Nothing’s Shocking

Once upon a time, music idols were evil enough for your parents to hate them. So what do we have left, now that our demons are as safe as pie?

Pig eats shit;
But only when he hungers.
– Jane’s Addiction, ‘Pigs in Zen’

Three weeks ago, a management meeting at an academic publishing house flowered into a bright recollection of The Osbournes. ‘He couldn’t work the remote control,’ declared the VP of Marketing. ‘It was hysterical!’

Something, I knew, had gone fantastically wrong.

Everybody loves Ozzy. Rosie O’Donnell wants to adopt him, the President had dinner with him, and my mother-in-law—a sudden fan of Mrs. Osbourne—declared that Ozzy wasn’t really twisted all these years: he was ‘misunderstood.’ This is a guy who once snorted ants. We understood him fine.

Metalheads used to worship Ozzy. Parents often hated him. His cover art, song lyrics, concerts, and stage antics used to scare the God out of kids and parents alike, back when blood and devils were considered bad. All of a sudden, Ozzy’s life became a hit reality show on MTV. He recently performed at the Queen’s Jubilee, sharing a stage with Steve Winwood, Elton John, and Rod Stewart. Prince William smiled amiably throughout the performance. People in the crowd sampled gourmet food. Steve fucking Winwood.

Ten years ago, a boy across the street wearing an Ozzy t-shirt was instantly considered dangerous. Now, 50-year-old parents wouldn’t mind if Ozzy himself was living right next door. Ozzy’s everybody’s zany neighbor, and the neighborhood is filling up fast.

Ice-T, former-pimp-turned-rap-star who once enraged the FBI, police officers, and Charlton Heston with a song called ‘Cop Killer,’ currently stars on TV’s Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. Twisted Sister’s Dee Snider, a man who battled Tipper Gore and the PMRC all the way to the Supreme Court to prevent parental advisory stickers from being slapped on albums with objectionable lyrics, has become a respectable radio DJ, moonlighting on VH-1 Heavy Metal retrospectives.

Then there’s Metallica, four guys who wouldn’t stoop to filming music videos for the first half of their career. Many videos and haircuts later, Metallica began turning their fans’ names over to the authorities for music piracy. Then they totally kicked ass all over the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra! Rawk! Now, drummer Lars is cutting loose on VH-1 celebrity programming, entertaining Moms and Dads whose children used to terrorize them with, you guessed it, Metallica.

But Metallica fans have it easy. Most pitiable are the teenagers growing old with groups like Korn and Limp Bizkit, who were seriously wussy to begin with. When Fred Durst starts taming down for TV talk shows he’ll be Eddie Haskell with a bunch of tattoos. P.O.D.’s ‘Youth of a Nation,’ a song about suicide and school-shootings, echoes tragedies like Columbine, but so did Skid Row’s ‘18 and Life,’ written ten years before the Colorado massacre and known to be, way back in 1989, just shy of a Bon Jovi power ballad. If P.O.D. is channeling some kind of zeitgeist, then that zeitgeist is going to get its ass kicked when the real music comes along.

VH-1 has yet to harvest the latest crop of rough ‘n tumble baddies of the rap/metal scene (that’s MTV’s job), but they’ve gotten everybody else, recycling novelty acts and public enemies alike into cheap, enjoyable family entertainment. In the MTV/VH-1 equation, Dr. Dre equals Hammer, Nirvana equals Nickelback, and Ozzy equals Creed. Creed is almost shocking, if only for achieving superstardom as a group of essentially well-meaning Christians desperately in need of resurrection: They are the G.W. Bush of modern rock.

We’re left with 100-pound weaklings like Eminem kicking sand in our faces. In his latest single, ‘Without Me,’ the wild rapper hits controversial targets like TRL, techno music, and Saddam Hussein. Oh shit—did he just slam Iraq? White boy crazy. Eminem also dissed thirtysomething Moby for being ‘old.’ Moby replied: ‘I’m honored to have received my first celebrity diss.’ Head noogies anyone?

Maybe Bono is the man. Lord knows he’s doing everything else these days. Recently, he was back in Africa, preaching economics: the man’s a bona-fide lunatic. He’s got those tinted glasses in our faces, over and over, week in and week out, and he’s dealing with the system instead of simply head-butting it.

But battling Third-World debt isn’t quite the spectacle we were hoping for. In fact, we’re getting rather sick of seeing Bono everywhere we go. He’s beginning to piss us off. Of course, that’s more than we can say about Ozzy.

Everything is safe and warm. Rage Against the Machine quit raging, Public Enemy lost their edge, Ice Cube was in a movie with Marky Mark, and Gene Simmons became the first hedonist in years to make hedonism look 110-percent dull. Those of us who like a little danger in our music are quickly running out of options.

For everybody else, there’s plenty of soft vanilla to go around. Just don’t go knighting Johnny Rotten. I’m begging you.