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The 8 Most Overrated Musicians

From Springsteen to the Doors to Lady Gaga, no mercy is spared in this compilation of a 3-part, signature Shaidle smackdown.

Kathy Shaidle


March 2, 2014 - 2:00 pm
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Editor’s Note: This article was first published in three parts in April and May of 2013. It is being reprinted as part of a new weekend series at PJ Lifestyle collecting and organizing the top 50 best lists. Where will this great piece end up on the count-down? Reader feedback will be factored in when the PJ Lifestyle Top 50 List Collection is completed in a few months…

The “Academy of the Overrated” scene in Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1978) is meant to get us to hate Diane Keaton just before Woody Allen changes his mind and falls into bed with her.

Yes, as Mariel Hemingway’s character puts it, Keaton and her beau are “creeps” — but mostly because their “academy” inductees are so gauche, as is their decision to inflict their pretentious pillow talk onto hapless acquaintances on a public sidewalk.

Let’s face it:

Some artists really are overrated, especially today when words like “genius” and “classic” (and the current go-to empty-calorie adjective “iconic”) have been neutered by lazy, know-nothing writers.

First, we prick the inflated reputations of 5 rock and pop stars with XY chromosomes and little else to recommend them.

#5: Pink Floyd

Let’s tackle Roger Waters’ reputed antisemitism first, since it lets me put off having to actually talk about his dreadful “music” for a bit.

Waters made news most recently when New York City’s famous 92Y, under pressure by Jewish groups, cancelled his scheduled lecture.

I’m not a fan of anybody trying to get someone else’s public appearances cancelled, and not just because it’s happened to me.

What’s unusual about this particular instance, however, is that critics’ “accusations” against Waters are true.

Some will object that “anti-Zionism isn’t necessarily anti-Semitism” and if we existed on a pure and sterile plane of Platonic forms, they’d be right.

But here on planet Earth, anyone who’s engaged a rabid “anti-Zionist” in “conversation” knows that within moments, their opponent will slip up and spit out some slur upon “the Joooozzzz!!!”

I save myself time and simply assume that long-time anti-Zionists are Jew-haters, because life is too short and I have laundry and stuff to do.

I’ll leave you with this hilarious piece of evidence, then:

Those who grew up with Pink Floyd’s 1979 double album “The Wall” will remember it as the perfect antidote to the crueller aspects of teenage life. Chronicling the mental breakdown of a pop star, the rock opera rages against suffocating parents, tyrannical teachers and social conformism. The story concludes with the hero hauled before a nightmarish court, where everyone in his life testifies as an adversarial witness. Before the defendant can say a word in his own defense, the judge bellows a guilty verdict: “The evidence before the court is incontrovertible. There is no need for the jury to retire!”

I was reminded of this scene Saturday while attending a session in New York of the Russell Tribunal on Palestine, a self-appointed people’s court that has met periodically since 2009 to sit in judgment of Israel. (…)

Another reason to be reminded of “The Wall”: Roger Waters, Pink Floyd’s chief lyricist, was a member of the jury.

I grew up trying to avoid The Wall.

It was ubiquitous in my steel mill home town — a whining drone blaring from every paneled suburban basement and tricked-out Chevy van.

But those of us who’d discovered punk wanted nothing to do with the overproduced bellows of millionaire dinosaurs like Pink Floyd.

We didn’t learn until decades later that Johnny Rotten himself was a secret fan, his band’s sartorial protestations to the contrary.

That doesn’t make Pink Floyd’s music any more palatable, however.

Had their efforts been presented matter of factly, I’d give them a pass.

But every Floyd album was held up by under-read, musically unsophisticated teenage boys as a deep, profound commentary on society (man!!!) as well as an example of superior performance and production.

They’d show off their stereo system using Dark Side of the Moon, sounding like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas:

“Check it out! One instrument comes out one speaker, and another instrument comes out the OTHER speaker!!”

Have you, now a sober adult, actually listened to Dark Side of the Moon lately?

Can you scrape off enough encrusted nostalgia to acknowledge that album’s sheer awfulness?

And while those Wizard of Oz weirdies aren’t Floyd’s fault, they’re not helping matters, either.

Also: Pink Floyd’s album covers were singularly hideous.

When I scream “The Who are better than that stupid band you like,” I’m thinking about Pink Floyd first and foremost.

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All Comments   (19)
All Comments   (19)
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First off - entertaining read, so thanks. A few thoughts:
Are you sure your dislike of PF isn't because The Clash was very public about their supposed hatred for PF back in the day? That public hatred smelled more of publicity seeking than anything, IMO. Also, why is The Clash considered a punk band again? Their hits are pretty much standard boilerplate pop garbage from the early 80's. Real punk bands don't make it big, because their music by proxy has to sound bad, the band members are filthy and cannot be successfully marketed to a large audience.
While Waters is a bigot and yes all of their concept albums from the 70's should be called "Where for art thou Syd Barrett, parts 1 through 5," I would argue the music itself is outstanding. Same for much of the music of The Doors, the other bands members always guilty by association with Morrison. But he got them famous, so that's the eternal price they pay. As for the rest, they certainly are worthy of a list celebrating the overrated, but perhaps not so much as :
Rod Stewart
Bob Dylan
Tom Petty
Courtney Love
Janis Joplin
Boston (every song sounds exactly the same)
Green Day (not even close to punk rock - at best a fast paced pop rock band with lyrics written by a human with an IQ equal to my toenail clippings)
Ozzy Osborn, solo career
47 weeks ago
47 weeks ago Link To Comment
Good lists, except you left off Joan Baez on the female side.
49 weeks ago
49 weeks ago Link To Comment
"and the current go-to empty-calorie adjective “iconic”)"

Speaking of empty-calorie buzzwords, how about that "go-to" for a shining example of mindlessness?

50 weeks ago
50 weeks ago Link To Comment
I think the author missed at least two really obvious names that belong on the massively overrated list: Bob Dylan and Michael Jackson. Has Dylan ever sung a song in key? Because everything I've heard him sing was horribly nasal and flat. His guitar playing is mediocre at best - he only seems to know a small handful of chords. Even Dylan fanatics acknowledge this but say it doesn't matter because his songs are so brilliant. I assume they're talking about the lyrics because the music itself has never appealed to me. Personally, I can't think of a Dylan lyric that ever touched me either but your mileage may vary....

As for Jackson, I can't think of a single positive thing to say about him musically. I don't care that people consider him a genius; he didn't do a darned thing for me. On the contrary, I found his vocal affectations off-putting in the extreme. I can't think of a single Jackson song that I like, even a little. None of his music or lyrics impressed me in the slightest.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Bob Dylan says, "You've got a lot of nerve."
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
I thought some of Sheryl Crow's songs were kind of conservative. I listened to her songs about low-life bums as a kind of parody of these people "If it makes you happy, why the hell are you so sad?" I thought "Everyday is a Winding Road" is anti-relativist and a comment on our modern malaise. And yes I know she's very liberal, but I don't think she's that bad. I wouldn't say she's overrated.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Let me add one more thing: if it's fair to criticize Pink Floyd for the political inclinations of at least one member, is it okay to criticize the Who for the sexual inclinations of at least one member?
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
Ironically, Pink Floyd (whom I happen to love, especially Gilmour's guitar) were HUGE in Israel in their heyday, almost as big as the Beatles. Roger Waters is of course a complete, total, and utter self-abuser and tool -- who also drove the band into the ground.
51 weeks ago
51 weeks ago Link To Comment
The only disagreement I have is that Bruce Springsteen should be #1 until aliens come with even worse voices and instruments that make us wish for fingernails on blackboard.
If they are acapella, they still beat Bruce.
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
I'm only gonna comment on Springsteen ... well, I still love Darkness on the Edge of Town, some stuff from Greetings from Asbury Park ... I used to love the lyrics, now ... well, no.

Everything after Darkness is unworthy of the first four albums.

52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
> Have you, now a sober adult, actually listened to Dark Side of the Moon lately?

I'll give you the same answer I gave last time this opinion piece was published: can't say how "sober" I am, and please don't send over a cop with a breathalyzer, but I listen to "Dark Side of the Moon" maybe once a year. That's not bad, considering I probably have over a thousand CDs and at least as many LPs. Plus, the local radio stations play it so I get to hear it in the car.

Oddly, you never explain why Pink Floyd's musicians are "overrated."

Nor any explanation on how to define "overrated". I would guess it means not as good as their reputations. But that's not the same as calling them bad musicians, is it? Itzhak Perlman might be overrated too, but he's still very, very good.

About the Doors: four guys with some talent, working their butts off for three years before they hit it big, and everything they did was all theirs. You don't like it, fine, I get it... but that doesn't mean they were bad. Plus -- and I mention this only because you zapped Pink Floyd for being over-produced -- the Doors sounded the same on records, on stage, in a bar, or in their garage. What you heard is what you got. Pretentious? Name a Sixties band that wasn't. Morrison was a foaming-at-the-mouth atheist, and I don't like that. But his lyrics are quirky and interesting. He had a much better-than-average voice, one of the very few who was unafraid of singing in a man's register. I like Neil Sedaka, Mickey Dolenz, Frankie Valli, Harry Nilsson, Roger Daltry, Paul McCartney, et. al. just fine, but I think it's nice that not quite every male vocalist in the Sixties checked his Y chromosome at the gate.

The fact that Stevie Wonder wrote a lot of dreck does not mean he didn't also write some very interesting stuff, some of it quite poignant. "My Cherie Amour" is a very nice song. "Superstition" is very effective, particularly in his use of the neutral third -- sort of an African-American musician's signature, which nine times out of ten, white people don't even hear.

I couldn't pick a Bob Marley song our of a lineup, and no argument on Bruce Springsteen -- I'd rather listen to a washing machine on spin cycle for two hours.

My top five overrated male musicians would have included Bob Dylan, Tony Bennett, and Miles Davis.

The only reason I know who Sheryl Crowe is: she thinks I use too much toilet paper, as if that's any of her business.

I know about Lady Gaga only because she wears food.

And I've never even heard of Chrissie Hynde.

I would have named Madonna in my top three. Maybe Bessis Smith or Etta James -- why bother when you've got Ellla Fitzgerald and Sarah Vaughn? And Stevie Nicks -- is that a voice, or a blender set on "gravel"?
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52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
I don't know if you call what Kayne West does "music", but it certainly tops the "worst" list I have in my head. That's pretty much sums up my opinion of all rap and hip hop....
52 weeks ago
52 weeks ago Link To Comment
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