Some albums have huge buzz surrounding them, such as Coldplay‘s Ghost Stories or Brantley Gilbert‘s Just As I Am, both among the most successful albums of 2014. Others, like this list of 10 albums, weren’t nearly as highly touted, underperforming despite their quality or massive potential. Some of the names appearing on the list are indeed shocking!
First, a moment to celebrate some honorable mentions of underrated-ness:
Against Me!, Transgender Dysphoria Blues; Johnny Cash, Out Among the Stars; SZA, Z; Y.G., My Krazy Life; St. Vicent, St. Vincent; Phantogram, Voices; Shaliek, Blood Sweat Tears
#10 Candice Glover, Music Speaks (19 Records)
R&B singer Candice Glover won American Idol at the worst possible time, like really horrific timing. Making things worse, her album suffered from multiple album delays, devaluing her vocal gifts and jeopardizing her career from the start. Music Speaks may not be a classic, but it deserved more attention than it received, specifically better than its abysmal debut numbers.
#9 Daley, Days & Nights (Universal Republic)
Stateside in 2014, only one British male R&B artist has been embraced commercially: Sam Smith. Too bad there hasn’t been room for more Brit love, as Daley has an impressive tenor in his own right, not to mention how enjoyable his contemporary set Days & Nights is. It is sad that this soulful artist with the swag to match is so underrated. Days & Nights bombed – unless debuting at #128 is considered a breakout performance.
#8 Shakira, Shakira. (RCA)
Previously, Shakira could so no wrong, after all, the “Hips Don’t Lie.” But then somewhere around the release of She Wolf (2009), the Latin-pop diva’s fortunes began to change. Shakira. debuted at #2 on the Billboard 200, but hasn’t exactly ignited the charts since initially bowing. The effort by no means is substandard, just under appreciated commercially.
#7 Hunter Hayes, Storyline (Atlantic)
Even country heartthrobs have off sales. Hunter Hayes has been touted as an incredibly talented singer/songwriting threat bridging country and pop – call him a male Taylor Swift. Unlike Swift, he hasn’t been able to rack up the same caliber of sales, particularly following the 69,000 copies start for Storyline, an album that seemed poised to be Hayes’ breakthrough. As the old saying goes, “you win some, you lose some.”
Calling a soundtrack underrated is a stretch, but when the said soundtrack features all new music from one of R&B’s most gifted and commercially successful voices, the ante should be upped. Unfortunately, Mary J. Blige’s soundtrack to number one box office hit Think Like a Man Too only managed a modest Billboard 200 bow at #30 – very un- Mary J. Blige like.
#3, #18, #43, and #46… The cited numbers illustrate Mariah Carey’s tepid chart performance – the first month of sales – for the awkwardly titled Me. I Am Mariah. Despite its questionable title and being delayed several times, Me is actually a better album than expected, but has been nothing short of a gargantuan flop. 58,000 copies sold is all the diva could move during Me’s debut.
The sales expectations for gospel music are much lower compared to pop music in general. However, when a gospel artist decides to release an R&B album, the sales are naturally anticipated to elevate. Former gospel artist Mali Music released his major label debut, embracing R&B, but the sales underwhelm. Mali Is landed quietly at #16 on the Billboard 200 – a shame, given the quality of the effort.
#3 Beck, Morning Phase (Capitol)
Beck is considered an alt-rock veteran at this juncture in his career. Before Morning Phase, Beck hadn’t released a studio album in six years. While Morning Phase received a nice reception initially (number three with 87,000 copies sold), one of the year’s best alternative albums sadly hasn’t exactly dominated the charts.
#2 August Alsina, Testimony (Def Jam)
One of contemporary R&B’s brightest spots in 2014 comes courtesy of 21-year old newbie, August Alsina. A singer who keeps it real, infusing his personal life story into his music, Alsina seemed like the sure thing to commercially breathe new life into R&B. While a 67,000 copies start and a number two bow for Testimony are none too shabby, staying power and expanding upon sales has been the issue for Alsina.
#1 John Newman, Tribute (Universal Republic)
For husky voiced British crooner John Newman, the incredible success of fellow Brit Sam Smith has to incite a bit of envy. Newman released his own fine album Tribute, featuring some excellent retro-soul music, led by infectious single “Love Me Again.” Even so, Tribute debuted outside the top 20 of the Billboard 200, at number 24.