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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Poll Question: Do "Hottest Chicks" Awards Have a Place in Metal?

I have to wonder where we are in metal today when vanity award categories such as "Hottest Chick" and "Tattooed Goddess" make their way into the culture.

Musically-speaking, metal has evolved triplet beyond anyone's expectations. As one of the most fundamentally-sound and expressive forms of music out there today, metal still finds itself struggling for overt acceptance from mainstream audiences and contemporary music journalists.

Perhaps one of the reasons has to do with jughead popularity votes in crowning the most beautiful women in this scene. One of the key criticisms of metal back in the eighties had to do with misogyny (and androgyny if you're to bring up the glamour boys of the day).

In the eighties, very few women were involved in the scene, much less performing in it. For those ladies who were legitimate metalheads (and I'm not talking about the backstage party girls who kept the upper tier bands happy from night-to-night), they were dismissed by bullheaded cock rockers as "skanks." Looking back upon it, that was grossly unfair, since no idiot in his right mind would ever declare Doro Pesch to be a skank, albeit Wendy O. Williams suffered such a tag in her day. Of course, Williams paraded her sexuality with fearsome bravado while Lita Ford and Vixen gradually did the same, albeit with the benefit of glossy good-time rock at their dolled-up backs. Williams often had a brutal sound (except for the Kiss-ified pop makeover of her W.O.W. album) and only after her death did Williams receive her due as an artist.

Today, it's hardly a shocker that the ladies make up a generous portion of the acts and audience in metal today. They are as literate as their male counterparts, many are prolific artists and women have brought an entirely new dimension to the genre, whether you're talking about a classically trained mezzo-soprano like Epica's Simone Simon or a hellagood six-string crusher like Laura Pleasants of Kylesa. Let's not discount the sexy-tough shredder of Warface, Laura Christine. Seldom few raise eyebrows and hormones like guitar expert Ruys Suyter of Nashville Pussy, a woman as downhome and down-to-earth as they come.

Doro Pesch remains the female figurehead of metal and yes, she's still gorgeous. Simone Simon is breathtakingly beautiful. Tattooed devotchka Maria Brink of In This Moment could be considered metal's answer to Gwen Stefani. Liv Kristine Espaenes Krull of Leaves' Eyes carries an angelic demeanor and backs her appealing facade with a mixture of soothing and powerful operatics. In her own way, Karyn Crisis radiates a sizzling ideal of metal hotness, particularly with those floor-dragging dreads. Then you have the chic choices amongst young male headbangers, Cristina Scabbia of Lacuna Coil and Arch Enemy's Angela Gossow.

In the end, though, so what?

Are we to judge these ladies for their physical contributions to metal that have nothing to do with musical craft? When we have "Hottest Chicks" awards in this scene, does it not speak of misogyny in itself? At the end of the day, if we're to hold a beauty pageant for metal, then something's gone back to the primitive and not in the way Max Cavalera intended it.

Don't get me wrong. I'm a man, I'm hetero and I certainly make no qualms in stating I find Doro Pesch and Simone Simons to be two of the most alluring human beings on the planet. I'm also high on Wata of Boris and Doris Yeh of Chthonic. There's something about Holy Moses' Sabina Classen that rocks on the front as much as her ralphing thrash vocals. Mary Zimmer of Luna Mortis is an attractive young lady from a Goth standpoint, but I got more out of my actual conversation with her.

As a teenager, I held a wild crush on Doro Pesch and admitted it to her the first time I interviewed her. Thankfully, Doro was such a sweetheart about it and granted me even more interviews afterwards. The reason being, I treated her like a musician, not a sex object. I still think Doro's the most heavenly woman in metal, but it also has to do with her professional candor, her powerful vocal aesthetics and her genuine love for her fans. Back to Karyn Crisis, there are seldom few outside of Jaz Coleman of Killing Joke who has challenged me so intellectually in my numerous chats with her--ditto for her ex-bandmates in Crisis.

Okay, so I've picked Jane Seymour two years running as my "Hottest Celeb in Hollywood" recipient in my annual Up to the Minute Awards. You know why? Because she is a lovely, graceful woman who doesn't get caught up by all the flamboyant fashionista wars that frankly turns my stomach. My choice of Seymour is snarky commentary as much as an acknowledgement of generally-unheralded beauty.

So let's hear your take on this, readers. Do "Hottest Chicks" awards have a place in metal?


Head√ėvMetal said...

Thank you!!!

I'm not a musician, but as a female fan,
I think it's insulting to legitimate artists.

tarleisio said...

Ya know, I'm quite aware that I've been lurking for a long, long time...but sometimes, Ray, you do push a button and I slither my way out of obscurity and slather on my two cents' worth.

The Hottest Chicks Award...would in my opinion only fly if there were such a thing as Hottest Dudes in Metal, too. Fair is fair. If we're acknowledging physical characteristics over performance and musical ability, then I think there should be a Hottest Dudes, too.

The problem is, women - unlike men who are much more predictable in that respect - would likely disagree on most of them. I may think that Max Cavalera is smokin' (and I do), but that may not do it for someone else. And so it goes. Should there be an Ugliest Mo-Fo in metal, too? Does Shane McGowan of the Pogues get a Lifetime Achievement award as Ugliest Mo-Fo in Music?

You do see where this is going. I can get all feminist-outraged on your ass and say it's just so typical to first judge a woman by her looks, never mind how she sings/plays guitar/bass/drums/writes songs, and also that it would never happen with a guy simply because by virtue of being on a stage in whatever capacity, his hotness factor is multiplied automatically by at least 100. Add an extra zero for a frontman.

I do very much believe that's distracting at best and detracting at worst - taking away the legitimacy of women artists - who after all can't help that they're women - by judging them on exteriors. It's one more way to knock 'em down to size for having the daring, the chutzpah, the sheer utter nerve to grab a guitar or a microphone and Hell help us all, be good at it, too! They're chicks - ergo, a threat, one way or another. They're musicians - a double threat. If they're really, really good (which they have to be to get noticed and get anywhere these days), they're not just competition, they're such a threat that, guys, really, we have to do something! hot are they, anyway?

I'm reminded of a story Sean Yseult once told - how she was denied access backstage on many, many occasions simply for being a woman - obviously a groupie then, right? - because no one believed that she was in the band...

It just goes to show how little attitudes have changed, even as the music and the musicians did. Doro Pesch is a Goddess, I agree with you there, but much more for being her own person and making her own rules as she went, and imagine the misogyny she must have been up against - even with such monumental talent - back when she started. Of course, my sorrow to say, it must have helped that she was - and indeed, very much still is -

Plus ca change...

- T. getting off soapbox and slinking back into obscurity...

Devin said...


Who are the ones pushing the "Hottest chicks" idea? Taking the pictures, publishing the articles, etc... Whether it's the label, magazine, or is a money generated avenue.

What female gets into true metal thinking "I'm going to be a sex icon, or hottest chick"? I would think none. It's the business men and actually the fans (since they buy into it, literally and figuratively) who make such an idea work.

I'll admit, some of those metal chicks are hot, but often that's it. For me, Maria Brink is nice to look at, but I'm not the biggest fan of her music, so I'm not going to go out of my way to buy or support her/band just because of how she looks.

I think one good thing is that true metal heads like their metal for the music aspect. The money making, sex selling, etc... comes with the territory of entertainment business..whether you intend it or not.

To's money driven, sex sells, true metal is about the music

Anonymous said...


I agreed with your stance until you mention the decidedly sexist stereotype that "(women) unlike men who are much more predictable in that respect".

You may like to think men all share the same tastes, but thinking it doesn't make it true.

Regardless, my stance is no, there's no place for a "hottest" anything award in metal. My (naive?) hope is that we can stay all about the music and not worry about shining a spotlight on superficial characteristics.

ZachGates said...

Insulting, pandering, sexist, take your pick.

What it does is legitimize bands that suck aside from having an attractive singer. Sorry, but I don't like Halestorm, Evanescence or any of those. I -do- like Landmine Marathon and Iwrestledabearonce. There are talented female vocalists out there, and giving an award to the hot one is a slap in the face to the ones who have mastered their craft.

Nicholas said...

I am a male metalhead, and I agree with this article wholeheartedly. In fact, I would say that if there were standardized tenets of metal, this would go against that. Metal is about skillful playing and singing. While I certainly don't mind eye candy, it has no bearing on my judgement of the music. If I were attracted to men, I would still dismiss any "hottest male" contest in the same vein.

tarleisio said...

@Anonymous...I was being...polemical or sarcastic, take your pick, and I'm sorry it didn't come all the way across! But Devin is right, IS about money and it IS about sex in the worst commercial way, and so long as that's the case, only the diehards (that would be us) focus on the music over the mammaries...;)

metalodyssey said...

My take is: Why not have and continue "Hottest Chicks In Metal" Awards. Hey... many if not all of the gals you mentioned dress sexy, some very, very sexy to begin with! So, what are we supposed to do? Not mention it and ignore it all together?

Are we as a Metal society someday going to request these female musicians to stop dressing sexy? Count me out. Heck, it's okay for People Magazine to have their annual "Most Beautiful People" list. How does People Magazine "truly define" a "beautiful person" anyways?

Why are there bathing suit competitions in those televised national/international beauty pageants? Because women are beautiful. By the way... Veronica Freeman of Benedictum is one amazing vocalist and um, uh... dresses sexy.

DPTH International said...

An interesting topic. I was unawares of such awards, but like Devon states, it's about money.

I believe any metal fan worth their weight in gold would brush such nonsense aside and judge the music on personal preference. I mean, who listens to the music with a picture of said hottie floating in front of them. I don't.

However, having cracked open some Cd Jackets, I have been taken aback by some beauties, but at that point I have bought the album for the musical contents as opposed to the attractiveness of any band members. That was just a bonus ;).

Like I said, for any serious metal fans, the members beauty is an after thought. There are attractive talented people and they shouldn't disregarded because they're beautiful.

If I had chose NOT to listen to Mjolner's "Whispering Sorcery" album simply because of the uber glamour shot of the band in the CD jacket (the whole band was beautiful) then I would have missed out on a fantastic blackened, death metal infused doom album.

In my opinion, I don't think the the metal scene has lost its way in this regard.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

I appreciate everyone's point and counterpoint. My afterthoughts would be that having glamour awards for males and females may make things equal since the genre supported rather stoutly by fans of each sex, however, such pageantry is a pointless pop maneuver that dumbs down what the music is suppose to represent.

Granted, metal is one of the largest forms of escapism out there, and eye candy does bring its own escapist allure. I'd be a liar if I didn't say the cover of the new Zombi album didn't stir my loins like a crock pot on high. I'd be a liar if I didn't say the ladies I mentioned in this post and others in and out of the metal genre aren't attractive. I admit to being a typical male in which female nudity arouses me and I can look at someone like Simone Simons and go "Wowzers."

Celebrating such beauty, however, should be a mere form of acknowledgement by fans, but not as a principle of musical judgment. There is a bald lesbian contestant on The Voice who might be considered the flipside by many people for her delberately brash and aggressive style. While that facade doesn't appeal to many folks, listen to that woman tear some shit up, crikey. The Voice is VERY much a pop vehicle but as a music critic, I must pay attention to it in order to have a well-rounded judgment for what's going on in the music world--even though I still ban American Idol since all it is is shrewd demographic hunting by the majors in search of a cost effective way to marginalize talent they already know has been pre-judged to sell.

Anyway, that contestant on The Voice would make very few "Hottest Chicks" awards lists, but she gets my vote for one of the most passionate hellhound singers I've heard in some time. In the end, that's what counts if we're talking about music. Susan Boyle makes no vanity lists, and God bless her for that. Krista from Iwrestledabearonce is like the Bjork of metal and she's a pretty fun interview as well.

To me, this is what matters. At the end of the day, beauty fades unless you have a huge bankroll for plastic surgery and in this metal market, who's got bank minus a handful of upper tier standards?