Elvis’ Cultural Cachet Has Gone Up and Down Over the Years, But He’s Still Way More Relevant Than You Think

We're taking a new look at the King's legacy

elvis relevant essay

Go ahead: Google “Beatles are irrelevant” and “Rolling Stones are irrelevant.” The former will net you about half a million results — the latter, a hair under two million. Now, Google “Elvis is irrelevant.” You’ll get more than twice the results of both those queries — combined.

At first thought, this is understandable. The Stones remain a titanic concert draw despite losing a key member. The Beatles’ Get Back didn’t just lift us out of Turkey Day doldrums; it bestowed on us a rare case of almost universal common ground. Recent deluxe editions of both beloved bands’ classic albums do gangbusters on Spotify. Speaking of: at press time, the Beatles command 26 million monthly listeners; the Stones, 21 mil. Elvis Presley? A paltry 13.

Granted, there are many potential reasons for the above — are Elvis fans more likely to use Spotify, or pull out their LPs and jewel cases? Plus, on that service, Elvis remains far more listened-to than early contemporaries Chuck Berry (5 million monthly listeners), Jerry Lee Lewis, Buddy Holly (2 million each), Little Richard (1 million), and the rest. Still, do those numbers befit the man who set a Guinness World Record for best-selling solo music artist?

Which brings us back to that Google search: Is Elvis Presley irrelevant? The topic has been examined and reexamined; just why Elvis’s modern-day cultural cachet seems disproportionate to his global impact is a matter of journalistic interest.


Follow Consequence