That's My Jam: Stick Your Stupid Slogan In, Everybody Sing Along

It's a weird thing -- I've always enjoyed Marylin Manson's
albums, but I find the man himself tremendously annoying.
Of course I've never met the guy, but from interview footage and a half-hearted skimming of his autobiography in a bookstore while waiting for a coffee date to arrive I get the impression that the person off the stage is vastly different than the one who puts in the contact lenses and the black lipstick, but in the end it's usually not enough to sway me over.
In the end I usually pick a song or two off the albums, add them
to the iPod, and listen now and again when the mood is right.
Because regardless of anything else, dude could always put together a song when he put his mind to it.

Case in point -- while certainly overplayed to the point of cliche these days, The Beautiful People is in my opinion one of the better rock songs that came out of a time period (and frankly, a genre) filled with just tons of crap. The hook, the riff, the dynamics.. it all just sorta works, which is probably why had so much crossover success when it came out.
Great songs just are.
But like so many things in Manson's universe, it became something else entirely when it came time to showcase it as a calling card. Even when he was arguably the worlds greatest villain a few decades back, it was his performances and media presence that tended to push me away from him more than the perceived abrasiveness of his music or lyrics. I'm no fan of establishment and organized religion, but at least for me there was always something sort of plastic about the Nazi uniforms, the riding crop and the bare-assed antics. Perhaps I was a little to old at the time to find him iconic, too steeped in images presented by the musicians I had liked before he came on the scene to fully buy into it.
I liked the feel of the songs he put out, but all to often it became
sort of a chore to get past all the hype to actually appreciate them.
Even the tune I'm featuring this week kinda suffers upon viewing of the video. Back in the day I used to rock this all the time at the strip club. Raven -- the girl who preferred goth rock as her soundtrack didn't request this particular song the first time I played it, but she always asked for it afterwords.

And why not? There's a vibe to the riff. A mindlessness to the simple cheesiness of the lyrics. The matching of a vocal style to the shifting dynamics. It's almost like if you can close your eyes and do your best not to imagine Manson (and all that the association with that name implies) singing this tune, that the real essence of the song and the inescapable catchiness of the beat really begins to take hold.

Especially when you consider that the overriding message of the lyrics decrying that everything new is just the same old thing in a different package, fed to you by people who don't care it it's good or not as long as it looks a certain way and makes them money applies in many ways more to Marylin Manson and his own marketing machine than it ever could to any of the shadowy puppet masters he's railing against.
Whatever the case, I've always dug this track.
Perhaps a more timely comparison would be Kanye West, an artist who's albums and music I genuinely like and actively enjoy, despite repeated public evidence that the person behind the sunglasses and the music is (and probably will always be) an insufferable douchebag.

It seems almost too easy to point the finger at the overblown sense of self-importance that Kanye and Manson exhibit as the problem. Especially when you consider that it's impossible to avoid those themes of entitlement in the lyrics of songs that I actually enjoy.
Thus the question remains -- why do I appreciate the art of artists I personally dislike?
Do I respect the talent enough to ignore the personality? Does one really need to affect the other? Does it even have any bearing at all? Think about it -- when you go to a restaurant, do you want to know the chef's life story before you order? Of course not -- you just want the flavor of the meal.

There are several artists out there that are easy to dislike almost exclusively because of their personalities (Guns and Roses leaps to mind, but there are many others). Performers whose music I'm not immediately fond of, have grown tired of, or actually dislike that sort of close their own cases with me because of their attitudes. Bands that might actually have some good music hiding in their libraries that in the end I'm not really interested in digging any deeper to find out about.

It reminds me of a fascinating book I read once about the musicians of the Third Reich (many of whom were actually Jews and Slavs) that ordinarily might have had different fates, but because Hitler fancied himself a music lover found themselves in an odd way serving their greatest enemy, perhaps even in certain ways inspiring or providing solace for the soldiers they played for.
The book wondered aloud if these men were also villains.
If art composed or performed in the service of evil was somehow evil itself, or if it could be (as I think many of us might like to think) immune to the environments it blossomed in, exist somehow above the din and the chaos.
A question the author left unanswered. Hanging in the air, like fading notes at the end of a song.

[Listening to:  Jessica Williams - "Spoken Softly" ]


anitra said…
wigsf said…
There should be a rule about strippers who use goth rock and stuff like that for their routine. Unless the routine involves a snake, no goth rock.
unMuse said…
For me, I have never really cared about "the person". Yes, Kanye is a douche. So is Manson. Hell, so is Tom Cruise, but I died at his role in Tropic Thunder, rewatching his scnes more than Downey's parts.

It's not the personae that I'm buying.. It's the performance, the music, the character and the skill. I willingly give them money for being excellent at their craft and doing their job exceptionally, not for the type of person they are or the political opinions they have.
Satorical said…
Outstanding post.

It's complicated; you nailed it w/Manson. I never was willing to deal with all his manufactured bs to give the music much of a chance. The Onion article on him comes to mind ("Marilyn Manson Goes Door to Door to Remind People He's Scary").

I couldn't articulate it at the time, but felt much the same way about Prince and Duran Duran in the 80s. There was so much importance placed on image that I didn't give most of the music much of a chance. I didn't give Iron Maiden or Ozzy any earspace for the same reason ("Ok. You're devil worshippers. Whee.")

Had I been older, I probably would have felt the same about glam rock a few years earlier. Now I can either give such stuff a wry smile or just enjoy the music for itself. To a certain extent, fandom is a way of defining yourself. That's a big deal when you're a teen, but less so as you age and aren't as concerned with what other people will think ("You like Prince/Iron Maiden/Duran Duran? They're gay/creepy/lame.").

A last thought: I have no use in general for self-aggrandizement unless it's to the point of self-parody. Anthrax' "I'm The Man" and Body Count come to mind.
Heff said…
I have respect for Manson's earlier stuff, but his shit is REALLY starting to sound like a bad techno dance track these days.

Kanye West ? Jesus man, sometimes I just don't get you, lol !
JerseySjov said…
i love kanye's music and have let his antics slide because he's talented. lady gaga as well...they're both a little batshit but they create music that is undeniably catchy at very least.

when we have auditions for my dance group we oftentimes call back girls who have good personalities even if their dancing isnt up to par, even though the final decision is usually based on the technical aspects of their performance.
Hex said…
Anitra -- Thanks girl, glad you liked it.

WIGSF -- Judging by your comments, I can only surmise that you my friend, have never had the chance to see Raven.

unMuse -- I agree, but in todays media environment you frequently "meet" artists before you see/hear their work, and it does tend to have an effect. Sometimes it works in reverse, though: Having grown to really like Kanye's albums, I tend to (eventually) give him a pass when he goes into his semi-annual petulant child act.

Satorical -- great examples, and all bands/artists I really like.

Heff -- Manson's better days are probably behind him musically, but those first few albums were great.

Jersey -- I just can't get with Gaga. The music doesn't do enough for me. Hopefully she goes away soon.