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4 Ways Rock Stars and Teen Pop Stars Are Exactly the Same

Teen schlock pop is everywhere. Look in one direction, and there's, well, One Direction, eager to let you know you're beautiful even if you don't want them to. Turn around and there's Justin Bieber, threatening you with a baseball cap that's still not quite big enough to contain his stupid ego.

Jun Sato / WireImage / Getty
And it's still not the dumbest thing he's ever worn.

Why is he famous? Where are the real rock stars? The bands I grew up listening to would never do any of this Disney Channel bullshit, right?

#4. "They're Making Fake Personas to Sell Records!"

Alejandro Pagni / Stringer / AFP / Getty

We all know the drill by now: Kids get signed and are immediately forced to change their clothes, hair, face, and attitude to conform to some bullshit standard that nobody in the real world resembles in the least. Not like rock! What you see on stage is who they are inside, right?

Let's take a look at Black Sabbath.


Hey. HEY! I'm talking to you, Sabbath.

See, all that spooky Satan shit was carefully crafted by the band so that all those dollar signs in their heads could finally become reality. This is a group that started life as the Polka Tuck Blues Band. Spooky, right? They even had a saxophone player, because the devil loves him some funky brass. Sadly, no recordings exist of ol' Polka Tuck, so we don't know if they were truly polka. They sure as fuck weren't forefathering any doom metal, though.

c_pichler
"Lucifer seems less interested in doing the schottische then we thought he'd be."

After a while, they realized that people love scary stuff, like horror movies and haunted houses. So they followed suit, wrote songs about hell and death, and never looked back. They're not dark and evil; when it turned out the polka game wasn't a seller's market, they found a large, untapped demographic that was and marketed themselves to it. Just like any good business would.

Speaking of business, how about that KISS (and how about that segue?). It's common knowledge that Gene Simmons is a money-hungry walking ego trip, but we forget that it's not just him, and it's always been that way. KISS is 100 percent about taking your money, and nothing else. That's why they randomly made disco music, that's why they all released solo albums with a bunch of outtakes they rejected until figuring out how to sell them, and that's why they're still around 13 years after I attended their farewell tour.

Tim Mosenfelder / Hulton Archive / Getty
He said my cheers would be on the album. I'm still waiting.

The list goes on. Elvis wasn't a heartbreaking womanizer because it made him happy. No, he was a heartbreaking womanizer because his manager told him to be one. Elvis claimed to have about 25 girlfriends because that fit the image his label wanted to portray.

Kid Rock? His God, guns, and wifebeaters schtick only came after a decade of high tops and make-believe pimping. Only once he realized that he could become filthy rich by becoming an all-American redneck did he give one rip about the market.


Early mornin' stoned migraine sufferer.

And then there are the ultimate rock gods, Led Zeppelin. These guys were the definition of rock outrageousness, right? Sure, but only because it was in the job description. Robert Plant bared his chest and acted preeny and prissy simply because it sold tickets.

Laurance Ratner / WireImage / Getty
Sporting a tiny black strap was what he considered "covering up."

Today, he keeps his shirt on and sings bluegrass duets with Alison Krauss. Why? Because he hates the rock god bullshit, and disowned it soon after Zep split. As he said in 1994:

"I can't take my whole persona back then very seriously ... it's not some great work of beauty and love to be a rock-and-roll singer. I got a few moves from Elvis and ... Sonny Boy Williamson and Howlin' Wolf and threw them together. It's so painfully obvious where it came from. It was a tired move in the first place, really."

Damn. At least Bieber seems to enjoy himself while jumping around and baby ooh-ing.

#3. "They're All a Buncha Spoiled Primadonnas"

Jason Merritt/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

On one level, we know that rock stars are assholes, and in some cases even accept it. The difference here is the vitriol that pop stars get when they act like pieces of shit. Bieber gets drunk and pees in a bucket, and people angrily scold him like he's an insolent child who needs to stick some soap in his mouth and respect his elders. Miley Cyrus shaves half her hair, starts twerking (the clumsy-white-girl version, anyway), shows a ton of skin, smokes synthetic weed, and is damned for being a pompous little idiot who needs to be grounded until she stops pretending to be Nicki Minaj.


"Why can't she go back to pretending to be Debbie Gibson, like the good old days?"

So what happens when rock stars pull some shit? They may get some heat in the moment, but then it's basically forgotten about. Because it's less being a piece of shit and more just "being a rock star." Because they're "real," they've somehow earned the right to be naughty.

Axl Rose has a second career as "Professional Late-to-Show Dude," regularly making fans sit on their duffs for hours on end before he deigns to jam for 45 minutes (or until he gets bored, whichever comes first). The fans are certainly pissed for a little while, but does this affect Guns 'n Roses' reputation as one of the best bands of the '80s? Judging by the airplay they still get, and how people still go to their shows despite a virtual guarantee that they'll be staring at an empty stage for six hours, the answer is emphatically no.

Frank Micelotta / Getty
"When the PA man plays a Judas Priest album to help pass the time, it's gonna be AWESOME!"

Scott Weiland's never-ending saga of drugs and moodiness, which has cost him jobs with both Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, is similarly accepted. Fans may want Weiland to get help, but they sure as fuck don't treat him like a bratty kid who needs a trip to the woodshed. He's treated like the adult he clearly is not, simply because he wrote "Sex Type Thing."

Oasis' Gallagher brothers? Their endless sibling rivalry has all but torn their family apart, and the cause seems to be petty jealousy (the singer rarely wrote, and the writer rarely sang, and both wished they could be the other). This is literally two grown men acting like children, and they rarely get called out on it. If anything, we just roll our eyes, laugh about it, and move on, because "Wonderwall" was awesome, and Liam can wail like a motherfucker when he's not wailing like a motherfucking 5-year-old.

Andrew Benge / Redferns / Getty
"You're my wonderWAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!"

The point here is, tons of legendary rock stars act like assholes, far more so than your typical pop act. But because they're seen as "cool," they get free passes. Good to know.

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Jason Iannone

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