For every critical favorite like Radiohead and Arcade Fire, there are dozens of bands that feel the wrath of the music scribe. But the critic's word has always been far from making or breaking an act. These 20 albums defied all critical wonkery and went on to become platinum best-sellers. Click through to see what records made our list.
It's hard to believe, but when Black Sabbath's self-titled debut album arrived in 1970, not everyone gave the metal overlords an enthusiastic welcome. In his Rolling Stone review, Lester Bangs said "the whole album is a shuck — despite the murky songtitles and some inane lyrics that sound like Vanilla Fudge paying doggerel tribute to Aleister Crowley, the album has nothing to do with spiritualism, the occult, or anything much except stiff recitations of Cream clichés that sound like the musicians learned them out of a book, grinding on and on with dogged persistence." Still, Satan prevailed and a genre was launched.
It's easy to see why an album called Bat Out of Hell by a musician named Meat Loaf would be greeted with less than open arms: It's an album called Bat Out of Hell by a musician named Meat Loaf. Rolling Stone said his phrasing is "way too stage-struck to make the album's pretensions to comic-book street life real. He needs a little less West Side Story and a little more Bruce Springsteen." The Loaf got the last laugh: the record has sold over 43 million worldwide.
The smooth-rock stylings of Kenny Loggins were not exactly a hit with the early tastemakers. The Rolling Stone review was particularly harsh: "Nightwatch represents corporate/blockbuster rock at its most congenial," the reviewer wrote. "This doesn't mean it's a great album, but that it's an impressively homogenized aural artifact: the product of shrewd matchmaking between artist and producer." The above duet with Stevie Nicks was enough to make this cheese-jam a megahit.
British prog-rock band Asia's self-titled 1982 debut was described by longtime critic Robert Christgau as "just pompous. [It's] schlock in the grand manner, with synthesizers John Williams would love. And after listening to two lyrics about why they like their girlfriends, three about 'surviving' and four about why they don't like their girlfriends, I'm ready for brain salad surgery." Yikes. It did go on to be the best-selling U.S. album that year and has since become platinum four times over.
Starship's Knee Deep in the Hoopla yielded the smash-single "We Built This City," which over the years has become the poster-child for Worst Song of All Time. But in 1985, people loved it! The album went platinum and also yielded the shlocky (but also popular!) single "Sara."
Grunge mania swept the world in the early '90s, but not every band was beloved like Nirvana and Pearl Jam. Seattle group Candlebox struck radio gold with "Far Behind" but the record was seen as poser grunge. SPIN recently characterized the Candlebox movement as "safe, wrinkle-free, artificially sweetened classic-rock stand-in." Ouch. But C-box did win with a platinum-selling album.
They were riding high after their "Mr. Jones"-yielding album August and Everything After, but Recover the Satellites wasn't received with open arms. Writing at Entertainment Weekly, Ken Tucker said, "What we have here, ultimately, is a sophomore effort in which more of the same bumps into just not enough. To use Duritz's own terminology, his band's oysters are fresh, but there aren't many pearls." It didn't matter—the album was certified double platinum less than a year after it was released.
There's Green Day, there's Blink-182, and then there's Weezer, the coolest power pop-punk band to ever exist. The beloved Pinkerton is their best and it's now canonized within the genre. But when it first came out, critics hated the album, Rolling Stone dubbing it "juvenile" and "aimless." Even Rivers hates it now! Still, they've cleaned up with platinum sales.
Savage Garden were an '80s synth-pop throwback band that struck gold with their self-titled debut album in 1997. But not everyone fell in love. Robert Christgau described the album as "twisted tuneful love songs for fruity electronic baritone and jaded late-teen females." It went on to sell 7 million copies, but it was all downhill from there—the band only released one more album, 1999's Affirmation.
Aerosmith albums are typically beloved, but 1998's Nine Lives wasn't so. AllMusic, which typically loves everything, described the record as sounding "calculated" and recorded by a band "trying to sound like Aerosmith." Steven Tyler and co. managed to toss their sweet emotions aside and crank out over 2 million in sales.
Live's third album, Secret Samadhi, was the follow-up to their massive hit Throwing Copper, which probably helped project it into mega-sales territory. Entertainment Weekly only gave it a C+, declaring "the group's reach so clearly exceeds its grasp." By 1999 it had yielded four singles and sold over 2 million copies.
It's hard to imagine this record would do well critically: It opens with a song called "I Hope You Die" and is best known for the chorus, "You and me baby ain't nothin' but mammals / So let's do it like they do on the Discovery Channel." Hard to imagine because, well, it didn't. AllMusic wrote the backhanded compliment, "On one hand, it's easy to hate the Bloodhound Gang. On the other hand, you almost have to admire the lengths that they go to be, well, defiantly stupid." The record peaked at No. 14 on the Billboard charts and has sold over four million copies.
While the majority of The Gift of Game is pretty unremarkable, the album’s single “Butterfly” hit No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 2001, giving hope to people with tramp stamp tattoos everywhere. Although it sold 2.5 million worldwide, NME raged, "If crimes against music ever become an imprisonable offense, they'd better hope they look good in stripes."
The follow up to Creed’s My Own Prison, Human Clay, includes the band’s most famous tracks, the massive “Higher” and the anthemic “With Arms Wide Open.” The record has gone ELEVEN TIMES PLATINUM and remains one of the best-selling albums in the United States. That doesn’t mean everyone was into it: Entertainment Weekly called the album “lunkheaded kegger rock sculpted from tiresome grunge riffs and aggressive discharge.” Ouch!
Other than being the greatest album title of all time, ever, Limp Bizkit's third album, Chocolate Starfish and the Hot Dog Flavored Water, sold over a million copies in its first week. The record is even featured in the book "1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die." But the sheer ridiculousness of the album left a bad taste in the mouths of critics everywhere, who obviously missed the brilliance of "Rollin' (Urban Assault Vehicle)."
Everyone's favorite band to hate, Canada's Nickelback, make a lot of money. Like, a lot. Their third studio album, Silver Side Up, sold 10 million copies. Critics might not have been into the post-grunge movement of the early '00s, but this is how they remind you everyone else really was.
In 2006, Las Vegas New Wave revivalists The Killers released Sam's Town, their sophomore effort. The record followed their critically-acclaimed debut Hot Fuss, but found them completely changing their craft, becoming some weird Americana-themed, David Bowie-Bruce Springsteen hybrid. The New York Times even called the record "painful." That didn't seem to affect Killers fans: the record has sold over five million copies.
Following the success of their first two albums Hybrid Theory and Meteora, rap rock legends Linkin Park released Minutes to Midnight, which was unsurprisingly maligned by writers. NME referred to the album as "the sound of a band trying and failing to forge a new identity." They specifically hated "Hands Held High," calling it "an asinine anti-Bush diatribe on which multimillionaire Mike Shinoda seethes that folk can’t afford gas no more." The album debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard charts and has gone double platinum so, you know, whateverrrrr NME.
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