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by Dan Weiss

November 17, 2013

Sneering, Snide Singers

by Dan Weiss  |  November 17, 2013

Lou Reed was one of rock's greatest pranksters, among other things. But he wasn't afraid to play the villain, as a tone-deaf parodist in "I Wanna Be Black" or the cheater who thinks he's the victim in "Mad." The leather jacketed one was one of rock's first true "bad boys" and part of that image, for better or worse, was being a jerk. Beastie Boys portrayed lovable jerks in their breakout hit "Fight for Your Right"; successor Fred Durst gave his exes an R-rated wink on "Nookie." Oasis ("Supersonic") and Billy Idol ("Power Junkie") made whole careers out of their sneering posturing, while great rappers like Biggie ("Gimme the Loot"), 2Pac ("God Bless the Dead," a posthumously released Biggie diss), Jay-Z ("So Ghetto") and Kanye ("I'm In It") have always taken the bad guy role for a spin.

There are quieter ways of playing this role, too, as folkie lifer Loudon Wainwright III knows well, wishing he were a lesbian on "IWIWAL" or scripting a fake apology to his real daughter Martha on "Father/Daughter Dialogue." Occasionally a lady -- like Hole's Courtney Love ("Doll Parts") or Amanda Palmer ("Do It With a Rockstar") -- preens as mockingly as the guys, though vengeful geeks like Fall Out Boy ("I Don't Care") and Ben Folds ("Song for the Dumped") often have them surrounded.

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