It’s a relatively quiet week for new releases. There’s Regina Spektor’s follow-up to her breakout, a new album from the Mars Volta and the latest from Pete Yorn. But today also sees the release of A Casual Affair: The Best of Tonic.
This begs the question: Huh?
For anybody who didn’t come of age in the Clinton years, Tonic had a big radio hit in 1996 with a tune called “If You Could Only See.” After that, they basically fell off the map (save for a few appearances on various soundtracks to the “American Pie” movies). The set contains that single plus a bunch of other songs that never quite got there. Even if you allow that “You Wanted More” and “Open Up Your Eyes” were “hits,” that’s still only three tunes on a 15-track album. Three songs is an EP, not a $15 album.
But this isn’t the most egregious example of a greatest-hits album given to an undeserving artist. What are the 10 that top it? Glad you asked! Check out the most inessential greatest-hits albums of all time, and enjoy the accompanying video playlist — chock full of useless goodness!
Painting the Corners: The Best of Fastball
Actual Band Hits: One definite (“The Way”), two or three depending on whether you think “Fire Escape” and “Out of my Head” were big enough.
Analysis: Here’s an unfortunate case, as Fastball are actually a great band. But outside of their debut album (which spawned the three songs mentioned above), they never had much of an impact. Plus, Painting the Corners only covers two studio albums.
The Best of Blind Melon
Actual Band Hits: One (“No Rain”)
Anlysis: Blind Melon certainly had potential as a band, as their follow-up album to the mega-hit “No Rain” remains underrated to this day. But the death of singer Shannon Hoon derailed whatever momentum they might have gotten by soldiering on.
Sweet Ride: The Best of Belly
Actual Band Hits: One (“Feed the Tree”)
Analysis: Strike One: Even Belly’s one hit (the semi-ubiquitous “Feed the Tree”) is a bit of a stretch. Strike Two: The band only released two proper albums. Strike Three: Sweet Ride doesn’t even contain the original version of the hit — “Feed the Tree” is a remix.
Ultimate L.A. Guns
Actual Band Hits: One (“Ballad of Jayne”)
Analysis: L.A. Guns have had stumbling blocks from the start, as they barely recovered from the exit of singer Axl Rose. They only really had one hit, and today there are actually two different versions of the band that tours (one featuring founding guitarist Tracii Guns, the other with the rest of the guys in the band). Their handful of “greatest hits” albums are full of filler, but this particular compilation doesn’t contain a single original version of any of the songs — they were all re-recorded.
Enuff Z’Nuff: Greatest Hits
Actual Band Hits: One (“New Thing”)
Analysis: Not only does Enuff Z’Nuff have one of the sillier band names in rock history, but they also had only a minor hit.
The Best of Mandy Moore
Actual Artist Hits: Two, possibly three (“Candy,” “I Wanna Be With You” and “So Real”)
Analysis: Like several of the artists on this list, Moore’s hits album was an attempted cash-in by a label she was exiting. It contains material from three albums, but half the songs are from her covers record. To top it all off, Moore has disowned the period of her career this album covers, making it not only inessential but also upsetting to the artist.
20th Century Masters: The Best of Alien Ant Farm
Actual Band Hits: One (“Smooth Criminal”)
Analysis: Not only is this 10 songs surrounding a single hit, but that one hit was a novelty cover.
The Best of Vanilla Ice
Actual Artist Hits: One (“Ice Ice Baby”)
Analysis: “Ice Ice Baby” is one of the greatest one-hit wonders of all time, but it’s hard to justify the nine other songs surrounding it on this compilation. “Ninja Rap,” Ice’s contribution to “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze,” is a hilarious historical footnote but is never anything you’d want on your iPod.
Come Get It: The Very Best of Aaron Carter
Actual Artist Hits: Two (“Crush on You,” “Bounce”)
Analysis: Obviously it’s hard to blame Carter for any of this, but it remains a confounding release — mostly because it omits “Crush on You,” probably his biggest worldwide hit. Plus, this is one of three hits albums under Carter’s name, which is fine for Billy Joel but less so for a guy who only made four albums of new material.
Mambo Mambo: The Best of Lou Bega
Actual Artist Hits: One (“Mambo No. 5″)
Analysis: Of any of the artists mentioned on this list, Bega probably had the most gigantic hit. But his greatest-hits compilation also is the most inessential, as none of the other nine songs on the album came even close to being hits. Plus, all the other songs kind of sound like “Mambo No. 5,” which gives the whole album the feel of one 45-minute mambo single.