Are The Beatles Overrated Or Underrated?

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It’s a question that people have been asking ever since Beatlemania: are The Beatles perceived to be better than they actually are?

The Beatles
The Beatles (photo via The Beatles Bible)

First, music is subjective, so it’s difficult to say if a band is overrated, underrated, or accurately rated. But this is a hot topic within the rock and music world and especially among Beatles fans and critics.

We can see a manifestation of this conversation on Debate.org, where people weigh in on this controversy.

“They will always be the most overrated band of all time,” one debater says. “Sorry, nut job Beatle fans. They never have been, nor will they ever be the greatest band of all time. Couldn’t even play their instruments correctly. They were nothing more than a boy band until 1967. Their later music was nothing but [cartoon-y].”

Ouch. Them’s is fighting words.

On the complete opposite side of the spectrum, a debater says The Beatles “changed the musical landscape worldwide.”

“Tell me who among subsequent artists that are said to have further revolutionized music had that privilege? Nirvana? The Clash? Sex Pistols? Eminem? Not one,” the debater says. “The Beatles are simply beyond comparison; no other band was every near their league.”

Now, let’s take these two comments and dissect them. I’m going to say something bold: both of these arguments are straw-man arguments — they’re both ridiculous.

The Beatles
The Beatles (photo via Jigidi)

The first says that The Beatles didn’t know how to “play their instruments correctly.” Then how did they record albums and perform around the world?

The second argument says The Beatles “are simply beyond comparison.” Really? The Beatles were great, but they weren’t gods. There are plenty of bands in their league.

So now let’s look at a couple more level-headed arguments.

“The Beatles WERE a great band, no one’s denying that,” one debater says. “They were the first of their generation to bring about the type of music they did, and they did essentially revolutionize the music world, and that alone makes them a great band.”

Then this person talks about why they believe The Beatles were good but still overrated.

“However, that does not take away from the fact that they are an overrated band,” they continue. “Being overrated is entirely different to [being] GOOD. …So although they had a massive, MASSIVE fan base, the quality of their music did not match the sheer enormity of the fan base, and THAT is what makes them overrated.”

Interesting perspective. That’s a differentiation that many people debating the topic don’t make. The question is if The Beatles are “overrated,” not “good.”

Another debater understood this difference too.

“Though they are not my favorite, they are overrated,” they say. “But I guess everyone likes what they like. Guess it was cute guys playing guitar and drums and vocals that made women go crazy. THE BEATLES ARE OVERRATED.”

Now on the other side of the debate (the “not overrated” side), a commenter points out some logical reasons why The Beatles’ success and fame matched their influence in the rock world.

“I believe entirely that the Beatles were at the center of nearly every good rock and roll scene,” this person says, citing The Beatles’ influence on Bob Dylan, the Byrds, the Rolling Stones, and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.

“Heck, nearly everyone I can think of was inspired in some way by the music of the Beatles,” the commenter says. “And who wouldn’t be? When the witty lyrics of John Lennon are combined with the musicianship of George Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. Who wouldn’t want to spend a summer’s evening, listening to ‘I Am The Walrus‘?”

But ultimately, one debater points out, music is subjective. So who can really say if a band is over- or underrated?

“Determining how good a songwriter or musician or trying to rank bands is incredibly subjective,” the debater says. “…Collectively, people loved The Beatles throughout the band’s existence and still do decades later, perhaps more than any pop group. Like every other band that ever ‘made it,’ they had the right product to offer at the right time.

“Their music has withstood the test of time. They are ‘rated’ exactly where they should be.”

What are your thoughts? Do people think too highly of The Beatles? Let’s debate it in the comments below…

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Caleb Murphy is a musician who writes about music. His writing appears in Consequence Of Sound, Pittsburgh City Paper, and some other cool places. He blogs about music at calebjmurphy.com.
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