The Beatles changed the music industry with their unique approach to music. The catchy music and sometimes whimsical (or dark) tones were incredibly popular. But despite this popularity, not everyone can agree on the genre. The main question: Are the Beatles more pop or rock?
In a modern context, The Beatles are closer to the pop genre. However, they wouldn’t be known for either genre back when they started. Instead, The Beatles made rock and roll music into what we now know as pop.
Below, you’ll learn more about why this is a weird question, the other genres The Beatles are known for, and a bit more about the history of The Beatles.
Pop vs. Rock – The Great Beatles Debate
The pop vs. rock debate of The Beatles is somewhat misleading. After all, implying that these legends fit into any genre will change depending on what you listen to.
Songs like “Eleanor Rigby,” “I Am The Walrus,” and “Yesterday” are tonally different, falling into slightly different genres. Music made by this influential group covered a wide range of amazing sounds, many of which were different.
The other half of this misleading debate comes back to perspective. If you were born when The Beatles were popular, your perception of the genre might be different from someone else. You might be closer to the “rock” category because that’s what Rock was before The Beatles changed it.
Meanwhile, if you ask someone a bit older, born during the riffs of the 70s and 80s, they would say pop. After all, their perception of rock is much harder, and the softer tones of The Beatles might not appeal to those seeking that distorted electric guitar.
A third generation threatens to call The Beatles “folk,” which might cause your soul to leave your body. But their version of hard music includes the post-hardcore genre and EDM. Some lesser-known Beatles songs fall into this category.
When Were Pop Elements Incorporated Into Their Music?
Though many identify The Beatles as a rock band, they’ve used pop elements in their music. But it helps to understand the true definition of “pop,” which is short for “popular music.”
So, this means they were influenced by popular music from the same era.
The Beatles were influenced by music during the early 50s and 60s. Elvis Presley, Buddy Holly, and Little Richard were two of their influences, and both musicians were incredibly popular.
The four-man group includes a wide range of musical talents with different inspirations. John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr are all known for their instruments and amazing musical skills.
But, many simple songs included pop elements, which include simple, short written in a basic format. Pop music is defined by its catchy rhythm and melody. It’s also easy to sing along to, which you could say for “Let It Be.”
Sorting The Beatle’s Music Into Pop or Rock
Below is a list of The Beatle’s songs sorted into pop and rock. Being an opinion, your take might be somewhat different.
- “A Hard Day’s Night” (Rock)
- “Can’t Buy Me Love” (Rock/Pop)
- “Come Together” (Rock)
- “Help!” (Rock/Pop)
- “Ticket to Ride” (Rock/Pop)
- “Yesterday” (Pop)
- “Day Tripper” (Rock)
- “Hey Jude” (Pop)
- “Revolution” (Rock)
- “I Saw Her Standing There” (Rock)
- “Love Me Do” (Pop)
- “Please Please Me” (Pop)
- “Twist and Shout” (Rock)
- “All You Need is Love” (Pop)
- “Back in the U.S.S.R.” (Rock)
Other Genres The Beatles Are Known For
The Beatles didn’t only write pop and rock ‘n roll music. They also wrote songs that belong to many music genres. Here are some brief examples of The Beatles songs that are part of unique music genres.
- “Girl” (Pop/Folk)
- “Norwegian Wood” (Folk)
- “Nowhere Man” (Folk)
- “Yellow Submarine” (Pop/Folk)
- “You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away” (Folk)
- “Let It Be” (Pop/Gospel)
- “When I’m 64” (Music Hall/Pop)
- “Here Comes the Sun” (Pop/Rock/Folk)
- “Come Together” (Blues Rock)
- “I am the Walrus” (Psychedelic rock)
- “Here, There, and Everywhere” (Psychedelic pop)
Perhaps the most interesting genre group is “psychedelic,” mostly inspired by their use of nonstandard instruments (like the sitar, tabla, and maracas) and disturbing themes.
The bout of inspiration behind The Revolver album is what brought them into the realm of the psychedelic. This album included the legendary song “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,” well known for its drug connection (despite actually being inspired by a drawing by John Lennon’s daughter).
All bands are familiar with changing things once they get to a stage. The Beatles changed things in an odd direction, still maintaining their popularity despite the massive change.
From the video below, Loudwire argues that The Beatles invented some genres.
How Influential Were The Beatles in The Rock Genre?
One genre in particular that has gained tremendous momentum because of The Beatles is rock ‘n roll. In the UK, rock ‘n roll wasn’t an extremely popular genre during the 60s, but that didn’t stop The Beatles.
The band became popular early on in its career, but it didn’t gain stardom or become widely recognized for its unique sound, songwriting, and overall style until its second single, “Please Please Me,” was released.
Because of this recognition, many have been inspired by their music. Their music revolutionized the rock genre in many ways, including:
- Songwriting Techniques: Methods that incorporated a variety of genres into their rock music, such as pop, folk, and alternative, were common in each of their songs.
- Pioneering Studio Technology: Utilizing multi-track recording (recording separate sound sources) and unique sound effects made them stand out with their complex and layered arrangements.
- Countercultural Icon: The Beatles’ image, lyrics, and style displayed a sense of counterculture. It influenced many fans to direct themselves from standard social norms to embrace new individualized ideologies.
- Pavied the Way for Other Rising Bands: Many other bands followed suit and replicated their style because of their innovativeness. You may think this is “lazy” music producing. However, many bands like the Rolling Stones, Radiohead, The Beach Boys, The Who, and Nirvana made music inspired by The Beatles and succeeded in their respective careers. The Beatles set a new high standard for new music, so it was easy to be inspired by their music.
The Beatles didn’t just influence the rock ‘n roll genre. They also influenced the pop genre, as well as other similar genres.