[Guest Blogger Scott raises another one of his big questions. I chime in with a small point at the end.]
I was filling out a myspace survey on music this morning, when I came across a question that stumped me for a bit: "Who do you consider to be the most overated artist of all time?"
Now, there are quite a few artist that I feel are or have been overrated at one time or another and, I will even admit, that favorites of mine like U2 and REM can be overrated from time to time.... but "Most Overrated of All Time?" That is quite a daunting assessment for me to make. There are lots of bands that I don't think are any good but are quite successful (Nickelback, Daughtry, Train) but I don't hear anyone heralding these groups as "The Future of Rock" or as being on a par with any of the really great bands/artist of popular music. So, in that case, I would say that they are certainly more popular than they should be... but not really overrated. Other artists, like Oasis, have been 'overated' at one time or another (like when they were hailed as the new Beatles) but, over time, have settled into being rated a bit more conservatively (it's to the point now where Oasis, at least in the states, is quite a bit underrated) still, this doesn't fit the 'all time' distinction for me.
Most artists that are considered great are usually deserving of the praise they recieve. In fact, I am generally able to concede to the greatness of an artist despite my personal taste. For example, The Greatful Dead: I don't care for them, and they can certainly be overrated by Dead Heads, but they are a very important and influential band in the overall context of Rock music. Sometimes, I feel that an artist may be overrated in one respect (Jim Morrison as Lyricist) while completely deserving in another (Jim Morrison as frontman).
In order for someone to be "most overated of all time" they would have to be overrated in virtually every respect; everything that people would say is great about them would have to be false or, at least, they would have to be given far more credit than they deserve or, maybe, credited with being a much bigger influence than they were.
So, you can see why I was having trouble deciding... but then I remembered Dave Matthews Band : )
Seriously though, after mulling it over for a while, these are the contenders that I came up with:
First, and this one is personal,
Dave Matthews Band
Seriously, while it's not the worst music ever made I just never understood the devotion that people paid/pay to this band. It really just isn't that great. At his best, he's a poor man's Peter Gabriel. (and he ruined guitar playing for a while there... you have no idea how many times idiots broke my picks or strings trying to play like him on my guitar). At the end of the day, this just seems like music that shallow people listen to in attempt to be deep.
Led Zeppelin- Okay, definitely a great band... but are they as great as they're often made out to be? I mean the Who not only had better songs but they were also better live (at least from what I've seen/heard).
Bob Dylan- Okay... think about his one... his mid-60s trio: Bringing It All Back Home, Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde On Blonde.... how influential would he be without those albums? They were some of the most important and influential albums in the history of rock and their importance can never be overrated; however, much of the rest of Dylan's catalogue is overrated simply because he's Dylan. (remember that period in the early 70's where he fancied himself a crooner? And people think his regular singing voice is bad...)
and my final answer:
Elvis- Granted, he deserves credit for helping to break rock into the mainstream but the key word here is helping; there is often a misconception that he invented Rock N' Roll... he didn't; he was merely its first super-star. The work of other pioneers like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and, my personal favorite, Chuck Berry (in comparison to Elvis... he was a better songwriter, guitar player and he combined country and R and B a good year before Elvis did with his own "Maybeline") were really far more interesting. Add to that the fact that his post-Army output, while not terrible, wasn't truly Rock N' Roll so much as some sterilized concept of what adults thought rock was supposed to be which, if you think about it, is the very anti-thesis of what rock should be. There was a point in his early career where he could righfully be considered the King of Rock N' Roll but he lost that crown long before he died.
[I imagine the context of the question is designed to limit us to 20th century music. But if it were not surely the answer would be some classical musician who exists only a cliche for genius now.
And let us always remember a key point in any discussion of "most overrated" anything: it is entirely possible to be the best at something and still be overrated (e.g. Shakespeare).]