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Critical Dissonance / Music

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  • Classical Music and Jazz tend to be more praised by critics, intellectuals and the like for being beautiful works of artistic expression. To most plain folks, it’s just a nice tune to play in the background but not too long before they put on a pop music record again.
  • Country Music is a weird example of this, with the dissonance being within the general public. Outside of the American South, country music isn’t very popular. In fact, New York City, the largest radio market in the US, has only one country music radio station (WNSH-FM 94.7, which only came on the air in 2013note ), and it struggles in the local ratings and serves more as the flagship for Cumulus Media's Nash FM radio network than anything. Oftentimes liking country music (other than alternative groups, crossover pop artists, or legends) is seen as akin to liking NASCAR, and will get you called a hillbilly or redneck (or racist). It doesn’t help that the majority of people who listen to country music only listen to country music, thus limiting interaction with fans of other genres (other than maybe classic rock). However, simply based on numbers, country music could be considered the most popular genre of music in America. And within the genre itself...
    • The crops of country hitmakers in The New '10s were usually artists like Luke Bryan, Jason Aldean, Brantley Gilbert, and Florida Georgia Line, who are all criticized for their heavy rock influence, over-reliance on party jams, and heavily sexualized lyrics; despite this, such artists spent most of the decade's latter half dominating the sales charts. This ultimately ended up being subverted as "bro-country" overstayed its welcome, with the ensuing backlash causing most of the aforementioned artists to shift to a more ballad-focused sound without losing their momentum. It also led to a rise in more romantically inclined "boyfriend country" and a resurgence in female artists, who were marginalized in "bro-country"'s prime.
    • This video by Mark Grondin of Spectrum Pulse discusses this. Among other things, he blames this trope on the critics' end for the prevalence of Lowest Common Denominator junk within the genre, arguing that the dismissive attitudes towards country held by many highbrow critics and listeners have caused them to withdraw their voices from the cultural conversation within the genre, allowing the worst sort of Pandering to the Base to flourish and essentially reinforce all of their prejudices.
  • In the late 1970s and early 1980s, most music critics dismissed the entire Heavy Metal genre as being loud, stupid, monotone and offensive. Mainstream publications like Rolling Stone ignored metal entirely. But within a few years, Heavy Metal would become one of the biggest music genres on the planet, with metal bands selling millions of albums and filling arenas. And it’s still this way for the most part.
  • Seventies progressive rock as a genre has never really gotten much respect from mainstream rock critics, who consider it insufferably pretentious, yet bands like Yes, Jethro Tull and Emerson, Lake & Palmer were hugely popular and still have devoted followings.
  • Exotica, bubblegum pop, novelty music, easy listening music, Space Rock, Muzak are still seen as the lowest of the lowest music but did get a bit more serious interest in the 1990s.
    • Many band leaders and musicians who sold millions by merely covering popular music and playing it in easy listening arrangements have never received any artistic recognition: Lawrence Welk, Liberace, Mitch Miller, James Last, Herb Alpert, Leroy Anderson, Bert Kaempfert, Mantovani, Richard Claydermann, Ray Conniff, André Rieu, Helmut Zacharias, Hugo Montenegro, Pat Boone …
  • Music videos. For many young people, they are the major reason to like and buy a song, album or a certain artist. But most critics seldom discuss or hail the merits of these videos whom they dismiss as cheap publicity tools that detract from the actual music by focusing more on cool dance moves, fashions, hairstyles, special effects, and storylines. Sometimes inverted, such as is the case with the music video for Thriller, which gets critical acclaim for its horror allusions, but which sometimes gets dismissed by the general public for being Nightmare Fuel.

  • AJR is considered a laughingstock in most music communities, who see them as a manufactured, radio-pandering band who's indie in name only, much like the below-mentioned Imagine Dragons. Despite this, they're one of the biggest names in alternative music.
  • Anastacia, a singer who has worldwide acclaim from the music-buying publicexcept in her home country, America. American critics love her, though.
    • One explanation is that her style of music doesn’t fit the format of American radio stations. She’s considered too soulful for A/C stations, and not urban enough for urban radio stations, and not poppish enough for top 40, and not rockish enough for rock stations … Pop-Culture Isolation due to Genre Roulette. Essentially she’s in a self-made musical purgatory.
  • The alternative rap group Arrested Development’s second album was dismissed by critics but a lot of fans think it’s an overlooked masterpiece due to Hype Backlash. Fans (especially overseas fans) felt that America let an outstanding group fall through the cracks.
  • The Beatles: Nowadays the band is popular with the general public, the alternative music crowd, and the critics, but this hasn’t always been the case. Before Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band many music fans saw the group as nothing more than primitive pop music without any artistic depth. While Rubber Soul and Revolver already showed signs of more favorable interest of serious music fans Sgt. Pepper convinced everybody that they were far better and more artistically interesting than regular pop acts.
  • The Bee Gees, both within and apart from their disco period, were one of the most successful acts of The '70s, but were constantly slammed by critics, especially after they fell out of style. They gained more respect towards the end of their career, even getting into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1997.
  • Behemoth’s album The Satanist may be their most critically acclaimed album to date by critics, but it's highly divisive among fans for its more accessible, symphonic sound.
  • Beyoncé's song "Countdown" falls into this trope. While critics praised it, it only peaked at #71 on the Billboard charts.
  • Billy Joel may be the Trope Codifier. Throughout his career, he has received mostly unfavorable or mediocre reviews from several critics. Try telling that to the fans who bought all of his multiple Gold and Platinum records.
  • “Achy Breaky Heart” by Billy Ray Cyrus was one of the most hated songs of all time in any genre, but the album was one of the top-selling of all time. It was also one of the only country songs to break through to mainstream pop in the early 1990s before the below-mentioned Shania Twain. Adding insult to injury was the fact that the song was a Cover Version, and a Black Sheep Hit that didn’t well represent Cyrus’ style or body of work. And much of his success was in the country charts; “ABH” was his only true pop crossover hit.
  • The B-52s have an adoring and devoted fanbase who rarely have much to criticise about them. Critics on the other hand frequently give their albums middling reviews and overuse words like ‘kitsch’ and ‘campy’ that indicate they don’t really like the band. Rolling Stone’s praising of their debut album in their top 500 did help turn things around somewhat.
  • Black Eyed Peas are frequently panned by critics and a frequent target of parody and satire (especially their song "My Humps"). That doesn’t seem to affect either the buying public (they spent an unprecedented 26 straight weeks holding the number one and two top charting singles in mid-2009) or Grammy voters (six wins out of 16 nominations).
    • Weirdly, before Elephunk, their situation was actually reversed. For their first two albums, they were known as a critically acclaimed Alternative Hip Hop trio that sold very few albums. Then came Fergie … bringing Unfortunate Implications.
    • Nonetheless, the Hype Backlash from their terrible Super Bowl performance effectively destroyed their popularity and ended their career; in a period of six months, they went from being one of the biggest bands in America to fighting off rumors that they are breaking up.
  • Black Veil Brides receive far, far more respect from critics than their frequent derision will lead you to believe. Most serious music fans (especially metal fans) view their music as a mediocre and uninspired Guilty Pleasure at best and an abomination to music at worst. That being said, their albums receive good reviews (save for their debut, which even the critics didn’t like that much), they have a large fandom worldwide and are one of the biggest new bands in the metal scene as well as the most popular band in the Hair Metal revival movement.
  • Blake Shelton: Some country music fans feel that the quality of his music went downhill since at least his 2010 album Hillbilly Bone. His first three albums had traditional-leaning country that won him critical acclaim but produced hit-and-miss results on the charts; Pure BS and Startin’ Fires were an awkwardly mediocre transitory period; and Hillbilly Bone onward has found him taking on a more ‘modern’ sound that has rendered him a golden boy on the airplay charts (including a white-hot streak of fifteen straight number-one hits), but at the cost of critical derision for his more generic style.
  • Brad Paisley. His albums still get high praise from critics, even those who starkly avoid the Four Point Scale (such as Slant and Allmusic). However, a glance at any country music forum will find that many think he has been extremely complacent and lacking the creativity of his earlier albums — main criticisms include severe Vocal Decay, failed attempts at humor, cliché ballads and unremarkable guitar work. This may be finally catching up to him, as his late-2011 single “Camouflage” was widely panned and is his first chart entry in 12 years to miss the top 10. He listened to the criticism, as his 2013 album Wheelhouse found him ditching long-time producer Frank Rogers in favor of self-production, leading to a highly varied sound that critics are split between calling great and adventurous, or overstuffed and pretentious. But those on either side agree that the LL Cool J duet “Accidental Racist” was a huge misstep.
  • Bring Me the Horizon has gotten considerable praise from critics and metal musicians alike. Even Rob Halford has praised them. However, the mere mention of their name is enough to get them mocked by metal fans.
  • Karen and Richard Carpenter were quite popular with listeners in their heyday of the '60s and '70s, and received three Grammies, but they were widely loathed by critics for their conservative, Middle American image, which bordered on the Uncanny Valley (needless to say, Contractual Purity was involved). Karen Carpenter's death at 32 from complications related to anorexia nervosa both shed some much-needed light on the disease and helped rehabilitate their critical image; nowadays, they've been Vindicated by History.
  • Captain Beefheart: Praised as a genius and an innovator by critics and artists, but seen as an obscure noisemaker to most other people. He is extraordinarily influential to many Alternative Rock artists, despite still being unpopular with regular music fans.
  • Chance the Rapper's The Big Day recieved solid reviews upon release, with the AV Club in particular giving it an A rating, but was completely trashed by most fans and casual listeners for its overly long length (22 tracks that clock in at 77 minutes), generally poor lyricism, the Tastes Like Diabetes tone, and aimless structure. The backlash got to the extent that one of the few critics who outright trashed the album, the notoriously contentious Anthony Fantano, gave the album a zero out of ten note  and had it be one of his most popular reviews.
  • Cher Lloyd’s debut single, “Swagger Jagger.” Nobody’s quite sure what it means, the song was critically panned, but shot straight to number one upon release.
  • Weirdly, Childish Gambino has gone through both types of this. At the beginning of his career, critics generally liked him while the musical community considered him a joke rapper for people who didn’t really take hip-hop seriously. He was even considered by some to be “hip hop for white people” (despite himself being black). His second album was the reverse — because the Internet was the subject of huge excitement following its release, but was received with a shrug by critics. Awaken, My Love seems to have both critics and audiences in agreement of its quality.
  • Downplayed: Deadmau5’s *album title goes here* got even two stars by some reviews. It is one of his best-selling albums.
  • Alternative rap group Digable Planets Sophomore album Blowout Comb received massive praise and was considered far beyond their debut. But the album more or less bombed when released. Some music critics believe that the Afrocentric militant tone of the second album made it less accessible and off-putting to white listeners, which was believed to be the primary listeners of their first album.
  • Dirty Vegas’ sophomore album, One, was outright slammed by critics. It became however greatly popular amongst the fans, and spawned some of their better-known hits barring “Days Go By” (that comes from their self-titled debut album), such as “Human Love” and “Walk into the Sun.” Hell, one song from this album, “A Million Ways,” appears in Project Gotham Racing 3. Their first post-breakup album, Electric Love, received an overall enthusiastic reception in the other hand.
  • A lot of Eazy-E’s solo work (sans EP It’s on 187um Killa, and debut album Eazy-Duz-It) is hated by critics and is usually criticized for being cartoonishly violent, especially the 51/50 album. But the fans consider 51/50 genuinely good.
  • Indie rock band Edie Brickell & the New Bohemians’ first two albums were extensively praised by critics. Nonetheless, they never became more than a one-hit wonder with their 1988 single “What I Am.”
    • A couple of years after they faded into obscurity, frontwoman Brickell married Paul Simon.
  • The Faceless got hit with this hard with Autotheism. Critics tended to enjoy it and saw it as a bold step forward for the band, while fans saw it as a bunch of pretentious nonsense with a really stupid concept and uninspired music that largely just ripped off Keene’s influences. Given that the band has started to shy away from playing more than a few songs off of it live, it would seem that the message has reached Keene as well.
  • Dionne Farris’ debut album, Wild Seed - Wild Flower, received rave reviews but measly sales, and produced her only hit, “I Know.”
  • Within Fleetwood Mac, Lindsey Buckingham has always (justifiably, because of his skill and innovation) been something of a critics’ darling but never has had any really big-selling solo albums, whereas Stevie Nicks, particularly in the 1980s, regularly took a pasting from rock critics while amassing a huge fan following as a solo artist. (Over the past decade or so, though, critics have taken a more positive view of Nicks; this may partly be due to the number of new-generation artists who cite her as a favorite or an influence.)
  • Grand Funk Railroad could effectively be described as the Nickelback (see below) of The '70s. The gulf between critics and listeners was so vast, it’s even mentioned in the opening paragraph of their Wikipedia page. As explained in this article, much of both the critics’ unbridled hate for GFR and the public’s love of them had to do with how they were playing simple, energetic, populist roots-rock with straightforward lyrics in an era where rock bands with elaborate instrumentation and multilayered lyrical themes — i.e. the sort of music that ‘down home’ rock fans tend to view as pretentious, nerdy, and hard to 'rock out' to — were critical darlings. Ironically, however, their very last album before their breakup, Good Singin', Good Playin' in 1976note , was done in collaboration with none other than Frank Zappa (see below). note 
  • Hanson: To the critics, they took everything wrong with bubblegum pop and got rid of it in favor of imaginative lyrics, great melodies and excellent production work (case in point, their Signature Song "MMMBop" was voted the best single of the year in The Village Voice's Pazz & Jop critics poll). To audiences, they were evil monsters who dared to steal radio airtime from the Alternative Nation's beloved bands.
  • Hootie & the Blowfish released three platinum-selling albums in The '90s, with their 1994 debut Cracked Rear View going 21× platinum and becoming one of the biggest albums of the decade. At the same time, however, they were a near-constant whipping boy for Alternative Rock fans, critics, and musicians alike. Their brand of folksy, down-home roots rock was seen as mushy pablum meant to serve as the soundtrack to pubs and frat houses, a symbol of the record labels reasserting their dominance and snuffing out the alternative revolution after Kurt Cobain's death and the ensuing collapse of grunge — a strange assessment, given that, at the time, nobody wanted to sign them given that their music was so far outside what had become the rock mainstream. Admitting to being a Hootie fan was a good way to get exiled from critical circles in the age of the Alternative Nation, and by the end of the decade, the critics' opinion had trickled down to the average listeners, with "Hootie Sucks" shirts becoming a common sight. This article by Jon Caramanica for The New York Times goes into detail on the hate they received at the time and how critics missed some of the genuine radicalism in their lyrics, noting that "in the 1990s, when subculture was brand, Hootie's evident (but misleading) plainness was a team no one wanted to bat for." Lead singer Darius Rucker ended up subverting the backlash by becoming a commercially successful Country Music singer in The New '10s.
  • HURT is a modern rock band that critics generally love, and their Vol. II album is considered one of the very best albums of rock period by critics and fans. They have a devoted fanbase and sell well enough to keep making music, but they are widely obscure to the general public, so much so that they aren't known well even amongst the Internet.
  • Iggy Azalea was one of the biggest rappers of 2014, scoring two massive hits in "Fancy" and "Black Widow", and broke the glass ceiling for white female rappers. However, she was despised by hardcore rap and music fans due to being another watered-down pop rapper and trying to be black. Critics were "eh" on her. That being said, when the media started talking about this, much of the general public turned on her, and her popularity fell at a speed not seen since Milli Vanilli.
  • Imagine Dragons.
    • On the whole, critics and music nerds regularly use them as a symbol of everything wrong with indie rock in the 2010s, describing them as the soundtrack to car commercials and blaming them for leading indie rock as a whole down a similar, sanitized mainstream path. Corey Taylor went so far as to unfavorably compare them to Nickelback, saying that they had displaced that band as the leading punching bag within the rock world. And yet, like Nickelback in the 2000s, they're also one of the biggest rock bands of the '10s, their albums Night Visions, Smoke + Mirrors, and Evolve having all gone at least platinum.
    • A microcosm also exists within the band's discography. Their first three albums were critically lukewarm, despite adoration from fans, while their fourth album was better-received by critics, but sometimes seen as a step down by fans.
  • Janet Jackson’s Damita Jo album: Fans think it could have done well, while critics bashed it post-Super Bowl controversy.
  • Janelle Monáe gets rave reviews from critics but the general public knows nothing about her. Her albums have all mostly been Hitless Hit Albums.
  • Jewel, even during her heyday in the mid-late ’90s, generally garnered lukewarm reviews from professional critics, with many deeming her music naïve and overly simple. Yet that didn’t stop her debut album Pieces of You from reaching Diamond certification in the U.S. (and, later, being listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the “Definitive 200”). Her 1998 album Spirit also went on to achieve Triple Platinum status, despite an equally unenthusiastic critical reaction, and is seen as a defining pop album of the late ’90s.
  • Although Johann Sebastian Bach was esteemed as a performer, his music was considered, in its day, to be old-fashioned and not of much interest, with Bach’s sons Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach and Johann Christian Bach being much more highly regarded as composers. Today, J.S. Bach is considered one of the greatest (if not the greatest) composer of all time, and while his sons’ music is still played it’s definitely not considered to be in the same league.
  • Unsurprisingly, The Jonas Brothers. Boyband first, ‘legitimate musicians’ second to critics, while their fanbase (even non-teenyboppers) love them. (Notable exception being their New Sound Album Lines, Vines and Trying Times, but even the critics hated that one.)
  • Justin Bieber has had some favorable reviews by critics and has a large fanbase, but to say he’s unpopular on the Internet, in general, is a massive understatement. In fact, some tried actively to destroy his career (as opposed to simply ignoring him) — hence the "free pass" that One Direction got for potentially being the savior the people needed from him. By 2013, even the mainstream media was against him after he Took a Level in Jerkass. While he regained his popularity by 2015, his reputation on the internet was still as abysmal as ever.
  • Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, got rave reviews from critics, and while it was a hit, it was still far from the smashes that the likes of Lil Wayne and Drake had. He ultimately escaped this with his next album To Pimp a Butterfly, which firmly established him as a top-tier act (plus it got even better reviews than its predecessor).
  • Kidz Bop is very popular with, well, kids, but critical opinion of the franchise has been pretty negative — and that's not even going into how badly casual music fans think of them.
  • King's X are regularly named as one of the best rock groups of the ’90s and have a very strong fanbase of seemingly just a few hundred people.
  • For both Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath, their first few albums were critically panned originally (though in both cases most critics retroactively praised their early stuff).
    • This is actually true of many of the acts made popular in the 1970s. The albums and concerts of Queen, Journey, Paul McCartney and Wings, Elton John (at least after he wore outrageous costumes), and a lot of the Arena Rock and Progressive Rock supergroups had poor (or only grudgingly favorable) reviews, but sold millions, while critical darlings such as The Velvet Underground were largely ignored by the record-buying public. This may have connections to professional jealousy, changes in style, burnout, hang-ups with keeping up with the next big thing (punk, bar bands, synth-pop, new wave, indie rock) or perhaps it needed to be Vindicated by History. Granted, some records may have simply been substandard, but often the bad reviews came regardless of the quality of their work. The phenomenon was lampshaded in a 1971 Rolling Stone column by Lester Bangs:
      “Three or four years ago, rock reviewing was less problematic than it is today. For one thing, you knew what to write about. The Byrds, the Animals, the Dead, the Airplane, and Beach Boys were fit subjects for comment; Gerry and the Pacemakers, Dave Clark and Freddie and the Dreamers were not. The Beatles, the Stones, and Dylan were the first inductees to rock’s (as opposed to rock and roll’s) pantheon; after that, everyone bowed in the direction of San Francisco and underground British groups until the appearance of Led Zeppelin.

      “Zeppelin forced a revival of the distinction between popularity and quality. As long as the bands most admired aesthetically were also the bands most successful commercially (Cream, for instance) the distinction was irrelevant. But Zeppelin’s enormous commercial success, in spite of critical opposition, revealed the deep division in what was once thought to be a homogeneous audience.

      “That division has now evolved into a clearly defined mass taste and a clearly defined elitist taste. Critics may write pages and pages about elitist favorite Captain Beefheart, but it was sons of Grand Funk — namely Black Sabbath — who was the first new band in months to sell out the Fillmore East in advance […] Critics write paeans to Van Morrison and New Morning, but these days it is Stephen Stills who sells the records — in far greater quantity (on a per album basis) than Dylan and Morrison.”
  • The Levellers’ album Hello Pig was regarded by many critics to be the band’s breakthrough that was going to catapult them to the mainstream, deviating from their formula. Of course, the fans hated it.
  • Limp Bizkit was absolutely hated by critics for a long time, but their albums all sold like gangbusters, even their most negatively reviewed album Results May Vary managed to go platinum. Though once the band released their comeback album Golden Cobra both fans and critics alike seemed to enjoy it.
  • Linkin Park’s Minutes to Midnight, with a new sound resembling generic alt- and arena rock rather than nu-metal, got generally positive reviews (including a rare four stars from Rolling Stone) but was trashed by the band's fanbase. 2017's One More Light was even more reviled by their fanbase.
  • Swedish electro-soul group Little Dragon are critical darlings, but their record sales are very stagnant.
  • Experimental Black Metal band Liturgy has received much acclaim from mainstream music critics for their bizarre, avant-garde sound, but many black metal fans see them as being pretentious and unlistenable.
  • Marvin Gaye’s Here, My Dear album. It later became Vindicated by History.
  • Megadeth’s 1997 album Cryptic Writings was praised by critics, with some even calling it the band’s best album since Rust in Peace. Many fans thought that the band had taken in too many poppy influences. The 2004 Remaster restores a lot of metal elements and the album has been reappraised by many since.
  • The Metallica album St. Anger actually got pretty decent reviews from critics upon release, but you wouldn’t know it from the insane amount of criticism it got from fans. Enough that the band themselves have removed the album almost entirely from their live set list (despite this, they considered the album necessary, because working around the Creator Breakdown kept them together). Granted, the initial backlash was directed mostly at the band itself (who had mined its reputation with an overhaul that popularized them but irritated the original fans and a lawsuit on Napster) and it seems to have subsided a bit, but not nearly enough for it to be Vindicated by History.
    • St. Anger’s slim chance of ever becoming Vindicated by History has been pretty well-confirmed. Quite a few publications (both metal-focused and mainstream) ran ten-year retrospectives of the album to see if it may have been a misunderstood masterpiece. Sure enough, the overall consensus was that, in spite of the well-documented Creator Breakdown that led to it turning out the way it did, the album did not improve with age.
  • In probably the most extreme case, Michael Bolton managed to sell 50 million records worldwide despite being savaged by critics. Strangely, he still sells despite even the public’s backlash against him.
  • Michael Jackson’s first post-Thriller album, Bad, was acclaimed by critics and sold extremely well, but by the time Rolling Stone’s Readers’ Poll for 1988 was taken, there was enough of an audience backlash against Jackson that he swept the ‘Worst’ categories. Its reputation with both camps has improved with time. By comparison 1991’s Dangerous was generally liked by both critics and general audiences.
  • Milli Vanilli. Even before the lip-syncing scandal broke, they were dismissed by critics as garbage bubblegum pop. That didn't stop them from enjoying a year under the sun.
  • Like Anastacia and King’s X, Mother's Finest was a heavily critically acclaimed funk-rock band of the mid- to late ’70s. Because their music was either insufficiently rock or insufficiently funk/soul/R&B, however, they never really broke out.
  • Muse’s The 2nd Law is a strange example. While getting generally positive reviews from critics, the album was divisive among its fans: many criticized the album’s new sound, particularly criticizing the experimentation with dubstep and love ballads, even placing the album among their worst albums of 2012; but at the same time, their supporting concert tour became their highest-selling tour to date.
  • Nickelback are the kings of this trope in modern rock music, and a strange example of it going both ways. On one hand, admitting that you are a Nickelback fan on the Internet will get you told that you have no taste in music and are a part of what’s killing rock and roll. A poll by Rolling Stone named them the second worst band of the ’90s, behind only Creed, and to this day, comparing a band to Nickelback is still a tried-and-true method of calling them soulless, commercial product made with Money, Dear Boy in mind. On the other, every single album they made between Silver Side Up in 2001 and Dark Horse in 2008 went multi-platinum, so somebody out there is buying their music. You’d expect this polarizing reaction to extend to the critics … but they generally call Nickelback So Okay, It's Average, formulaic but inoffensive. This review by Spectrum Pulse of their album No Fixed Address argues that much of Nickelback’s source of hatred came not from their music (which was hardly the worst to come out of the Post-Grunge wave), but from their omnipresence on terrestrial radio during that time making their mediocrity that much more unbearable. Inversely, while their ninth album Feed the Machine got the same mediocre reviews as always, the listeners' reaction was more forgiving.
  • Nine Inch Nails’ album The Fragile was rated very high by critics (it was Rolling Stone’s album of the year when it came out), but didn’t sell all that well — it went to number one in October 1999, but then proceeded to have the largest decline in the Billboard chart’s history. Considering the band’s later success, Vindicated by History comes into play.
    • The decline from number one should have been expected, since the rabid fans had waited five years for a new album and were going to buy anything Trent put out on Day One, but the album failed to produce a hit single for the casual fans to grab onto (“Starfuckers, Inc.” came closest). And while it wasn’t a bad album, most of those songs were pretty rare to hear live after the Fragility tour, with only “The Wretched” and its instrumental lead-in, “The Frail,” becoming live staples.
  • One Direction have generally gotten mediocre reviews for all of their albums, and general audiences show little interest in their work. That didn’t stop them from becoming an enormously successful teen phenomenon and remaining nowhere near as reviled as Justin Bieber (in fact, they miraculously dodged those that chose to continue hating on Bieber. They still have one, but they instead choose to ignore them than actively work against them as they do to Bieber).
  • Opeth’s 2011 album Heritage got very positive reviews from critics, averaging a 72 on Metacritic. However, at the very least half of the fanbase doesn’t like it at all, mainly because they are afraid the band won’t make another album in their Signature Style, as frontman Mikael Akerfeldt said he was “bored with metal”.
  • Believe it or not, The Pharcyde’s debut and sophomore album got lukewarm to mixed reviews from critics. But high critical acclaim from hip-hop fans. They would later become Vindicated by History.
  • Pitbull is widely derided on the Internet and by many music fans. That hasn't stopped him from being one of the biggest rappers of the 2010s. His contemporary Flo Rida gets the same reaction.
  • Michigan-based post-grunge band Pop Evil is one of the biggest names on rock radio in the 2010s. Much like Nickelback and Grand Funk, however, they're largely seen by critics as another bland and mediocre "corporate rock" band.
  • Queen suffered from negative press in the 1970s and 1980s, even though they were hugely successful (especially in the UK) and are now considered to be one of the greatest rock bands of all time. Indeed, upon being inducted into the Rock Hall of Fame in 2001, their drummer Roger Taylor cheekily said of the honour, “It means actually more than all the Grammys we never got.”
  • Queen Latifah’s Black Reign album. Mixed reviews from critics but most hip-hoppers and hip hop publications see it as a classic Hip-Hop album that produced one of the most iconic rap songs “U.N.I.T.Y.” Some even say the song “Just Another Day.”
  • Raphael Saadiq’s solo albums have had consistent critical acclaim but was never able to cross over fully for some reason. Interestingly enough his old band, Tony! Toni! Toné!, was pretty huge in the early to mid-’90s.
  • The output of Rascal Flatts after switching to producer Dann Huff (namely the albums Me and My Gang, Still Feels Good, and Unstoppable) was generally considered mediocre to dreadful by most music critics. Main points of criticism included bombastic production, overwrought vocals, and bland lyrics. However, their streaks of Top Five country hits and multi-platinum sales were unharmed, and their first single with Huff (“What Hurts the Most”) was their most successful crossover. The group generally won back critical acclaim by returning to a less bombastic, more substantial sound after they moved to Big Machine Records following the closure of their previous label, Lyric Street. Starting with 2014’s Rewind, they finally ditched Huff entirely.
  • While the average person knows and respects Lou Reed, it’s usually more for Transformer and the Live Album Rock ’N’ Roll Animal, not his later, more experimental stuff. Nevertheless, most rock critics praise him as one of the most important innovators in his field.
  • The Residents are praised for making a New Sound Album every year, but if an ordinary music fan would listen to their records he wants to clear the room in about two minutes.
  • During the same time frame of the aforementioned Amel, and Res there was Rhian Benson. Another critical darling that was ignored by the public and mainstream radio.
  • “MacArthur Park” by Richard Harris has often been called the worst song ever by critics, but was a commercial success in 1968 and has been hailed by the public as a classic. It’s not hard to see why; the music and Harris’ beautiful singing voice more than makes up for any silly lyrics it may have.
  • Rush have rarely or never gotten good reviews, particularly in the ’70s, but their album sales have almost always been strong, and they have a hardcore, devoted following (and plenty of respect from musicians’ publications for their virtuoso playing), and a status as national heroes in their homeland … and, finally, induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! After years of being ignored (something fans didn’t take lightly).
  • Sepultura’s sixth album Roots received almost unanimously positive reviews, and proved to be one of the most influential albums in the early-2000s Nu Metal scene. Fans of the band, however, don’t like it as much.
  • Shania Twain was never a critical darling, with most critics giving her albums mediocre to negative reviews (Entertainment Weekly gave her breakthrough disc The Woman in Me an "F"). Also, many fans of mainstream country music in The '90s derided her for her slick pop- and rock-influenced sound which had little tangible country music influence (not helped by the fact that all of her material was co-written and produced by Robert John "Mutt" Lange, to whom she was married at the time). Despite this, her second through fourth albums are all certified diamond or higher by the RIAA, and her third album Come On Over is the best-selling country album of all time. In addition, she had massive pop crossovers at a time when those were rare in country music, she launched a new wave of female-driven country-pop that lasted into the early noughties, and many female country singers who broke through in the 21st century still cite her as a major influence.
  • Death Metal band Six Feet Under has been well-liked by critics since their formation, even earning critical acclaim for their album Undead, released in 2012. However, many death metal fans absolutely despise them. Most of the criticism comes from their simplistic music and Chris Barnes’ weakened vocals, but the Travis Ryan incident has led many people to believe the rumors that Barnes is an asshole. However, some haters tend to enjoy their two latest albums, the aforementioned Undead and Unborn.
  • Sonic Youth have been praised by rock critics and fans of Alternative Rock for being innovative. Many expected them to break to the mainstream when Nirvana became huge in 1991, but to this day they never left the underground or struck a chord with the general public.
  • Stone Temple Pilots, throughout The '90s, was pummeled by music critics, with the main criticism being that they were little more than a third-rate knockoff of Pearl Jam and Alice in Chains. Yet negative press didn’t stop them from becoming one of the most popular and influential rock bands of the ’90s. A perfect example of how dissonant fan and critical reaction to the band was: they were simultaneously voted “Best New Band” by Rolling Stone readers and “Worst New Band” by the same magazine’s critics in January 1994.
  • Supertramp: One of the best-selling bands of the 1970s, but lambasted by critics.
  • Theory of a Deadman have many detractors amongst critics and fans of "pure" rock, as they are seen as an "X-rated post-grunge trash" act a la Hinder. That hasn't stopped them from dominating rock charts. Fortunately, their 2014 album Savages was praised as a move away from that sound (although songs like "Blow" still echo that sentiment of their past sound). It helps that they moved away from Kara DioGuardi, who is primarily a pop songwriter.
  • 311’s 1997 album Transistor wasn’t received very well by critics, but it’s generally beloved by fans.
  • Tori Amos’ 1996 album Boys for Pele was bashed by critics when it was released. Nevertheless, it’s a fan favorite that is considered to be among her best work.
    • The album has found itself Vindicated by History, as by the late 2000s many music critics and experts have also come to acknowledge it as being one of the best from its genre and time period. It has been theorized that the album’s poor response at the time was due to its sound being such a dramatic departure from Amos’ first two albums.
    • Kate Bush’s 1982 album The Dreaming suffered this too.
  • Some of Tupac Shakur’s posthumous releases are this. Critics dismiss them as cheap cash-ins. But some of the earlier ones are seen as genuinely good albums, specifically R U Still Down? (Remember Me), and Still I Rise.
  • 65daysofstatic’s We Were Exploding Anyway was perhaps their most critically well-reviewed album. Yet on user-driven sites such as Rate Your Music, it is one of their lowest-rated albums.
  • Was (Not Was): To the critics, an imaginative experimental funk outfit bolstered by tight playing and high-quality production. To the mainstream public, a bunch of goofballs who did an annoying song about dinosaurs.
  • Of course, we can’t forget the treatment the album Pinkerton by Weezer originally got. Critics reacted so negatively to an album widely considered Weezer’s most personal that lead singer/songwriter Rivers Cuomo had a legitimate Creator Breakdown, calling himself a “shitty songwriter” and saying it was a “hideous record […] a hugely painful mistake that […] just won’t go away”. Needless to say, the fans considered it (and still do) Weezer’s best album to date and a masterpiece on the part of Cuomo. Luckily, all these years later, Cuomo as well as the critics have changed their tune and tend to agree. It might be the Trope Maker for Vindicated by History, as the album currently has a solid 100 rating on Metacritic.
  • Kanye West has gotten generally positive to universal critical acclaim for all of his albums, and most of the time that was reflected with the public. Although his fourth album, 808s & Heartbreak, was controversial for its electropop sound and heavily autotuned vocals, it still debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 and produced two hit singles. His next album was better received by the public as a whole, but his sixth album, Yeezus, is a prime example. Kanye’s second New Sound Album is very experimental, with a variety of influences like Industrial Metal, Electro, and Noise music. It was released to widespread critical acclaim and topped many critics' year-end lists, but, despite debuting at number one, it had the lowest debut sales for any of Kanye’s albums and is the only one not to sell at least one million copies (the album having very little promotion also didn’t help). Many older fans were indifferent or put off by the album’s non-traditional sound, and the public majority seemed tired of Kanye’s antics. Only one song, “Bound 2,” received decent airplay, helped by the fact that it sounds like his earlier work.
  • Yes: Critics have always hated this band, but the general listeners bought their records by the score.
  • Frank Zappa is widely praised by critics for being one of the most important composers of all time, having an original, authentic sound that changes many styles and being far more complex and experimental than most rock songs. His political activism and satirical songwriting have also been praised. Yet he has never been popular with the general audience and still is nothing more than a cult artist.
  • John Zorn: Similarly to Zappa Zorn is a critic’s darling for his Genre Roulette style, but literally obscure to the general public.
  • Boys bands!and girl groups will often be gigantic bestsellers among young females, but will not receive any good press from critics, even female ones.
  • Many Canadian acts, largely due to record companies mishandling or poorly marketing critically acclaimed groups or artists:
    • If you were to judge The Rheostatics (a now-defunct Canadian rock group) solely by the opinions you find of them online, you would think they’re one of the most important Canadian bands of the past century, and more critically acclaimed than even most current Canadian artists (to the point that two of their albums, Melville and Whale Music, are consistently ranked as one of the top ten Canadian albums of all time). In actuality, they only one minor hit (“Claire” in 1994) and never sold that many records commercially, even at their peak in the ’90s.
    • Poor, poor Fefe Dobson. All of her albums have been critically acclaimed, but still tanked. One critic from NOW magazine blamed this on the fact that the industry didn’t know how to market a black rocker chick from Scarborough, Ontario.
    • Esthero was an indie queen who received tons of critical accolades for her three studio albums, as well as her collaborations with various artists (including on the “Yes We Can” track from 2008 and co-writing songs for Kanye West’s 808’s and Heartbreak and Timbaland’s Shock Value II), but all her solo work has failed to generate sales, and she’s still mostly unknown in Canada and the States.
  • There are a number of Classic Rock-era albums that earned high marks from critics, and often appear on ‘greatest ever’ lists, but have gone mostly unnoticed by the public, including Love’s Forever Changes, the Zombies’ Odessey and Oracle, and the Pretty Things’ Parachute (which was Rolling Stone’s album of the year for 1970).
  • Music critic J. Eric Smith decided to see which albums get more praise from critics than copies sold.
  • Almost every VH1 You Oughta Know and MTV BUZZ artist counts. Critics gush over these artists (usually for good reasons), but the general public seems to be indifferent.
    • Bumblebeez: Critics said they were gonna be huge and be the Australian version of the Neptunes.
    • Leela James, and almost every other Neo-Soul artist. D’Angelo, Alicia Keys, and Maxwell are the only ones that ever had huge success, and only Alicia has been able to maintain it (although, to be fair, Alicia tweaked her sound around this time, less soul and more power ballads). It also probably had something to do with the evolution of the term “neo-soul” itself. In the ’90s, it was Exactly What It Says on the Tin: a new wave of artists who approached their music with the same philosophy as classic soul musicians. But as these artists found mainstream success around the turn of the millennium, “neo-soul” came to be applied to any black singer who appealed to people over 25. Because of this, many fans who took the term to heart failed to see what the big deal was and gave up on the genre altogether.
    • Hip-Hop act Little Brother, possibly derailed by The Powers That Be, depending on whom you ask. It didn’t really help that the group went on hiatus around the time they were getting hyped.
    • Ditto for rap group Dead Prez had huge buzz leading up to their debut album. When the album dropped critics ate it up, but the public mostly ignored it.
    • Critics claimed that the unassuming neo-psychedelia act The Mooney Suzuki was supposed to be the band that changed Alternative Rock in the 2000s. Then The Strokes and The White Stripes happened. Critics later turned their backs on the group, as their last two albums were received poorly, despite the fact that the title track from their third album (Alive & Amplified) finally became the minor hit that had long eluded them.
    • Indie rockers The Brian Jonestown Massacre are loved by critics but seem to intentionally sabotage themselves every time another wave of hype and potential commercial breakthrough comes their way.
    • Many music critics were expecting big things from Power Pop band The Lemonheads, who were supposed to be the next Nirvana, or at least the New Important Alternative Band of the ’90s. The band never found a breakthrough single and just sort of disintegrated, although at least today they maintain a cult following.
    • Most of MTV’s Buzz artists didn’t pan out. With a few notable exceptions (Garbage, Foo Fighters, Beck), the bands featured became cult favorites at best and One-Hit Wonder flameouts at worst (anyone remember Jimmie’s Chicken Shack?).
      • Many of BET’s Next artists didn’t pan out either — so much so they don’t even attempt to break buzzworthy artists anymore. In fact, they ignore them and stick to the more accessible artists.
    • Enigmatic R&B singer Res is a solid example of this trope, critically acclaimed but her career just fizzled out.
    • And before Res there was Davina (remember her!?).
    • Nikka Costa: critics were saying she would be huge … well.
    • Grace Potter & the Nocturnals. They had no hits, but Grace herself has been an Advertised Extra on two Kenny Chesney songs.
    • Before Res but after Davina, there was also Amel Larrieux. A critical darling who got rave reviews but was shunned by both the public and music networks.
  • Classical crossover tenor Andrea Bocelli is far more popular with the music consuming public than with critics, who are prone to insist that he simply doesn't have a particularly good voice.
  • Enya got her first three albums released to massive critical acclaim, then critics got cold, with the other albums getting mixed reviews. Of course, being that she's known worldwide and the first name that pops into people's heads when they think of Celtic/relaxing music, every album she's ever released has been a massive success among the listeners.
  • Huey Lewis and the News' 5th album Small World was a critical darling, but a pop chart dud when it was released.
  • Nas's 2001 album Stillmatic received mostly lukewarm reviews from critics but was widely embraced by hip hop fans as a return to form for Nas, due to its return to the more philosophically-minded lyrics of Illmatic and the fantastic diss track "Ether." While critics never really warmed up to the album, it's considered by fans to be one of his best albums.


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