Musicians make comebacks every year, and a lot of them are disappointing. 2013′s off to a promising start with new albums coming from Justin Timberlake and David Bowie, but the odds aren’t great that they’ll live up to the impressive myths surrounding the artists that have built in their absences. Of course you don’t need new music to make a comeback: festivals spend years and millions of dollars to coax bands out of retirement and onto their posters, even though the quality of the actual performances are usually middling at best. So prepare yourself for disappointment, reader, with this list of 10 musical giants that didn’t take enough time to dust off the cobwebs.
Michael Jackson, Invincible
The chances of the King of Pop delivering another Thriller, or even Dangerous, were not great. But the weight of his public tribulations took its toll on his craft: even without the years of insurmountable hype, Invincible would still be a dud. Matters weren’t helped any by the overstuffed “You Rock My World” video, starring a peaking Chris Tucker, a flatlining Marlon Brando, and Jackson himself, falling somewhere between.
Another pop genius that spent most of the ’90s alienating everyone, Prince got so insufferable that even Kevin Smith was repulsed. But 2004′s Musicology was called a return to form by the artist and stormed charts nationwide. Why? Might have been because every album sold contained a ticket to a show on Prince’s Musicology tour, where even the artist himself seemed to accept that no one wanted to hear what that album contained, and played only a few tracks from it.
Jay Z, Kingdom Come
I’m not sure how you’re supposed to follow up something as great as The Black Album, but Kingdom Come wasn’t the best plan of action.
Sex Pistols, any appearance post 1978
The last thing John Lydon said onstage at the last Sex Pistols gig for nearly thirty years was simply “Ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?” Turns out, he might have felt like the one who got shortchanged. Lydon and co. reunited in 1996, which some dismissed as a money grab. A funny thing, considering the Pistols were always about getting as much of it as possible. What was so off-putting was less philosophical and more universal: they were just too old to recapture the fuck-you vibrancy that made the music and the band so potent.
Happy Mondays, Uncle Dysfunctional
Shaun Ryder’s entire career defied every established convention of UK indie. Such was his luck/talent that when his band The Happy Mondays ended in 1992, he reemerged with another impossibly viable pop group called Black Grape. But 2004′s Mondays reunion broke the cycle: Their album Uncle Dysfunktonal was an unredeemable disaster.
At The Drive-In 2012, Coachella performance
Renown and nostalgia can have a toxic effect on criticizing a comeback performance, but this? This performance was so lethargic I’m surprised Cedric Bixler-Zavala bothered to pronounce the lyrics. At least Refused were relatively upfront about their reasons for reuniting (cash) and still put on a decent show anyway.
Dr. Dre, that one single from Detox
It’s not looking like Dr Dre will come down from his throne hewn of shoddy headphones for awhile, and I’m ok with that. Because everything he’s released from his decade-in-the-making Detox has been awful. Granted, it’s only one single, but can you name a song on the whole of 2001 that didn’t totally kill?
Critics adored the art-pop 10CC churned out during the 70s, but it wasn’t until the release of a greatest hits album post-breakup that it seemed like anyone else actually cared. But feelings were frayed, no one really liked anyone anymore, and 1992′s …Meanwhile LP became a dud in every respect.
Metallica, St. Anger
Spend just a few minutes googling this album, and it becomes clear that it’s one of the most hated albums of the new century. And that’s because Metallica fans are passionate, their fires burning with memories of Master of Puppets and Kill ‘Em All. Even for casual listeners, St. Anger is toothless when compared to the bloodied fangs of the band’s back catalogue.
Gang of Four, Mall
The post-punk pioneers decided to get synth-funky on their 1991 comeback album, and just made everyone really uncomfortable. It included a cover of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel,” which is apparently so reviled no one’s bothered to upload it to YouTube. All told, Mall was just as disappointing as The Clash’s Cut the Crap. Ok, almost as disappointing.