Conventional music wisdom is a tedious business. Given that rock ‘n’ roll was supposed to be about self-expression and individualism, it’s rather sad that such an orthodoxy has arisen around music criticism over the years — there’s the albums that you’re absolutely not allowed to dislike (our distaste for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band always gets us in trouble here), and conversely, there’s the albums that it’s pretty much taken as read that everyone hates. This can be a pretty dirty business — while there are certain albums that absolutely deserve all the vitriol that has been poured upon them, there’s also those that have been unfairly maligned. Here’s a selection of ten albums that we think have got a raw deal from the critics. What are your suggestions?
Scarlett Johansson — Anywhere I Lay My Head
Yes, Scarlett Johansson is a) a movie star, b) unfeasibly attractive, and c) not a particularly great singer. For all that people claim to hate this record because of point c), we can’t help but feel that the majority of such hatred is colored by jealousy on points a) and b). Of course, if Johansson weren’t a star, she would probably never have got to record this album of Tom Waits covers in the first place (let alone with Dave Sitek and guest vocals from David Bowie), but even so, there was something distinctly mean-spirited about the reaction to Anywhere I Lay My Head. Here at Flavorpill, we figure that if you’re going to judge a record, you should judge it on its merits, not on the personality of its creator — and as far as we’re concerned, Anywhere I Lay My Head is a decent piece of work. Notwithstanding the identity of the vocalist, this is essentially a Dave Sitek record, and his arrangements are characteristically lush throughout, reinterpreting Waits’s songs in a way that’s both respectful of the originals and interesting enough to bear repeated listening. While Johansson isn’t exactly a vocal virtuoso, her voice is definitely distinctive, and it fits these songs well enough. We have a sneaking suspicion that if this was billed as a Dave Sitek album accompanied by the throaty alto of a hitherto-undiscovered Brooklyn singer, reaction might have been rather different.