As new music begins to make its first appearance in 2019, there’s still time to reflect upon what the past few years have brought us.
We’ve seen some albums go on to define the music industry, but we’ve also seen those that failed at the first hurdle. How good an album is, of course, is subjective. Nonetheless, critics’ reviews go a long way in the industry. Although, who’s to say they are always right…
Here’s nine albums since the end of the noughties that critics may well have got wrong.
2018 – Language, MNEK
MNEK dropped his debut album, Language, in 2019 and it was nothing short of a pop bible. NME loved it, The Line of Best Fit loved it, CelebMix loved it and pop fans loved it. The record has it all and is produced to perfection.
For Rolling Stone, MNEK is “too immersed in writing for others that he’s lost his own voice” whilst DIY Magazine stated that “Language could afford to lose a few numbers”. However, with fans head-over-heels for MNEK’s personality and enjoying just how every track flows into the next, all the critics who hated on Language must be listening to something else.
2017 – Reputation, Taylor Swift
After months of some of the heaviest promotion the music industry has ever seen, Taylor Swift’s Reputation finished with a Metacritic score of 71, making it her least reputable album ever.
Now, over a year on from its release, that record has become iconic. It fuelled the mammoth Reputation stadium tour which was jaw-droppingly astonishing (check out the new Netflix documentary if you haven’t already). Heavyweights such as Max Martin and Jack Antonoff are on production as Reputation flows from pounding electronic hits capable of Number 1s even a year after release, to vulnerable stripped-back Swift at her best. Hate her or love her, Reputation deserves respect.
2016 – This Unruly Mess I’ve Made, Macklemore & Ryan Lewis
After Macklemore & Ryan Lewis’ debut record, The Heist, provided some of the biggest hits of the decade in ‘Can’t Hold Us’ and ‘Thrift Shop’, it’s incredible that This Unruly Mess I’ve Made almost passed without a murmur.
The media seems to love to treat anything Macklemore says as invaluable. On the whole, critics discarded This Unruly Mess I’ve Made away as a record too hit and miss to be successful, unable to deal with the album’s sharp turns. However, that’s what made the Macklemore & Ryan Lewis pairing so special. One moment they can be tackling the flaws of the industry on ‘Light Tunnels’ or contemplating parenthood with Ed Sheeran on ‘Growing Up’. The next, they are having a party with Idris Elba on ‘Dance Off’ or cracking jokes on ‘Brad Pitt’s Cousin’. Not many others can do so much so well.
2015 – Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz, Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus’ Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz was largely laughed off as a joke album after a brief rush to download it after a sudden release. Billboard wrote, “too often Cyrus acts as if her drug trip is more poignant than the average freakout.”
Really, it was simply a record ahead of its time. If Miley Cyrus & Her Dead Petz was released in 2019, its charisma and unique production would be seen as an artistic genius. Kudos to Miley.
2014 – Sorry I’m Late, Cher Lloyd
“Fun but hollow” The Guardian labelled Cher Lloyd’s Sorry I’m Late, whilst The Telegraph awarded a mere three stars after an average review. Critics did pick up on Cher Lloyd’s maturer sound but there was an overall feeling the record just lacked the punch needed to make it memorable.
As much as Lloyd had grown up sonically, it’s not that which makes Sorry I’m Late so goddamn good. It’s the sugary sweet pop that is so infectious. ‘Dirty Love’, ‘Killin’ It’ and ‘M.F.P.O.T.Y.’ bring back 2011 Lloyd with true style – it’s exactly what fans wanted. There are added moments of vulnerability in the likes of ‘Sirens’ which echoes THAT ‘Stay’ cover on The X Factor, but the record is a lot more than a tale of growing up.
2013 – Artpop, Lady Gaga
Clearly, Lady Gaga’s Artpop was underrated on release. NME, Clash and Roling Stone all failed to give it more than 6/10 – shocking.
Back then Gaga was seen as a simpleton pop product who shouldn’t waver off simple hits. Now, she has earnt full respect as an artist and visionary. If the world had that view in 2013, Artpop would have been seen for what it is – a groundbreaking moment in pop music. It’s artistic, intricate and honest behind its pulsating production ahead of its years. Artpop is a 10.
2012 – Born To Die, Lana Del Rey
Looking at disappointing albums from 2012, Lana Del Rey’s debut effort always crops up. Whilst many tabloids did get behind Born To Die, the likes of PopMatters, Pitchfork and Entertainment Weekly were underwhelmed.
Now, looking back over Lana Del Rey’s illustrious career, it’s clear to see her roots in Born To Die. It’s just hard to see what the critics didn’t get. The title track has a royal-like quality, ‘National Anthem’ is so loved by fans and ‘Sumertime Sadness’ would eventually go on to become a club filler. Born To Die was the first taste of Del Rey’s airy brillance.
2011 – Light After Dark, Clare Maguire
Clare Maguire was tipped for greatness when she exploded onto the scene just under a decade ago. Her debut record, Light After Dark, was set to be one of the boldest albums of 2011.
And it was. NME HATED it, The Independent labelled it a “cartoon of emotion” and even the BBC labelled it as “unadventurous”. Single ‘Ain’t Nobody’ was seen as the only successful effort. Really, the record is full of the same deep sounds. Every track is good. Every. Single. One.
2010 – Loud, Rihanna
It’s crazy to think that a record with the tracks ‘S&M’, ‘What’s My Name’, ‘Only Girl (In The World’, ‘California King Bed’ and ‘Man Down’ could ever be seen as disappointing.
There are outlets that loved Rihanna’s fifth studio album. However, with a Metacritic score of 67 and the likes of Dusted Magazine and PopMatters publishing far from glowing reviews, there are some who saw it as disappointing. The streams for Loud‘s tracks tell the story – it’s a huge success, perhaps her best ever.
What’s your most underrated album of the last decade? Let us know @CelebMix on Twitter.