Were The Beatles Technically a Boy Band?

The Beatles are heralded as the greatest band of all time, and since the 1960s the band has influenced generations of music. While there is no doubting The Beatles’ impact, discourse still surrounds the band when it comes to defining the group.

Some consider The Beatles to be the first true boy band, and other fans fight hard against that label due to the stigma that boy band members are not as talented as other music artists.

The Beatles
The Beatles | Hulton Archive/Getty Images

What defines a boy band?

The problem with defining a boy band and categorizing The Beatles is that there is no clear definition of a boy band. At best, the term is loosely defined as a group of young male singers whose fan base is primarily made up of young women. So why the negative stigma surrounding the term? Over the years, the term has become associated with music acts that do not write their own music or play instruments.

Because the only real definition of a boy band is that the group is marketed towards young female audiences, if a band made up of young men has a large female fan base they are automatically lumped into the “boy band” category, even if the band members participate in the music-writing process or play instruments.

Over the years, the term has been used to write off the accomplishments of bands and look down on women’s taste in music. For this reason, some fans of The Beatles do not want the band categorized as a boy band, as they feel it would lessen the group’s musical integrity.

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Critics did not like The Beatles at first

While those who do not know the history of The Beatles might be surprised, the band was not always beloved by critics. In 2014, the Los Angeles Times compiled early reviews of The Beatles. Many early reviews lamented the fact that The Beatles’ fan base was primarily made up of young women, and therefore the band was looked down upon.

“With their bizarre shrubbery, the Beatles are obviously a press agent’s dream combo. Not even their mothers would claim that they sing well,” the Los Angeles Times wrote in 1964.

“The Beatles are not merely awful; I would consider it sacrilegious to say anything less than that they are god awful. They are so unbelievably horribly, so appallingly unmusical, so dogmatically insensitive to the magic of the art that they qualify as crowned heads of anti-music…,” The Boston Globe wrote in 1964.

“The Beatles follow a line of glamorous figures who aroused passionate cries and deep swoons. Most prominent in the 1940s was Frank Sinatra and in the 1950s Elvis Presley. Their glory passed when they got too old to be teenagers’ idols or when teenagers got too old to need them,” Science Newsletter wrote.

The Nation wrote, “The reaction at Carnegie Hall was not a real response to a real stimulus…. The full house was made up largely of upper-middle-class young ladies, stylishly dressed, carefully made up, brought into town by private cars or suburban buses for their night to howl, to let go, scream, bump, twist and clutch themselves ecstatically out there in the floodlights for everyone to see and with the full blessings of all authority…”

Yes, The Beatles were originally a boy band

Based on these reviews alone, it is clear to see that before they achieved critical acclaim, The Beatles were treated in a way many modern boy bands are. They played for packed audiences and were commercially successful, but critics and men did not understand the hype and did not recognize The Beatles’ talent.

In 2018, Billboard debated if The Beatles are in fact the original boy band.

“I still believe the most important qualification for a boy band is in the way they’re received by their general fanbase, and the Beatles essentially set the template (and the bar) there for audience screaming, for favorite-member debating, and for -mania suffixing. And of course, their early songs are about as pop as pop (or at least rock) gets,” Andrew Unterberger argued for Billboard.

The Beatles went on to become the most impactful band of all time, and they clearly influenced the music industry in more ways than one. Even if fans consider them to be the opposite of a modern day boy band, The Beatles’ history as the original boy band should be acknowledged.