Reason's Jesse Walker sent out a link this morning to this Wikipedia entry for David Bowie's album Lodger. It includes the line:
Indifferently received by critics on its initial release, it is now widely considered one of Bowie's most underrated albums.
"What does it mean to be "widely considered" one of the "most underrated"?" he asked. It reminded me of a piece I read yesterday headlined "11 Early Scathing Reviews of Works Now Considered Masterpieces."
We learn what some early critics said of Whitman's Leaves of Grass, Beethoven's No. 9 in D Minor, Bizet's Carmen, Melville's Moby-Dick, Austen's Pride and Prejudice, Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Joyce's Ulysses, Orwell's Animal Farm, Keats' Endymion and all of the Impressionists during the 19th century. The most shocking?
11. Fred Astaire (1899 – 1987)
Modern Status: “…like Bach, who in his time had a great concentration of ability, essence, knowledge, a spread of music…Astaire has that same concentration of genius.” –Balanchine
“…simply the greatest, most imaginative dancer of our time.” –Nureyev
“What do dancers think of Fred Astaire? It’s no secret. We hate him. He gives us a complex because he’s too perfect. His perfection is an absurdity. It’s too hard to face.” –Baryshnikov
Early Reaction: “Can’t act. Can’t sing. Slightly bald. Can dance a little.” –MGM Testing Director’s response to Astaire’s first screen test
I'm curious what musicians, actors, dancers, books, artwork, albums, etc. are criminally underrated or will go from being dismissed to considered masterpieces. My vote is on The Last Action Hero. Widely panned by critics and nominated for six Golden Raspberry Awards, it's my view that the film was just too much truth for Hollywood and its audiences to handle. They'll come around some day.