“The Beautiful People” by Marilyn Manson

When Brian “Marilyn Manson” Warner was at the peak of his popularity, what people generally said about him was something along the lines of “love him or hate him, but he gets people passionate about his work”. Strangely, I don’t hear many of them saying it now. While he had a fair number of defenders in his heyday, it’s now pretty hard to find anyone who will admit to liking him…the bulk of his fanbase have grown up and view their having liked him with a certain amount of shame, like an embarrassing photo from their adolescence. The man is almost as passe as Insane Clown Posse, but without the tiny corps of insanely dedicated cult worshipers that group can still claim. Now, I realize that a portion of Manson’s negative press is based on his cheap shock-value theatrics and compulsive baiting of a sacred cows, and that many of the people who hated him are the same who hate good controversial artists like, say, Eminem, but I’m not inclined to cut him much slack, given that his offensive subject matter was really just a pose—unlike Eminem and his other peers at the time, there was nothing real or personal about it. It was just a marketing ploy, designed to create publicity through controversy and attract teenagers at that particular rebellious youth phase where they actually would jump off a bridge just because their parents told them not to. His ‘shocking’ image was never anywhere near as original or interesting as naïve disaffected teens accepted it as…indeed, his entire persona was based on ripping off other, better musicians in a pretty blatant manner. His image was Alice Cooper minus the sense of humor, and his music was mostly warmed-over retreads of either David Bowie or more legit Industrial acts like Ministry and Nine Inch Nails. Interestingly, though, as with the TRL-era boy-bands, Manson is more infamous on the grounds of his image than his actual music. Manson was never an important musical talent by any means, but his first album, Antichrist Superstar, is actually quite strong, thanks to a heavy assist in the writing and production by Manson’s then-mentor Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails. In fact, this particular song, which was easily the best thing on that album, basically sounds almost indistinguishable from an actual Nine Inch Nails song. It features one of Reznor’s most creative and memorable productions, even if the lyrics are pretentious as Hell, and it would prove to be the most significant legacy Manson would ever leave to popular culture, and is still the only Marilyn Manson song you’re likely to hear today without specifically choosing to listen to it.

Verdict: Good for the song itself, but I completely get why some people can’t get past Manson’s admittedly rancid and dishonest self-marketing image.

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