For the same reason no one gets “Everlong” or “My Hero” tattoos, late-night arguments about the relative merits of One by One and In Your Honor rarely end in fisticuffs. Foo Fighters simply don’t inspire those types of strong feelings, and while they’re not everyone’s cup of tea, they’re no one’s bottle of pre-colonoscopy MiraLax either. They’re a band you may like and might even love but aren’t likely to become obsessed with, and while pop music is loaded with artists in that same position, some musicians force listeners to draw a line in the sand. What follows is a rundown of 10 artists you either absolutely love or totally freakin’ despise. There’s no in between. You’re with ‘em or against ‘em, and you’ll fight mo-fos who don’t see things your way.
For as generally inoffensive as this band’s music is, Coldplay really get people going. Maybe it’s Chris Martin and his chest-beating, twinkly eyed, second-coming-of-Bono earnestness. More likely, it’s the group’s overall sound—that soaring, stadium-ready rock that always skews bland, even when the fellas are dressing up like French revolutionaries and collaborating with sonic voyagers like Brian Eno.
Speaking of Bono, U2 don’t exactly inspire casual listening. Year after year, people turn out in droves to see these guys play their hits on increasingly complicated stages, and if you’re not someone who gets the appeal, you never will. Even The Joshua Tree, their most widely loved album, strikes some as pompous shite, and artsier, less accessible records like Pop and Zooropa dig even deeper trenches between the pro and anti camps. Expect this war to rage on for years.
Dave Matthews Band
Ironically, bands popular enough to fill stadiums tend to be the most divisive, and Dave Matthews Band are right up there with U2 and Coldplay in terms of mega-stars who some folks simply can’t stand. The music is a hard sell, what with the saxophones, violins, and those often creepy lyrics Matthews delivers whilst contorting his face like a possessed man and dancing like a hippie whose legs have fallen asleep. That the fan base is so obnoxious doesn’t help, and for many detractors, dissing Dave really amounts to hating on the crunchiest 1 percent of the population.
Of course, tiny bands can also provoke passionate opinions, and in recent years, few under-the-radar acts have divided music fans more than Death Grips. This shouty Sacramento crew do hip-hop like batshit street-corner preachers, and on every song, they sound convinced the end of the world is about three minutes away. That leaves just enough time to wreck the minds and eardrums of anyone within spitting distance. Also, they’ll put penises on their album covers.
Even before he became Skrillex, Sonny John Moore engendered strong reactions to his music. In the ‘00s, he fronted the post-hardcore—or emo, if you’re nasty—crew From First to Last, and in his second act as international dubstep ambassador, he’s created the dance-music equivalent of screamo: a sound converts hear as euphoric and skeptics would just as soon banish from the face of the earth. If Obamacare or gay rights don’t cause America’s next civil war, the bass drop will.
The twitchier and more elliptical Radiohead become, the more people seem to like them. Assuming these folks are genuine and aren’t simply praising Kid A to make themselves seem smarter and more adventurous, they hear something in Thom Yorke’s cryptic moaning and meandering compositions that non-converts will never get. Understanding this band’s importance and actually taking pleasure in sitting through In Rainbows are two very different things.
It’s not easy being a visionary. If Thom Yorke thinks he’s got it rough, he should walk a mile in Yeezy’s Red Octobers. No matter how many records Kanye West sells, he makes an effort to cast himself as an outsider. To some extent, it’s a self-fulfilling prophesy, as he tends to ignore his strong pop sensibilities in favor of making albums like Yeezus, a chafing set of songs that isn’t exactly Death Grips but isn’t a million miles off. For as much as West likes to play the victim, you don’t drop songs like “I Am a God” unless you want to make some enemies and force listeners to choose sides. He’ll take your money or your contempt—just not your indifference.
Since losing the boat shoes and toning down the African guitars, these Columbia grads have stopped attracting the kind of scorn they did in their early days. But even so, they’re too precious and knowingly clever to become one of those bands you can take or leave. Vampire Weekend are indie rock’s answer to Wes Anderson, and those who found their 2008 self-titled debut smug and sullied by stolen riffs are not likely to change their minds.
As comedian Jim Bruer rightly points out, Metallica don’t have a fan base; they have “an army.” This is true of many metal acts, but ‘Tallica are notable for presiding over their ranks like the world’s most sadistic drill sergeants. From chopping off their locks and suing Napster to jamming with orchestras and getting pretentious with Lou Reed, they’ve repeatedly made choices that only their most gung ho supporters could possibly defend. Everyone else just figures they’re a bunch of dicks.
Speaking of bands with armies, KISS are rock’s ultimate “love ‘em or hate ‘em” proposition. They arrived in the ‘70s intent on scaring parents and spitting fire on a stagnant scene, but over the years, they’ve gone respectable and morphed into a corporation—and a highly successful one at that. Gene Simmons will sell anything he can paint the group’s logo on, and it’s been years since anyone has thought about he and co-founder Paul Stanley as anything more than cunning marketers with a knack for spectacle. Oddly enough, their music is fairly palatable, and were the conversation to shift from their unrepentant greed to their ho-hum hard rock, they’d see a surge in KISS Army recruiting.