The hook of Steven Hyden’s feature on Korn’s seminal 1998 album Follow the Leader (of which I owned a copy, even though I listened to maybe just three songs, including ‘Freak on Leash’) is that the quartet, helmed by Jonathan Davis, are the last true rock-and-rollers: Mounds of cocaine, sex in the recording booth, and millions spent honing and perfecting sound quality. But what makes this article utterly fascinating is the examination of nu metal’s stupefying rise, and how the genre subsumed pop music in the late 1990s and early 2000s, a rejoinder to the oleaginous tunes that dominated the top 40 charts.
Rethinking the legacy of one of the most ridiculed hair bands of our time:
“I have no insight into the goings-on of Jon Bon Jovi’s headspace, but I like to imagine him having a ‘Once in a Lifetime’ moment during the Springsteen duet: ‘This is not my classic-rock staple, this is not my classic-rock backing band. Well, how did I get here?’ Maybe I’m projecting: In many people’s minds (certainly many critics’ minds), perceptions of Bon Jovi will forever be fixed in the late ’80s, the band’s most commercially successful period, when Slippery When Wet and 1988’s New Jersey spun off seven top-10 singles — an unprecedented run for what’s ostensibly a hard-rock band — including four no. 1’s. ‘Blaze of Glory,’ the breakout song from Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘solo’ soundtrack for Young Guns II, also hit the top of the charts during this period.
“Susan Orlean’s1 1987 profile of Bon Jovi for Rolling Stone was typical of how the press treated the band at the time. The piece begins with an extended, oddly reverential treatise on Jon Bon’s ‘fourteen inches’ of hair: ‘Its color is somewhere between chestnut and auburn, and the frosty streaks in it give it a sizzling golden sheen,’ Orlean writes. ‘Truth is, it would be safe to say that Jon Bon Jovi has the most wonderful hair in rock & roll today.’ Orlean describes Jon Bon’s locks as an oedipal metaphor for rebellion against his dad, a hairdresser, though her poker face doesn’t quite hold. She doesn’t really take this guy seriously, and the implication is that we shouldn’t either.”
Even if the hugeness of Hysteria can be plainly seen in statistical terms, wrapping your head around it is difficult nearly 25 years later. We still have hit records, and artists and producers obsessed with discovering the newest ways of making them, but being No. 1 on the charts doesn’t have quite the same significance anymore. If you reach the top of the heap, you’ll be disappointed to find that the heap is much smaller than it used to be, and there are lots of other heaps nearby that are approximately the same size.
Promoter John Scher insisted instead that the ugliness of Woodstock 99 reflected a larger moral chasm in the souls of the attendees. “I think, in some respects, the generation was irresponsible and they gave me and themselves the finger,” Scher told Spin. He wasn’t the only one who felt that Woodstock 99 amounted to a big “fuck you!” from legions of incorrigible kids. More than one writer likened Woodstock 99 to “The Day Of The Locust,” the 1939 Nathanael West novel about wanton sin and alienation in Los Angeles that ends with violent mob violence.
There really is life after death in ’90s rock, provided you can retain enough of your old sound to convince people to move forward with you. But while the surviving members of Alice In Chains made sure to present their band as a newly evolved entity, Sublime’s Bud Gaugh and Eric Wilson are trying to pick up where they were forced to leave off in 1996, when their lead singer, Bradley Nowell, died of a heroin overdose at age 28.
The perils of fame in grunge-era Seattle, and the trouble with avoiding it. “Still, the video for ‘Even Flow’ succeeded in doing for Pearl Jam what the ‘Pour Some Sugar On Me’ video had done for Def Leppard four summers earlier: It made you wish really hard that Pearl Jam would come somewhere near your town very soon.”
After one of the headiest years in Chicago rock history—a time when the city usurped Seattle as the new alt-rock hotspot, thanks to Smashing Pumpkins going platinum with the colossal guitar symphony “Siamese Dream,” and Liz Phair and Urge Overkill releasing the critically acclaimed and demonstrably cool “Exile In Guyville” and “Saturation”—local music critic Bill Wyman stated an opinion that seems obvious now, but ended up being quite the shit-stirrer when he wrote it.
Alanis haters relished pointing out how many of the examples of irony in the lyrics to “Ironic” were, in fact, not really ironic. On this point I’m going to defend Morissette, if only because these are the same awful people that circle typos in newspapers and mail the clippings anonymously to editors with smug putdowns such as, “Maybe you should consider hiring copy editors,” or some equally non-clever bullshit. I’m right next to you flipping the bird at those a-holes, Alanis.