The Beatles Aren’t Overrated, You’re Just Being Contrarian for Hate-Clicks
A new Washington Post op-ed claims the Fab Four aren't worth the hype
Now that it’s been out for a week, the reactions to Peter Jackson’s The Beatles: Get Back docuseries keep rolling in. One of the main criticisms is that the nearly eight-hour doc is too long. It is indeed very long, but whether or not you find it to be tedious will depend on how you feel about the Beatles, a band most people tend to agree was very good. But Chris Richards of the Washington Post is a rare dissenter, declaring in a new piece that “The Beatles Are Overrated. That’s Our Fault, Not Theirs.“
This is, of course, completely asinine. The Beatles are responsible for not one, not two, but dozens of the most beloved songs of all time, many of which have become modern standards. Their music has stood the test of time, embraced by generation after generation of listeners who were not yet alive when they broke up in 1970, and their influence — from their incredible songwriting to their pioneering studio techniques — is immeasurable. Every band that you love from the last half-century has directly or indirectly been shaped by them. They’re massively popular, yes, but overrated? Nah.
Richards explains himself thusly: “Hot takes are boring, so forgive me for serving up this sizzling fajita plate of an edict, but the Beatles are overrated. It’s our fault, not theirs. This band made profoundly beautiful music, and as a society and a species, we have a very hard time saying goodbye to the things we love. So to make things easier on everybody, our current pop culture leans toward rejecting the idea of finality altogether. No Hollywood franchise shall go un-rebooted, no vintage Beatles footage shall go unseen. Rich people get richer, our imaginations get poorer and nothing is allowed to end.”
So his point isn’t so much that the Beatles are overrated as it is that we don’t need another documentary about them. He’s self-aware enough to preempt his argument with an apology and an admission that “hot takes are boring,” which would indicate that he’s simply trolling for outrage-clicks. Every outlet under the sun has run a Beatles: Get Back review this past week; the “overrated” headline is simply an attempt to set his apart from the rest and drive traffic to a review that ultimately makes the same critiques of Jackson’s doc as countless others: that it’s too long.
Richards wraps up by arguing that the Beatles aren’t worth our attention anymore because…they’re old? “But there’s also an entire world of new music being made at this very moment, and it’s already passing us by,” he writes. “Yes, we have to make room for the past and the present to coexist in our listening lives — but if we’re more excited about spending eight hours fly-on-the-walling with the Beatles than opening our ears to what this world currently sounds like, imagine what we’ll be grieving another 50 years from now.”
Why can’t we be excited about both The Beatles: Get Back and new music? In what universe does spending eight hours watching one of the most influential bands of all time craft timeless classics preclude us from also paying attention to contemporary artists (many of whom continue to draw inspiration from the Beatles)? Give us a little credit; we can be excited about the Beatles — or Mozart, or Miles Davis, or any other old, beloved musical genius — and still also be passionate about new material from artists working today, and we don’t have to call anyone “overrated” to do so.
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