Dear Everyone Who Has Inexplicably Co-Opted the Phrase “Rock Star”:
Please give it back. Seriously, it’s not funny anymore. Really, I’m not writing this to be snarky or make fun of shut-ins still clinging to their prepubescent glory days (this isn’t another “open letter to New Kids on the Block Fans,” after all). I’m doing it because I care. And because I can still remember a time when “Rock Star” wasn’t a catch-all term used to describe junior senators from Illinois and governors from Alaska. It was a state of mind, a way of life, a swearing, swaggering, strutting thing, one that wanted to sleep with you (or your sister), steal all your drugs and then get into a fight with a bouncer. You could point at someone and go “now that guy — the one with the bottle of Jack, the leather pants and the sh–ty attitude — THAT’S a Rock Star.”
Now? Not so much. Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen the term used to describe the magnetic appeal of both Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama (in pieces like this and this) and Republican VP nom Sarah Palin (here and here). While I certainly admire the political pundits (and basement-dwellers with a Blogspot account) of this great nation for trying to, you know, “rock the vote,” I will most respectfully have to disagree with all of them.
More of James’ argument, plus your chance to agree or disagree, after the jump!
Because Barack Obama is not a Rock Star. Sarah Palin isn’t either. It takes more than just the ability to energize a crowd (which, in almost every story I’ve read, always seems to be a strike against Obama but, strangely, a bonus for Palin) to achieve Rock Star status. Rock Stars do not work at law firms or call themselves “Barry.” They are not married mothers of five who previously operated a commercial fishing business. Just because you used to go by the nickname “Barracuda” (and conveniently co-opted the Heart song of the same name to emphasize that fact) or hang out with rock-and-rollers doesn’t mean you actually rock. Basically, Rock Stars cannot be created — they must earn the right to be called as much. Let’s see Obama punch out a photographer at the Whisky or Palin slip into Robert Plant’s trousers before we anoint them heirs to the Rock Throne.
So, I guess you’re asking, what is a Rock Star then? Well, it most certainly isn’t an energy drink or anyone who’s ever been photographed holding one. It’s not a now-canceled CBS reality competition featuring Brooke Burke and Dave Navarro (though Dave is a Rock Star) or a company that designs video games. A Rock Star is someone like Slash, Tommy Lee (as long as you forget about Methods of Mayhem), David Lee Roth or even that dude from Nickelback. Axl Rose, Scott Weiland, Vince Neil, Ted Nugent, Marilyn Manson … they’re all Rock Stars too. And you don’t even have to be a guy to be one either. Joan Jett, Ann and Nancy Wilson, Lita Ford — they’re all welcome in the Rock Star club anytime they want.
Basically, you need to live with a willingness to die. You have to have a taste for danger and an appetite for the illicit. You need to never take “no” for an answer, to have a confidence and a swagger that knows no bounds. You must be aware that anytime you walk into a room, everyone is looking at you. And you must love that fact. You should be ready to fight and spit and claw at the drop of a hat. You should dabble in porn — or at least date a porn star. You must smash cars and trash hotel rooms and bleed and sweat on a stage each and every night. You must be larger than life. Indestructible. You must strive for greatness — without ever appearing to actually be striving — and you must succeed.
So please, let the whole “Rock Star” thing go. Stop using the term on people who really don’t deserve it, no matter how nice it looks in a headline on your totally snarky politico blog. It’s only hurting the real Rock Stars out there, and it doesn’t make you sound cool or with it or anything like that. It makes you sound like a tool with a totally snarky politico blog. OK? Thanks for listening. You rock.