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The last time I checked, the most recent alumni from NBC's hit singing competition show The Voice to announce an upcoming album was the Swon Brothers from Season 4. It doesn't matter, though, because you have no fucking idea who the Swon Brothers are (above, dummy) unless you actually watch The Voice. And I do! That's the entire point of this entry, in fact.
See, in my opinion, The Voice is the best show of its kind that has ever aired. I legitimately enjoy watching that show because I legitimately appreciate most of the talent on that show, including the judges.
On the show, anyway.
Sure, Blake Shelton isn't my favorite, but if someone's going to break the news that you're a way shittier singer than you thought, he's at least a slightly more reliable source than Paula Abdul was.
I'm not ashamed to admit that I've watched and thoroughly enjoyed every season of The Voice. I also couldn't tell you the name of a single person who's ever won that show. Well, I know a singer named Tessanne Chin won the most recent season, but that's only because that season ended like two weeks ago and the outcome was some bullshit because Jacquie Lee deserved it way more.
Still, I'll probably forget both of their names in time as well, because without exception, no one does a goddamn thing of note after leaving The Voice. I'm not saying American Idol is batting a thousand in the winners department, but by the time their fourth season rolled around, they'd already brought us the likes of Kelly Clarkson, Jennifer Hudson, and Carrie Underwood. No matter where you stand on their work, there's at least a chance you know who they are.
By comparison, try these three names next: Javier Colon, Jermaine Paul, Danielle Bradbury. Any of them sound familiar? They probably don't, and that's why The Voice is such a perplexing show. Enough seasons have passed that, by now, it should have produced at least one borderline star, right? It hasn't, though, and I'm going to give you my best guess as to why I think that might be, stated in terms I know every fan of The Voice will understand. Here goes: Remember the offense Mike Shanahan ran when he coached the Denver Broncos to back-to-back Super Bowl wins in the late 1990s?
That's the one.
Remember how it seemed like he could just plug any running back into that system and turn him into a 1,000-yard rusher, but when the player eventually got traded to another team he always kind of sucked?
"Of course we do," said thousands of reality singing competition enthusiasts in unison just now.
It might sound strange, but I think your favorite reality singing competition show and the backfield of your favorite offshoot of Bill Walsh's legendary West Coast offense work the exact same way. The system each entity put in place is so expertly crafted that you can plug practically anyone with a minimal amount of talent into the mix and make them look like a star. Get them out of that system, though, and it all falls apart.
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I intended to avoid including any album that didn't at least have a confirmed title. Then I saw that there were rumors swirling about a new Guns N' Roses album in 2014. There isn't a lot of additional information available, but including it here isn't completely without reason. Here's the thing: If history is any indication, we'll still be talking about whether or not this album is coming out at least a decade from now.
When that day comes, I will take all sorts of smug satisfaction in being able to say, "I didn't care when that album was coming out 10 years ago before it even had a name."
I'm a huge fan of Johnny Cash. I cried the day he died. "Huge fan" probably isn't even a sufficient description. So, if you're part of that contingent of commenters who skipped everything except the words "Johnny Cash" and are now down there explaining that you stopped reading once you saw that name on a list like this one ... good. I hope it ruined your day. I hope you never come back to read the rest of this, kind of forget about it because you have a shitty day at work, and then remember it all over again when you hear "Folsom Prison Blues" on the radio during your commute home.
I obviously didn't put Johnny Cash on this list because he makes bad music. I did put him on the list because he used to make bad music, and this album is a holdover from those days.
It seems almost unthinkable now, but before Rick Rubin came along and made him cool again, the career of Johnny Cash had become a bit of a joke. The unlikely duo spent the next 10 years or so returning Johnny Cash to his rightful place in country lore.
Before that, he spent most of the 1980s making really cheesy and awful music. How awful? Awful enough that when he tried to release an intentionally terrible song in the hopes that someone at the record label would notice he was still alive, the song ended up being one of his biggest hits of the entire decade.
Did you listen to that? If not, you just missed Johnny Cash singing about having his brain transplanted into the body of a chicken. That was the defining song of that decade for him. That's how bad things were in the '80s.
It was during this low point in the career of Johnny Cash that Out Among the Stars was recorded. It was shelved after Cash was eventually dropped from his label. Neither of those facts do anything in the way of convincing me that this will be an album worth owning. Sure, it was produced by Nashville legend Billy Sherrill, the man who brought you the best goddamn George Jones song ever, among other hits ...
... but what are the chances the '80s were any better to that guy?
Even with all of that considered, this could just as easily be amazing. After all, it is Johnny Cash, and he is working with the guy who was partially responsible for the magic of "He Stopped Loving Her Today." I'm sure it's not the worst thing you'll listen to this year. If you're hoping this will be another document from the fascinating final years of his career or a lost gem from his glorious Sun Records days, don't be surprised if you come away from the experience more than a little disappointed.
Don't be too hard on Johnny Cash, though. The 1980s were a weird time for everyone, even those of us who didn't have to fight our way back from nearly being murdered by an ostrich.
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