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What Were We Thinking? 15 Times We Were Wrong

Consider this our mea culpa for some bad takes over the years

consequence 15 times we were wrong what were we thinking
Illustration by Steven Fiche
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    It’s Consequence’s 15th anniversary, and all September long we’ve been publishing a series of retrospective pieces encompassing our publication’s own history — and the entertainment landscape in general. Today, the Consequence team looks back on 15 times we got it wrong.

    Editor’s Note – Sept. 23rd: The goal of this article was to revisit some of the more “controversial” articles published over the course of our publication’s history. In doing so, we came off as callous in our treatment of the original articles and the authors behind them. That was not our intention and we apologize to the original writers of those pieces. 


    Pobody’s nerfect. We here at Consequence know that as well as anyone. Like any journalistic endeavor, we’ve prided ourselves on critical takes that have built a cache of respect and authority with our readership — and in the pop culture editorial landscape at large. But that doesn’t mean we’ve spent 15 years being totally infallible.

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    To be fair, when you’re reading a review or digesting a ranking, you’re really getting the opinions of an individual or select group of personalities. That said, when those lists and evaluations are published under the Consequence banner, they naturally end up representing the publication as a whole. And try as we might to represent ourselves in the best light possible, we’ve made a mistake every now and then.

    As we look back at a decade and a half as an independent publication, we thought it was about time we offered a mea culpa for those blights on what we hope is an otherwise esteemed record. We dug through our archives and pulled out some reviews we wish we could rewrite, lists we would re-enumerate, and opinions that we’ve grown to reconsider.

    So, we’ll admit it: Sometimes we were just wrong. Hey, that’s the consequence of being in the journalism game for 15 years; your takes might not always age terribly well. Now, it’s time to set the record straight.

    — Ben Kaye
    Editorial Director

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    Like this list? Check out our ranking of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, and then snag some of our “Legends” merch (posters, T-shirts, and tote bags) at the Consequence Shop.


    Giving Lana Del Rey’s Born to Die a D

    Lana Del Rey Born To Die

    We’ve already started to set the record straight on Lana Del Rey’s seminal 2012 album: Earlier this year, we ran a retrospective on how the album has impacted pop music in the decade that’s passed since its release. The conclusion we reached is that, in many ways, Born to Die holds up as a blueprint for pop melancholia — many have done it since, but no one has done it like Lana Del Rey.

    The LP is absurdly theatrical, and despite being a far cry from the music dominating the charts at the time, it somehow found the ears it needed to find. The aesthetics for the album revolutionized a certain corner of the pop culture world, setting Tumblr blogs on fire with her desaturated nostalgia and red lip. Everything about Born to Die saw Lana Del Rey putting on a show, and she was playing a part she was meant to play throughout. One might even call the album ahead of its time — us included. We even had to include it on our list of the Top 75 Albums of the Last 15 Years. — Mary Siroky

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    Giving Taylor Swift’s reputation a D+ and Screwing Up the Metacritic Score

    taylor swift reputation album cover

    “My reputation’s never been worse, so he must like me for me.” This painfully tender line from “Delicate” captures so many things about the time when reputation was released — most of all, it speaks to Taylor Swift’s awareness of the conversations surrounding her. Behind the comparatively dramatic album rollout, though, is a record that showed Swift’s continued evolution as a writer and allowed her to branch into new topics as she entered her late-20s. So many listeners (this writer included) have grown up with Swift, and it was refreshing to hear her touch on heartbreak and messy relationships through a more mature lens.

    Whether in the pulsing “So It Goes…,” the dizzying “Call It What You Want,” or the timeless “New Year’s Day,” Swift was still on her A-game as a writer. Swift also often exists in a lose-lose world; had she not experimented a bit with reputation, people may have accused her of growing stale, falling too comfortably into a safer pop lane. She took some swings with this record, and each one of them is part of her story.

    Let’s be clear: In no way is this a D+ record. Taylor Swift of 2017 deserved better from the media at large, and this album deserves a much better score. Time has proven it. — M.S.

    Giving Tyler, the Creator’s Flower Boy a C

    tyler flower boy What Were We Thinking? 15 Times We Were Wrong

    Context is vital to any album review, and Tyler, the Creator’s rampant use of homophobic slurs was important to mention in any analysis of his 2017 album Flower Boy. However, dismissing Tyler’s lyrics about “kissing white boys” and “coming out of the garden shed” as a publicity tactic from a known provocateur rather than a continuation of his self-discovery was an example of missing the forest for the trees.

    Not only had the rapper previously hinted at his sexuality over the years, but Flower Boy represented a musical growth characterized by its embrace of neo soul and jazz. Even then, it was apparent that the LP was a major leap in Tyler’s career, a notion that was validated by the new level of artistry he reached with IGOR just two years later. — Eddie Fu

    Giving Harry Styles’ Debut Album a C+

    harry styles self-titled review we were wrong

    Say what you will about Harry Styles — we get it, there’s plenty to say — but the man’s solo debut was not C+ material. The first LP that introduced Mr. Styles to the world outside of the One Direction bubble is a genuinely good pop-rock album, with songs like “Sweet Creature” and “Kiwi” failing to lose their golden shine five years later.

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    The self-titled 2017 record is 10 songs in total, and part of what made the release so exciting was the window it offered into Harry Styles the person and not just Harry Styles the One Direction member/Taylor Swift’s ex. What’s odd is that the initial review that ran on Consequence is overwhelmingly complimentary — we’re happy to now set the record straight and confirm that Styles’ debut solo record is a great one. — M.S.

    Giving Adele’s 21 a C+

    Adele 21 we were wrong

    Perhaps it’s true: Adele’s voice isn’t for everyone. It’s easy to see how, 11 years ago, we shrugged off Adele’s sophomore LP, because it didn’t exactly fit within the two markets that were becoming saturated — not indie enough for the hipsters, not pop enough for the partygoers. Little did we know, this album was an equalizer; an undeniably sincere songwriting moment that burst through any preconceived notions of genre and identity.

    When we critically re-evaluated 21 last year, there was a large emphasis on this album “breathing fresh air back into pop music,” which is a perfect way to put it; 21’s vulnerable, soulful approach was so significant that many pop artists began to dig as deep as Adele had, and re-approached their own sounds with an openness that hadn’t been as popular before her. Eleven years later, it remains one of the most sonically influential records of its decade. So, it’s safe to say a C+ was not our finest take. — Paolo Ragusa

    Giving Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again a C+

    Joyce Manor - Never Hungover Again

    Joyce Manor’s Never Hungover Again was pop-punk royalty upon release. Everyone knew it. Tracks like “Catalina Fight Song,” “Heart Tattoo,” and “Falling in Love Again” were a triumph in 2014 and have since been rightfully canonized. Again, everyone knew it; it wasn’t exactly a Pinkerton situation. Despite initially grading it a C+, our own coverage suggests we actually knew it too.

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    Here’s a quick rundown of how we felt about Never Hungover Again following our initial review: Immediately following the C+ grade, a live review described the record’s on-stage magic. Then, in our 2016 list of the 100 Best Pop Punk Bands, we ranked Joyce Manor at an impressive 25, dubbing them “current torch bearers.” While the blurb never explicitly name-drops Never Hungover Again, it’s hard not to attribute many of the accolades to the record considered the band’s breakout effort. Finally (and perhaps most egregiously of all), the album caps off our 10 Emo Albums Every Music Fan Should Own feature, placing the album in the company of Rites of Spring, Analphabetapolothology, Full Collapse, and The Black Parade. We seemed to have immediately recognized how great the album actually is, so it’s about time we formally acknowledged it. — Jonah Krueger

    Slamming Sonic the Hedgehog in a Truly Odd Review

    There is nothing wrong with disliking a movie. Even hating a movie. As a critic, it’s a part of the job. But when giving a new kids movie like Sonic the Hedgehog an F grade, it’s best to have an actual critical take on the lack of merit. With all due respect to the author of this review — there is actually some beautiful and funny writing here — the piece didn’t focus enough on the film itself. Instead, it brought in a bunch of personal feelings surrounding the assignment and imagined dialogues between director Jeff Fowler and the studio execs, which, while pretty funny, doesn’t present enough substantive points to back up the take.

    In fact, many people — including some here at Consequence — rather enjoyed Sonic. Jim Carrey gets to go full Jim Carrey for the first time in years, and Ben Schwartz is completely endearing as the titular speedster. Considering how unwatchable most video game adaptations are and how unadaptable a thing like Sonic should be, this is a fun hour-and-a-half of distraction. — Liz Shannon Miller

    Giving Deadpool a C

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    First off, Deadpool deserves all the credit in the world for simply existing. The journey of Ryan Reynolds getting this thing into production is one of the greater Hollywood success stories of the Internet age. The fact that it also happens to be damn good and an undeniably fun ride just solidifies that it deserved better than a C rating.

    In no way is this X-Men side-story a perfect film. Offer 10 people on the street $10 to name the movie’s villain, and you’ll walk away with at least $90. And Deadpool’s reaction to the whole “masculine” female b-villain thing doesn’t exactly hold up even six years later. But what does still really work is its complete and utter self-awareness within its genre — which is sort of amazing considering how many comic movies have come out since Deadpool. The fact that it is a typical superhero origin story (with some added fourth-wall breaking and a hard R rating) while sending up typical superhero origin stories is a hardcore 540 turn of perfectly executed irony. It nails that superhero landing with maximum effort, and there’s a reason why even after a less successful follow-up (which we gave a C+!), fans are still hungry for a Deadpool 3. — Ben Kaye

    Giving Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker a B+

    Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker has some interesting action scenes and well-paced set pieces. There, that’s all of the positives out of the way. The final entry in the Rey Trilogy repeatedly takes a hatchet to the mythology as it was built out in The Last Jedi. Finn’s character is diminished, Rose Tico is disappeared, and one of the climactic moments of the prior film (the Holdo Maneuver) is made nonsensical by the introduction of “lightspeed skipping” — itself nothing but a thin excuse for yet another meaningless chase in a movie full of them.

    The return of Palpatine we can forgive (every great villain deserves a resurrection or two), but a Palpatine who sired children? Sorry, make that clones. [Checks books for information not provided in film.] I’m sorry, failed clones? What is a failed clone? The prequels had wooden acting but a strong commitment to backstory; The Rise of Skywalker is one long chase scene in search of something worth catching. — Wren Graves

    Taking Quibi Seriously

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    Quibi shutting down done ending failed fail end we were wrong

    Quibi

    So far in my time here at Consequence, I have asked Senior Writer Clint Worthington to do some arduous tasks, like rank all the Liam Neesons or explain the differences between all these damn Resident Evils. But I can take comfort in knowing that I never asked him to take Quibi seriously.

    See, I got my start as a journalist covering the emerging world of digital content in the late aughts, which meant that I spent several years listening to well-paid media execs talk about their newest initiatives which were totally going to revolutionize the way we watch content. I’d say about 95% of those initiatives utterly failed, wasting countless millions of investor dollars, not to mention the time and energy of some wildly talented people.

    Thus, when Jeffrey Katzenberg and Meg Whitman started making noise about how we were all going to love watching hugely expensive movies and TV shows in 10-minute, ad-supported installments on our phones, I immediately smelled bullshit, and was eventually proven right. But bless you, Clint, for taking on the challenge of creating this comprehensive and thoughtful guide to Quibi’s opening slate of content. You deserved a far better Quibi than the one we got. — L.S.M.

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    Putting Vampire Weekend’s Contra at No. 1 in 2010

    contra vampire weekend we were wrong review album cover

    A lot of great albums came out in 2010, and Contra is absolutely one of them. But Vampire Weekend’s sophomore record hasn’t held up quite as well as some of its peers. Case in point: It isn’t on our list of the 100 Greatest Albums of All Time, nor even our list of the Top 75 Albums of the Last 15 years. In fact, the five albums we ranked immediately below it in 2010 ended up being on that latter list (along with Modern Vampires of the City, it’s worth mentioning).

    As much as we love to hate Kanye West over a decade later, 2010’s My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy shaped the course of music to come. It kickstarted Nicki Minaj’s career, achieved a unique crossover appeal by enlisting Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon, and — like almost nothing he’s done since — was brash and ambitious without ever feeling like Ye was parodying himself. If we could reorder our year-end list from ’10, we’d be remiss not to name My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy 2010’s best album. — Abby Jones

    Leaving Some Crucial Names Off Our 100 Best Pop Punk Bands of All Time List

    the promise ring emo bands we were wrong

    The Promise Ring, photo courtesy of artist

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    Considering this 2016 list was already re-published in 2019, Consequence already had a chance to make some necessary tweaks. First, we could’ve taken the opportunity to add bands like PUP, Grand Grandpa, and Oso Oso, who emerged in that three-year window. Secondly, we could have rightfully revoked the honor from bands whose legacies have been tarnished with credible allegations of sexual assault and abuse.

    I could nitpick this list until my eyes and ears bleed, but I ask this without a trace of bias: Where the hell is The Promise Ring? Though the Wisconsin band are most often tied to late-’90s emo, their 1997 magnum opus Nothing Feels Good paved the way for other seminal albums like Bleed American, Through Being Cool, and Something to Write Home About to follow. And, unlike a few one-hit wonders on our list, The Promise Ring still sound just as good today as they did in their heyday. — Abby Jones

    Ranking the Top 100 Songs of All Time

    The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, artwork by Steven Fiche

    The 100 Greatest Songs of All Time, artwork by Steven Fiche

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    There’s a science to list making, and it’s flawed. (I addressed this whole thing in the intro to our recently updated 100 Greatest Albums of All Time list.) In retrospect, almost no best-ever list is going to hold up very long, as the very nature of the arguments made during such an undertaking change and evolve. I was part of the discussions around our 100 Greatest Songs of All Time ranking, and I distinctly remember the excitement we had about putting Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” at No. 4. Now, I’m not even sure it would make the final cut.

    It’s possible “God Only Knows” would still justifiably take the top spot here, but “Once in a Lifetime” at No. 2? “In the Aeroplane Over the Sea” at No. 28 — right above “Love Will Tear Us Apart”? It’s clear we let a contrarian cool factor outweigh a bit of critical logic. (Which, to be fair, can be kind of the point of these sorts of lists.) And then on the flip side, there’s “Respect” way down at No. 8, “What’s Going On” outside the Top 10, “Superstition” failing to crack the Top 50, and only one David Bowie track (“Space Oddity” at No. 43). Sigh, we’re going to have to address this all again at some point, aren’t we? — B.K.

    Naming Michael Jackson the Best Singer of All Time

    100 greatest singers of all time we were wrong

    Here we go: Another list that put Michael Jackson just way too high. If we were talking about 100 Greatest Performers of All Time, we’d be having a different discussion, but 100 Greatest Singers? Aretha Franklin was right there! Freddie Mercury was right there! Billie Holiday, Whitney Houston, Sam Cooke, Marvin Gaye, even Amy Winehouse, for the hell of it. They all got placed nice and high on the final list, but if we were debating this ranking today, we’d have to seriously reconsider how MJ stacked up in comparison.

    Look, Jackson had an incredible voice — unique, unifying, and at this point even mythical. But like giving “Man in the Mirror” such a lofty position on our Greatest Songs list, we seemed to have let a bit of that myth cloud the facts of the matter. — B.K.

    Generally Going Too Hard on Kanye West

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    kanye shrug What Were We Thinking? 15 Times We Were Wrong

    What’s that old adage? Give an egomaniac air, and they’ll suck it all up. Without a doubt, Consequence is not the only publication that gave Kanye West an exorbitant amount of coverage over the years. You have to remember, before his massive red-hatted heel turn of the later 2010s, he was considered the greatest artist of a generation. (And frankly, there’s still plenty of argument that he still is.) He was also the public figure for years, and at some point it becomes the duty of a pop culture publication to report on an individual who’s that deeply engrained in the social consciousness.

    All that said, we definitely let things get out of hand at the height of our fandom. There was a point when we were covering just about anything that happened with this dude, whether it was getting a silly haircut, being a Jeopardy! question, ranting during his concerts, or just eating at a Waffle House. Honestly, some of this stuff would be regulated to Instagram memes in today’s climate, but at the time, we were just gluttonous for anything to do with Ye. And when you’re part of feeding an ego that big, you have to take some of the responsibility for giving it such a buffet. Our bad, y’all. — B.K.

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