Neil Young

Why Do People Hate Neil Young?

Neil Young is one of the most acclaimed and influential singer-songwriters of the past 50 years. With an extensive catalog of classic songs and over 30 studio albums, Young has developed a large, dedicated fanbase over his long career. However, despite his success and critical praise, Young also has his fair share of detractors.

Unconventional Voice and Sound Put Some Listeners Off

Neil Young has an instantly recognizable voice that some describe as high-pitched, whiny, nasally or grating. His unconventional vocal style and distinct guitar sound can be an acquired taste:

Many Find His Voice Unappealing and Hard to Listen to

While his voice works very well with certain songs and bands, to the uninitiated it can sound unpleasant:

The Tonal Qualities of His Voice Turn Some People Off

Some listeners are immediately turned off by the inherent vocal tone Young possesses. Its wavering, straining quality contrasts significantly with traditional mainstream rock or pop vocals.

His Voice Lacks the Smoothness and Pitch of Typical Rock Singers

Unlike most classic rock singers with powerful, melodic voices that stay cleanly on pitch, Young often wavers off-key in a jarring, atonal fashion. This can irritate those accustomed to more polished vocals.

He Tends to Slur Words and Mumble Through Phrases

In both his singing and speaking voice patterns, Young tends to slur words together in an unintelligible mumble. For some listeners, this makes it nearly impossible to understand his lyrics.

His Raw, Lo-fi Guitar Playing Puts Some People Off

As a guitarist, Young often opts for a raw, rough-edged sound as opposed to technical precision:

There is Less Precision and Clarity Than Most Guitarists

Rather than clean single note runs, Young favors noisy bursts of feedback-laden strumming. This loose style lacks definition for pickier listeners.

He Values Energy and Feeling Over Tight Playing

Rather than strip his playing of imperfections for a tighter sound, he embraces off-notes, string scrapes, and a ragged sense of emotion over polish. Some don’t appreciate this edgier approach.

His Use of Distortion Can Seem Sloppy And Dissonant

He regularly employs thick, crashing distortion that intensifies his guitar’s uncontrolled qualities. The sheer walls of fuzz color outside the lines for those wanting clear tones.

Prolific Output Means Inconsistency in Quality

Another major criticism leveled at Young is that his extensive catalog is of variable quality since he releases so much material:

He Doesn’t Always Self-Edit His Song Ideas Before Recording

Prolific to a fault, Young records most songs he writes rather than picking only the highest quality ones. This means some less developed song ideas get officially released.

There Are Entire Albums That Lack Inspiration or Thoughtful Songs

In his pursuit of constant creativity, he occasionally releases full albums that seem undercooked, with multiple songs that sound disjointed or even nonsensical when taken as a whole.

He Sometimes Favors Experimentation Over Catchy Songs

Particularly in his eclectic mid-70s albums, Young’s urge to deconstruct his music often supersedes creating hummable melodies. Some fans preferred his earlier style of concise pop songwriting.

Lyrics Can Appear Overly Simplistic or Self-Indulgent

As one of rock’s greatest singer-songwriters, Young pens very personal lyrics that don’t resonate with all listeners:

His Wordplay Lacks Nuance of More Literary Songwriters

Unlike songwriters like Bob Dylan or Paul Simon known for poetic flair, Young takes a much simpler approach full of plainspoken language. For some this can come across as lyrically dull.

He Often Focuses Inward On His Own Feelings and Perspectives

Rather than crafting character sketches or narratives about society, Young mainly documents his own emotional landscape. The frequent self-focus strikes some as egotistical or lacking greater depth.

Nature References Border on Hippie Clichés for Some Listeners

Flowery odes to meadows, birds, trees and mountains form a significant portion of his vast catalogue of songs. While beautiful to some ears, these idealistic paeans to nature strike others as dated hippie tropes.

Perceptions of Inauthenticity and Pandering in His Later Years

For detractors, Young’s credibility and relevance has waned as he’s aged, leading to perceptions that he’s now pandering or resting on former glory:

Attempts to Chase Mainstream Success Can Seem Calculated

Collaborations with rock bands like Pearl Jam in the 90s felt transparently targeted at widening his youth appeal. Other albums embracing slicker pop production values have struck some as inauthentic grabs at modern radio airplay.

Outspoken Politics and Social Commentary Lack Nuance for Some

Never one to shy away from sharing his worldview, Young’s political songs have gotten more frequent and direct in calling out specific politicians in recent years. While admirable to fans, others critique his rhetoric as heavy-handed or preachy.

Relying Too Much on His Back Catalogue and Greatest Hits

As a road warrior who still tours extensively in his late 70s, some argue the ever-present focus touring on canonical songs from decades past shows he has lost his edge creatively.

He Has a Long History of Contrarian and Erratic Behavior

As an iconoclastic artist, Neil Young has built a reputation for following his whims without concern for critical or fan reception:

He Often Deliberately Defies Expectations and Requests

Throughout his career he has reacted against wishes for him to recapture past creative peaks, often heading in difficult new directions out of sheer stubborn artistic principle. Fans seeking nostalgia find this difficult.

His Attention Span for Collaborators is Infamously Short

Young is known for fast friendships with collaborators followed by sudden icy estrangements once his interest shifts elsewhere. For those wanting album sequels or reunions with beloved bands like CSNY, his refusal comes across as contemptuous.

He is Extremely Protective of How His Music is Presented

Famously picky about audio formats, Young spent years personally developing his own portable digital music players and streaming site insisted music be heard in full high fidelity. Such persnickety attitudes around preservation can be annoying for casual listeners.

His About-Face Career Shifts Cause Whiplash

Perhaps most controversial are his sudden radical genre shifts, like trading in folk rock for synth experiments in the 80s or under-rehearsed garage rock in the 90s. Fans of one style often loudly reject each new incarnation.


Neil Young has earned a place in the canon of 20th century popular music through his prolific creativity and the adoration of generations of fans who find beauty, wisdom and catharsis in his heart-on-sleeve songs.

However, as a true iconoclast following his own erratic muse, Young was never destined to appeal to all listeners. The singer-songwriter’s unusual voice and raw musicality, hit-or-miss album inconsistency, often inward-facing lyrics, perceived inauthenticity in later years, and deliberately contrary attitude inevitably rub certain listeners the wrong way.

But agitating listeners has always been part of Neil Young’s way. As he sings on one of his beloved hits, “Long may you run”. Few musical artists have sustained creativity on their own uncompromising terms as obstinately as Young. Like all enduring icons from Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen to Radiohead’s Thom Yorke, Young has always cared more that his music comes from an emotionally honest place than whether it achieves mainstream popularity or critical consensus.

For fans along on his winding musical trips for the last 55 years, Neil Young’s work continues to provide comfort, inspiration, and a voice for peace, love and understanding even during conflicted times. As Young said when contemplating his legacy, “The most important thing to remember is passion and honesty.

If you feel passionate about something and you’re honest, that comes across.” By that rubric, Young has doubtlessly expressed an authentic vision that, for all its quirks and detours, will continue impacting human emotions for generations on.

FAQs About Why Some Dislike Neil Young

Why do people say Neil Young has a bad voice?

His unusually high, wavering, and strained singing voice crosses into atonal, pitchy territory at times. The unpolished and messy qualities turn off those wanting smooth melody and technical precision.

Why don’t people like Neil Young’s guitar playing?

His loose lead style and distorted strumming provide emotion over precision. But the rough edges, tendency toward dissonance, and walls of fuzzy texture lack the clean chops expected from a “guitar god”.

What Neil Young albums are considered bad quality?

Albums like Journey Through the Past, Everybody’s Rockin’, and Old Ways are often cited as periods where he released middling quality songs or experiments that failed. His 80s synth albums also sharply divided fans over quality.

Why do some think Neil Young sold out?

Some collaborations and pop-oriented albums in the 1990s and beyond came across as calculated attempts at remaining relevant to younger generations. This severed perception he was an uncompromising artist following his muse.

Why doesn’t Neil Young do more reunions or play more hits?

His notorious stubbornness means he actively avoids nostalgia trips or giving fans what they expect. Guided purely by spontaneous whims, he relentlessly focuses energy on whatever odd new direction currently interests him artistically.

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