The Instigator
Pro (for)
2 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
4 Points

Removing Subjective Tastes, the Beatles Were the Greatest Band/ Artist/ Musicians of All Time

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 8/19/2012 Category: Entertainment
Updated: 5 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 2,238 times Debate No: 25189
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (5)
Votes (3)




Resolved: All subjective tastes aside, it is unquestionable that the Beatles, based on their widespread fame and accomplishments, unprecedented musical breakthroughs, and ability to appeal to people of all demographics throughout the ages, should be considered the greatest musical act that ever existed, at least during modern history.

The first round is for acceptance only, so there are really only three rounds to debate. I will also allow my opponent this round to ask for the definitions of any terms which he/ she is not clear on, and these shall be defined in my opening argument.


Sure, I'll debate this for fun :)

I'd like my opponent to be aware that while R1 states, "...[The Beatles] should be considered the greatest musical act that ever existed, at least during modern history," the resolution is about the greatest artist/ musician of all time - not "modern history," whatever that refers to.

Also, I've debated on behalf of The Beatles being the greatest before, so I know what arguments to expect (i.e. experimenting with technology and new instruments to create a new sound, etc.). But for the sake of brevity, I'll point out to Pro that his introduction round suggests that the Beatles are the greatest for reasons including their widespread popularity and appeal to various demographics. Considering he specifically called to leave subjective tastes out of this, then appealing to the majority or rather appealing to numbers at all is not a relevant contention on his behalf. He cannot use their fame or popularity as a contention if he said subjective tastes ought not to be considered in determining the best musicians.

That said, I look forward to seeing what other arguments Pro has in mind. I'd also like to calrify that I am a Beatles fan :)
Debate Round No. 1


First of all, I would like to thank my opponent for accepting this debate and clarify what I meant on both counts of confusion/ contention. First, when I stated modern history, what I meant was "for the time period during which we are familiar with." Had I not done this, my opponent could technically claim that a bunch of cavemen existing before recorded history may have made great music with primitive instruments that would blow the Beatles out of the water, so it is therefore impossible to claim that the Beatles were definitely the greatest of all time. Second, when I spoke of removing subjectivity, I meant removing individual subjectivity. That is, the fact that musical tastes vary from person to person makes it difficult to claim one musical artist as the "greatest" as not everyone agrees on what "great music" is. When I speak of the ability of the Beatles to appeal to a wide segment of people, I am speaking in terms of collective subjectivity. Whereas individual subjectivity (i.e. asking your sister or next door neighbor what music they like) may be a poor measurement of musical greatness as it tends to be largely based on the quirks of one's personality, collective subjectivity is a valid measurement as it takes into account people of all personality types and musical tastes.

With that in mind I would like to begin my argument. As I stated in the opening round my argument rests on three main contentions:

1.) Accomplishments- Throughout recorded history, no single artist has dominated the charts as much as the Beatles. Their albums have spent a record total of 1,278 weeks on the charts, with a record fifteen of them reaching number one at one point or another. (Those fifteen have spent a total of 175 weeks as the top album, also a record.) They've also spent forty five weeks on top of the albums and singles charts simultaneously, with their albums selling over 107 million copies in the United States alone, the most by any artist. When it comes to singles, the Beatles are equally dominant, owning a record twenty number one hits in the United States alone (twenty seven if you count the ones that were number one in the United Kingdom as well) and having occupied the entire top five on April 4, 1964- the only time this has ever happened. Clearly, no artist has ever been as accomplished as the Beatles.

2.) Individuality- Even if you removed all of their accomplishments, the sound of the Beatles would still stand out as refreshing and unique for the time period. Greatness requires the ability to go where nobody else has gone before, and the Beatles did just that with albums such as "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band" and "The Beatles (White Album)", the former being one of the earliest concept albums to be produced and the latter being their first album to incorporate an eight track. In terms of singles, one needs only to look at their earlier recordings- "I Feel Fine" was the first song to incorporate feedback, and "Norwegian Wood" introduced the sitar to pop music, essentially opening the gate for "world music" to enter the American mainstream. In addition to improving the quality of their own music, innovations made by the Beatles also helped spawn a number of other musical acts- the mix of classical string instruments with modern rock instruments on "Strawberry Fields Forever" inspired Roy Wood to co-found the Electric Light Orchestra, while artificial double tracking (as used on both Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band and Revolver) was later employed by artists such as Pete Floyd, the Grateful Dead, and Jimmy Hendrix. Clearly, the innovations made by the Beatles have served to shape musical history.

3.) Appeal- This one is somewhat of a continuation of my first argument, but it is different in the fact that it does not discuss how many people like the Beatles, but rather that many different types of people did. Throughout all musical genres, no single artist is more widely acknowledged and respected as the Beatles. This is in part due to their ability to adapt to almost any audience- the White Album itself features hints of country ("Rocky Raccoon" and "Don't Pass Me By"), pop ("Back in the USSR" and "Helter Skelter"), and even classical, with the piano being used extensively on tracks such as "Sexy Sadie" and "Piggies." Even today, the Beatles still command a huge following despite breaking up over forty years ago- the 2007 film "Across the Universe," which featured music by the Beatles, was nominated for both an Academy Award and Golden Globe, while "Love" by Cirque de Soleil has been a successful show at the Mirage in Las Vegas for over six years now. Clearly, the Beatles are able to appeal to audiences far and wide throughout the ages, further establishing their greatness.


Danielle forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2


My opponent has forfeited her second round, a clear indication of my argument's persuasiveness. Unless she can come up with cogent arguments for the two remaining rounds, my resolution must be accepted.


Many thanks to Pro for his patience.

I'll begin by apologizing for missing the last round - I've been extremely busy. In order to win this debate, I only have to prove that a better artist or band exists than The Beatles. I don't necessarily have to specify who that is (though I will of course narrow it down). As superior musicians, I will nominate the likes of Johan Bach, Wolfgang Mozart and Ludwig von Beethoven as artists who were better than The Beatles.

[ Intro ]

Pro begins by talking about individual vs. collective subjectivity. The common denominator is still there: subjectivity. If something is subjective, it exists in the mind; it belongs to the thinking subject rather than the object itself. In this case, the thinking subject is the general population and the object is music. Can music's beauty or value be measured objectively? Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty, art, and taste, with the creation and appreciation of beauty [1]. Traditionally,musical aesthetics explored the mathematical and cosmological dimensions of rhythmic and harmonic organization.

The most distinctive development in the aesthetics of music is directed at the distinction between 'higher' and 'lower' music, now understood to align with the distinction between art music and popular music. Theodore Adorno suggested that culture industries churn out a debased mass of unsophisticated, sentimental products which have replaced the more 'difficult' and critical art forms [2]. Capitalistic notions have propelled us to appreciate pop music that satisfies false needs (cultural values), but abandons our'true' needs - freedom, full expression of human potential and creativity, and genuine creative happiness. It is suggested that we can meet these needs through more complex music that reflects our innate sense of humanity.

1. Re: Accomplishments

There are a lot of factors that play into a band's popularity, including but not limited to their looks/style, marketing ability, etc. The Beatles were considered the pinnacle of cool for a lot of reasons outside of music. The "British Invasion" was a new fad in the early 1960s, with only The Rolling Stones to really rival the Fab Four. This is when television was first becoming popular, so The Beatles were fortunate enough to have that facilitate their fame.

Their achievements do not necessarily reflect their musical talent. At the time, they were revered for being attractive, exciting and controversial. It wasn't just the quality of their music but the cultural implications of their music that helped them achieve such widespread fame. Since then, the nature of the music industry has changed exponentially. It's not possible for artists to mirror The Beatles' success according to the same standards. For example, most people don't buy music anymore, so we can't value popularity through sales. We also have to consider that there are more musicians and music channels than ever before, making it infinitely harder for a single band or artist to stand out the way they could have in the 1960s.

2. Re: Individuality

Let's concede that rock music was "stolen" from black people. The Beatles were influenced just like every other artist who came before them, and paid homage to greats such as Little Richard and Chuck Berry by directly and indirectly borrowing from their music. In fact, some of the songs Pro brought up were specifically influenced by Bob Dylan. Likewise The Beatles were bound to influence those who came after. While it's true that they introduced new methods of recording, does that really reflect their musical talents? Or does it reflect that they happened to be musicians at a time when new recording technology was up-and-coming?

Utilizing unique instruments in their music was certainly artistic. However those sounds (like the sitar) were already being used in Eastern music, and The Beatles simply helped make it popular given the fame they had already achieved. Musicians had been doing far more original things before the Beatles came around, though it was very little known and certainly not popular. Obscurity doesn't inhibit greatness, nor does popularity inflate it.

Obviously The Beatles made significant contributions to the music world and those that came after. However they too were influenced, and a lot of people achieved important "firsts" that helped shape the music industry before them. At the height of Beatlemania, John Lennon declared "Before Elvis, there was nothing" [3]. By that standard, should Elvis be considered better than The Beatles due to his profound influence on them? Or how about all of the artists that Elvis "borrowed" from significantly? After all, without them, The Beatles may not have come to be a band at all. The infinite regress of influence here makes this contention problematic.

3. Re: Appeal

The Beatles' music can be classified as pop-classic rock. I posit that if you played their songs (or songs similar in style) to people today, it would be nowhere near as well-liked as the Beatles' music. However given the fact that The Beatles are glorified and have been idealized throughout history, people aren't as fast to reject a Beatles song as they would a song that sounded exactly the same by a more obscure artist. This popularity isn't a reflection of the quality of the music, but rather the place The Beatles have secured for themselves in history as being a revolutionary band that "everyone likes."

[ Arguments ]

The artists I have proposed to rivaling The Beatles in talent lived during a time when there weren't pop charts to top or records to sell in order to distinguish popularity or achievement. As such, these measures cannot be used as standards of success. Almost everyone alive has heard of either one or all of the artists I brought up, indicating that they managed to stay significantly famous centuries after their death. We still don't know if that distinction will be true of John, Paul, George and Ringo. I contend that it was a lot harder to achieve such widespread fame without television and radios, though "my artists" had managed to be extremely popular both while they were alive and even through today. Popularity isn't an issue.

All were extremely versatile and innovative composers, and wrote in every major genre including symphony, opera, the solo concerto, chamber music - including the string quartet and string quintet, the piano sonata, etc. They also created entire new genres of music, and advanced the technical sophistication and emotional reach of those that already existed. Mozart almost single-handedly developed and popularized the Classical piano concerto, for example. They wrote a great deal of religious music, including large-scale masses, but also dances, divertimenti, serenades, and other forms of light entertainment. In other words, they were profoundly eclectic and could appeal to a wide range of audiences worldwide - and still do.

In terms of aesthetics, nothing The Beatles have written or performed come remotely close to that of my artists. They are the pinnacle creators of 'high' music - that is music which is profoundly complex, intricate and harmonious. Subjective preferences aside, The Beatles' music is objectively of inferior quality. The I-IV-V chord progression utilized by The Beatles has been around since Mozart (and earlier) and considered infamously simple. A novice musician can learn a Beatles tune in a few hours; it takes expert musicians a lifetime to reproduce the classics. Each of these artists were not only better songwriters but better musicians in the technical sense than any Beatle. They were also more well-rounded in instrument mastery, and infinitely more well-versed in music theory. Aesthetically, the comparison isn't even close.

Debate Round No. 3


I would like to start by thanking my opponent for accepting this debate. It has been an enjoyable experience, and I have learned much about musical theory.

That being said, I would like to begin my final argument.

My opponent forms her debate around the subject of aesthetics, a branch of philosophy I admit to knowing little about. While it is true that there may be an objective difference between popular music and art music, this does not affect the fact that the musicians themselves were the greatest of all time. Making the assumption that since the Beatles music is on a lower scale they must be inferior musicians is equivalent to stating that Aaron Rodgers is a better athlete than Tiger Woods simply because football is a more difficult sport to play than golf. I am not necessarily arguing that the Beatles music was the greatest per se, but merely that they were the greatest musicians. (Using the sports analogy, we could conclude with my opponent's logic that Aaron Rodgers is the superior athlete merely because he plays a more difficult sport- it would not matter how poorly he threw the football or how well Woods putted on the greens as the mere fact of one's sport being more difficult would render the former the greater athlete.) Indeed, we must not look at what type of music they played, but how well they played it.

1.) Accomplishments- While it is true that a band's accomplishments are not based on the quality of their music alone, the outside factors which my opponent brings up (such as marketing ability) do not vary greatly from artist to artist. It is also true that the rise of the Beatles coincided with the British Invasion and the invention of television, but few artists at the time other than the Beatles and Rolling Stones were able to generate a significant and long lasting amount of success from said factors despite there being a flood of other bands attempting to do so. (Freddie and the Dreamers, anyone?) My opponent also states that their fame was due to them being controversial (I don't really get this argument- until Lennon's whole Jesus comment their image was essentially four clean cut boys from Liverpool) but fails to provide any logical basis for said claim. Finally, the revolutions in the music industry should make it easier for artists to achieve the level of fame enjoyed by the Beatles as it is now possible for them to promote and sell their music to expanding markets at a more rapid pace- the fact that none have only proves how special the Beatles were in doing this.

2.) Individuality- Music cannot be stolen from any group of people, because it does not belong to any group of people. Music belongs to the world- anyone who has ever made their own music was first inspired by someone else's music, and so on. While it is true that the Beatles were inspired by many artists before them, it is also true that they have inspired a greater number of artists after them and will continue to do so for many years. (How many up and coming rock artists do you see paying homage to Dylan or Elvis?) Finally, the claim that the Beatles introduced foreign music to the American mainstream is valid because of how risky it was at the time- had it not been a hit with American audiences, they could have easily slid into obscurity. (A lesser known artist, on the other hand, does not face such a dilemma and as such possesses more creative freedom.) The fact that the Beatles were able to not only get away with it but actually become even more popular as a result is further testimony to their greatness.

3.) Appeal- Once again, my opponent claims that their widespread appeal is based on image alone and not on talent but fails to back this claim up. Unless she can provide some solid evidence for it in the final round, it must be discarded.

I would like to conclude that although a certain aesthetic difference does exist between the artists my opponent listed and the Beatles and that, for the most part, the quality of the former's music was objectively superior, this does nothing to prove that they were superior musicians. Once again reverting to the sports analogy, we cannot conclude that Andy Murray is better at what he does than, say, LeBron James simply because tennis is a harder sport than basketball. We must look at the impact each athlete has on their sport, and how well they succeed in it. As far as popular music, no single artist has had a greater impact than the Beatles, which is why I consider them to be the greatest musicians of all time.


Many thanks to my opponent for engaging with me in this debate.

Pro begins by stating that while classical music contributed by "my musicians" may be of superior quality (higher art) to what the Beatles played, that "this does not affect the fact that the [Beatles] themselves were the greatest of all time." This would be true if and only if the Beatles were able to a) play the music that my musicians played, b) write the music that my musicians played, and c) demonstrate the same amount of creativity or innovation in their music. None of this is true, and throughout this debate Pro hasn't proven that any of the aforementioned standards apply.

Because my musicians played music that is significantly more difficult to play - and the Beatles have never been known or witnessed to play anything of remotely similar difficulty - we must conclude that the Beatles did not have the technical musician skills to rival those of my musicians. Keep in mind that my musicians played multiple instruments each, and Beethoven for instance was a musical prodigy who could already substitute for his teacher by the time he was eleven years old [4]. My opponent could also not combat the fact that the numerous concertos and other symphonies orchestrated by my musicians (each wrote many) are infinitely more difficult than the songs written by the Beatles, which mainly consisted of a simple chord progression and did not contain anywhere near as many instruments, harmonies, melodies, etc. We have every reason to believe that the body of work (music) speaks to the quality of the musicians playing and writing it. As such, there is absolutely no reason to believe that the Beatles were better musicians than my classical composers.

Pro brings up a sports analogy, and suggests that my criticism of the Beatles is akin to saying Aaron Rodgers is a better athlete than Tiger Woods because football is a harder sport than golf. Of course this is a flawed comparison. In order to determine the better athlete, standards must be created in order to determine the qualities and criteria the superior athlete (not individual sport) would have. The same concept applies to music and musicians. Rather than comparing if football or golf is more difficult (or pop vs. classical music), we need to evaluate the qualities of the musicians themselves - not the genres.

Pro is the one who set the standards for comparison: accomplishments, individuality and appeal.

In regard to accomplishments, Pro makes a lot of untrue or useless claims. First he said that a band's marketability does not vary greatly. This couldn't be further from the truth. That is why the members of boy bands are expected to be good looking - to make their music easy to sell to particular audience demographics. A music group that wasn't attractive, stylish, or had less appeal for a plethora of other reasons would probably be less popular regardless of the quality of their music than a band that was easier to "sell." Regardless, my opponent missed the points I tried to make here.

First, I noted that the standards Pro proposed in order to determine a musician's success could not be used for the purpose of this debate. For example, pop charts weren't around during Mozart's time, so we don't know how many number one singles he could have had. As such we can't use number one singles (or records sold) as the basis of comparison in terms of accomplishments. In response, I proposed other accomplishments that my musicians have achieved: writing in every major genre of music, creating new genres, advancing the technical sophistication of music that was out at the time, etc. I contend that these accomplishments (and others I have mentioned) were more significant and/or harder to achieve than what Pro suggested made the Beatles the greatest.

As for individuality, Pro repeated that the Beatles inspired those who came after them. I have conceded as much in the last round; that was never relevant to my argument. In fact Pro pretty much dropped all of my points here. Originally, he argued that the Beatles were innovative and influential because they inspired those who came after, and experimented with new sounds and technology. In response, I noted that my musicians were equally if not FAR MORE influential than the Beatles.

While the Beatles certainly dominated the pop-rock scene, each of my musicians were responsible for single-handedly creating entire new genres. Furthermore, everyone has heard of each of those musicians centuries after their death (we don't know if the Beatles will achieve the same notoriety). All of my musicians experimented with new sounds and technologies for the times. And again, the Beatles were becoming popular at a time with the significant help of television, radio and other media - all tools none of my artists had to facilitate their successful careers.

Finally, my opponent mistakenly repeats that I've said a musician's appeal is based on image alone and not musical talent. I never said that (what I said is that factors other than musical talent contribute to a band's success). What I really said in the last round is that the Beatles have been glorified throughout the ages, and as such, their popularity (and accomplishments) may influence the way their music is valued by audiences today. In other words, I suggested that playing music that sounded similar or was of similar quality might not be as accepted by audiences if they didn't have the bias of it being a Beatles song. Furthermore, I pointed out that my musicians certainly have their own appeal; their music has been revered throughout the past few centuries and regarded as some of the "highest" music ever created.

In conclusion, Pro says that my musician's music isn't objectively better. In fact it is considered objectively better if you use aesthetics as the standard criteria for quality rather than subjective preferences. Aesthetics specifically looks for tools other than subjectivity in order to determine an objective qualifier for beauty. My opponent not only specified that he didn't want to use subjective taste as the standard for quality, but ignores that my musicians are considered better even by his proposed standards.

Pro says that in order to determine which athlete is superior, we must consider the impact each athlete had on their sport and how they succeeded at it. Likewise the same criteria applies to musicianship. Well, my musicians had a significant impact on music - both their particular genres, and music as a whole. Beethoven, Bach and Mozart are considered the highest (most talented) musicians of all time given their creativity, innovation and unmatched orchestration. No musician afterward has written anything as complex or harmonious. The musical techniques and sound progression they used and made popular remain the most influential methodology (chord progression) of songs today - and were the same ones the Beatles used. They were also infinitely successful. Not only were they the most popular musicians in the world during their lifetimes, but they remain recognizable by name to almost everyone older than age eight.

My composers have exhibited just as much success as the Beatles in terms of popularity and appeal. People strive to rival the talents of Mozart, Bach and Beethoven. While people acknowledge the popularity of the Beatles and all of their musical accomplishments, my musicians have achieved higher (far more difficult) accomplishments that aren't based on popularity but skill and creativity. They are considered musical prodigy's, not just fun to listen to. They have impacted the world of music and set the standard for "amazing" for every artist who has come after them.

Thank you.

Debate Round No. 4
5 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 5 records.
Posted by MouthWash 5 years ago
I can't imagine who would even want to vote on this.
Posted by dcdriver 5 years ago
Argument two should read Pink Floyd, not Pete Floyd. My bad.
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
Also, lol @ "remove subjective tastes", then "debate based on widespread fame and mass appeal over time".
Posted by Cody_Franklin 5 years ago
"Removing subjective tastes..."

That leaves NOTHING.
Posted by DavidMGold 5 years ago
I would certainly be tempted to debate this given that I could do so at my on discretion, because I wouldn't disagree that they had fame although I would argue that they stole music from other musicians, their genre impoverishes music in general, etc.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by Magicr 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Pro gets conduct for Con's forfeit, however Con did gets arguments as she sufficiently dismantled Pro's case, and her own points about classical composers went unrefuted.
Vote Placed by MouthWash 5 years ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Counter AMTY
Vote Placed by AlwaysMoreThanYou 5 years ago
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