Thursday, September 17, 2009

List - The Ten Biggest Douchebags In Popular Music

Kanye West’s recent stunt at the Video Music Awards got me thinking of a conversation I had with my roommate on this subject a few months ago. For some reason, the recording industry seems to attract musically talented people and assholes in almost equal measure, which got us thinking - who ARE the biggest d-bags in music? Here, in no particular order, is the top-10 list we came up with, plus one special mention:

1.)Morrissey. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Smiths. They’re one of my favorite bands of the eighties, and there’s no denying that Morrissey was a big part of their greatness. That said, there's likewise no denying his douchiness. Firstly, there’s the lots-of-smoke-but-no-fire accusations of racism. Secondly, there’s the hypocrisy of a proselytizing vegetarian who loudly declares that “meat is murder” wearing leather goods because synthetic materials are “no substitute” for the real thing (I feel the same way about my cheeseburger, asshole). Then there’s his never-ending quest to wind up the public by making outrageous proclamations and declaring himself asexual, pansexual, or whatever-sexual every time he's interviewed. And finally, there’s the fact that his former bandmates all hate his guts and won't even speak to him, unsurprisingly since he's tried to freeze them out at every turn during and after the Smiths' breakup. His whiny, I’m-utterly-unloved-woe-is-me-waah-waah-waah lyrics are the icing on the cake.

2.)Noel and Liam Gallagher, formerly of Oasis. The self-applied Beatles comparisons were entertaining at first, insofar as they inspired “are they kidding?” meta-arguments about Oasis’ stance toward musical celebrity. As the band’s career has ground on through the years, however, the cement-headed adolescent churlishness and egotism of the brothers Gallagher has gotten harder and harder to endure. There’s no denying they do have some talent – a lot of second-tier alt-rock bands made it big in the 90’s, but few proved to have the staying power or knack for catchy hooks of Oasis. “Some talent”, however, is as far as it goes – they seem to be afraid of composing anything that has more than four chords, too many of their songs are bloated and self-indulgent, and their lyrics are poorly written even by the semi-literate standards of rock-and-roll, as Blender pointed out a few years ago. Certainly they do not merit nearly the opinion they seem to have of themselves, and their constant bickering, fondness for taking childish potshots at other bands in the press, and habit of carping about how people don’t get their genius (hint guys – maybe we don’t get it because it’s not there) are really, really tiresome.

3.)Kanye West – he assured his place on the list long before his encounter with Ms. Swift. He’s talented for sure – in my opinion he’s released some of the best mainstream hip-hop of the decade – but even in a genre in which egomania, crass materialism, and utter self-absorption are prerequisites for the job, his egomania, crass materialism, and utter self-absorption stand out. “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” was the all time low point – it takes a lot of balls to write a song about how you’re so talented and awesome you sell enough records to make it rain diamonds. Especially when you entitle it, apparently without any awareness whatsoever, with a name that to anyone who’s followed world events over the last ten years brings to mind civil war, child soldiers, mass rape, etc. And, then, to top it all off, when someone points out to you the offensiveness of what you’ve written, by way of easing your conscience you release a re-mix of the song with new lyrics declaring that yeah, it’s horrible that some African kid got his arms hacked off with a machete because of conflict diamonds and all, but hey, you gotta be real and keep blingin’it, because did you mention, you're awesome and you sell a lot of records? Thanks, Kanye. I’m sure that makes the war orphans feel a lot better.

4.)Puff Daddy – perhaps Kanye’s only real competitor for the title of “biggest ego in hip-hop”, he’s even more grating because he’s almost completely lacking in talent. He was the biggest star of the late 90’s and early 00’s in the genre (not coincidentally the lowest period in hip hop history) but I can’t think of a single great song that he performed or produced – and apparently he wasn't in the habit of writing them either. In addition to being thoroughly full of himself, there was no boundary of taste or decorum he wasn’t willing to cross to further his career – not even exploiting the death of much more talented collaborator Notorious B.I.G. by ripping off the Police in that awful tribute single.

5.)Adam Duritz of Counting Crowes – a douche of the whiny, well-off white suburbanite variety. His band was wildly popular for a long period, and when he wasn’t busy making music or counting his money he was shagging some Hollywood starlet or other, yet all he could sing about was how much his life sucked and how people didn’t understand him. I even heard him quoted once as saying he couldn’t write about other people, because “it’s hard to put yourself in someone else’s shoes when you spend so much time getting your own to fit”. Waaah waaah waaah. I feel for ya’, buddy. Now drop the guitar and get yourself a shotgun.

6.)Sting – Artistic pretension, I have met thee, and thou art a mediocre middle aged bleach-blond adult contemporary musician from England. The Police were a great band, but not because Sting’s lyrics were all that profound. Nevertheless, he seems to have really taken seriously the idea that he’s some kind of messenger from the realm of pure aesthetic bliss sent to our world to lay bare the emptiness of working in a cubicle, and living in the suburbs, and stuff. That attitude might be tolerable if he’d made a decent record in the last twenty years – unfortunately, he hasn’t. His New Agey obsessions with tantra and the like don’t help, nor does the sanctimonious tone with which he lectures the press about respecting his family’s privacy, while simultaneously parading himself before the paparazzi and letting anyone with earshot know about his sexual proclivities. He also likes to carp about music critics – who, after all, get paid to do it – criticizing his music, and having the temerity – gasp! – to dislike it. Perhaps going solo went to his head, or perhaps he was always this bad and Stewart Copeland and Andy Summers held him in check – who can tell?

7.)Bono – I love U2’s music – they’re one of the bands that really got me into rock and roll – and unlike a lot of celebrities who prattle self-righteously about social issues, he puts his money where his mouth is and really does try to help the children. That said, he’s got a messiah complex that’s difficult to stomach at times, and sometimes I wish he’d just go away.

8.)Lars Ulrich of Metallica – Ulrich had a right to take issue with services like Napster that made it easy for people to download his music illegally, but coming out in the press and essentially declaring that poor college kids who nabbed a free digital version of “Enter Sandman” were taking food out of his kids’ mouths was a pretty douche-y way do it. Then, he refused to shut up about it and went on a courtroom and public relations crusade against music piracy, culminating in a legal action against Napster forcing it to ban users who had downloaded Metallica’s music (but only Metallica’s music – apparently its okay for other millionaire musicians’ kids to starve). The fact that he comes across as a needy whiner in the 2004 documentary Some Kind of Monster doesn’t help.

9.)Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit - sure, his band made a career of churning out a juvenile, obnoxious and pretty thorough-goingly awful hybrid of hard rock and hip hop that combined the worst aspects of both genres. That alone is not enough to put him on the list, however. He makes it thanks to his incessant boasting about his prowess at 1.)nookie, and 2.)fucking people up. It's a shame using his brain and shutting his mouth aren't on the list of things he's good at.

10.)Scott Stapp of Creed - Ridiculing the music of Creed, the bane of rock radio listeners everywhere for a short period in the late 90's and early 00's, is too easy. It's not so much shooting fish in a barrel as in a shotglass. But for a guy who liked to bellow about how much God and Jesus loved him, and how important it was to him to lead the life of a good Christian father, Stapp did an awful lot of sinning. His habit of assuming crucifixion poses in the band's videos elevates him to douchedom of near sacrilegious proportions.

(Honorary Lifetime Achievement Award) – John Lennon. In keeping with a theme of the list, he’s perhaps the ultimate example of someone who was both a great musician and an utterly shitty human being. He was controlling and abusive of his wives and girlfriends even as he cheated on them with impunity - it takes an almost incomprehensible degree of sexual egocentrism to put a subtle boast about one's extramarital exploits ("Norwegian Wood") and a psychotic death-threat against a woman who even thinks about stepping out with another guy ("Run For Your Life") on the same album. Lennon was also neglectful of his children, particularly his first son Julian, and a dick to his bandmates. As talented as he was (and he was the most talented of the Beatles – no small feat), he was desperately insecure and jealous, begrudging people around him their successes for fear that they might upstage him. And, just as he is arguably among the most influential figures in the development of modern rock music, he is inarguably the most influential figure in the development of the insufferably-preachy-rock-star complex. Without treacly message songs like “Imagine” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” it’s possible we wouldn’t have had to listen to “Heal The World” or put up with Bono’s more obnoxious antics. For this reason alone, if I ever get the funds to open up a Douchebag Musician Hall of Fame J.L.’s the first inductee.

Any other suggestions?

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