I think when they're just starting out, every musician dreams of making a cover album at some point down the road. We all have our favorite songs that we wish we had written and we all fantasize about singing and playing them ourselves. It's why karaoke bars exist.
Of course, everyone thinks they would do a bang-up job at their handpicked songs as well. This is, in all actuality, rarely ever the case and it's why so many of the best musicians pretty much abstain from covers altogether. You'd think karaoke bars would be enough proof that singing your favorite songs is rarely a successful endeavor when you attempt it.
Still, for better or worse, many try every year. Some are fulfilling a lifelong dream, some are honoring contractual obligations, some just want to remain in the spotlight with a quickie stopgap album, and still others just can't think of anything better to do with their studio time, especially if they're long established and well past the prime of their careers.
Regardless of the reason, the results are often less than stellar.
5. Paul McCartney, Kisses on the Bottom
What's worse than a bad cover album? A bad holiday-themed cover album. The abundance of horrible Christmas album filled with mawkish renditions of schmaltzy standards should go to show this to people, so maybe Macca thought he was being smart by circumventing that trope and doing a Valentine's Day album instead.
Not only did he turn in some of his worst love-song contributions of all time in the scarce originals contained within, but his covers of classic standards all sound like Paul performed them specifically with the intention of honoring his contract with Starbucks by handing them the most boring coffee-shop jazz-lite muzak in the world.
4. Peter Gabriel, Scratch My Back
Ideally for such a musically ambitious innovator as Peter Gabriel, a cover album would be a delightful idea where we could hear him applying his masterful touch to classics by other such luminaries, such as David Bowie, David Byrne, Paul Simon and Lou Reed. Unfortunately the only thing masterful about this one is the song selection.
Gabriel made the right choice by picking classics by the aforementioned and mixing it up with some more recently acclaimed artists such as Radiohead, the Magnetic Fields, Bon Iver, and Arcade Fire. Gabriel ruined his own album's chances at success by choosing to record with only his piano and an orchestral backing and making arrangements for the songs that make them all maudlin to the point of ridiculousness. Never have I heard a more pitifully blue album and I also struggle to think of any that are more lifeless.