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‘I'd sell you suicide’: pop music and moral panic in the age of Marilyn Manson

  • Robert Wright
    • Published online: 11 December 2000

Music makes mutations audible. (Attali 1977)

In his opening remarks as host of the 1998 Grammy Award Show, sitcom actor, substance abuser and convicted drunk driver Kelsey Grammer promised that Marilyn Manson's ‘skinny white ass’ would not be appearing on the show. It was a truly extraordinary moment. Referring explicitly to his own teenage daughter, Spencer, Grammer couched this slur in the form of an inside joke for the baby boomer parents of children with seemingly inexplicable musical tastes. In so doing, he affirmed not only the intractable conservatism of the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences but also the arrogant hegemony of his own generation within mainstream musical culture. The show proceeded to reward Bob Dylan with Album of the Year, James Taylor with Best Pop Album and Elton John with Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, while lavishing unbridled approbation upon the newest crop of corporate hit-makers, including Babyface, LeAnn Rimes, Hanson and the ubiquitous Spice Girls. Mitch Miller could not have orchestrated a more thoroughgoing tribute to the pop music status quo in America.

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Popular Music
  • ISSN: 0261-1430
  • EISSN: 1474-0095
  • URL: /core/journals/popular-music
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