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14 Classic Albums That Flopped When They Were Released

‘Pet Sounds’ and more iconic slow burners

the beach boys pet sounds

The Beach Boys' 'Pet Sounds' was not an immediate commercial success.

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Fifty years later, most agree that the Beach Boys’ orchestral-pop masterpiece Pet Sounds is an unassailable classic. However, you couldn’t tell that to the buying public in 1966. Here are 14 great albums that took a while to build their legacies.

Beastie Boys, 'Paul's Boutique'

Beastie Boys, ‘Paul’s Boutique’ (1989)

Licensed To Ill made the Beastie Boys a fratty pop phenomenon, selling 10 million copies and bringing hip-hop to middle America like never before. But by the time the trio split from Def Jam and reappeared nearly three years later with visionary, sampledelic Dust Brothers production replacing their hard rock riffs, it appeared that the zeitgeist had moved on. "Hey Ladies" grazed the Top 40, and the album initially moved only a few hundred thousand copies, peaking at Number 14 — still the lowest charting proper album of the band's career. But the album's forward-thinking sound incubated a new audience by the time the more successful follow-up Check Your Head came around. And the Dust Brothers' dense production style, too ahead of its time in 1989, was vindicated by the acclaim for Beck's Odelay in 1996. Just before the album's 10th birthday in 1999, Paul's Boutique was certified double platinum.

Weezer, 'Pinkerton'

Weezer, ‘Pinkerton’ (1996)

The peppy yet wounded Weezer became alt-rock superstars after their winkingly crushed-out "Buddy Holly" became an MTV staple, and frontman Rivers Cuomo initially decided to write a rock opera about fame in response. That plan didn't entirely work out, and Cuomo decamped to Harvard to study classical composition — a move that largely informed the songwriting of Pinkerton, which was darker and more churning, marked by lyrics that dealt head-on with Cuomo's personal and sexual frustrations during what he called "two very weird years." (That comes from Cuomo's note about the record to his fan club, which also notes that he "really wanted these songs to be an exploration of my 'dark side' — all the parts of myself that I was either afraid or embarrassed to think about before.") Initially, listeners were not pleased with this trip into Cuomo's deeper consciousness. Rolling Stone's readers called Pinkerton the third worst album of 1996, and even though Weezer's debut had gone double-platinum a little more than a year after its release, Pinkerton wasn't certified gold until 2001.  

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