Monday, October 12, 2009

Baby, You're No Good

I used to be a pretty big fan of the band Spoon. I bought all their albums, listened to them frequently and endorsed them enthusiastically. In short, I thought they were pretty great. Then I went to see them in concert and my opinion of them dropped dramatically. Not because they were bad musicians or their songs suddenly sounded awful to me, but because their lead singer Britt Daniel came out on the stage and acted like a drunken frat boy for the entire show. He made sexual innuendos to women in the crowd, made fun of a teenage boy who was dancing in a peculiar way (to their songs), and conducted himself with general buffoonery for an hour-and-a-half or so. I have never been able to listen to them in the same way since.

I know many people much more mature than I will say that one must separate the art from the artist. Call me fickle, but I just can't do it. Once in college, when my own band was performing in a battle-of-the-bands contest, one of the judges was a member of The Get Up Kids. I'm not going to claim that we burned up the stage with our staggering talent but we did alright. Most of the judges comments were very helpful and fair, however the aforementioned member of The Get Up Kids said some very mean things on his scorecard that hinged more on the personal side than judging musical talent. Despite the fact that I did enjoy some 'emo' back in high school, do I listen to The Get Up Kids these days? Nope.

In honor of Columbus, America's first asshole, here's a list of musicians whose great music is tainted by their even greater egos.

Kanye West
This one's easy. While I'm not the world's biggest connoisseur of hip-hop, was a time when the song "Jesus Walks" was in my headphones several times a day. I appreciate Kanye's honest raps and his attempts to elevate the game to a more intellectual level while toning done the gansta stuff, but could this guy be anymore of a jerk in real-life? Hi-jacking Taylor Swift's moment of glory was just the latest in a string of jerkish behavior. He has also crashed the stage at a European awards show where he told the crowd that not choosing him meant that the award had lost its credibility. He also screamed backstage at the 2007 VMA's that his not getting an award was racist, he has fought with photographers, and after Hurricane Katrina, claimed that George Bush didn't care about black people (nevermind, that was pretty cool actually).

Modest Mouse
Lead singer, Isaack Brock has struggled with alcoholism and drug problems in the past; fair enough, we all have our demons. But Brock's rap sheet also includes DUI's, an attempted murder charge and a rape accusation. Though he admits to the DUI (he was doing whippets while driving-whoa!) he maintains the attempted murder charge was highly exaggerated and the rape completely fictional. And while it does seem that Brock has cleaned up his act over the last couple years while achieving mainstream radio success, his often prickly demeanor in interviews does little to make him endearing to those already put off.

Lou Reed
The legendary lead singer of the Velvet Underground once stormed out of the offices of NPR after Fresh Air host Terry Gross asked him some very routine questions about his career. His response, "This isn't working OK? I'll see ya." This wasn't the first or the last time Reed had walked out of an interview, and really, given Reed's tendency to call journalists "F-ing assholes" and "Pieces of shit" to their face, and tell his own audience to shut up, Gross got off easy.

The ex-frontman for The Smiths has never backed down from a fight, and that's part of his appeal. As music became hyper-aggressive Morrissey came on stage wearing a hearing aid and pockets full of flowers. He titled an album Meat is Murder and wrote songs about killing the queen of England. On the other hand he has often made statements that come off as racist at worst and nationalistic at best (example: "I don't have anything against people from other countries but the higher the influx the more the British identity disappears" and "I don't hate Pakistanis I just dislike them"). On the other hand he has championed many human rights causes over the years and decried racism in the past. Hmmm.

Sure, he wants to save the children ,and Africa and end Third World debt. I might get burned at the stake for saying this, but anybody, anybody who wears sunglasses when he meets the president has to be kind of a dick, right?


  1. I'm proud to say that Isaak Brock's accused rape happened at my alma mater, Bard College. How proud I am.

  2. Hope the list for Kansas is next!