Butt Rock: the Rorschach test of music taste

Originally published at: Butt Rock: the Rorschach test of music taste | Boing Boing


Ok, I got bored halfway through. Did he ever get around to making an argument about what’s actually good about these bands other than the fact that they’re popular? I mean, McDonald’s sells a lot of fucking hamburgers.


I think he kinda drops the ball a bit, in that all his Butt Rock examples are from the 00’s on. The term is a lot older. Originally pointed at the crappier end of Hair Metal and bands like KISS. It would probably help his argument to get into it, and he a little bit skirts something that you can see really well if you add that in.

Poking around to see if there was clearer definition these days I ran across a long forgotten example that is probably the most Butt Rock that Butt Rock can be: Buck Cherry. Who are sort of in between timeline wise.

Or my preferred example. Van Halen with David Lee Roth, not Butt Rock. Van Halen with Sammy Hagar, totally Butt Rock.

Thing is those original Butt Rock bands also sold out stadiums, lingered on radio and made bank at state fairs for like 30 or 40 years. And it shows something here. These bands don’t do this on top of being current, or popular with the kids. They do this on top of people in their mid 30’s through 40s with disposable income.

That’s a major part of why they make rock seem so stuck in the 00’s.

And like their predecessors as much as these people are selling lots of tickets and t-shirts, and have good sized followings on streaming. They aren’t charting in terms of album sales, radio plays, and streaming in the broader context of the industry. I back dated this to avoid Christmas, but there doesn’t seem to be a single rock song here:

If anything it’s more extreme with today’s Butt Rock, as generally speaking young people just aren’t listening to rock music. To the extent that they do, this end of it tends to go hand in hand with “fuck the libs” Arena Country.

Which brings me to how I think he lets the fan base here off the hook too much. I too grew up in an area loaded with pickup trucks, where this shit is huge. Probably particularly huge cause Lawn-Guy Land. I would absolutely not describe this scene as “inclusive” or accepting. Except in that in a large event, if one is white and doesn’t stand out too much. It’s easy enough to go unnoticed. Scale is gonna dilute the toxicity, and smaller scenes are always going to have a more intimate sort of toxicity.

Predominantly writing hooky songs with approachable structures. Which is a fair point. This music is generally not good down to production, styling and lyrical content.

Though given the title of his channel he seems weirdly focused on metal. Cause with Punk, especially older punk that is kinda the whole thing. And he might have made his point better acknowledging that.

But he also spends a lot of time praising the low pressure nature of the crowds and fan base, though I think he kinda takes that too far and ignores the broader social context.


The video’s whole analysis is based on this “popular fan appeal” vs. “critic favorite” dichotomy that totally ignores the role played by actual rock radio stations by more or less exclusively playing early 00s butt rock for 2 decades now (which is arguably much more representative of “the media” which the video lambasts than any critic).

What’s changed with music in the last 30 years isn’t that critics are more out of touch with fans, it’s that critics and rock radio stations haven’t agreed on what’s good since the 90s. And all this makes his repeated challenge of “well if catchy riffs are so easy why don’t you write one” completely miss the point because the hard part isn’t writing a song, it’s marketing it to an audience.


Agreed. You could say Grand Funk were the original Butt Rockers, selling out stadiums while critics rolled their eyes. Modern Butt Rock also owes a lot to grunge, ironically to Soundgarden who were a lot more complicated and weird than they usually get credit for, but that sound, angry throaty singing, comes from grunge not hair metal. Hopefully these bands will end up footnotes like Grand Funk.


Butt Rock is a product designed to move units and sell ad space. Compare it to modern country music and pop music. Its like they have statistical analysis of what works best in each genre and eventually you cant tell one artist from another. Sonically they even sound like they’re coming from the same studio and producer, as if theres a button you press or a pro-tools plug-in for each genre. I wonder how many of the musicians can step outside themselves and see this.


Is Kid Rock considered “Butt Rock”? He’s got to be, right?


Well like I was saying with the original Butt Rock bit, that’s not terribly new. I don’t think that running Motley Cru 24/7 was all that current with the kids these days when the bigger local rock station where I grew up was doing it in 1998.

But to a certain extent you’re looking at the CBS problem. Who listens to terrestrial radio on the regular?

Older people. Where is the bulk of the rock audience? Older people.

So it’s kind of a feedback loop. Your two options on rock radio are “Oldies/classic” so predominantly 60’s rock for boomers, and then your “hard rock” station that is all Butt Rock of various eras. Giving the remaining audience what they liked in their yute is what’s keeping the doors open for a lot of these places.

I don’t think they quite hit the stylistic connotation of the term. Since it comes from the harder rock scene a bit later than that. There’s also a sorta macho, douche connotation to it. So I tend to favor KISS.

As pejoratives go I would probably call Grand Funk “Dad Rock”.

Yeah absolutely the sorta 1st wave of Butt Rock follows on from the early Hard Rock thing and development of things like Metal.

And this 2nd wave of it, 100% grows out of the popularity of Grunge and early 90’s “Alternative”.

But vis a vis Buckcherry and their absolute, never ending, epic Buttness. There was an attempt for Butt Rock to roll around in a giant pile of dirty Motley Cru T-shirts. I actually think the very first time I heard the term was in describing that band, and why some one hated them so very hard.

Kind of inherent to is is the popification or commercialization of something more interesting, or I guess respectable might be the word?

I guess that’s another argument for Grand Funk though.

As goes 1st wave Butt Rock, they tend to fade. And a lot of them have. The fairs and festivals they play get smaller and smaller as their audience base gets older. Until some one is too drunk to sing at a local carnival, where three moms and a dog are really into it and no one else cares.

Then it’s time for the reality TV series.

100%. I think you’d be hard pressed to find a better example of todays Butt Rock. He seems to have specialized in hitting all angles of it.


This is the first time I’ve heard the term “Butt Rock”, as this genre is better known as “Cock Rock”, at least in my part of town.


All of these pseudo genres are a little vague. But Cock Rock is a little more specific. Meaning very macho, sexualized, misogynistic, male lead rock music. That’s pretty common in Butt Rock, but not necessarily as central. Particularly with the current crop, which frequently tends towards the mopey dude thing.

There is a lot of cross over here though.


Late stage capitanalism.


I’ve always called that genre wanker music. It’s emo metal, music for incels.

It’s a distinct genre from hair metal and arena rock. I don’t know why he’s conflating them. Everything you think you’re better than does not exist in a single bucket.

So-called “butt rock” is right up there as one of those nebulous fake genres that are hard to define and mostly just exist to make music critics feel smart.


Kenan Thompson Reaction GIF by Saturday Night Live

Both professional and amateur…


This is an important distinction when it comes to intersecting issues. Butt Rock fans are resistant to “real” change with pretty much anything like racism, fascism, and xenophobia. It’s their “safe space”.


… then one day I was like “maybe I shouldn’t use my lack of interest in the music other people like to prop up my busted ego, maybe I don’t care why I like what I like or why anyone else likes what they like, maybe I shouldn’t gatekeep the things I enjoy considering how often that has robbed me of creative outlets and happiness… maybe I can even just be glad to enjoy what exists and to let others do the same.”

And on that day I reached enlightenment.


kurt cobain smile GIF


I don’t see how Kid Rock can be anything butt.

Although I have to admit I actually like his big hit from the nineties, “Bawitdaba.” It’s a guilty pleasure and back when I listened to the radio in the car I would turn it up when that song came on. I have even listened to the video recently. On purpose, god help me.

(I’m well aware that Kid Rock is a terrible person. Back in the day I used to know a lot of people in the Detroit music scene and nobody had anything good to say about him; he hasn’t gotten any better.)