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August 15th, 2008
Fronting a band is no easy feat, and once you’ve ‘hit the bigtime’ you have to decide which role (and essentially, game) you want to play. Do you want to use your powers of fame for good by spreading the gospel of philanthropy and fierce fashion? Or spiral out of control and make headlines by acting mouthy and unpredictable? Or maybe you want to forge a genuinely deep connection with your fans night after night? I mean, some singers defy classification or bleed from one category to another (Liam Gallagher’s both a Pseudo Diva AND a Stoic), but you can pretty much lump most leading men (and ladies!) into one of these categories. Allow me to present you with The Field Guide To The 10 Most Common Frontman Styles.
1. THE MESS
When “The Mess” is at the helm of a band you never know if you’ll get your money’s worth at a show (if anything at all). These volatile and unpredictable future Betty Ford Clinic patients seemingly spend their nights (and days!) partying hard, performing impromptu ‘Home Improvement’-esque renovations of their hotel rooms, and having their JD & coke-induced asses poured into limos by music label dinks. By the time their scheduled show rolls around, they’re either too tired or too hungover to perform properly, or they’re so cranky that it takes some major publicist coaxing and damage control to prevent a major meltdown. Guns ‘N Roses’ Axl Rose demanding a sitdown roast beef dinner before eventually coming out to perform hours behind schedule is just the kind of behaviour you’d expect from The Mess.
Other Messes: Amy Winehouse, Pete Doherty, Courtney Love
2. THE SPAZ
Thank goodness a drummer like Dave Grohl stepped out from behind the drum kit after his tenure in Nirvana, because the dude’s got an incredible amount of energy that was begging to be unleashed. We’re talking nuclear fusion energy on a cosmic spaz level that Foo Fighters fans get to enjoy at every single show and interview appearance. Like Dave, “The Spaz” is known for having boundless energy on stage, bouncing around like an ADD sufferer on a Ritalin withdrawal and thrashing about like the gender bender from ‘Silence of the Lambs’ (‘it rubs the lotion on its skin’) with his genitals clamped between his thighs, which, by the way, is not an easy thing to do. It’s exhausting just watching them, and you wonder how the f**k they do it night after night without collapsing mid-set.
Other Spazzes: Gerard Way, Andrew WK
3. THE ECCENTRIC
“The Eccentric” is a fashion mogul of sorts, but, far from being a trendsetter, his or her regalia is so over-the-top outrageous that it appears to hail from a parallel earth where the history of the world progressed such that Elton John circa 1973 represented the pinnacle of cultural evolution. The Eccentric has oodles of confidence and panache and is in no way body conscious or introverted, which can be a boon or a hindrance depending how you look at it. Think skintight paisley bodysuits a la Lovefoxx (CSS), Bjork’s floral facial accessories or Patrick Wolf’s knee socks, body glitter and angel wings. Every public appearance is like a Kinder Surprise Egg, except with better chocolate and sometimes, the toy is kind of questionable.
Other Eccentrics: Sabina Sciubba (Brazilian Girls), Cher
4. THE PSEUDO DIVA
The Diva isn’t as as outrageous and demanding as, say, an actual diva (like Mary J. Blige with her gold toilet seat or Mariah Carey with her requests for Throat Coat tea and bendy straws or Jamie Foxx with his demands to be treated like a serious actor), but they’ve got enough idiosynchracies to irritate you. Take, for instance, The Killers’ request for ‘no questions about facial hair’ or Brand New’s Jesse Lacey, who notoriously prohibits the use of ANY camera at shows, complete with camera valet service and prominent signage. God forbid your performance be captured on film and posted on YouTube. Newsflash: You’re an entertainer in the 21st century. You get the feeling that even the tiniest infraction will result in a volcanic eruption not seen since the days of Pompeii or the last Britney public freakout.
Other Pseudo Divas: Rivers Cuomo, Kanye West
5. THE STOIC
When “The Stoic” takes the stage you almost feel like he’s somewhat annoyed to be there, uh, doing the job HE signed up for in the first place. Almost as if he’d rather just call in the performance. Next to no crowd interaction, no song introductions – basically the least talkative and emotive person ever. While Arctic Monkeys somehow manage to give a blistering performance time and again, they stick to the task at hand (rocking your socks off) with frontman Alex Turner supplying zero witty banter or emotion. You wonder if The Stoic’s got stage fright, is really in the ‘zone’, or just wishes they could get the performance over with so they can go back to chilling with their best mates back at the hotel.
Other Stoics: Thom Yorke, Liam Gallagher
6. THE COMMANDER
If someone like Dave Gahan tells you to raise your fists and pump them rhythmically throughout the bridge of a song, then goddammit you WILL listen and follow his lead for as long as he says so. The Commander has an impressive grasp of the audience’s attention and can compel them to play along with the evening’s performance – waving cell phones, singing along to certain verses of songs, helping out with drumbeats, clucking like chickens, whatever. The Commander is an awesome leader, and basks in the respect and adoration of every mesmerized fan.
Other Commanders: Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, Richard Ashcroft
7. THE POLITICO
Many band leaders take the politico route because it’s such an obvious way to reach an enormous audience, and no one’s perfected the ‘art’ of musical humanitarianism better than U2′s Bono. His political agenda goes beyond his band’s lyrics and music – he’s made it his personal mission to spread the gospel on everything from the AIDS epidemic to third world hunger to the plight of people who get itchy when wearing gym socks. The Politico encourages fans to support the underprivileged in their own neighbourhoods, which isn’t such a bad idea per se, but consider the fact that forking out the money needed to actually score a ticket to SEE Senor Politico perform (upwards of $300 last time we checked) is enough to dip your funds below the poverty line in the first place. Some people wish the politico would just STFU and play music, while others promise to join in the efforts that they stand behind.
Other Politicos: Chris Martin, Zack de la Rocha, Thom Yorke
8. THE TRENDSETTING FASHIONISTA
Unlike “The Eccentric”, who sports completely unwearable outfits, The Trendsetting Fashionista manages to be super well-dressed in all the latest (or as yet untapped) fashion trends at every show. Think of all the trends that Gwen Stefani’s succesfully “pioneered” – the bindi, dramatic winged eyeliner, the bare midriff and short shorts, and all this before her clothing line L.A.M.B. was even conceived. In doing so, The Trendsetting Fashionista can influence a legion of look-a-likes, from fans to other bands, and eventually, the mall (by which time the trend has most certainly passed).
Other Trendsetting Fashionistas: Alex Kapranos, The Kooks, Jarvis Cocker
9. THE STUNTMAN
Like The Spaz, The Stuntman is an enthusiastic performer who takes his passion and prowess to the next level with Olympic-worthy physical stunts like highkicks, double axels, running jumps and various other martial arts moves. They climb on equipment, storm into the audience at full force and pepper their performance with other unpredictable behaviour. Ricky Wilson of Kaiser Chiefs can often be seen hightailing it across the stage, crowdsurfing and otherwise endangering his physical well-being while performing. And everybody knows that physical endangerment is usually the most entertaining spectacle of all.
Other Stuntmen: Rou Reynolds, Pete Wentz
10. THE CHATTERBOX
The Chatterbox, polar opposite to The Stoic, reaches out to his fans and aims to perfectly set the groundwork and context for every song he performs. Expect a setlist littered with anecdotes and diatribes, fan interaction and the feeling that you’re getting a personalized show in the privacy of your living room. The Chatterbox will say things like “[your city] is my favourite town to perform in”, but actually means it and has the evidence to back it up. The Chatterbox is most likely to take audience requests or do an audience Q&A while he tunes his guitar or waits for someone to grab him another beer from the bar.
Other Chatterboxes: John Mayer, Gary Lightbody, Dallas Green
We’re only speaking from our own eyewitness accounts and experiences here – what sorts of erratic (or touching) behaviour have your favourite artists displayed? And where the hell does Michael Jackson fit in all of this?Tweet