Prettyboys vs. Soul Singers

For some reason, more women than men seem to like the Gena Rowlands Band.

This is an unforeseen development.

In the movie biz, there’s leading men and there’s character actors. Leading men are the prettyboys but character actors got soul. They also got the chops. They work steadily but you never see them on the covers of those supermarket checkout magazines. Especially not on the arm of some pinup actress.

I’m a character actor.

The leading men among songwriters are guys like Josh Groban, John Mayer, Chris Carrabba, Connor Oberst, Maxwell… you know, swoony types. Which is fine, no dis to their cheekbones. But I tend to side with the character actors, like Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, Paul Simon, Van Morrison. Uh, and more contemporary ones too, like…

…and there’s the rub. The current state of the music biz, even the indie music biz, does not value a good song so much as a good haircut. That’s about as un-punk as it gets. One of my favorite punk rock t-shirts read: “Poor. Ugly. Happy.” (Thank you, Avail.)

Right now I’m trying to think of indie songwriters who aren’t pinup-ready. All the ones who come to mind are so obscure as to be meaningless in an essay like this. What about…

Ted Leo? Franklin Bruno? Help me out here. Post some suggestions.

Everyone succumbs to starpower at some level. It’s understandable. But beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive. Somewhere behind all that is the real story.

The Gena Rowlands Band is all about telling the real story. By any means necessary.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

A quick glance through my roommate's Spin magazines reveals the following fugly indie rockers:

Thom Yorke, although you will argue that they're not indie.
Brock from Modest Mouse has a pie face.
Elliott Smith-- ewww.
Arcade Fire dudes are nice and ugly.
Paul from Interpol is homely and forgettable. It must be embarrassing when your bassist gets more photo spreads than you do.
Tenacious D. 'Nuff said.
Har Mar. Ditto.
Frank Black. See above.

Quit feeling sorry for yourself, oh self-proclaimed Paul Giamatti of the crooner scene. You're better looking than most.

8:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Also: Ted Leo is pretty hot.

7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

False distinction?
You have charisma. And the girls like you on account of you're clearly smart and not lacking in intensity.

Compared to Aidan Moffatt (Arab Strab) you are James Dean. I'm just talking about appearance, I've no idea how well you or Aidan drive. Staying with Scottish stars for a minute (one of your labels is Scottish, I notice) do you honestly think you're spuglier than Mogwai?

Anyway, cool woman always go for the intense and non-obvious boys. CF Woody Allen, Owen Wilson, Adrien Brody, etc.

Not that you don't have a point - catalog good looks have rarely hurt anyone, at least in the short term (Billy Idol, where art thou now?).

3:20 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Maybe it's something to do with things like this:
Subject matter

Do you write with enough emotional intesity and honesty to resonate with the "typical" female psyche?
Do you do it with enough cool, male distance to still have heterosexual appeal?
Does the protagonist in the song project the classic "cynicism as a romantic pose" and thus make you (I'm addressing these remarks to the singer/lyricist) appear vulnerable and save-able?

Will check out MP3s to find out. If you have tunes as well as the above? Ooh, mama!

3:26 PM  
Blogger Josh Vans said...

David Bazan from Pedro The Lion is a normal looking guy, but he sure knows how to write.

2:55 PM  
Blogger gay dad said...

I am a male who loves Bob and the GRB.


I am a Bob who loves males and the GRB.



2:47 AM  
Blogger clarkbar said...

sufjan stevens and andrew bird are pretty foxy, so they're out.

colin meloy and ben gibbard are sorta funny looking but we ladies seem to swoon over them (more colin than ben...must be the glasses). i used to think jeff tweedy is cute but his face is pretty ravaged from the drugs and all. hmmm.

4:17 PM  

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