Gene Simmons is not happy with the pop charts. “I am looking forward to the death of rap,” the Kiss singer and reality-TV star tells Rolling Stone. “I’m looking forward to music coming back to lyrics and melody, instead of just talking. A song, as far as I’m concerned, is by definition lyric and melody … or just melody.”
Simmons shared the opinion during an interview about the 40th anniversary of Kiss’ Destroyer, bemoaning the current state of the music industry at large. “I hate the Internet,” he says. “I make a living, but to be a new band now and just give out your music for free, it’s the crime of the century.” He ascribed the state of the music industry to what he feels is a lack of superstars.
The roots of hip-hop, in his opinion, date back to the Sixties. “I’m all for anybody talking,” he says. “‘Wild Thing’ was talking: ‘Wild thing, she makes my heart sing/ she makes everything … .’ There’s no melody there. That’s cool. Napoleon XIV, ‘They’re Coming to Take Me Away, Ha-Haaa!’ That’s a funny song, but those are novelty records. So was Dickie Goodman and ‘Mr. Jaws.’ These were all hits, by the way. But predominantly, music is about melody and lyric, whether it’s rap or doo-wop, or yeah, even rock.
“As far as I’m concerned, rock is dead,” he continues. “There ain’t no new bands. Foo Fighters, I love ’em, but they’re a 20-year-old band. These are long-in-the-tooth bands: Nirvana, Pearl Jam. They’re old bands.”
He went on to say, however, that he did not feel all hope was lost. “That doesn’t mean there’s not new bands out there,” Simmons says. “As far as I’m concerned, if Lady Gaga dropped the disco and the pole dancing and all that stuff and put together a rock band, that would be legitimate, because she’s got the musical goods. She can write songs, play instruments and can actually sing. And she understands the fearless quality of spectacle. I’d love to see her do Queen-style music. She can do it. Madonna cannot.”
“If Lady Gaga dropped the disco and the pole dancing and all that stuff and put together a rock band, that would be legitimate.”
Then he recapitulated his theme. “Rap will die,” he says. “Next year, 10 years from now, at some point, and then something else will come along. And all that is good and healthy.” Asked about EDM, Simmons says, “EDM is honest. EDM says, ‘Here’s a guy onstage who does fuck-all, he does nothing. He presses a button and puts his hands up in the air. He doesn’t pretend to be lip-syncing to a track.’ He has a light show and it’s an honest relationship.
“My thing about the disco divas who get up onstage — and I love Jennifer Lopez and Ciara and Shakira and Madonna and all the girls with names that end in ‘a,’ they’re very talented in their own way — but it’s dishonest. They have a backing track. It’s really a karaoke bar. Karaoke is more honest, because you know it’s karaoke.'”
When asked whether or not he likes rap at all, he says he thinks it’s OK. “I don’t have the cultural background to appreciate being a gangster,” he says. “Of course that’s not what it’s all about, but that’s where it comes from. That’s the heart and soul of it. It came from the streets.”
Didn’t rap come from the same New York streets at the same time as Kiss? “Sure, but other than Kiss, which plays stadiums around the world, there’s no other New York band that was ever able to do that,” he says. “New York, for all its cultural impact hardly produced any rock bands at all. There’s the Ramones and the Dolls, and that’s kind of it. Ramones never had a gold album until some of them died. We took Anthrax out on one of their first tours, but we’re talking about stadiums.”
Simmons has previously spoken about his distaste for rap music. When Kiss were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2014, he questioned the way the institution picked its inductees. “A few people decide what’s in and what’s not,” he told Radio.com. “And the masses just scratch their heads. You’ve got Grandmaster Flash in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? Run-D.M.C. in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame? You’re killing me. That doesn’t mean those aren’t good artists. But they don’t play guitar. They sample and they talk. Not even sing.”