It's a weird thing -- I've always enjoyed Marylin Manson'sOf 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.
albums, but I find the man himself tremendously annoying.
In the end I usually pick a song or two off the albums, add themBecause regardless of anything else, dude could always put together a song when he put his mind to it.
to the iPod, and listen now and again when the mood is right.
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.
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.Great songs just are.
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.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.
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.
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.Whatever the case, I've always dug this track.
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" ]