Marilyn Manson is beyond the pale
There was a time when Marilyn Manson seemed like a novelty act. When the goth-influenced hard rocker and his eponymous band first released their hit cover of the Eurythmics’ “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This),” plenty of people probably dismissed the man and his music as nothing more than a new take on a popular old song. But Manson has proved his critics wrong numerous times over the course of his long career, developing into a sort of elder statesman of hard rock (even if he’d probably hate that term). He can still be shocking, and some of his music still has a novelty feel. But Manson is more thoughtful and versatile than early critics (and even many early fans) gave him credit for, as he proves with every new album and tour.
Released on the 1995 EP Smells Like Children, “Sweet Dreams,” with its menacing appropriation of the catchy synth-pop song, quickly dominated MTV. It helped launch Manson’s next album, the 1996 concept album Antichrist Superstar, into the stratosphere, adding songs like “The Beautiful People” and “Tourniquet” to Manson’s growing list of hits, proving that the band could write original songs every bit as catchy (and as creepy) as its version of “Sweet Dreams.”
Although Manson has always been a provocative artist, courting controversy with lyrics, videos and stage shows, his provocations always have a purpose, providing social commentary and giving a voice to outcasts. He’s also constantly reinventing his sound and image. After working with Nine Inch Nails mastermind Trent Reznor on the band’s early albums, Manson shifted to a more glam-influenced sound on 1998’s Mechanical Animals, with hit singles “The Dope Show,” “Rock Is Dead” and “I Don’t Like the Drugs (But the Drugs Like Me).” With later hits like “The Fight Song,” “Mobscene,” “Heart-Shaped Glasses (When the Heart Guides the Hand)” and “Deep Six,” Manson has continued mixing heavy guitars with moody atmosphere and dark lyrics.
Manson’s 2015 album The Pale Emperor was the band’s most acclaimed release in years, showing up on numerous year-end critics’ lists. Manson returned in October with Heaven Upside Down, another collaboration with producer and film composer Tyler Bates, who has become an integral part of the Manson sound. While The Pale Emperor was praised for its stripped-down sound, Heaven Upside Down returns to fuller, heavier arrangements, with familiar Manson elements of distorted guitars and industrial beats. All Music called the album “just as satisfying, if not better” than The Pale Emperor, and Spin said that “Manson’s music hasn’t sounded this alive in years.”
While Manson still loves making provocative statements and shocking audiences (he’s just recovered from injuries sustained when giant prop pistols fell on him at a concert in September), he’s also become more introspective, and his current music reflects thoughtfulness as much as anger and darkness. “When you’re at the point in your life where you get to do what you want to do, enjoy it,” he told Rolling Stone recently. “Don’t miss out on the dream when it’s happening.”
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