Why Gene Simmons is wrong about there being no ‘iconic’ artists in last 30 years

Why Gene Simmons is wrong about there being no ‘iconic’ artists in last 30 years

In the latest installment of “Watch Gene Simmons destroy his legacy,” the once-respected rocker has asserted that there has been no “iconic” artist to emerge over the past three decades. Making himself look like an old curmudgeon, he  tried to make the case that rock music has not reinvented itself and attempted to blame advances in technology for this lack of a substantial musical icon.

In the interview, he does give credit to the likes of Prince and Madonna, but stuck to his “rock and roll is dead” theory in terms of anything since. While The Beatles have not come back from the dead, nor has a band completely dominated every aspect of popular culture across the globe as most believe The Beatles did during their heyday, it goes without saying that Simmons’ claim has very little merit.

Perhaps Gene can have his children boot up “the computer box” and bring him his bifocals so he can attempt to grasp the following reality, as he claimed nobody “could name 5 iconic artists” from the time period in question.

Nirvana. This is the most obvious example. Though founded in 1987, Dave Grohl did not join until 1990, and their first album was released a year earlier. From 1991 until the end of the decade, Nirvana was everywhere. They permeated every corner of society, sold tens of millions of records, and the news of Kurt Cobain’s death was the top story all across the planet. Furthermore, two decades after the bands’ final album, they continue to be cited by new artists and their legacy remains without question one of the most important ever. Few will argue that their overall impact is anything but light-years beyond that of KISS.

Nine Inch Nails. Sticking with rock-based music, few artists have so thoroughly expanded musical horizons than Trent Reznor. From his seminal 1989 release Pretty Hate Machine to his Oscar winning work as a soundtrack composer to pioneering the way that digital music is released, Reznor’s endless innovation and creativity are in many ways the very essence of rock and roll, as he brings together so many different musical worlds, as well as embracing the ever changing trends in culture and technology. Even Bob Ezrin, who produced many KISS records, called Reznor “a true visionary,” and as Reznor’s career continues, his iconic status has already been cemented.

Rage Against The Machine. Founded in 1991 with their Earth-shattering debut arriving a year later, few bands can demand as much instant respect across the entire musical spectrum. From the mind-bendling innovative guitar approach of Tom Morello to the “wake up and listen” lyrics of Zach De La Rocha, it was Rage that gave birth to a new generation of seekers of social justice. Blending together the worlds of metal, hip hop and punk, Rage completely rewrote the books on what could be done musically, and their music and lyrics can be heard at protests around the world. Few bands from any era can hold their own against the power of Rage Against The Machine, and their sounds make those of KISS seem something beyond childish and cute.

Radiohead. Like them or not, the band formally came into being in 1991, and they’ve released eight dazzling musical displays since. Showing a boundless grasp of music, the band can do everything from concept records to massive, arena rocking songs to some of the most ambient tones ever recorded. Constantly seeking new ways to deliver music to their fans, the band were the first to use “pay what you want” on a large scale, and there are few groups on the planet that can send entire countries into a tizzy with the mere idea of local tour dates. Musical genius goes without question, and their record sales and ticket sales cement them as absolute icons.

Beck. While he doesn’t always have to turn up the volume, there isn’t another performer from his generation that has shown as much raw talent and musical diversity as Beck Hansen. Whether it’s the rock of Odelay, the sober Sea Change or the inexplicably joyful Mutations, Beck never makes the same record twice, and as the years pass he gets more and more musically brave. Beyond this, he’s made tracks with the likes of Bjork and Sia Furler among others, showing his constant passion for blending together sounds and styles. Along with this, his live shows are some of the best in modern times, and there is a level of purity within every song he makes that shows why great music has no need for fancy makeup, costumes or elaborate stage shows.

Beyond these five, there are many performers outside of the rock world that have easily reached an iconic status, as folks like Justin Timberlake, Notorious BIG, Bjork and Liz Phair have pushed culture to a new place with their sounds.

Gene Simmons can attempt to hold onto his “music will never be better than my youth” theory all he’d like, but every time he makes such a statement, it proves how disconnected he is with modern music and culture, and gives the world another reason to see KISS as little more than a novelty act.


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Christian Hamilton

Christian Hamilton

Christian is the founder and Editor of Rock Paper Rock as well as a freelance concert and event photographer serving the Pacific Northwest and Beyond. He is a certified member of the PPA and Gold Level member of the CPS. He has recently began working with Mental Itch Records and has launched his own Photography website.

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