By its very nature, pop is the least underrated genre of music — if you define underrated-ness by commercial success alone. Sure, a pop star may not live up to sales projections and be dubbed a flop for selling hundreds of thousands of copies, but there’s also the critical side of this specific coin. Many well-performing pop albums — in comparison to their lauded lead singles — get no critical love upon release and little consideration for the pop canon down the line, despite being embraced by the music-buying masses (see: Faith Hill, Britney Spears, Avril Lavigne).
Of course, there is also the opposite case, exhibited most recently by artists like Sia and Charli XCX. Then there are those albums that make no splash commercially or critically, despite their quality (see: Rachel Stevens). The ‘hidden pop gems.’ Oh the struggle of a singles genre.
So ‘underrated’ is a complicated idea, really. All interpretations of it are on display in this list, which focuses on the last 20 years of pop. In the last two decades, poptimism has shifted to become as respected a critical viewpoint as rockism. We’ve given many pop stars more credit than they would have received decades ago, Beyoncé chief among them. We focus on some of the darker horses here.