What Do We Mean By “Overrated”?


There I was, all set to write my list of the most overrated bands of all time. But then I realized that no matter who I decided to include, it would be so polarizing that it would be impossible to have a rational, nuanced discussion. Everybody has that handful of bands, where if anyone said something bad about them you would literally see red and everything would go kind of blank. At least I do. For example, don’t say anything negative about They Might Be Giants. Please don’t.

So instead of letting this classic Internet scene play out (writer says something nuanced [or not] about artist/work, devoted fan of said work unable to see apparent nuance, writer is personally attacked), I thought I might talk briefly about what people mean when they say “overrated.” To me (and that’s really the only person I have at my disposal), there are a few things that we really mean when we use the blanket term “Overrated.” I would go so far as to say that a group must satisfy at least one of these criteria to qualify for “Overrated” status.

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1.This group is inescapable, and I don’t see the reason for any fuss whatsoever

Most people have that moment where they feel out of sync with whatever the musical industry is force-feeding them at that particular moment. Maybe you didn’t like “Blurred Lines.” For the record, I totally did. As I get older (and technology allows us to personalize our playlists to the extent that we only listen to songs that we have a semi-good chance of enjoying), not understanding Top 40 radio becomes less and less important to me. But back in the 90’s, I was subjected to a lot of extremely popular songs that did not resonate with me for whatever reason.

“Wonderwall” by Oasis comes to mind. In fact, I would consider Oasis extremely overrated on this front, as “Wonderwall” was a huge hit that was inescapable for a while. In fact, I have written about my “meh” feelings for this song before. Though their album What’s the Story (Morning Glory) was extremely successful and spawned two other singles (both of which I like much more than “Wonderwall”), their significance sort of came to a halt at this point, at least to me. After their follow-up albums(s) failed to show up on my radar, I kind of forgot about Oasis. Imagine my surprise when every idiot with an acoustic guitar in the college dorm room knew “Wonderwall.”

Obviously, this is just my opinion. There are plenty of people who have collected every Oasis album, and count Morning Glory among their “lesser works.” God bless these people, because they are true fans, and perhaps if I meet one of them someday, they can explain to me exactly why I’m supposed to care about Oasis in 2016. Keep in mind that the last four most famous things the group did involved fighting/drunkenness rather than music.

This is a pretty good transition into my next topic:

2. Groups that have recently reunited, causing people to over-esteem their back catalog.

This is about Guns n’ Roses. Guys, everyone is so psyched about them touring and I can’t figure out why. Appetite for Destruction was a good album. Do you know how often I listen to it? Never. Because I hear literally every song from it almost every day. The amount of times I have heard “Sweet Child O’ Mine” in a taxi can best be expressed in scientific notation. “Welcome to the Jungle” is the theme song for the Cincinnati Bengals, and I grew up in Southwestern Ohio, so you do the math.

Writer’s Note: This is kind of reinforcing one of my points, which is that one’s conception of “overrated” depends entirely on personal taste,experience and upbringing.

The fact that Guns n’ Roses are touring again is so exciting for some people that they kind of forget what a complete pill Axl Rose was in the mid 90’s, back when we got sick of this group the first time. But hey, genuine love for a band tends to patch over these rough spots.

Meanwhile, 3rd Eye Blind is touring and billing itself as “classic.” Jane’s Addiction is headlining festivals. Surely you, rock enthusiast, can agree with me on this: the simple passing of time does not yield the idea of “classic.” Or does it?

Have you guys read King Lear? Remember how the basic idea of that play was that age does not necessarily equal wisdom? Lear was an old fool; he divided his kingdom based on the appearance of devotion and love from his two wicked daughters. Meanwhile the only daughter who actually loved and respected him refused to kiss his ass and got screwed in the end.

In other words, if you’re a piece of garbage with a totally flawed world conception when you’re young, why wouldn’t those traits carry over into your old age? It’s not as if you become more likely to rectify this behavior as you grow older.


3. Groups that were surrounded by an inordinate amount of hype, and have yet to live up to it.

This might as well be called “The Strokes Clause.”

I was a high-school senior who frequented Pitchfork in 2002, so I knew about the Strokes. I had read rave reviews heralding the second-coming of garage rock long before I actually heard one of their songs.

When I finally did, it’s not as if they were bad. I even liked a few of their tracks. It’s just that they kind of sound like a faster Velvet Underground. This, of course, is fine, but they were getting credit for re-inventing alternative music. It’s not like I’m asking for indie rockers to give the VU more shoutouts. I’m fairly sure that they are getting their due at this point. But let’s not pretend this is actually something new. In 2002, it was almost like “Yes, we know that every band rips off some other band…except for the Strokes.”

I remember thinking: “This had better be amazing, because people are shitting their pants about it.”

Little did I know that the Pitchfork staff struggles with incontinence.


For the record, I want to state again that this is all subjective. One person’s overrated group equal’s another person’s favorite. I have decided to present my Top 5 list of most overrated groups, complete with some glib reason why I feel that they deserve this label.

Feel free to post your own choices or openly disagree with me.

Just…be cool about it. I’m quite sensitive;

5. Guns n’ Roses

What are we doing? Can anyone name ten songs by this group? Keep in mind that they will be playing for at least an hour. Use Your Illusion was spotty, despite “November Rain” kicking ass. And keep in mind the sort of behavior we are allowing just so we can get a few of these songs. We’re allowing Axl Rose to hold us hostage once again. Except he’s all puffy now so it’s gross.

4. Red Hot Chili Peppers:

ALEX TREBEK:This California group released two albums of note and one of them was a lame-ass soft rock album that they clearly recorded with the perverse and express goal of selling more records to teens. Yet they headline music festivals, despite nobody ever being overly excited to see them. One thing that we don’t bring up often is that they encouraged the attendants of Woodstock ’99 to burn things, even well after that particular disaster got way out of hand. Flea seems like a cool guy, though.

JORDAN: Who are the Red Hot Chili Peppers?

TREBEK: Man, I wish I didn’t know the answer to that question.

3. The Doors

Look, I’m not going down this road again. If you want to know my thoughts on the Doors, ask me privately.

2. The Police

First of all, “Roxanne” is actually a horrible song. Second of all, the Police failed as both a punk band and a jazz fusion band. Sting should stick to his wheelhouse: having sex for 7 calendar days.

1. U2

Really, this is about Bono. For a guy that has released 3.5 good albums with his band and doesn’t even try to hit a fraction of the notes he used to, Bono is pretty damn pleased with himself. I guess he hasn’t heard the last 15 years of U2’s output. Aside from their contribution to the Batman Forever soundtrack, name a good U2 song after 1992. “It’s A Beautiful Day” barely even counts as a song, let alone a good one, in case you were going to say that.


Anyone else you feel is overrated? Just feel like arguing with me? Great! Comment!

5 comments to “What Do We Mean By “Overrated”?”
    • I feel they are a much-debated band. I recall the discussions in the past about them and whether or not they should be in the Rock Hall. Lots of people, rock critics included, think Kiss is shit and shouldn’t be in the Rock Hall. Others think they are great, were highly influential and should have gotten in long before they did. They’re definitely not universally overrated, I don’t think.

    • I don’t think you have a clue about what your saying , U2, reo ,journey ,Elvis costello, John lennon, Chile peppers, genesis , Peter gabrial, Billy idol, springsteen , gosh I hope you register to some 80s music and think again your missing a lot

  1. In the Internet age, “overrated” has mostly come to mean “I personally don’t like this as much as everyone else, so it must be overrated.” I think your point one falls into that, but that’s not what overrated means. There’s a difference between something being overrated and something not matching someone’s personal tastes. There’s lots of shit I don’t like, but I’m not going to say it’s overrated.

    The word I would use to describe your point three is “overhyped” but not necessarily “overrated.” Point two, I’m not quite sure. Maybe it’s a form of overrating. It’s not uncommon for nostalgia to pump the point of praise too high. Guns n’ Roses was a bit of a phenomenon in their prime (I can name every song on Appetite and GnR Lies in order and most of the Use Your Illusions, to answer your question of can you name ten songs from them) and people still discover them and like them so I don’t know if I’d include them here, but I do think they’re going to have a hard time filling stadiums this summer.

    It’s hard to definitively say something’s overrated because of how subjective that viewpoint can be, especially with music since someone’s view of what good music is and isn’t can have a lot of subjectivity. To me the answer is if someone’s going to say something’s overrated they should come up with concrete evidence as to why, otherwise it’s just opinion.

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