The Examination of the Decline of Western Civilization

Words by Alexandra Johnson & Audra Tracy

Like most aspiring ambassadors of rock, we grew up idolizing Rolling Stone magazine for its ability to make dirty rock stars a household name long before MTV even existed. For bands, recognition from RS used to mean you “made it”, and writing for the publication meant you were mingling in the company of brilliant minds like Hunter S. Thompson or Anthony DeCurtis. But it seems RS has gone the way of MTV by replacing rock n roll romanticism with reality ‘stars’, chin-strapped boy bands, and tween heartthrobs.

We all know that the publishing world has seen better days, but did RS really have to sell out completely in order to survive? Nobody wants to bad mouth their childhood hero, but RS: you are on notice. It’s impossible to maintain respect for you when the Jonas Brothers reside on your cover two times in less than a year. Mr. Wenner, you can’t simultaneously wear the golden crown of rock integrity while catering to the lowest common denominator – or as Jack White so elegantly puts it, “you can’t be a pimp and a prostitute too”.

Don’t get us wrong – RS still shows signs of greatness in reporting. We are just struggling to pinpoint the moment when RS forgot its homegrown roots, and decided to use its power to promote dribble rather than championing all the great new music out there. So it’s with a heavy heart that we count down 15 covers that truly offended us as writers, music fans, and human beings in general. You made us do this!

Black Eyed Peas (April 29, 2010) :

Recently RS published an issue entitled ‘The State of Rock: 40 Reasons to Get Excited About Music’. It was actually a good read, mentioning how The Strokes are recording new material, how vinyl sales are steadily increasing, and how the sound quality of live shows has exponentially improved over the past decade. However, the #1 reason on their list was The Black Eyed Peas. In what cruel world is MGMT ranked #17 while Fergie takes top honors? What?

The Hills (April 29, 2008):

Should the cast of this ‘reality’ show be front-page material for a publication built on the very foundation of rock n roll revolutions? Are these people redeeming enough to join the company of John & Yoko, Clapton, or The Clash? Does anything ever happen on this show? Honestly, the best character on The Hills is Spencer ‘The Crystals Will Heal Me’ Pratt, and he didn’t even make the cover!

Kanye West (February 9, 2006):

We aren’t trying to knock Kanye’s music here, but what’s more troubling is how he was portrayed on the cover: bloodied by a crown of thorns. Ya know, like that guy Jesus. Just ask the writers of South Park – Kanye West isn’t the Messiah – he’s just an egomaniac with an appetite for fish sticks. We will leave you pondering what exactly RS was thinking, and what Hunter Thompson, were he alive today, might make of ‘The Passion of Kanye West’.

Good Charlotte (May 1, 2003):

Let’s be serious – Good Charlotte is NOT rock n roll. One does not become badass from tattoos and pink leopard hair alone, and a band of twenty-somethings who sing pop songs about high school problems is just as synthetic as an episode of 90210. What would that kid from Almost Famous have to write about a manufactured band like Good Charlotte? The answer is nothing, because they are not newsworthy.

Jar Jar Binks (June 24, 1999):

Leave it to RS to oblige Lucasfilm in 1999 by promoting the dumbest creature in Star Wars history. When we recently Google’d “Jar Jar Binks”, the first result that popped up was a link to a blog hosting an ‘Awful Movie Charactesr’ database. Who knew “Jar Jar Superstar” would turn out to be more despised than The Phantom Menace itself? Over ten years later, this issue is still a great punch line, and still the ultimate example of a sell-out.

Britney Spears (2008):

Since the moment RS threw Britney half nude on a bed with a Teletubbie, I knew they’d come back for more, and they did. Britney graced the cover of RS a few more times after this epic shot in her skippys, but she only made the news when she forgot them.

Glee (April 15, 2010) :

I have to admit it, I’m a Gleek. I know, I know. But since when does a Top 40 based musical theatre soundtrack appeal to the pages of Rolling Stone? Perhaps when its pages thinned out as Glee got asked to return to Fox for a second season? Profitable: yes, but keep the big finish theatrics where they belong and start showcasing some underground rock talent like you should be. Until Dr. Dog or Crash Kings gets their much deserved spotlight, keep Rachel Berry and the glee club on Fox.

Jonas Brothers (August 17, 2010) :

We get it. They’re cute, and the littlest of ladies love ’em. But we’re not sure this squeaky clean family band really fits the demographic of Rolling Stone readers. Promise rings? Songs called ‘Lovebug’? Please don’t make devout rock fans like us stand in line at the supermarket only to be judged by our fellow shoppers for buying a magazine with the Jonas Brothers on the cover. It’s embarrassing, and awkward for everyone.

Lindsay Lohan (August 19, 2004) :

In light of the recent news about Lindsay Lohan skipping court so she can party at Cannes, this is kind of a soft number on our countdown. Synonymous with girl on girl action, LA all-nighters, and alcohol monitoring bracelets, Lohan embodies the most rock n roll qualities out of all the candidates on this entire list. But if you want to get technical, this issue came out in 2004, when she was still just that ginger kid from Freaky Friday.

NSYNC (March, 2000):

Bye, bye, bye rock n roll. Rolling Stone is too busy being a marionette for pop boy bands like N*Sync whose lyrics are as shallow as their personas. One puppet string at a time, RS perpetually feeds into the tween-o-sphere of prepackaged, radio ready pop tunes and while ignoring the sea of great rock entertainers at their fingertips.

Backstreet Boys (January 2000):

The most rockin’ part of the Backstreet Boys is AJ McLean’s drug problem. That being said, just re-read what I said about N*Sync, because they were the same batch of Lou Pearlman boy bots.

The Olsen Twins (September 4, 2003):

Doesn’t everybody wish they could say “You got it, dude” on camera a couple times when they were toddlers, and coast on those royalties for life? As the Olsen twins continue to live out the true American dream, we just wanna know what Mary Kate & Ashley have done for us lately. And why they are considered relevant to the American music scene. And how they are more worthy of top billing than Neil Young or Chris Rock.

Gossip Girls (March 2009):

To be honest, I don’t really care to know who Gossip Girl actually is, but the one secret I wish she’d give up is how the two hot leading actresses of the show made the cover of RS – or maybe I just answered that myself. Never did I ever think that a spinoff of the book series that used to flood my 7th grade hallways would get its face on the cover of one of the biggest names in rock magazines.


Zac Efron (September 2007) :

For anybody who knows the name Zac Efron and is old enough to have walked through the halls of an actual high school, you know that a lot more adolescent angst, unruly skin and rebellious undertakings go down in the years before college. If you replaced every one of the High School Musical trilogy’s choreographed dance moves with red cups and filled them with whatever is in your parents’ liquor cabinets, maybe it would seem a tad more realistic. Even when completely ignoring that fact that Efron always looks like an escapee from Madame Tussuad’s Wax Museum, his claim to fame sacheys away everything that Rolling Stone once claimed to be: sex, drugs and rock n roll, and replaces it with purity rings, study sessions and an irritating pop score.

Taylor Lautner (November 2009) :

If you are Team Jacob, chances are you are either still in elementary school or not allowed in a 2 mile radius of one. Rolling Stone opting to animorph itself into a J-14 magazine with a wet Taylor Lautner draped on its cover would almost seem surprising, but let’s face it, it’s Rolling Stone. How many full moons must we watch fade away before RS shifts back into a rock-edged beast instead of dollar hungry fiend chasing a pubescent werewolf? | The Competition