby making my carbon footprint a carbon bootprint. Actually liked the Killers' Day & Age album. Actually really like Guns N' Roses' Chinese Democracy.
Questions? Concerns? Hit me up at BTTS@MTVStaff.com.