The misplaced egotism of the here today, gone later today pop star.
If one thing in life is guaranteed, it’s that today’s ultra-cool hipster will be tomorrow’s laughing stock. Nowhere is this truer than in the music industry, because the one thing that ages faster than fashion is attitude. It may be a necessary component of the self-confidence required to become a rock star in the first place, but a misplaced arrogance and belief in your own untouchable genius rarely ages well, even with bands who actually make it – their old interviews, music videos and on-stage swagger often look embarrassingly forced and contrived in retrospect. When we come to bands who were never successful or original or important to begin with, it’s all the more hilarious to see their self-important posing and artificial attitude as they desperately and unsuccessfully try to convince people that they are it.
Recently, I’ve been unwinding between moments of work and stress by watching a marathon collection of Beavis and Butt-Head music video clips. I very much recommend that you do the same:
Beavis and Butt-Head were often uncannily on the ball with their put-downs even in the mid-Nineties, when these videos were all pretty new and the bands in question still full of the hope that they could ride whatever musical wave – grunge, alternative, whatever – was in vogue to some success. Most would come and go in the blink of an eye, of course. Watching this is a fascinating look back, full of bands you’ve forgotten about or, more likely, never even heard of at the time, but who preen and pout as though they are the coolest people ever to walk the Earth – which I guess they all thought they were, with their soon-to-be-cancelled record deals with major labels and their hangers-on who convinced them that they were about to become bigger than the Smashing Pumpkins, man. Whether it is people who believe themselves to be reinventing the music wheel, God’s gift to women or simply too cool for school, there is never any shortage of ego-driven wannabe pop stars and their sycophantic camp followers.
Rock Star Cool isn’t something that comes with practice, a trip to Blue Banana and a fashionable haircut of course and trying too hard is usually a bit of a giveaway. There’s something almost tragic in watching the terminally dreadful trying to pout and preen, strut and swagger like the coolest people on the planet, only for Butt-Head to say “look at this fart knocker – look at his face”. How crushing it must’ve felt to the bloated rock star ego to be called out on your own lack of self-awareness (for a particularly withering putdown of one of the most laughably clueless music videos of all time, I very much suggest jumping to 1:14.33 on the above video – unless you are a big fan of Journey, that is). After all, these are people who were probably surrounded by people telling them how great they were – the old school friend turned manager who would be ousted at the first hint of success; the music journalists and DJs fawning over every new band because they are terrified of not being in at the start of the next big thing but who will drop you like a turd once that debut album bombs and fashions shift; and the assorted parasites and star fuckers eager for reflected glory and whatever scraps they can hoover up from the rock star table. Many a performer has had their own brief moment of fame on the basis of being a friend of someone famous.
Celebrities love to be surrounded by Yes Men and Women who will gush over their every word, reinforcing the idea that they are unique talents and revolutionary thinkers – big stars are often cut off from reality by people who will never criticise them or say ‘no’ to their wildest whims, so of course their own self-importance increases. But in truth, even those who get away with the attitude – the ones who actually become big names – still seem to be faking it. Maybe they believe it themselves, but we should note how often the bands that we are constantly told are not playing the music industry game – the game-changers that will upend the industry as we know it and the anti-capitalist, anti-consumerist champions – still dump their indie record labels the moment a major label comes calling with a large check.
Look, I get it. if you want to be a rock star, you probably have enhanced self-belief and an ego that needs satisfying – because if you don’t have those things, then you’re definitely not going to make it. There’s nothing wrong with wanting fame and success but the hypocrisy of bands who desperately grab at it while railing against the 1% that they very much want to become a part of is grating, to say the least. Worse than that, though, is the unearned swaggering and smugness of wannabe rock stars who were forgotten almost as quickly as their brush with fame began. Seeing frontmen – it’s always the singer and it’s almost always a man – sneering and preening like God’s gift to art on music videos or TV appearances is always made less annoying when you know that, even at the time, most people were laughing at them.
Help support The Reprobate: