Pre-Bieber, Five Memorable Musician Interview Gaffes
Remember in the days before "Bi-winning," when Twitter was all up in arms about Justin Beiber's interview with Rolling Stone? Was it really a surprise that some of the pop star's opinions, as told to the magazine last month, would be half-baked and maybe even a bit ignorant?
Put aside for a moment the fact that Bieber is only 17. Put aside the fact that for the past two years, he's been immersed in the world of pop-star fame during a very formative time in any young man's life. Isn't Bieber the logical conclusion of the non-threatening, squeaky-clean, white-bread pop star America seems to want?
Of course he's a devout Christian. Of course he's against abortion. Hell, the fact that he said people should wait until they're in love, instead of married, to have sex is astoundingly progressive for his type.
And of course he said something denigrating about America's health-care system. He's Canadian. Have you talked to a Canadian in the last two years? They won't shut up about it. They can't gloat about that icey-pucky game anymore - the last Canadian Stanley Cup champions were the 1993 Montreal Canadiens - so let them gloat about something. Where's the harm?
Really, we don't think Bieber's interview revelations are all that embarrassing, particularly not after seeing his brief media spotlight eclipsed by the thrumming wad of crazy that is Charlie Sheen. Here's five more interview gaffes worse than the Bieb's.
5. Billy Ray Cyrus Hops Off the Gravy Train: Only last month, formerly bemulleted country sensation Billy Ray Cyrus had an interview with GQ Magazine in which he lamented the antics of his daughter Miley, and the effect fame has had on their family.
"I'll tell you right now - the damn show destroyed my family," Cyrus bemoaned of The Hannah Montana Show, shortly before expressing the desire to erase the show entirely from his family's history. "For my family to be here and just be everybody okay, safe and sound and happy and normal, would have been fantastic. Heck, yeah. I'd erase it all in a second if I could."
The fallout from Billy Ray's sad-sack interview was, according to several press reports, a monumentally pissed-off Miley. Rumors persist that they're more or less estranged, with Miley refusing to even answer her phone when her dad calls.
Billy Ray has since called his comments "unintentionally explosive," but it's hard to see where he was wrong; his family has, in fact, been destroyed, and his daughter was filmed smoking the legal herb salvia and babbling like a lunatic in a video that wound up going viral online. So what's embarrassing about it if he's right?
Well, how would you like it if all of your family's struggles, drama, and dirty laundry was a matter of national attention? We dare say you would not care for it one bit.
4. John Mayer Drops the "N" Bomb: Early in 2010, a Playboy interviewer managed to corner John Mayer immediately after he'd painted an entire mural in a tiny, airtight room using those markers you're not supposed to use anymore. We're saying he sounded like he might have been out of his gourd, even for Mayer.
He babbled about how much black people love him, how he loved black women with his heart but not his dick, and finally dropped the "N" bomb, fleetingly, in reference to whether or not he's been granted a "hood pass." He estimated that he had not, and he was right, because as soon as the interview was printed, a true old-school racial shitstorm ignited over his use of the word. Mayer apologized profusely, very nearly burst into tears onstage, and shrank back from the public eye for a while.
All in all, we don't think Mayer is racist. If you read the interview, the N-bomb was merely a drop in the ocean of nonsensical ramblings on that particular day.
3. M.I.A. Hearts AK-47's, Truffle Fries: When ultra-hip pop rebel M.I.A. sat down with The New York Times Magazine's Lynn Hirschberg in spring 2010, she somehow got lulled into letting her guard down. Mistake.
The erstwhile Maya Arulpragasam has always portrayed herself as a hardscrabble, streetwise freedom fighter ready to hop in a foxhole with an AK to defend her principles, but Hirschberg's article revealed her as a somewhat isolated trust-fund baby more likely to chow down on some truffle fries in a posh Brentwood diner rather than K-rations in a filthy barracks.
M.I.A.'s badass reputation suffered as a result of her new portrayal as an out-of-touch art-school gangster, and although she retaliated by posting Hirschberg's personal information on her Twitter account, the damage was done. M.I.A.'s next album, /\/\ /\ Y /\, was a critical and commercial disappointment.
2. Evanescence Alienates Their Christian Fan Base: You know how some bands and artists get frustrated with being lumped into the genre of "Christian music"? We suspect such gripes are really a canny marketing strategy to appeal to secularists without fully alienating their Christian followers, because in 2003, Evanescence demonstrated exactly how easy it is to make it clear that you're done with the Christian music scene: Drop some F-bombs.
After taking what was, at the time, a popular route with many rock acts by coming up through the Christian scene and then rearranging their image to cross over into mainstream success, Evanescence decided they'd had enough of being called a Christian rock band and, unlike other bands, definitively did something about it.
"We're actually high on the Christian charts, and I'm like, 'What the fuck are we even doing there?'" said then-guitarist Ben Moody to Entertainment Weekly. When the interview went to print, Christian record shops and bookstores pulled Evanescence's albums from the shelves, and their Christian following abandoned them in droves. Moody left the band not long after, and their next album The Open Door failed to replicate its predecessor's success.
Apparently Evanescence are still together, although it's been five years since they've released a studio album.
1. Michael Jackson Climbs a Tree: "Journalist" Martin Bashir managed to convince Michael Jackson to participate in a series of intensive interviews over the course of eight months, with an implicit understanding that these interviews would help people sympathize with the much-maligned King of Pop. The interviews eventually were edited down into the 2003 documentary Living WIth Michael Jackson, first shown on the UK's Granada television network.
Instead, Jackson was portrayed as a barely functioning, child-like lunatic, scaling trees and claiming to be Peter Pan amidst Bashir's voice-over narration, which kept coming back to Jackson's child-molestation allegations. Jackson accused Bashir of yellow journalism, and he wasn't alone; several other media sources did the same, with The New York Times labeling Bashir's tone as "callous self-interest masked as sympathy."
According to Jackson's closest associates, the interviews pushed Jackson over the edge and made him a true addict to the drugs he was already taking. Jackson released a rebuttal video showing Bashir contradicting many of the opinions he spouts in the original video, but neither Jackson nor his already-tarnished reputation ever fully recovered.
Jackson died in 2009. Bashir now works for MSNBC.
Get the Music Newsletter
Keep your thumb on the local music scene with music features, additional online music listings and show picks. We'll also send special ticket offers and music promotions available only to our Music Newsletter subscribers.