The mobs of people (or, okay, girls). Camping out in front of hotels. Hectically chasing down tour buses. Tears streaming down faces. Marriage proposals flinging out of mouths without any thought. Mass hysteria. Thousands of shrilling screams causing temporary hearing loss. Or at least a headache. Such is the life of a hardcore boy band fangirl. What emerged in the sixties with the popularity of the Beatles, grew and developed into what’s now commonly referred to as Beatle Mania.
Although the craze died down after the prime of the Beatles, it returned in the 90s with a vengeance when many popular boy bands—like NSYNC and the Backstreet Boys—got their start. Many bands—including the Jonas Brothers and most recently, One Direction—have been labelled “the next Beatles.” Considering the immense popularity, success and, of course, talent of the Beatles, this could be seen as the highest compliment possible. In actuality, being compared to the Beatles, especially on a frequent basis, has a negative impact toward a band as it creates misconceptions about the band, and puts a tremendous amount of pressure on them.
Associating musicians with the Beatles can instill false beliefs about the band within people. Everything about the Beatles was, and still is, distinctive: their style, their behaviour, their sound, their lyrics. It’s part of the reason they became such a success. They sang songs that were relatable to a countless number of young people, and although they’re tame by today’s standard, their lyrics, such as “I want to hold your hand,” were incredibly controversial. Like them or not, (and seriously, who doesn’t like them?) the Beatles have made a lasting impression on the music industry—one that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
So the moment any sort of Beatles comparison is made, a new misconception blossoms as quickly as someone can be converted into a One Direction fan after five minutes on Tumblr. “This band’s like the Beatles? The entirety of their fan base must be batshit crazy.” “This music sounds nothing like the Beatles. It’s sappy and not good.” The possibilities go on. There’s also the tiny, little fact that Beatles fans are protective of the band they love. The moment an artist is compared to the Beatles, there are certain people that will be submerged in a pool of illogical hatred. In their minds, the Beatles are one of a kind, the Wayne Gretzky of the music world. Something everyone aspires to, but never actually secures.
Everyone is good at something. And usually, someone else is the best at that something. By many, the Beatles are considered the best. Their legacy is renowned, their achievements endless. Best selling band in history, most number one albums in the UK, have held the number one spot longer than any other artist in the UK, labelled Billboard’s most successful artist in 2008, the most number one hits—all accomplished by the Beatles. That’s not even everything. It’s easy to see why the Beatles are so loved; why they’re so influential; why they’re considered the best.
Typically, the best remain the best for a long, long time. Others try to exceed that level of talent and success, but it’s hard. Imagine the pressure placed on a band—or anyone—when they’re compared to the best. Now, every performance, interview, appearance, every breath will be tainted by the nagging thought in the back of their minds: someone thinks I can be the best. When bands are compared to the Beatles, maybe they’re suddenly more concerned with living up to that expectation. Maybe they’re suddenly behaving how they think the Beatles would, making music how the Beatles would. Maybe they’re so busy trying to be the Beatles that they forget how to be themselves.
Paul McCartney, a beloved Beatle himself, has said, “[That’s the] kiss of death. So many bands, they all get called the next Beatles. It puts an awful lot of pressure on them to be the next Beatles. Oasis were the next Beatles once, if you remember. It’s pressure because suddenly you have to live up to all the things that we did. It was a different time back then. So let’s just call them the next terrific band,” when asked about One Direction.
If a former Beatle can see the problem with comparing up and coming bands to one of the most influential bands in history, why can’t everyone else? Comparing a band to the Beatles creates false misconceptions and places a tremendous amount of pressure on them. The hard truth is that comparing a band to the Beatles does more harm than good. So next time a talented band attracts plenty of attention and popularity, do the right thing: judge them on their own merit. You can save a band today.