These world-renowned classic rock bands have ridden the coattails of generic universal praise for far too long. With their passionate vocals and piercing guitars, they all found their unique voice in the music industry. But just because they found their voice doesn’t mean they’re actually as good as people say they are. We apologize in advance, because your favorite band might actually be overrated too.
25. Fleetwood Mac
When Lindsey Buckingham and Stevie Nicks joined Fleetwood Mac, they added a commercial punch that helped catapult the band into superstardom. “Rumours” is still considered to be one of the great classic rock albums of all time, and for good reason. But when you take their entire career into context, were they really that good?
Heartfelt ballads like “Landslide” and crowd-pleasers like “Go Your Own Way” will always have a special place in our hearts. But unfortunately they lacked consistency in their sound. Fleetwood Mac’s song catalog was never that deep, and certainly not worthy of the endless praise that folks give it today.
24. Deep Purple
If we have to hear another beginner guitarist strum the opening chords to “Smoke On The Water,” we may just destroy that guitar once and for all. It’s a shame, because Deep Purple was actually one of the great hard rock bands of the 70s. But their reputation has gone through a phase of overcorrection.
If not for the incessant drone of people claiming that they’re in fact underrated, they might never have made this list. The ultimate “Dad-Rock” band, their songs are less timeless than people make them out to be. Deep Purple may have represented their era well enough, but decades later we’re finding it hard to care that much.
23. Bruce Springsteen & The E-Street Band
Before you all take out your pitchforks, some things need to be said. Bruce Springsteen is a prolific songwriter of our time, but he’s just not as legendary as people make him out to be. Of course, this says less about him than it does about the insane amount of reverence he receives.
Nicknamed “The Boss”, and worshipped by his legions of diehard fans, we wouldn’t be surprised if a statue of him gets erected one day in his hometown of Freehold, New Jersey. But why won’t anyone admit that many of his songs sound exactly the same? Or that so many of his anthemic hits sometimes feel like they’re comically pandering towards a specific group of people (cough, cough, “Born In The USA”)?
The members of Kiss were masters of showmanship. Adorned in their black and white makeup and campy garb, they helped pioneer glam rock in the best of ways. But like many bands from that era, once you wade past their flashy exterior, their music starts to become a parody in and of itself.
Don’t get us wrong. Gene Simmons and his band of rockin’ brothers were diligent professionals who saw an opportunity, and capitalized on it in a unique way. But at the end of the day, it’s hard to ignore that their songs were just lame. When they sing, “I want to rock and roll all night, and party every day,” it’s almost like they’re begging the audience to sing along.
21. Iron Maiden
Iron Maiden has a very specific demographic of fans who just get it. The problem is, so many other people simply don’t. To be perfectly fair, they’ve churned out some classics, including their legendary 1984 album “Powerslave.” But unfortunately, so much of the rest of their music tends to land in the generic heavy metal category.
At the end of the day, Iron Maiden, similar to Kiss, were masters of showmanship and entertainment. To be clear – we in no way see this as a bad thing. It’s just that their visual gimmick and theatrical approach became their whole persona, while their actual music sadly suffered as a result.
20. Crosby, Stills & Nash
The late 60s Woodstock period of hippiedom and endless jams was colored with numerous public personalities. The members of Crosby, Stills & Nash seemed to represent the “hippie ideal” on a number of levels. But certain aspects of their message were a bit pretentious.
An all-star group consisting of members from three external respective bands that had already succeeded commercially (David Crosby from The Byrds, Stephen Stills from Buffalo Springfield, and Graham Nash from The Hollies), they were confident and had the musical chops to back it up. But as sweet and silky as their vocals sounded, their lyrics also seemed a tad too self-championing. We get it guys: big things were happening, and you were a part of it.
19. Nine Inch Nails
You know that thing where one critic calls someone a genius, and then the idea sticks and people can’t get it out of their head? We can’t help but wonder if that’s how Trent Reznor got labeled a genius. With his labyrinth of electronic, synth-induced soundscapes, compelling songwriting, and self-assured image, there’s certainly an argument to be made for it. But there’s another side to that coin.
From an analytical standpoint, Nine Inch Nails blew the minds of certain music critics – critics that would go on to praise the band extensively. But beyond all the blips and gadgets, Reznor’s music lacked a certain traditional aesthetic that, whatever anyone else might say, is still pretty important. Reznor accomplished some impressive feats, that much is clear. But sometimes songs need to sound like… well, songs.
18. Pearl Jam
We already know that there will be countless fans upset over the placement of Pearl Jam here. They were such a strong representative of the early 90s Seattle grunge scene that they’ll forever be memorialized there, and amongst their fans all around the world. But as iconic as they are, here’s our argument for why they’re in fact overrated.
We’ve got no problems with Eddie Vedder’s voice, or any of the musicians. From a performance standpoint, these cats could always cook. Our main issue lies in their songs. Bluntly put, their compositions were never that interesting. As much as Vedder could sing, we would’ve preferred a more toned down vocal delivery if it meant his melodies were actually going somewhere.
17. The Doors
It’s not so much that The Doors are overrated, rather that it’s just Jim Morrison who’s overrated. From a musical standpoint, The Doors actually were incredibly unique for their time. The core of their instrumental sound shined through Ray Manzarek’s eclectic organ grooves, Robby Kreiger’s eerie guitar riffs, and John Densmore’s persistent drums. Lead singer Jim Morrison’s smooth, bass-heavy vocal was the cherry on top, but here’s why he’s overrated.
While Morrison’s lyrics certainly had their wistful charm about them, people deified his words like he was the second coming of Jesus Christ. We might’ve been able to appreciate his melancholic, self-deprecating act if it didn’t seem so rooted in narcissism (Lo and behold, there’s actually no such thing as a Lizard King). After his tragic passing, he was mythologized even deeper into the halls of Rock n’ Roll greatness – but perhaps a little too much.
16. Foo Fighters
Not long after the death of fellow bandmate Kurt Cobain, drummer Dave Grohl decided to start Foo Fighters, a new band where he was the frontman. It turned out that Grohl also knew his way around an electric guitar, and how to belt out rage-filled choruses to inspire a crowd. But as passionate as Grohl could be on stage, his singing has always felt a bit forced.
Grohl always sounds like he’s emulating what he believes true Rock N’ Roll should sound like, while checking off the “boxes” one by one. Distorted guitars, howling vocals, thundering drums – it’s all there, sitting neatly in a row. But music is about more than just a checklist – and ironically, his songs have always lacked a certain punch.
15. The Eagles
When one listens to the early Eagles hit “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” it’s hard not to feel peaceful and indeed quite at ease. With their rich harmonies and steady backbeat, The Eagles were a tough placement on this list. But it was necessary to do, because unfortunately they’ve gotten just a tad too much praise over the years.
In their defense, The Eagles are the ultimate band to listen to while on a road trip. Perhaps that’s why their “Greatest Hits” album is one of the best selling albums ever. But unfortunately, their songs all sound the same as well. Seriously, listen again to “Peaceful Easy Feeling,” then “Lyin’ Eyes,” and then “Take It Easy,” in succession. Each three of these songs is quite beautiful – but the consistent four-four rhythm and idealistic clean vibe gets a tad boring after a while.
14. Mumford & Sons
By the time “I Will Wait” was topping the charts in 2012, Mumford & Sons represented the ideal neo-bluegrass hipster of the modern age. With their pristine-but-just-gritty-enough folkish harmonies that delivered heartfelt messages to women far away, they seemed just perfect and dangerous enough to buy into. However, anyone with a diverse enough musical palette may have had trouble taking them seriously for too long.
With obvious chord changes and sentiments a bit too syrupy for our taste, we smiled and nodded painfully while friends and family sung their praises. But now we can happily and proudly declare that we’ve always found their saccharine songs to be, well, too much.
13. Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi certainly deserves a lot of praise. Let’s be real, we’ve all had that moment where we sang along to “It’s My Life” or “You Give Love A Bad Name.” Most of Bon Jovi’s songs are quite easy and fun to sing along to. The problem is, they were methodically programmed to be that way.
Once Bon Jovi found a sound that worked for them, it became a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, fans grew addicted to their arena rock anthems, and attended their shows religiously. On the other hand, each of these power pop bangers also had a certain commercial stench that couldn’t be ignored by the rest of us. Unfortunately, the DJs all across America didn’t get the memo, because their tunes are still overplayed to the point of oblivion.
Nirvana was the rightful face of grunge music in the early 90s. While other bands like Pearl Jam and Soundgarden gave them a run for their money, Nirvana always had a slight edge over their contemporaries. But at some point their praise grew beyond the scope of reality.
When lead singer Kurt Cobain took his own life at age 27, Nirvana’s legacy became frozen in time, and their myth strengthened within the annals of music history. It became hard for people to separate the emotional tragedy of Cobain’s passing with his actual contribution towards music itself – which was, while impressive, not as earth-shattering as many would argue.
11. Joy Division
Does anyone actually like Joy Division’s music? Well, clearly some people do, because Rolling Stone ranked their 1979 album “Unknown Pleasures” as 34th on their list of 40 Greatest Punk Albums Of All Time. Considering all the amazing punk bands that have existed over the last half-century, that’s pretty high acclaim. Or at least it’s a lot higher acclaim than we believe they deserve.
It’s not like we think they’re bad musicians. And we understand that there’s a certain conscious detachment in their sound that’s intended to resonate with very specific listeners. But sometimes it feels like lead singer Ian Curtis, God rest his soul, was trying a bit too hard to sound edgy. His edginess is simply off the charts. Kudos to him for taking things to that place (instead of trying to write a good song).
Rush is one of the most polarizing bands of all time — and thus, they by default are overrated. That is to say, they obviously amassed a cult following that most bands couldn’t dream of achieving — but everyone who didn’t become a fan has been calling them overrated for decades. Of course, there’s one debate that often gets raised when talking about Rush’s legacy — their lead-singing bassist Geddy Lee’s voice.
Rush naysayers have been saying for years that they find Lee’s singing voice to be quite unbearable — which is why they can’t for the life of them understand the fans who are devoted to this Canadian band. To be fair, the members are all virtuoso musicians, and no one could deny that they’re masters of their craft. But from Lee’s voice to their incessant urge to compose unnecessarily complicated musical pieces, there’s a great deal of people out there who will simply never get the appeal.
9. The Sex Pistols
No one doubts The Sex Pistols’ influence on punk music. But much of that influence had more to do with their image than their actual music. With only one album under their belt, it’s amazing that they’re praised the way they are today. “Anarchy In The UK” is a visceral, rage-filled, simple masterpiece — but that’s pretty much as far as it goes with them.
They have no deep cuts, no hidden gems that diehard fans can use to sway people about their versatility. As rebellious and refreshing as their lyrics may have been to a frustrated generation at the time, The Sex Pistols didn’t exactly present any groundbreaking solutions, either.
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin once wrote about U2, “They may be the only good anthemic rock band ever. Certainly they’re the best.” He’s certainly right about U2’s ability to churn out classic anthemic hits. If only it didn’t sound like they were constantly pandering to their audiences with those anthems.
Meticulously engineered and carefully crafted, their songs are almost too polished. From The Edge’s delay-drenched electric guitar to Bono’s earnest vocals soaring through the sky, U2 certainly found their idealistic niche. But are they really that good? Does U2 really deserve to be ranked #22 on Rolling Stone’s list of Greatest Artists Of All Time? In retrospect, we’d have to raise a few questions.
7. The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Yes, that’s right. We said it. Jimi Hendrix is overrated. As much as we love his image, and his sheer icon status as the (presumably) undisputed best guitarist of all time, there were many flaws in his music. The brunt of our argument of Hendrix being overrated is that he was never much of a songwriter, and that he consistently just did more of the same.
Hendrix was primarily a blues guitarist, one whose genius enabled him to shatter the oceanic boundaries of what kinds of sounds and colors could actually be released from a six-stringed axe amplified by a rectangular box. But as inventive and explosive as he was, his actual songs – that is to say, his songwriting — lacked originality. “Little Wing” was a beautiful piece of music, to be fair. But while he’s certainly NOT overrated as a guitarist – people overrated him as an artist.
6. The Dave Matthews Band
The Dave Matthews Band has released a lot of solid music over the years. You won’t find us complaining that their songs aren’t good by any means. Anyone who enjoys live music, or especially improvised live music, would enjoy attending their concerts. But while legions of fans adore Dave Matthews for his experimental guitar riffs and wonky chord changes, there’s the rest of us who are sick of y’all shoving it down our throats.
It’s like when you try to force someone to watch a television show, so egregiously to the point that they no longer want to try it out. Such is the case with The Dave Matthews Band cult following, and the way they try to convince people that his sound is some kind of genius phenomenon.
5. Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin is so overrated that we made an exception to put her on this list, which was intended to be for actual bands. We’re not downplaying her passion. We’re not downplaying her ferocious grit, that she brought to each singing performance. In fact, we’re highlighting it – because that’s pretty much all she’s got.
Joplin’s blues-influenced signature wail has been interpreted by rock historians as one of the greatest female vocals of all time. But listening to her can sometimes feel like nails on a chalkboard, to the point where we have to wonder if this is all some joke that’s being played on us. No, we won’t buy into the hype. As much as we’d like to convince ourselves that her singing has more subtlety than just screaming in a microphone, we’re having trouble threading that needle.
4. Maroon 5
When Maroon 5 first released “This Love” back in 2002, it was an interesting new indie-ish take on the modern alternative rock scene. There were even hints of classic rock in the aforementioned chart-topper about a lover scorned “too many times before.” Unfortunately, this early debut hit was the musical peak of their career.
It wasn’t long before Maroon 5 began to change their sound, and not for the better. Soon they were knee-deep in the Top 40 culture of over-processed, electro-pop, clubby-sounding songs. In other words, Maroon 5 used to sound like an actual rock band. And now they sound like a record company product catering to the public’s every whim. Unfortunately, the masses continue to encourage this behavior.
It’s widely known that Metallica is considered to be one of the greatest heavy metal bands of all time. But outside of that genre, they’re like aliens to the rest of the world. It’s a niche sound for a niche crowd, and it works for them. But while we can appreciate that everyone has their own special taste, we’ve got some thoughts of our own to divulge.
Simply put, Metallica’s music is way too loud, and comes off like some kind of monster most of us don’t have the patience for. Unlike many of the other bands on this list, we actually think they’re excellent songwriters. Songs like “Nothing Else Matters” and “The Unforgiven II,” which provide a gentler sonic palette for James Hetfield’s voice to roam, showcasing their abilities as storytellers. The only problem is, it’s impossible to appreciate the rest of their songs the same way, because of the distortion monsoon that viciously covers it all up.
Music isn’t meant to be treated like a lab specimen. Unfortunately, that’s what it often sounds like when we listen to Yes. So many of their songs, if you want to call them songs, sound like they were written solely for the sake of sounding progressive and ahead of the curve.
A pervasive sense of pretentiousness trickles through to listeners who don’t care for weird time signatures that make no sense, and simply want a normal song to listen to and enjoy. When complex prog-rock became a thing in the 70s, millions of musical minds were blown. At the same time, a bunch of other music listeners died inside.
1. Pink Floyd
Honestly, we believe that Pink Floyd’s debut album, “The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn,” is actually underrated. The songwriting craftsmanship courtesy of their early frontman Syd Barrett was simply top-tier work, and the band’s sonic explorations were still gritty, curious, and humbly inventive. It’s the public perception of their later work we mainly have an issue with.
We won’t even knock “Dark Side Of The Moon,” which, while certainly a masterpiece, we don’t think was as groundbreaking as people think. But “The Wall” is a meandering and pretentious piece of mediocre prog-rock, convinced that it’s the red carpet for all salvation. And don’t get us started on “Animals.” What ever happened to just recording a regular, peppy, three-minute song with catchy verses and choruses? We’re all for exploration, but please don’t call a song a song if it takes seven years till we hear the first second of singing.
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