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Apr182013

Heroes & Villains: The musical icon

Written by Imran Mirza

Within the various forms of media, the role of ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ are usually quite well-defined.  Our heroes may fall under the guise of the self-sacrificing do-gooder (cape: optional), intent on vanquishing evil in whatever form it may present itself, while our villains are portrayed as greedy, merciless, selfish and power hungry.

Straightforward enough, isn’t it?

For some reason, ‘heroes’ and ‘villains’ – as icons revered within music – tend to have the lines blurred just that little bit…  NME’s annual awards ceremony for 2013 bestowed its trophy (which consists of a hand with its middle finger raised(!)) for Villain of the Year to squeaky clean boy band member, Harry Styles.  There’s an undeniable magnetism we often feel for the rebellious, often self-destructive, hell-raiser – unfortunately not encapsulated by One Direction’s Harry Styles – but perhaps more revered icons for NME and its readers would take the form of John Lydon, Oasis, Jimi Hendrix, Paul Weller, and taking examples beyond rock legends and to hip-hop, Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG, NWA, neither of the latter three renowned for their charity work, love of the elderly, cosy nights-in, monogamy or anti-drug stances!

With that said, let’s explore Liberation Frequency’s 5-step guide to becoming a musical icon…

Controversy
Controversy’s always a good one way to keep your name out there, but the unfortunate part about it is that it has to be mixed with something, and mixing it with the wrong ingredient could be disastrous: controversy and sex doesn’t usually breed success, just ask Gary Glitter, but controversy mixed with violence is usually a safe bet.  I emphasise ‘usually’ as the disclaimer – Liam Gallagher swearing at and punching his way through waves of paparazzi is one of those victimless crimes, but Chris Brown gnawing on Rihanna in the back of a limo whilst en route to The Grammy’s is what would be considered a no-no.  For all intents and purposes, that act should have spelt the end of his career, and although Brown went on to make an incredible comeback from it, I wouldn’t try it.  So think before you punch… or bite.

The performance
You may very well be wondering why the art of the performance would find a home on this list above, say, being an amazing songwriter or musician?  Genuine fans of music – whatever it is they listen to – do take their music very seriously, and as somewhat of an antithesis to ‘the machine’s’ churning out of ready-made pop stars, a huge amount of importance has been placed upon artists writing their own material and playing their own instruments.  It seems that unless you do one, or both, of these things, you’re fairly unlikely to garner the respect that other multi-talented acts should/do warrant.  But, for me, such high expectations for artists leads to one of the other casualties to the influx of Simon Cowell-esque talent show acts: the art of the performance.  Elvis Presley, despite his manager, Colonel Tom Parker demanding that his songwriters include Elvis amongst the writing credits, the King of Rock’n’Roll certainly wasn’t the songwriter he may have been touted to be, but is certainly no less the icon that he is revered to be either; Tina Turner, one of the most dynamic singers and performers of her generation with a total number of song-writing credits to her name of: 0.  Ultimately, if people pay to see you live, you have to send them home happy and with a story to tell that they will tell for many, many years to come.

Sex
If you’re doing your job right, then you’ll get to have sex.  A lot.  With different people.  Sometimes on the same day.  Maybe even at the same place.  At the same time.  With other people having sex.  You’ll probably think that life is pretty good, but, remember friends – there are still lines to be crossed so beware.  Sex in the digital age has spawned more problems and notoriety than ever before so if you’re going to hit ‘record’, be sure you get caught in the right act: blond bombshells and socialites are instant successes (Pamela Anderson, Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian), but (as R Kelly found) being accused of urinating on an under-age girl on a videotape might, maybe, perhaps, be crossing that line we talked about.

Drugs
Ah, the elephant in the room.  And by ‘elephant in the room’, I mean the figure-of-speech and not a drug-induced hallucination.  Unfortunately, drugs are practically a staple for a vast amount of musical genii – oft-discussed candidates include The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith, Ray Charles, Marvin Gaye, The Beatles, and apparently even Snoop Dogg, as the list goes on and on.  Remember though prospective musical icon, you’re supposed to be setting an example for the kids, so think twice before you take that duchy that’s been passed to you from the left-hand side.

Anthems
Ultimately, along with performance, the only other essential entry on this list, and the only things you want to be remembered for.  Without the songs to be remembered for… well, you won’t be remembered.