Today we’re taking a look at some of those albums that were initially slated by critics and ignored by fans, but went on to see great success. First off is Wu-Tang Clan – ‘Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)’ (1993). Many critics claimed that this album would disappoint people and wouldn’t even reach the Billboard charts. Today, it is now one of the most highly-regarded albums in hip hop.
Weezer – ‘Pinkerton’ (1996) Rolling Stone’s Rob O’Connor called the songwriting “juvenile” and its readers voted ‘Pinkerton’ the second worst album of 1996 but time has told a different story and it’s acknowledged now as a key album in the development of emo, for better or worse.
Sex Pistols – ‘Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols’ (1977) The album was initially met with a great deal of controversy, largely due to the “obscene” title and lyrics, and what people believed to be a direct personal attack on Queen Elizabeth II and her fading empire. It was ranked the 13th greatest album of all time in NME in 1985, moving up to 3rd greatest in 1993.
The Rolling Stones – ‘Exile On Main St.’ (1972) Although commercially successful, critics called the album “ragged” and “impenetrable.” But today, it’s considered by many to be one of the greatest albums of all time and just enjoyed a celebrated re-release.
Led Zeppelin – ‘Led Zeppelin’ (1968) The album did well commercially, but it generally received poor reviews from critics. John Paul Jones later said: “We had appalling press at the time. Nobody seemed to want to know us for one reason or another…We couldn’t understand why or what we’d done to them. After that we were very wary of the press.”
Spice Girls – ‘Spice’ (1996) The album received mixed reviews. Rolling Stone called them “another bubblegum pop group” that “offer a watered-down mix of hip-hop and cheesy pop balladry.” The magazine also said: “the girls don’t get bogged down by anything deeper than mugging for promo shots and giving out tips on getting boys in bed.”
Black Sabbath – ‘Paranoid’ (1970) ‘Paranoid’ received some pretty harsh reviews. The band were called “bubblegum Satanists” and one critic called the album “camp, like a horror movie.”
Red Hot Chili Peppers – ‘Red Hot Chili Peppers’ (1984) RHCP received a bunch of negative reviews for this release, and it was considered at the time to be both a critical and commercial failure. Allmusic.com gave the album a 2.5/5, saying “their first effort didn’t quite gel into a cohesive album.”
The Ramones – ‘The Ramones’ (1976) While the album received a small handful of positive reviews from clued-in writers, it didn’t even crack the Billboard Top 100 Chart on its initial release.
Radiohead – ‘Pablo Honey’ (1993) Radiohead’s debut album didn’t receive particularly negative reviews, but it didn’t attract that much attention when it was first released. However, ‘Creep’, one of the band’s most successful tracks, was on this album. ‘Pablo Honey’ continues to sell steadily and has achieved platinum status.
The Velvet Underground – ‘The Velvet Underground & Nico’ (1967) Nobody wrote about this debut album upon its release and it barely scrapped into the Billboard Top 200 thanks to bad distribution and its dodgy content. Today? Regarded as one of the most seminal alternative albums of course.
No Doubt – ‘No Doubt’ (1992) No Doubt’s ska sound contrasted with the grunge music that was popular in the US at the time. The band’s debut album was a commercial failure, only selling 30,000 copies. The program director for US radio station KROQ said: “It would take an act of God for this band to get on the radio.”
Muse – ‘Showbiz’ (1999) Many critics initially dismissed this album, claiming that it sounded too much like Radiohead. However, in 2009, it was listed on MSN’s Top 20 Albums of the Last 20 Years.
Frank Zappa – ‘Freak Out!’ (1966) Frank Zappa’s debut album is now considered to be one of rock’s first concept albums. Upon its release, it only reached No. 130 on the Billboard charts, and many people thought the title referred to an LSD-trip. However, this album inspired a cult following and has been cited as an inspiration for the ‘Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band’ album by The Beatles.
Gene Clark – ‘No Other’ (1974) This album from the former Byrds songwriter initially received such bad reviews that in 1976, it was taken off shelves and was not released again for nearly 25 years, almost destroying Clark’s career.
The Stooges – ‘Raw Power’ (1973) Initial sales were weak, with the album peaking at No. 182 on Billboard’s Pop Albums Chart. Columbia dropped The Stooges’ contract, eventually leading to the band’s break up.
Madonna – ‘Hard Candy’ (2008) Another album that received mixed reviews upon its release, some critics said Madonna seemed disinterested. However, ‘Hard Candy’ debuted at No. 1 in 37 countries and became the 11th best-selling album worldwide that year, selling 3.8 million copies worldwide.
Michael Jackson – ‘Bad’ (1987) Following the massive success of ‘Thriller’, critics claimed ‘Bad’ did not live up to its predecessor. However, the album made history, becoming the first album to have five of its singles peak at No. 1 on the Billboard 100 consecutively.
The Stone Roses – ‘The Stone Roses’ (1989) Now we don’t get it wrong at NME that often, but this was a clanger. Rated 6/10 in 1989, but 17 years later in 2006 we rectified that early mistake by declaring it the greatest indie album of all time.