Are there ugly rock stars?

We payed $5 to stream Louis C.K.’s new “Live at the Beacon Theater” yesterday (from his website (which I highly recommend you do as well while you happen to be on the internet)).

He said something that got us thinking – that there are no ugly rock stars.

I forget the context of the joke (was too busy trying not to spit coffee at the computer), but the statement was firm – there are never any ugly rock stars.

It takes only a minute to come up with a handful that aren’t incredibly good-looking – Lyle Lovett, Iggy Pop and Mick Jagger come to mind. But these are also guys with phenomenally distinct looks and, in most cases, older guys who had been better looking in their younger days.

On the flip side we have the breakout artist of last year – Adele – who doesn’t fit any mold made for modern female pop stars. Yet she’s not ugly. In fact, if you’re into curves, she’s gorgeous.

There are plenty of other artists who even embrace their own outsider status (Buddy Holly) and/or purposely break molds (Weezer and everybody else who resembles Buddy Holly). But giant glasses aren't all I'm looking for here.

When American Idol shakes out all the probable losers and grabs hold of its perennial dozen potential pop stars (sure, pop is different than rock, but the “star” part includes a lot of the same stuff), the first thing they do is begin their slow Clay Aiken? to CLAY AIKEN! makeover: hair, skin, clothes – it all sells records.

Is it possible to be truly ugly and sell enough records to be considered a “star”?

Now I’m thinking of Susan Boyle – of Britain’s Got Talent fame. When she walked out onto that stage the crowd went from laughing to standing ovation in under a minute. But she became famous for embodying this very anomaly. Without the show the world never would have heard the woman’s talent (she had cut a professional demo a decade earlier that was never taken seriously). She makes records now, but... rock star? Not quite. (Though her latest cut is currently #25 on the Billboard Top-40).

A good voice can come out of anything -- even Ted Williams. Remember last year's bum with the golden voice? He and Boyle serve to prove C.K.'s point: they were never taken seriously. They were news items before becoming 15-minute, aww-look-at-the-puppy-do-its-trick entertainers.

Actual stars need stage presence, superhuman guitar technique or a really, really good band around them. What if you had all that and a face people just could NOT look at?

You might have to get pretty creative. All those dudes in masked metal bands like Kiss, Gwar and Slipknot have gimmicks. But it would be unfair to assume that they perform as such due to butt-ugliness (maybe they’re just really OLD).

MTV isn’t powerful as it once was, so you might not have to be Britney Spears. But there are always the award shows if you’re really going for it. And you’re gonna have to perform live.

Remember – the premise is rock STAR – not weird dude in the mask who shows up at the open mic every Wednesday.

Are there any?

Even if there are a few oddball superstars around, what about the flip side – how does every member of 311 turn out to be a good-looking dude?

If music is a place where the strange and afflicted go to escape, how are there so many damn good-looking rock stars?


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  • Oh my God, there are more ugly rock stars than attractive ones. You know what's attractive? Talent and money. I bet we can name 100 ugly rock stars quickly, I'll get started but keep in mind I don't follow new music.

    Pete Townsend
    Elton John
    Billy Joel
    Bono (he looks just like Robin Williams, who is not good looking).

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Yeah, talent and money improve anything. But Elton John? I think these guys started out more as unassuming than UGLY. A guitar can turn a regular Joe into a chick-magnet, and money can turn an old guy into Anna Nicole Smith's husband, but would they put a jarringly ugly person who wrote a great tune on Mtv?

  • In reply to Dan Bradley:

    After a quick Google image search, i find that to be a handful of spectacularly average dudes.

    So we are defining two subjective things here -- "ugly," and "star" -- which may muddle the question.

    We now have examples of average-looking dudes rising to mega-super world stardom (above) and a relatively unattractive woman managing to surprise people and sell lots of records (Susan Boyle).

    That may be enough to poke a little hole in C.K.'s assertion.

  • In reply to Jimmy Greenfield:

    Bono? Bono? Back in the 80's he was gorgeous I'll have you know. (Suppose it's all in the eye of the beholder.)

  • I think the most important element is the "star" quality which many of the "ugly" rock stars have. Even Rick whats-his-face from The Cars managed to attract a (very intelligent and self-supporting) supermodel. Many of them, even before they're famous, only have to walk into a room to get noticed. That's attractive in its own kind of way.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Yeah, charisma goes a long way. So does a bank account.

  • In reply to Expat in Chicago:

    Great point. Seal, too, got Heidi Klum pretty quick (oh man, i'm goin to hell now... Dude had a face disease!).

  • After reading this article I couldn't stop laughing about the fact that Seal actually landed Heidi Klum. He's not overly grotesque but something about him and his music always seemed cheesy. Well... randomly... the radio played one of his songs the other morning and I found myself actually wanting to quote him on my facebook status, "No, you're never gonna survive unless you get a lil bit crazy".
    Thanks Seal for getting your song stuck in my head all ugly rockstar you!

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