The Biggest Musical Lowlights of 2016

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In a year consumed by fake news, it seems appropriate that one of music’s biggest (or most obnoxious, anyway) newsmakers was one Wheeler Walker Jr. The foulmouthed outlaw-country alter ego of comedian Ben Hoffman, Walker released his debut album Redneck Shit in February, purportedly as an R-rated antidote to airbrushed bro-country stars like Florida Georgia Line and Sam Hunt. However noble Walker’s intentions may have been, his execution misfired badly; any point Redneck Shit is trying to make is quickly submerged in an unpleasant barrage of sophomoric boob references and other misogyny, plus a rancid side of homophobia. That the music, recorded under the auspices of Grammy-winning producer Dave Cobb (Sturgill Simpson, Chris Stapleton), ranks among the grittiest country songs to come out of Nashville in recent memory only highlights what a huge missed opportunity this was. After a few shots across the bow from both sides, when the Houston Press finally caught up with Walker shortly before his show at House of Blues in June, he had a little trouble staying in character. Maybe by that point he had stopped believing his own shtick, but in any case Texas’s own Kevin Fowler did the same thing much more effectively (and hilariously) not long afterward with “Sellout Song.” CHRIS GRAY

Look, I get it. The guys in Duran Duran are pop gods — or paper gods, or whatever. And you’re offended by blasphemy against your gods, so be it. Yet when your own gods suck real bad, its okay to play the New Wave atheist card. It’s okay, too, because the '80s are way over, and getting mad about stuff like a concert review is super petty. Especially when those gods were obviously uninterested in performing, or dancing, or even cracking a smile. Singer Simon LeBon’s lackluster performance mirrored a man who looked more like he had just clocked into his soul-sucking assembly-line job than a rock star ready to twerk his tush onstage. In fact, there was no twerking or celebrating or joy unless you arrived early enough to watch openers Chic. Even gods have look like they want the role of deity, but the closest the Fab Five got was Dante’s ninth level of concert hell. And for the love of all that is holy, please play "The Reflex." KRISTY LOYE

I like Beyoncé as much as the next music fan. Back in April, Houston's own Queen Bey dropped Lemonade, an album that was chock full of anthemic choruses and thought-provoking feminism. It was fantastic. What wasn't so great, however, was watching her fans swarm social media with threatening messages to a woman they assumed to be "Becky with the good hair," following an innocuous Instagram update. We get it ladies, you like Beyoncé. But she's not your mama, and she doesn't need you to defend her. She can hold her own just fine. MATTHEW KEEVER

One way or another, the 2016 election gave way to some pretty great things (protest music) and some terrible ones (literally 54 percent of the country uncertain about what we're about to endure for the next four years). In February, Beyoncé returned with "Formation," which led to a bunch of cops and non-fans across the country telling people that they were going to boycott her concerts. This was probably your aunt, your uncle, or your close-minded "I believe in Tomi Lahren" a-hole Facebook friend who thought Beyoncé advocated for being anti-police. In truth, she's anti-police brutality, which is literally asking for human decency from your neighbors who protect and serve us. Needless to say, said boycott ended up resulting in 2016's highest-grossing tour.

The other "boycott"? Came days after the election. Vice President-elect Mike Pence decided to head to New York to see a production of Hamilton. The crowd booed him mercilessly due to his record regarding LGBT rights (and association to the President-elect). The cast welcomed him and asked that he respect their viewpoints as long as he was in office. Your Facebook friend again got their panties in a bunch over this real non-story and instead said they were boycotting Hamilton. Yes, the most successful play of the year, possibly all-time. Guess what happened the next week a "boycott" was announced? Hamilton raked in more money than any play to ever grace the Broadway stage. Lesson to your friends — a "boycott" is supposed to stop something, not encourage massive economic flocking towards it. Morons. BRANDON CALDWELL

Throughout Super Bowl 50, which was the least exciting play? Coldplay, of course. The band was an odd choice for the Big Game’s 50th halftime anniversary party. My grandparents shared 50 years together and knew to hire a rollicking conjunto band instead of a mopey balladeer at their big event. It’s supposed to be a celebration, after all; Chris Martin looked very out of place, but Houston came to the rescue in the form of Beyonce. Lady Gaga will headline Houston’s Super Bowl turn in a few weeks, and will have to clear a high bar in order to outdo the infamous Wardrobe Malfunction we hosted in 2004. Houston owns the Super Bowl in terms of halftime entertainment. Now, if only we could get the local NFL franchise to take an active role in the game. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Yes, I'm still salty. Back in June, Modest Mouse front man Isaac Brock referred to Houston as "essentially a FEMA camp" and decided not to perform "Ocean Breathes Salty" despite playing the first 30 seconds of one of the band's most popular songs. Musical blue balls much? What made their underwhelming performance all the more disappointing was my anticipation for the group, which had been on my concert bucket list for years. And what hurts the more is knowing I'll probably give the band another chance if they ever return to Houston, and I'm worried they'll just dash my hopes again. Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice... MATTHEW KEEVER

I don’t know about you, but a fun evening out after a week-long grind at the ol’ day job usually doesn’t warrant standing in the rain at the Woodlands Pavilion gate for 45 minutes and (wait for it…) watching a performer who can't remember the lyrics to his own songs. Come on, am I right? Who would want to watch a bloated Marilyn Manson stomp around onstage slurring his lyrics in hair plugs and face paint? From the amount of hate mail I received after his critiquing his August show with Slipknot...plenty of people. After filling my garden tub with said hate mail and bathing in its irrational vitriol (and copious typos), I stand by my original assessment of Manson’s subpar performance and in fact, give it one more disparaging (yet totally deserving) demerit. KRISTY LOYE

If your job was to improve the strangely beloved McDonald’s hamburger, you might be able to do so with a gourmet cheese or even some fresh lettuce, correct? The sandwich is so redundantly awful that even the smallest adjustment might result in a better product — unless all you could do was to dredge up a glob of sputum and drip it between the buns. That’s the horrifying and disappointing approach Fall Out Boy and Missy Elliott took when rebooting the Ghostbusters theme song for the 2016 movie version. Having only to one-up the worst original soundtrack song in film history, all they could do was cough up a loogie. JESSE SENDEJAS JR.

Kanye West called his latest album, The Life of Pablo, "a living, breathing, changing creative expression," updating and tweaking its tracks for months following its initial release. In truth, however, TLOP's release was just sloppy. West was rushed, likely by his colleagues at Tidal, where floundering subscriptions left the streaming service in dire need of an exclusive, and the unfinished product reflected as much. Roughly eight weeks after its original release date, West finally provided listeners with a definitive version the record, but it would have been nice if he had respected his fan base enough to delay its release rather than putting out a half-assed, incomplete mess of an album. MATTHEW KEEVER

Come inside the gates. No, leave outside the gates. Okay, it’s better, y’all come back inside. NOPE. LEAVE! NOW! Go sit in your vehicles. Wait. Y’all come back. Don’t be mad! This is for your own SAFETY. See? It’s so safe in here now. SO SAFE. Seriously. Y’all come back, no wait. There might be rain. Okay, fine, come back. Don’t you feel safe and stuff? Still mad? Here’s Slayer. Come back tomorrow. Line up nicely in little metalhead rows. Oops! It’s raining! And in Houston — who knew, right? Crazy! Y’all come on in. Oh, never mind! Just kidding. Get out. Now. Refunds later. Oh, don’t forget to buy some tickets for next year! Houston Open Air 2017! WOO HOO!! Party. KRISTY LOYE

Death has been a constant subplot of 2016. It deserved its own tagline to this unforgivably harsh year (in some aspects) like a bad sequel nobody really wanted. But no other local death may have gutted more people than that of Morrow "LA" Potts, one of the main figures in transforming Warehouse Live from just another EaDo performance hall into one of the signature hip-hop venues in the country. Stepping into Warehouse these days doesn't feel the same, and even the mural that graces its walls in LA's honor doesn't feel quite right. We could have had an entire section curtained off just to try and reflect on all we've lost in 2016. We already said goodbye to Lil' Will and Mr. 3-2 this year in tragic fashion. Losing LA just made it even worse. BRANDON CALDWELL

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