Chart-topping Barenaked Ladies take bad reviews personally


Propelled by the omnipresent radio hit “One Week,” Barenaked Ladies’ new album, “Stunt” (Reprise), defied naysaying critics and debuted at No. 3 on the Billboard charts, selling 142,000 copies in its first week and surprising even Reprise label head Howie Klein, who had hoped for sales around 100,000. (Two weeks after its debut, the album remains in the top 10.) The Canadian quintet’s fans evidently hear something that those who review rock music don’t: EW gave the album a C+, saying “the arch lyrics…suck the life from the tunes”; Rolling Stone said the Ladies “aspire to a Richard Carpenter or Burt Bachrach brand of intensity”; and Details sniped that they “never learned the difference between clever and smart.”

Long a smash in Canada, the Ladies are finally enjoying the mainstream American success they have chased for 10 years (and four previous albums). Even so, the media’s barbs sting. “When you read a bad review, it hurts,” says singer-guitarist Steven Page, 28, who writes many of the band’s tunes. “The songs are an expression of me, and it’s the critics’ ways of saying, ‘You know, I hate you.’ You realize that they do mean it personally, and anybody who tells you they don’t is wrong.” Still, the recent turnout of 40,000 fans for a free Barenaked performance in Boston helped ease Page’s pain: “You can’t let it matter that much if critics hate you — there are way more people who like you than hate you.”

  • Music