PHILIP TRAPP May 15, 2019 Mike Coppola
It’s not just rock music that may be “finally dead,” KISS magnate Gene Simmons theorized during a rundown of his favorite songs for MusicRadar last week, but pop as well. The musician asserted Friday (May 10) that the more mainstream side of music is governed by an industry that “sets the rules” and dictates how songs should sound, effectively rendering artists “handcuffed” to such restrictions.
While identifying the Beatles and Little Richard as some of the artists that “blew [his] mind” in his formative years, the KISS bassist and vocalist defended today’s top pop artists while snubbing their business environs.
“These days we have the talent — [Lady] Gaga, Bruno Mars, Adele, all great artists,” Simmons said. “But they’re handcuffed by the industry. The industry sets the rules and says rap has to sound like this; soul has to sound like this; EDM has to sound like this. Fucking pathetic!”
He continued, “I don’t want to sound like one of those miserable, moany guys that says, ‘Man, everything was better back then.’ But when it comes to music… shit, it was so much better! When I heard it, it changed my life forever!”
The recent comments follow Simmons’ frequently dissected take on the “death of rock”. As he told Esquire in 2014, “Rock did not die of old age. It was murdered. Some brilliance, somewhere, was going to be expressed, and now it won’t, because it’s that much harder to earn a living playing and writing songs. No one will pay you to do it.”
Looking back on his musical beginnings, however, the KISS figurehead now lovingly recalls the ten iconic tracks that helped shape his early understanding of rock music. Most of them — including tunes by Led Zeppelin and King Crimson — hail from a markedly different time, the musician said.
“You asked me to pick 10 tracks that blew my mind. I could have picked a hundred… a thousand,” Simmons stated last week. “That was what it was like to be a music fan in the 50s and 60s. … You had the Beatles next to Diana Ross next to Zeppelin next to Hendrix next to Yes next to James Brown next to the Kinks. … Every week, there seemed to be another 20 new songs that just stopped you dead in your tracks.”
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KISS Albums Ranked
KISS Albums Ranked
Scroll through the gallery to see how we ranked KISS’ albums from weakest to strongest.
24. ‘Peter Criss’ (1978)
Maybe Peter Criss’ solo LP was a cry for help, after years trapped in the relentlessly charging Kiss machine, but it was nothing like the chorused cries of “HELP!” issued by all the fans who bought this sub-yacht-rock debacle. Sure, the entire point of Kiss’ joint-released solo efforts (which famously shipped Gold and were returned Platinum by record stores that couldn’t move them!) was for each band member to “just be himself”; but Criss clearly misread the memo and decided to “just be Barry Manilow” instead.
23. ‘Hot in the Shade’ (1989)
More often not, good bands recording bad LPs will know to quit when they’re ahead, but 1989’s improbably bloated career ebb ‘Hot in the Shade’ gave music buyers all of fifteen reasons (a.k.a. “songs”) to spend their dollars on, we dunno, a just as crappy but mercifully shorter Poison album. And if you think we’re exaggerating, allow us to point out that the best song here – the syrupy “Forever” – was co-written by Michael friggin’ Bolton! (No offense, Mike.) “Hide Your Heart” was a solid Bon Jovi song, too.