Are you consistently falling for the weasel-faced punk with soot in his hair? Have you ever wiped a halitosis-laden film off your lips after a particularly gross makeout session? Can you not keep your eyes off the greasy longshoreman at your local dive bar just because he knows how to play “Eruption” by Van Halen? If you answered “yes” to any of these questions, you have most likely been seduced by an ugly musician, and you are entitled to scientific compensation. CREEM’s arsenal of powerful minds have come together to explain the phenomenon of wanting to get down with the Moe Szyslaks of the music industry.
Beauty has always been in the eye of the beholder, but it is sometimes horrific to see the sexual couplings that have occurred because of rock ’n’ roll. Throughout history we’ve seen gorgeous people flock to resoundingly unattractive rockers, but why is that? Science may provide some insight. In a study by Austrian researchers published in Frontiers in Psychology in 2022, volunteers were asked to rate a subject’s attractiveness based on facial features combined with musical ability. The researchers wanted to test a theory Darwin had about sexual selection. In 1871, Darwin had suggested that musicality evolved as a means of courtship display for potential reproductive partners. He wrote, “I conclude that musical notes and rhythm were first acquired by the male or female progenitors of mankind for the sake of charming the opposite sex.”
That being said, the human face has always been the biggest factor in determining physical attraction because it is subliminally perceived as an indicator of good genes and overall health. In a study published in Royal Society Open Science in 2017, a researcher from Abertay University in Dundee, Scotland, found that creativity appeared to compensate for lower biological “quality” when asking participants to rate someone’s attractiveness. In both the Austrian and Scottish studies, unattractive male faces were rated higher with the interplay of musicality or creativity, while women were rated solely on facial features more often. The insidious male gaze has allowed the world to believe that a revolting British snaggletoothed smile is acceptable if you happen to be a man on a stage.
Still, from an evolutionary standpoint, the ability to play music is indeed a sign of exceptional motor skills and cognitive functioning (much less so if you’re writing punk songs). It seems a lot easier to choose a partner out of a crowd if you think they have the physical capabilities to keep you safe from danger and can sing a little ditty while doing so.
So, for those of you who have unfortunately been beaten with God’s ugly stick, all hope is not lost. Science suggests that learning an instrument might save you from a lifetime of lonely masturbation. Of course, talent alone isn’t the only reason we’re attracted to someone objectively unattractive. Style and charisma play a big part in the game of who is considered fuckable. Each decade has its own unique interpretation of what is stylish, and what’s attractive can change depending on the trends of that era. As rock music has progressed from the live double LP, to the MTV era, to the digital hellscape that is TikTok and Instagram, the music industry has catered less and less to the ugly (with the exception of Ed Sheeran; whoever allowed him in front of a camera needs to be fired). Charisma and talent seemed to be more of a deciding factor of attraction in the ’70s and ’80s, when hideous men were more likely to be seen gracing stages across the country. Can you imagine Geddy Lee going on Instagram Live?
We realize this is a lot to take in, so we have compiled a list of occasionally sexy but definitely ugly musicians on the following pages and subjected them to our scientifically crafted theory of hotness. This formula and its results were born out of analysis by real researchers, public opinion on each individual and the music they have created, and personal experience via the author of sleeping with a LOT of unattractive men. Each man has been rated using a scientific formula of up to 10 chili peppers, and some of the ratings will come as no surprise. Also, a disclaimer: The psychological studies mentioned above were based on cis and heterosexual couplings. We appreciate all of the ugly women and gender-fluid musicians throughout history, but they have already been amply torn apart. Yet not often enough have people asked: If Lemmy was your plumber, would you still fuck him?
CREEM’S VERY SCIENTIFIC HOTNESS EQUATION FOR MUSICIANS
With our patented system (talent + style + charisma ÷ time), we’ve determined which of these supposed bowsers is really a 10 (chili peppers).
Every Steven Tyler caricature is more or less the same: an endless cavern of mouth and teeth enveloping the world to the echoes of “Sweet Emotion.” No matter how you feel about Aerosmith’s catalog, there will always be at least one song you can find yourself drunkenly screaming at karaoke. Ol’ Steve used to consistently be on the cover of Rolling Stone and for a time looked pretty decent while doing it. His outfits were always incredible: sheer dress shirts unbuttoned most of the way, five-row studded belts, and layers of gold and lace strung across his scrawny body. These days, Steven Tyler resembles a sad donkey on a pirate ship. His chunky highlights have a deliciously awful Jack Sparrow vibe that only being an aged-out rock musician can afford you. The scariest part about Steven has to be the contorted nubs attached to his feet. He has Morton’s neuroma, an injury to the nerve between the toes that causes abnormal positioning and increasing pain. One could suggest that making fun of someone’s medical condition is not nice, but the man wears open-toed shoes and paints his nails blue. His “unsightly shrimp toes” (according to the Daily Mail)have been all over the tabloids, and for this reason, we believe it’s fair to adjust his chili pepper rating accordingly.
Post Malone is known for the juxtaposition of his radio-friendly hip-hop with his unkempt and hirsute appearance. Impressively, he’s one of the few people who have made it into the upper echelons of society with truly awful face tattoos and a disregard for oral hygiene. While this might not bar him from getting a job at Subway, there is something compelling about this complete abandonment of social norms. Before he was famous, his musical career involved a brief stint as a crabcore-crouching guitar player, which can either be hot or not, depending on your personal preference. With his boyish charm and “help, I’ve been stuck in a Jumanji board for 20 years” facial hair, he could easily be 18 and over 40 at the same time. He’s a proud father of a 1-year-old girl, and the idea of him reading a bedtime story to an infant is enough to make us want to suck the bugs out of his cornrows.
Every scientific study needs a control group, and to level the playing field we chose someone who is ugly through and through. Marilyn Manson gets a deserved score of zero chili peps. Not only does he look like someone stuck your neo-pagan aunt inside a microwave, but he’s also managed to ruin the lives of countless women during his career of 30 years. In his 1998 autobiography, he recounts an experience with a deaf fan where she was covered in raw meat and had sex with a number of band members before being urinated on by Manson. Allegedly, he abused Evan Rachel Wood throughout their relationship and was punched in the face in 2015 at a Denny’s in northern Alberta for allegedly calling a woman a bitch. For a moment in the early 2000s, I think Manson had won a few of us over in the charisma department: He was articulate and made some valid points about censorship in the music industry. Every suburban eighth grader who had divorced parents was singing along to “The Beautiful People” when it came on the radio, and I suppose that awkward preteen unity was his greatest contribution to society. But he is a blobfish covered in drugstore eyeliner and one of the ugliest musicians to grace the planet.
Black coat, white shoes, fedora, incoherent scatting to a ska medley, yeah. Tim Armstrong—or “Tim Timebomb” once he had a midlife crisis—has a special place in the hearts of every young punk who grew up in the early aughts. Rancid evoke the purest memories of filling a Mountain Dew-flavored Slurpee with your parents’ vodka and sleeping in a bank foyer or parking lot. The powerful feeling of walking down the street with a group of 15-year-olds in baggy plaid pants while “Ruby Soho” blasts out of a battery-powered boombox is something every urban youth should be able to experience. These moments were the stepping stones that eventually led us to who we are now: 35-year-old alcoholics with no career path or future, covered in faded nautical star tattoos. Our hopes and dreams have been extinguished as much as Armstrong’s capacity to shape his facial hair. He gives off the vibe of being a fun guy to take a drive with down a California boulevard, but these days he looks more like a lonely lighthouse-keeper. Thanks for the memories, your music ruined my life.
What can be said about a human being who so perfectly graced us with his time on Earth and left us with so many beautiful gifts? Lemmy is the perfect example of an ugly man who transcends all laws of attraction. The skin on his face looked like a pale, dimpled orange peel, and his beard was brittle with the whisper of 80,000 cigarettes. We want desperately for his sandpaper fingers to grace the napes of our necks, blowing whiskey secrets so softly into our ears. We ignore his Nazi paraphernalia across the room or the fact that “Jailbait” might be a bit of a weird song, just to bask in the presence of this grotesque Adonis. Will he serenade us with the songs of our youth, his angelic voice crackling like a rusted power drill? He sits down on the coffee table covered with garbage and removes his sweaty cowboy boots. We sit on his lap, flicking a tongue around his mole like a planet orbiting a star. Will we reach the promised land of ecstasy? Suddenly, he grunts and coughs seven beautiful words into the air: “I’m done, babe, get off me now.”
When I was 17 I dated a man who put a Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness poster on the wall of our shared living room. I remember absolutely hating it because it looked like a massive dollar-store Christmas card. We smoked salvia one time, and I remember staring at the poster while my body separated into layers like a Russian doll. Suddenly, I was shot out into space directly into the poster, lost in a horrific world of stars. That was as close as I ever got to the Smashing Pumpkins, but I know and respect how important they’ve been to other people. I couldn’t pick one bald joke, so here are all of them: I was gonna make a joke about Billy Corgan’s hair and then I remembered there was nothing to joke about. Moby gained 10 pounds in his face and now people won’t stop asking him to play “Tonight, Tonight.” Is that Billy Corgan, or did Voldemort finally win a Grammy?
Ireland is famous for a few things: Guinness, the IRA, leprechauns, and Shane MacGowan’s hideous face. The Pogues are a staple for every scally-capped janitor or jolly English farmer, both of which exude very little sex appeal. MacGowan started drinking at the ripe age of 5 and was using heroin so intently in his later years that Sinéad O’Connor called the cops on him. The man knew how to have a good time so fiercely that by 2008 all of his teeth had fallen out. Shocking that a walking broomstick with a crooked smile could be so adored by women all over the world. He was an undeniable poet, and nothing works better to set the mood than a drunken man with a literary streak. As he humbly stated in an interview with The Mirror, “I don’t think about being a poet because I’m just in it for the money and the women,” proof that he was railing all of the Aiofes and Siobhans of the Emerald Isle.
Gene Simmons has a few different monikers: the Demon, the God of Thunder, and, most important, Dr. Love. His makeup, codpiece, and fiery theatrics have famously melted the hearts of horny bikers for decades. The frontman’s seven-inch-long tongue is insured for a million dollars and is totally real, despite the claims of grafting a cow’s tongue to his own. Simmons dated both Cher and Diana Ross, so you would assume his nicknames are well-founded. But beyond the fire and brimstone, there is something foul about a man who has monetized every aspect of his life. KISS have more merchandise than any other band on the planet. They have waffle makers, condoms, and moisturizing face masks; you could probably get a KISS colonoscope. There is so much garbage in the ocean that our blood is now full of microplastics, and Gene Simmons has the audacity to blast the world with KISS Funko Pops? Behind all the layers of makeup, Simmons’ voracious ego combined with his boar-like features don’t really account for much. The stage outfits may be impeccable, but the man sorely lacks charisma.
The Cure have one of the most stunning and comprehensive discographies of all time. Their range of albums is so vast that their music could appeal to your stepmom in the ’80s, your hot babysitter in the ’90s, or your out-of-town slumlord in 2008. Robert Smith is no less than a musical deity who fell down to Earth from the heavens above. The smeared lipstick and huge hair have always been a part of the band’s appeal (although we know bassist Simon Gallup is the best-looking one), but other than that, Robert Smith is not actually that handsome. His face is round and pale like the surface of the moon, and without the eyeliner, he’s got beady little ferret eyes. However, none of this actually matters because he is a gothic virtuoso who still plays perfectly to this day. His style was as flawless as his hatred for Ticketmaster, imitated but never duplicated. He may look like a medieval witch now, but just as the child actor in Hook grabs Robin Williams’ face and pulls back the folds to reveal Peter Pan, we can all say with certainty, “There you are, Robert.”
Billy Joel seems like the outlier of this group. Every other man on this list could be construed as cool by someone, and here we have a pudgy insurance salesman who seems like he has no game whatsoever. “Uptown Girl” could possibly win an award for “song most likely to be played at any Midwestern family wedding.” Astoundingly, Billy Joel is actually pretty cool, even if his music is not. In his youth, he was in a psych rock band called Attila, and the front cover features him dressed as a barbarian surrounded by raw meat. He had a particularly bad breakup at the age of 21 and tried to kill himself by drinking his mother’s furniture polish. He has vocally supported beating the shit out of Proud Boys and neo-Nazis during the Trumpian era. This man may be severely lacking style, and his talent is heralded mostly by white women in their 60s, but there is no denying that Joel oozes charisma. You deserve to get laid, Piano Man!