The window of opportunity has become minuscule: Some people are able to maintain their coolness only for a matter of seconds (see Vin Diesel). Gone are the days when being cool simply meant looking flashy and/or trashy; back in 1973, nobody cared that the New York Dolls couldn’t play, but post-cool cats like Marilyn Manson and Courtney Love don’t get a free pass in this era.
And, as always, age is the ultimate coolness killer. Thirty years ago, there were five cool guys in the Rolling Stones; now there’s only Keith (and even he’s kinda pushing it).
We realize that caring about someone’s cool quotient is light years beyond shallow, but hey-this is rock’n’roll! Coolness is pretty much all we have. These 30 artists have more of that wonderstuff than anyone else. And how exactly did we decide who made the cut? Well, our methodology cannot be revealed-suffice it to say coolness is based on a combination of badass attitude, headstrong originality, icy grace (under a hail of bullets to the face), and a willingness to wear white pants and a red shirt every day of the week.?
11 – Carlos D.
What kinda makes him cool: The Interpol bassist has the best “I may be weird, but I’m smarter than you are” smirk in rock.
What really makes him cool: Doesn’t know the meaning of “casual dress.”
What will always make him cool: The one member of Interpol who celebrates (and, as a DJ, spins) the British post-punk that has influenced them.
The only problem? We believe you’re sincere. But put that copy of Pornography down and step away from the turntable. You don’t need to represent Transylvania every night. Not when the beach is only 45 minutes from Williamsburg. Get some color.
12 – 50 Cent
What kinda makes him cool: Ripped like Scottie Pippen and stripped like a panther-walkin’ L.L. Cool J, 50 sells 25,000 records every time he pours himself another Bacardi.
What really makes him cool: Dude was shot. In the face. And he liked it.
What will always make him cool: The fact that he’s into having sex (as opposed to making love).
The only problem? He might somehow manage to live.
13 – Meg White
What kinda makes her cool: She plays drums in America’s most visceral, most relevant rock band.
What really makes her cool: She plays drums in America’s most visceral, most relevant rock band despite the fact that she plays drums like an enthusiastic fifth-grader.
What will always make her cool: She understands the cardinal rules of coolness: Say nothing, and smoke your cigarettes.
The only problem? If she and Jack ever have a major falling-out, the debut release from the Meg White Experience should prove roughly as successful as the Joe Perry Project.
14 – Howlin’ Pelle Almqvist
What kinda makes him cool: That Swedish accent makes outrageous boasts somehow lovable.
What really makes him cool: Wears his white tie like Simon LeBon in Duran Duran’s “Is There Something I Should Know?” video. Probably does not know this.
What will always make him cool: His scream at the climax of “Hate to Say I Told You So” still makes us wanna fuck and fight and wake up naked in the zoo.
The only problem? He may be overcompensating for the fact that he actually has the least cool stage name in the Hives.
15 – Missy Elliott
What kinda makes her cool: Cut out the BK for health reasons, not ’cause she thought she didn’t look supa-dupa fly in a Hefty bag.
What really makes her cool: At this point, she and Timbaland have license to dress like Prince, elucidate like Brian Wilson, hide like Sly, and lock and load like Phil Spector. Yet Miss E. hardly behaves like the eccentric pop genius that she is.
What will always make her cool: Her new single is always the best single on the radio.
The only problem? Those Vanilla Coke commercials with the bobbleheads.
16 – Johnny Cash
What kinda makes him cool: That’s like asking, “What kinda makes water wet?”
What really makes him cool: After winning a Grammy for 1996’s Unchained, Cash took out an ad in Billboard. Next to the words AMERICAN RECORDINGS AND JOHNNY CASH WOULD LIKE TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE NASHVILLE MUSIC ESTABLISHMENT AND COUNTRY RADIO FOR YOUR SUPPORT was a photo of the singer flipping the bird.
What will always make him cool: Shot a man in Reno just to watch him die! Not really, but damn if Death itself isn’t scared of him.
The only problem? Responsible for several men named Sue.
17 – ?uestlove
What kinda makes him cool: The Roots’ nonchalantly masterful Phrenology. (When was the last time a hip-hop group produced a great fifth album?)
What really makes him cool: As drummer and producer, he’s a consummate musician with the obsessive tendencies of a record geek.
What will always make him cool: It’s all about the ‘fro.
The only problem? Nice to see the Roots getting mad love on the jam-band circuit, but if their next album sounds like the String Cheese Incident, all bets are off.
18 – Brody Armstrong
What kinda makes her cool: She’s the ideal punk-rock girl.
What really makes her cool: The Distillers’ “The Young Crazed Peeling” may be the best punk autobiography since Eminem’s “My Name Is.”
What will always make her cool: Her anti-“Welcome to the Jungle” success story. Troubled Aussie youth flees unhappy home for sunny California, kicks smack, falls in love.
The only problem? With her raspy voice, smeared makeup, and blitzkrieg through the cute-alt-boy lineup (she split from husband Tim Armstrong to be with our No. 9, Josh Homme), she’s become Courtney Love circa 1992.
19 – Nick Zinner
What kinda makes him cool: This Yeah Yeah Yeah was rockin’ the Elvis-as-Eraserhead ‘do back in ’93, when flannel was king and buying hair-care products was considered an act of cultural treason.
What really makes him cool: We watch him even though Karen O is on the same stage.
What will always make him cool: Looks like he should be a truly evil guitarist. Actually is one.
The only problem? The whole snapping-a-photo-of-the-crowd-at-every-show thing says “art school” a little too loudly.
20 – Wayne Coyne
What kinda makes him cool: Didn’t take the piss out of alleged diva and 2002 tour mate Beck so much as siphon off every drop with a jet-powered, anti-rock-star vacuum.
What really makes him cool: The plushy animal costumes in the Flaming Lips’ stage show fill a rock void left by the Beatles’ failed Magical Mystery Tour film and the cancellation of The Banana Splits.
What will always make him cool: He’s the only person on this list who totally rocked the Peach Pit After Dark.
The only problem? His long-promised Christmas on Mars movie is slowly becoming the Chinese Democracy of Christmas on Mars movies.
To read the rest of the list, visit your local news stand or subscribe to SPIN.