The music world is just up to its ukeleles with performers and has been forever and then some. The earliest musical instruments in history, just some very simple bone flutes, date back 40,000 years, according to National Geographic. So people have been making tunes for about as long as people have had mouths and fingers with which to make music. You can bet that almost 40,000 years ago someone was probably listening to a flute player thinking "this guy sucks and his music is attracting too many sabre-toothed tigers." So it’s safe to say music is a pretty subjective art form and not everything is going to appeal to everyone all the time. Which is fine. To each their own, right?
The thing about modern music is the tides can turn as fast as, well, the tides. One minute you’re at the top of the charts, the next minute the music-loving crowd has turned on you like a rabid beast. Whether from overexposure, a stark shift in style, or an artist coming out with some point of view that alienates their fanbase, there are a ton of musicians who were once beloved by all and now just get venom spit at them from all corners.
Nickelback is the most popular hated band ever
Few bands can draw general ire better than Nickelback. The mere mention of their name leads to punchlines, and a Google search can turn up dozens of articles critical of the Canadian group. And yet, as Digital Music News points out, they’re also the 11th-best selling band of all time, and the only other foreign band that outsold them throughout the 2000s in America was the Beatles! As much of a punchline as it may seem Nickelback is, they are huge.
Now maybe it was because they were so big that the backlash had to come, but it was inescapable and extremely harsh in its scope. Police in Kensington, Prince Edward Island, actually released a statement saying they would play Nickelback in the cruiser when they took in suspected drunk drivers. Police in Australia distributed a warning ahead of a Nickelback show telling people to be on the lookout for them because they were committing crimes against music. A man from London started a crowdfunding campaign (which received international attention) to help ban Nickelback from ever playing there again.
In what was arguably one of the biggest digs the band ever suffered, billionaire Mark Zuckerberg put together an entire video about an AI program in his home that culminates in a Nickelback joke. Few bands ever get burned by tech billionaires, so they clearly made an impression.
R Kelly’s career has been mired in disgusting allegations for years
Oh man, where to begin with R. Kelly. These days it may be hard to remember, but there was a time when Kelly was as big as a musician gets. He’s literally the top selling male R&B artist of the 1990s. To dominate an entire decade means people like you. And they did … in the 1990s. But things change, and they change a lot.
By the time 2000 rolled around, Kelly was being met with accusations of pedophilia, possession of child pornography, and child sex abuse, some of which were detailed by the Chicago Sun-Times. At age 27 he had married 15-year-old Aaliyah; the marriage was later annulled, but both parties denied for years that it happened. Still, no charges ever stuck, and his career continued.
Additional accusations piled up, including a video allegedly showing Kelly urinating on an underaged girl and later holding girls in some kind of a sex cult. Even though none of these have ever panned out in a court of law, the court of public opinion is another matter.
The Time’s Up movement against the pervasive culture of abusive men has specifically targeted Kelly for a boycott, while others have begun publicly questioning why he’s even allowed to continue being famous.
Morrissey has the worst opinions ever
Way back in the day, Morrissey was the frontman of the Smiths and people liked him. The band broke up in 1987 and in 2012 Salon was still calling them the best band ever. It’s hard to deny their influence over the years. Four of their albums made it onto Rolling Stone‘s 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
Things started getting troublesome for Morrissey when he started sharing his opinions, of which he has ever so many. Some, like his strong animal rights stance and support for PETA are relatively uncontroversial, but those are definitely not the problematic ones — although he did leave the stage at Coachella after saying he could smell burning flesh and hoped it was human.
Morrissey has publicly defended accused disgusting people Harvey Weinstein and Kevin Spacey, according to the BBC. He referred to the "Loony Left" and claimed Hitler was a leftist. He claimed reggae music was a sign of black supremacy. Rolling Stone detailed how he dismissed a mass murder in Norway as being less significant than the killing done by McDonald’s and KFC, and referred to Chinese people as a "subspecies." BuzzFeed points out he called dance music "the refuge of the mentally deficient."
The list can go on and on and on. There are few things Morrissey doesn’t have an opinion on and even fewer things he has an agreeable opinion on. It’s not hard to see why the music is beloved but the man is reviled.
Fergie butchered the National Anthem
In the early 2000s, Fergie began a collaboration with the Black Eyed Peas that raised everyone’s profile and made them internationally famous with hits like "Where’s the Love" and "Hey Mama." The album, Elephunk, went double platinum.
In 2005, the band released the album Monkey Business featuring the song "My Humps," and things definitely started taking a turn for the worse. The song, though popular, was hugely mocked for being terrible. Slate called it so awful it hurts the mind, and it has been accused of being literally the worst song ever written. Alanis Morissette even released a vicious parody of it that became an instant online success.
When Fergie released her solo album The Dutchess, she was met with more stinging criticism for the song "London Bridge." Slant said the song was the "most uninspired metaphor for oral sex in recorded history." Not a ringing endorsement.
In February 2018, Fergie sang the National Anthem before the NBA All-Star Game and was roundly criticized by media, fans and NBA players alike who can be seen on video laughing during the performance. The performance is baffling to say the least, and Fergie tried to defend herself by claiming to be a musical risk-taker. That may be, but when people are mocking your tribute to the nation, you’ve taken the wrong risk.
Chris Brown is just a bad person
Like R. Kelly, Chris Brown was once at the top of his game. His debut album went double platinum, and he was poised to be a massive force in R&B … right up until 2009 when he brutally assaulted his girlfriend, Rihanna.
Brown’s violent attack was never a he-said/she-said attack where fans could even try to defend him –- he turned himself in and admitted his guilt. The move was in no way a noble one that mitigated anything –- the assault on Rihanna was extremely brutal. He punched her repeatedly in the face, choked her, and threatened to murder her, as detailed by MTV. This was over her discovering he’d been texting with another woman. Brown was sentenced to five years’ probation and community service.
CNN put together a detailed timeline of Brown’s extensive shady activity, including settling with a photographer for assault, getting into a fight with Drake, getting into another fight with Frank Ocean, and a judge revoking his probation from the Rihanna assault.
In 2012, Brown got a neck tattoo featuring an image of a beaten woman’s face, which many assumed to be Rihanna. Brown denied it, but people weren’t really listening anymore. People goes on to detail a string of additional legal troubles, from assaults to threats and more. It seems like there’s no end to Brown’s penchant for doing wrong thing all the time.
Billy Corgan was just obnoxious
Billy Corgan owes his fame to The Smashing Pumpkins. Their 1995 album Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness sold over 10 million copies. It was nominated for seven Grammys. By the year 2000, the band decided to call it quits. Corgan blamed the split on guitar player James Iha while simultaneously calling bass player D’arcy Wretzky a mean-spirited drug addict, as covered on CNN.
Corgan was known for hating on other musicians before Pumpkins broke up. In a 1998 Rolling Stone interview, he lamented how no music that year was any good. This was the sort of thing Corgan would never give up on, either. There’s an extensive list of other musicians he hated, from Soundgarden to Courtney Love to Radiohead. It seemed like there wasn’t another musician around that Corgan didn’t have a problem with.
For years, Corgan planned to reunite the Pumpkins. 2008 saw a reformation with Corgan as the only original member that fans hated, judging from The Guardian’s explanation of one disastrous concert. In 2018 the band got together again, minus Wretzky. Her absence sparked a new feud with her saying Corgan can’t sing and treats fans like crap. That last point is echoed in other accounts of folks meeting him, and one Redditor claimed Corgan had spit in their face. It’s not hard to figure out why Corgan isn’t topping a lot of "fave rocker" lists.
Creed’s Scott Stapp had a mental breakdown
Before Nickelback, there was Creed. They very nearly started a subgenre of rock that can best be described as "bands that sound like Creed." Two of Creed’s albums hit No. 1 on the charts, and The Chatanoogan says that included over 53 million album sales. It can’t be denied that Creed was huge.
When things started going badly for Creed, they went catastrophic. How many bands can put on a show so terrible that fans file a lawsuit? It happened to Creed, according to Rolling Stone. Four fans filed suit in 2003 claiming lead singer Scott Stapp was so wasted he couldn’t sing even one song properly.
Creed also topped a Rolling Stone poll of the worst band of the ’90s, and it was not close. When they tried to do a reunion tour in 2009, the sales were so bad that Birmingham lowered the ticket price to 75 cents. Oof.
Stapp assaulted his wife, Jaclyn Nesheiwat, in 2007 and was arrested. This came after his fistfight with the band 311 — Stapp was proving proved himself to be a violent, angry man. In 2017, his wife detailed accusations about Stapp’s excessive drug use and psychiatric issues, including how he had been held in a psychiatric facility, had threatened to murder his family, claimed the CIA was after him, and made threats against Barack Obama. He’s since gotten help and seems to be on the mend.
Axl Rose was just very unlikable
In 1993, Guns N’ Roses was literally named the best band in the world at the World Music Awards. Their debut album Appetite for Destruction hit No. 1 on the Billboard 200, and they’ve sold over 100 million albums worldwide. They’re clearly one of the biggest acts of not just the 1990s, but of all time. This was hammered home in 2018 when their reunion tour became the fourth-highest-grossing music tour in history, raking in $475 million, according to Billboard.
So how is Axl Rose so hated if the band is so beloved? Well, there’s a big gap between 2018’s success and the band’s previous successes. In 2012, GNR’s guitar player Slash laid out for Rolling Stone why Axl hated him and why they would likely never play together again, relating back to a 2009 interview in which Axl called Slash "cancer." As criticisms go, that’s a rough one.
NME gave a rundown of reasons why Axl, long credited with breaking up Guns N’ Roses back in the day, was one of the worst people in music. From cursing out fans to beefing with pretty much every musician he was ever asked about, Rose was a straight-up jerk.
So the 2017 reunion took many fans by surprise. Judging from the numbers, many fans are willing to forgive and forget so long as the band stays together. But on his own, Axl is clearly no longer welcome in Paradise City.
U2 forced people to own their music
U2 makes music that has a multi-generational appeal, is known to put on a hell of a live show, and is one of the biggest touring acts in the world. When the band announced a tour for the 30th anniversary of their Joshua Tree album, they sold over a million tickets in a single day, according to Forbes.
But nothing lasts forever, and when the band’s 2009 album No Line on the Horizon had only average sales, things were looking grim. The numbers would have been awesome for almost any other act, but not for U2. It was their lowest-selling album in a decade. Then came 2014.
U2 had partnered with Apple in the past — perhaps you remember all those iPod commercials that played the single "Vertigo." So in 2014, U2 and Apple thought it might be an awesome idea to release U2’s Songs of Innocence to everyone who had iTunes whether they wanted it or not. Well, people did not want it, and Apple had to release a tool to allow customers to remove the album.
As time went on, U2’s fame became tempered with a general distaste. Salon tried to account for the dislike for U2, coming up with any number of reasons from people not liking Bono to the fact that some people just love to hate on things.
Miley Cyrus changed her whole persona
When Hannah Montana ended in 2011, it went out as a record-breaking show. People loved Miley Cyrus, but Cyrus was trying to cultivate a new image and started hitting some snags. Her first big single, "Party in the USA," caused some clapback when she was asked about a line in the song that mentions listening to Jay-Z, and she said she doesn’t actually know any Jay-Z songs because she doesn’t listen to pop music. (This is a great way to seem disingenuous and fake.) Then she publicly ripped the hip-hop genre after using it to raise her own profile.
In 2010, Cyrus was filmed taking hits of salvia from a bong. Her squeaky-clean Disney image, which she actively wanted to drop, was dropping fast. By 2013, it was crushed when she performed at the VMAs with Robin Thicke in an overtly sexual routine that was widely criticized. Cyrus defended herself as just trying to do what others have done in the past. She says she’s been defending herself for years against the perceptions people have of her.
While she still has many supporters, the damage was already done for many. As GQ points out in a defense of Cyrus, parents were on TV shows literally crying because of Cyrus twerking, and commentators were calling her disturbed. All in all, it looks like she really did come in like a wrecking ball.
Gwen Stefani made everyone sick of her
Arguably one of the biggest vocalists in the world, Gwen Stefani rose to fame as the lead singer of No Doubt, which briefly tried to make ska happen. But ska didn’t happen, and No Doubt quickly dropped that angle which is what may have started the Stefani backlash that continues to this day. Rumors broke in 2018 that she was going to be doing a show in Vegas and the No Doubt crew were not involved. She’s perceived as something of a sell-out.
Becoming a judge on The Voice, a structured TV talent show following in the footsteps of American Idol, was another notch against her credibility as a real performer in some people’s eyes, according to the Washington Post. But the final straw may have come when Stefani hooked up with alleged Sexiest Man Alive Blake Shelton. Some observers felt the relationship between Stefani and Shelton was not just invasive and pervasive, but didn’t seem genuine.
The relationship that developed between Stefani and Shelton was chronicled very nearly in real time. It was a tabloid darling and Us Weekly even made timelines to cover it which, to normal people, is kind of creepy. Even if you had a stomach for that, the whole thing came off as too choreographed.