There was a time, it started before I was born, that rock stars were held in near god-like esteem. They were ill-behaved, messy, and self-absorbed – all under the veneer of mystery. This time, the 1970’s, gave birth to a kind of rock star that we’ve come to know as the archetypal rock star: doing drugs, drinking in excess, and having sex with legions of anonymous fans. That kind of rock star morphed into the 1980’s rock star, who was roughly the same but prettier, and the music was worse – same behavior, more makeup. The 1990’s saw the antithesis of rock stars with the grunge movement, although that was its own sort of rock stardom, but a tad less chauvinist, and certainly less pretty. And now, in 2021, there is no place for the rock star of old.
Rock stars seem to have avoided accountability for as long as they’ve been part of our lives. They were almost celebrated for being selfish, self-absorbed, and exploiting their position for sexual conquest. Rock stars would become the stuff of legends, their escapades living on in myth-like tales of debauchery. The trouble is that these debauch tales rarely happen in a vacuum. The classic trope of a rock star destroying a hotel room is usually portrayed as though the rock star was just doing what they did. But in reality, they were childish and selfish, wholly inconsiderate of the people that would have to clean up the hotel room.
That seems to be the rock star way, react viscerally, destroy something or hurt someone, and then move on as though their expression was the correct reaction, as though they were in the right. Flipping out at sound technicians comes to mind, something I’ve seen a great deal of. Rock stars and sound technicians, in my experience, have an adversarial relationship, albeit a one-sided one. Some entitled musician shows up at a venue, and the person doing sound for the evening, who works for the venue, is forced to contend with a musician throwing their weight around – a musician they may not have even heard of. Suddenly, their trying to get a good sound for the evening’s concert becomes an affront to the rock star’s swollen ego, causing the rock star to act out as though the sound person was out to get them – often engaging in a juvenile display of destruction and profanity, and rarely apologizing.
This is what I’m talking about. The unapologetic and selfish rock star cannot exist in the new world. This kind of behavior has always been unacceptable, but is often supported by band members. There is no reason that rock stars or stars of any sort should have the license to behave as poorly as they do. I’ve seen on multiple occasions where a musician, thinking themselves a rock star, misbehaves, and doesn’t think anything of the consequences of their actions. That sort of impunity cannot stand for anyone. Nobody gets to treat people so poorly, with such disregard. Artistry isn’t, and has never been, an excuse for acting like a petulant child.
Not to mention just how heinous rock stars have behaved historically in regards to sexual conquest, as though they deserved it, taking what was theirs. Rock stars cannot and should never have acted as God’s gift to humanity, they’re musicians, that’s that: people, just people. You cannot write songs about love and also be a hideously immature person immune to the consequences of your actions. No one is expendable, and no one cares who you are, or who you think you are.
And so, in the new world, we’ve got to lose the rock star.