Let’s face it, lots of terrible stuff happened in 2018. While I could bust out a thousand words on the state of the world, politics, and my own mental health, none of that is why you’re here. No, Swim Into The Sound Un-Awards are designed for a very specific purpose: to highlight some of the year’s worst moments in music. The regrettable lyrics, the bad cover art, the poor decisions that need to be remembered if only so the feeling of shame may never be washed off these artists.
In all honesty, I don’t really like being negative. This blog is, has been, and always will be a place of positivity where I can recommend things wholeheartedly… but sometimes shit just sucks.
If you’d like a refresher on how this works, feel free to revisit last year’s Un-Awards and give yourself a reminder of something from 2017 that you have tried to block out. Alternatively, if you’d like a more positive version of this list, I’d recommend reading our Diamond Platters which act as a companion piece more in-line with this blog’s usual sincerity and positivity. If nothing else, the Diamond Platters may offer a way to get the taste out of your mouth after reading this list.
For those of you strong enough to continue, make sure your constitution is at peak performance because this list will test your mind, body, and soul. Be warned ye who enter here; this is the dregs of 2018.
You Couldn’t Pay Me To Write A Worse Headline
Look guys, I get what you’re doing, but this needs to stop somewhere. I respect The Flaming Lips for what they’ve contributed to the psychedelic genre, hell, I even respect Miley for what she’s done in pop… but this? This is too far.
Literally every sentence in this headline is worse than the last.
“You Played Yourself” Award for Biggest Dumbass of 2018
Winner: Nicki Minaj
2018 will forever be the year I lost respect for Nicki Minaj. Between lying in beefs with Cardi B, blaming Travis Scott for her poor album sales, and generally acting a fool on her radio show, she also managed to be a dick to her fans, elevate and legitimize a pedophile, remain openly-homophobic, and even ruin the life of one critic. No wonder why she can’t sell any concert tickets.
Runner-up: Tekashi 6ix9ine
Tekashi 6ix9ine is a pedophile. Let’s just get that out of the way up top. Much like xxxtentacion, this is a guy who never should have never gained a fanbase, legitimacy, or success in the first place. In fact, it’s amazing he’s made it this far without getting killed. This November the prayers of myself and every other sane hip-hop head were answered as Mr. SixNine was arrested on racketeering charges, landing him a minimum of 32-years in prison and a maximum of life. Do I think this will stop any of his more militant brain-dead fans from defending him? Not at all, but at least the guy is behind bars where he belongs. That’s what happens when you film your crimes for clout.
Words That Should Have Never Been Put To Music
Winner: Justin Timberlake - “Hers (Interlude)”
It’s pretty rare that I shudder at a song. While I slogged through Justin Timberlake’s latest mistake of an album for a quick review this February, there have been few moments more uncomfortable than my first listen of “Hers (Interlude).” With lyrics that read like the rambling diary of a serial killer, the song is comprised almost entirely of Jessica Biel monologing over an atmospheric piano-laden soundscape. As the one-minute song wears on, his wife explains how wearing JT’s flannel makes her feel powerful, almost as if she’s wearing his skin. Oof.
Runner-up: Justin Timberlake - “Sauce”
Okay Justin, I’m sorry, but I had to do this. I know you’re experimenting with new sounds on this album... but I don’t care what genre you’re writing, nobody should ever pen the words “Ooh, I love your pink, you like my purple.” wowzers.
Most Reality-Questioning Collab
Winner: Car Seat Headrest x Smash Mouth
2018 was a powerful year for collabs. From hip-hop to indie rock, it felt like every genre was blessed with an endless supply of albums that represented the meeting of musical minds… But most of those collabs made sense. Back in February indie darlings and known-meme lords Car Seat Headrest exchanged covers with Smash Mouth leading to one of the most perplexing and unlikely team-ups of all-time.
Runner-up: William Shatner and Iggy Pop
If I told you that William Shatner and the Godfather of Punk crooned out a version of “Silent Night” earlier this year, would you believe me? Maybe it’s best that you just take my word for it.
Worst Album Art
Winner: Neko Case - Hell-on
I know for a fact that Neko Case is a great artist with a strong voice and a defined artistic vision. This cover does not show that.
Runner-up: E-40 - The Gift of Gab
Oh no E-40, baby, what is you doin?
Worst “Last Call” Ripoff
Winner: Bhad Bhabie - “Bhad Bhabie Story”
Like so many stars in 2018, Bhad Bhabie initially rose to prominence through a meme. At the end of her 38-minute debut, the queen of Reality Show Rap took a moment to reflect on how she got here. It’s like a white trash version of Kanye’s Last Call, but captured in a surprisingly lucid and earnest light, especially when you consider who we’re listening to.
Runner-up: Logic - “Last Call”
As Logic is wont to do, his version of “Last Call” is both a more technical and proficient version than Bhad Bhabie’s. However, he loses creative points for calling out the fact that he’s doing “his own” Last Call in the song itself. You want it too bad, Logic.
I Know It’s Good, I Just Don’t Have The Patience For It
Winner: Daughters - You Won’t Get What You Want
Admittedly not an entirely negative category, I know there’s something exciting going on under the hood of Daughters’ fourth studio album… I just can’t bring myself to dig for it. I think I’ve started this record nearly a dozen times but then given up before it has time to do anything interesting. I guess this isn’t the introduction to “noise” that I need.
Runner-up: Anna von Hausswolff - Dead Magic
Another album I’ve heard nothing but great things about, Dead Magic is one of those records I keep scrolling by in my Spotify saved section and telling myself ‘someday.’ Opening your album with a 12-minute droney goth song is just a big ask up front. On top that, ”droney goth” is rarely a headspace I find myself wanting to linger in.
Am I The Only One Seeing This Shit?
Winner: Lil Pump’s Infatuation With His Grandmother
Last year it was 21 Savage’s obsession with food, this year it’s Lil Pump’s love for his grandmother. Penned early on in the year, Lil Pump Versus The Elderly was a then-comprehensive 3,000-word analysis of every time Lil Pump has referenced his grandmother and/or the grandmother of the listener. Quite frankly, it’s a shocking number of times for someone who (still) has such a small discography.
Runner-up: Offset’s Patek Collection
Did you guys know that Offset owns a Patek Phillipe? I know because I compiled all thirty references the Migos member has made to the watch across his storied career. I think it’s safe to say the man has purchased at least one of the high-end timepieces.
Most Regrettable Guest Feature
Winner: Lil Durk on “Off White VLONE”
Hey, Lil Durk? Of all the things to rap about (see above entry) why on earth would you choose to write about sexual assault? On the intro track to Lil Baby & Gunna’s otherwise enjoyable collaborative tape Chicago-based rapper Lil Durk decided to end his verse with the lyrics “Gotta suck dick on your period / You can't say, ‘No,’ I ain't hearin' it.” At least Lil Baby offers a somewhat redeeming ray of hope later on with a progressive line about consent on “Never Recover.”
Runner-up: Rick Ross on “What’s Free”
American Fuss Award For Most Imbalanced Album
Winner: Foxing - Nearer My God
This award, named after a clumsy portmanteau of Bleed American and Hot Fuss, goes to an album that’s half great, half not so much. I’m having a hard time trying to think of an album I wanted to like more this year than Nearer My God. All the singles were great, it was receiving incredible hype, but when I sat down to listen to it, I got mind-numbingly bored. It’s just emo, nothing more than nothing less. It’s even more frustrating because half of this album is absolutely brilliant, but the other half is comprised of some of the most depressingly gray, bland, and boring indie rock I’ve heard in a calendar year. I’m sorry.
Runner-up: Travis Scott - Astroworld
I love Tarvis Scott. He has some of the best songs in hip-hop right now, but holy god is Astroworld hit-or-miss. The album starts off strong with beat-switch bangers and a stacked guest list, but somewhere in the middle, it feels like he forgot to think of new things to say. I’ve spent thousands of words talking about how I want Trav to be better, but I guess I’ll consider Astroworld a half-step in the right direction for now.
Inevitably Going To Be The Slept-on Because It Released At The End Of The Year
Winner: Parcels - Parcels
Finally, to end on a (somewhat) positive note, I’d like to focus on two albums that were fantastic but will go largely unnoticed due to no fault of their own. Berlin-based funk group Parcels released their self-titled album this October, and it took me by complete surprise. Like a more laid-back version of Vulfpeck, the songs grove forward endlessly in the most compelling way, it’s just a shame it released by the time most major publications already had their end of the year lists ironed out.
Runner-up: Grapetooth - Grapetooth
One of Polyvinyl’s newest signees, Grapetooth is comprised of Clay Frankel and Chris Bailoni, a duo who are crafting sharp and compelling synth-based new wave. Even a cursory listen to the opening track off their debut album will offer a glimpse at the sort of shimmering Future Islands-esque tunes they’re capable of crafting, but an unknown band and a November release date are hardly a recipe for media coverage.