Narcissism: “the pursuit of gratification from vanity or egotistic admiration of one’s own attributes.”
Egotism: “the feeling or belief that you are better, more important, more talented, etc., than other people”
So, ten songs either where the artists are celebrating themselves, others, or picking over the bones of those that do. With grateful thanks to Daisy, Eva and Tim, all of whom assisted greatly in providing the inspiration and many of the suggestions for this week.
UK Indie Celebrity All-Star Backing Band
Fuck You! I’m Keith Top of the Pops
Fuck You! I’m Keith Top of the Pops
I’ve featured Keith’s caustic humour before, and here it is again with the title track of his first album, which doesn’t actually do much more than repeat the refrain ad infinitum, but in just doing that it does a nice job of skewering the false modesty of many bands. You know, the bullshit of being there “for the music, man”.
You’re in a fucking band. At least have some fun and fucking enjoy it, and if that means acting like a fucking rock star, do it. Keith clearly does, even if many mistake his attitude and band image for insufferable narcissism. I don’t see it as such, it’s a revolving bunch of friends having a great time on stage, with an ever-changing cast of songs and performances too – the “no soundchecks and no rehearsals” policy means things can get interesting!
The Ballsy EP
“I’m ballsy! I’m a stud! I don’t take shit from anyone!”
The “Greatest Band of All Time” keep up their Austrian character for this song, which falls outside of the usual Arnie-film canon, but instead is a character sketch of lead singer Graf’s action hero alter-ego, where he’s great, he always comes out on top, gets the girl and is just generally fucking cool. As always with this band, it treads the tightrope between serious homage and tongue-in-cheek just fine and the result is an awesome live track – that, yes, in the wrong hands would be horrid.
I Wanna Be Adored
The Stone Roses
As a statement, perhaps it’s not up to much. But as an intro to the big time, the opener to The Stone Roses’ one good album is hard to top. It showcases Ian Brown’s arrogance (that became insufferable in time, frankly), Jon Squire’s guitar work as well, but mostly it’s all about Brown as he makes clear in just a few lines that he’s ace, he is, and that everyone is going to love him. For a few fleeting years (and on occasions since, like when The Stone Roses return sporadically), it seemed that everyone did, too, feeding his gargantuan ego that bit more.
The Future’s Void
Erika M. Anderson was preoccupied with the whole idea of narcissistic impulses on her latest – brilliant – album The Future’s Void, the whole concept behind it being about our interactions with and through the internet. The most biting, seething take on this was on this track (#03 in the 2014 tracks rundown), which bitterly picks apart someone who looks to the internet for validation, only to find the internet ripping this person apart. Judging on the experiences Anderson herself had once she became a known recording artist, this could conceivably be a kick against herself.
Usually rather more introspective with her lyrics, here Robyn comes roaring out of the traps with a fightback for those trying to push her down, trying to diss her style, her physical stature, her songs. She replies with a list of comedy threats, how great she looks, and how great she sounds. In particular with the latter, there has never been argument with that, and that’s the important thing. She is a phenomenal pop singer, who barely gets the due she deserves, and Konichiwa Bitches is a great, fun way of reminding exactly why she should.
Party on Your Pussy
The Uplift Mofo Party Plan
Not their greatest moment, really, but one of the first of many Anthony Kiedis-penned songs where he is, um, upfront about his sexual prowess in no uncertain terms (see also Suck My Kiss, Sir Psycho Sexy, quite a few others…). To be fair, though, this upfront, positive-sounding braggadocio was perhaps a useful diversion from what was going on in the band at the time – with Kiedis and guitarist Hillel Slovak struggling with heroin addiction, that Slovak didn’t survive.
Clawfinger, over much of their career, were never quite what they first appeared, with their habit of writing and releasing exceptionally blunt songs sung in the first person, which were about anything but themselves. Exhibit A comes in the form of this chugging behemoth of a song, with Zak Tell ripping into politicians and celebrities who all think they are better than the people they are representing and/or selling to – hence the sneering title.
Interestingly, while the industrial/electro scene (and the Goth scene, by extension) is full of narcissists – both behind and in front of the stage – there are few songs about the subject, really, mainly as many bands have got better things to be doing than bragging about themselves. One exception to this rule in recent years has been Faderhead, with a swagger that has ruffled a few feathers within the scene – but undeniably, for a while at least, he was releasing some great dancefloor songs. Personally I feel it has gone a bit sterile and repetitive, but on this opener to recent album FH4, Faderhead comes out swinging with a near-rap level of bragging about how great he his. Speaking of which…
Forgot About Dre
Rap and Hip-hop has a long, long history of narcissism, particularly in lyrical delivery but also in general appearances (Kanye West being the latest exponent of a long line), of which probably the greatest of all was Rakim – someone who had more than enough skills to be able to brag about how great he was without it sounding crass. Not everyone has that level of skill to back up their words, of course, but maybe, just maybe Dr Dre is another. His own recording career has been sporadic at best (2001, actually released in 1999, still hasn’t been followed-up, with Detox turning into the rap Chinese Democracy, although there already seems less chance of Detox ever arriving!), but this song in particular was one almighty “fuck you” to his peers, reminding them of how great Dre was, at least according to him. This album sold nearly eight million copies, too, suggesting that many buyers agreed – and in the meantime, Dre has built a business empire that has kept him more than occupied. (Other rap narcissism? See also Missy Eliott’s Work It, Notorious B.I.G.’s Hypnotize, Eminem’s My Name Is, even Shaggy’s Mr Boombastic…)
I’m Too Sexy
Finally…a song long dismissed as a cheesy one-hit wonder, it is perhaps easy to forget that Right Said Fred had other big hits, too. But this one remains the one they will be remembered for, whether they like it or not – and under the ultra-catchy pop sheen lurks a deeply sarcastic take on a fashion model, that is so narcissistic that they are just too good for anything, even this song…