Gene Simmons Doubles Down on His Ignorant “Rock Is Dead” Comments

"I stand by my words," the KISS frontman said in a new interview

Gene Simmons performs onstage during the Tribeca Festival screening of "Biography: KISStory" at Battery Park on June 11, 2021 in New York City. The Kiss frontman recently continued his ignorant comments about rock music being dead.
Gene Simmons performs during the Tribeca Festival screening of "Biography: KISStory" on June 11, 2021 in New York City.
Getty Images for A&E

Over the past few years, KISS frontman Gene Simmons has had a lot to say about rock music being dead. He’s received pushback from various modern musicians (including Greta Van Fleet frontman Josh Kiszka), but that hasn’t deterred him. In a new interview with Metal Hammer, Simmons doubled down on the idea.

“I stand by my words: rock is dead,” he told the publication. “The people that killed it are fans. Fans killed the thing they loved by downloading and file sharing for free. How do you expect somebody who loves the guitar to come into this creative process? You’ve got to invent yourself. And so rock is dead.”

To illustrate his point, Simmons suggested that there’s been little-to-no evolution or innovation within the genre in recent years.

“Point to a new look,” he said. “I played this game before and it bears noting, rock continues to be dead. From 1958 until 1988, 30 years, right? You got Elvis Presley, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones and on and on. Motown. You have the surf thing and the Beach Boys, the British invasion — hundreds of bands. The Hollies are hardly ever talked about, they’re a great band. Disco stuff, Madonna, Prince, Bowie, all that great stuff. You had the heavy bands Metallica and Iron Maiden, all that stuff in those 30 years. Eternal music and bands.”

“But from 1988 until today, who is the new Beatles? BTS?” he continued. “There’s no denying BTS are world famous. But am I going to form a garage band to do those songs? No. I think they’re well-crafted and professional, but One Direction and NSYNC and all the boy bands don’t change the world. It just makes little girls’ hearts flutter and then they’re gone. That doesn’t have gravitas. Influential bands, that make somebody want to pick up a guitar, learn how to play songs and be in a band don’t exist, because you can’t make a living.”

We’ve written extensively in the past about why the “rock is dead” argument doesn’t hold any water. (In short, just because the genre is not as white male-dominated as it was decades ago and you have to look beyond the Top 40 charts to find it, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.) But to address his new assertion that “boy bands don’t change the world,” what were the Beatles originally if not a boy band that made “little girls’ hearts flutter”? Simmons meant it as a dismissive, but appealing to teen girls has always been the key to attaining any sort of significant cultural capital.

Sure, groups like BTS might not be inspiring anyone to pick up a guitar, artists like Phoebe Bridgers and TikTok favorites like Beach Bunny certainly are.

The days of Simmons wielding any influence may be dead, but that doesn’t mean rock is too.

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