CHARGE AGAINST: Prettiest of the pretty-boy hair-metal softies
CASE FILES: Winger’s CV really was no different from that of any other high-gloss rock band who adopted Aqua Net and spandex drag by 1988, and their hit single “Seventeen” was a harmless-enough rumination on statutory rape. But the band became emblematic of poodle rock’s cookie-cutter hit-making and pre-grunge death throes, enmity due in no small part to singer-bassist Kip Winger’s cheekbones, shirtless photo shoots, and, really, his name. They were immortalized as the ultimate signifier of uncool when Mike Judge had Stuart, the dweeby neighbor kid on Beavis and Butt-Head, wear a Winger shirt at all times. “We had a character devoted to us who they hung by his underwear in almost every episode,” guitarist Reb Beach lamented in 2007.
THE DEFENSE: Singling out Winger for crimes against taste seems arbitrary, and the band’s legacy ultimately feels like more of a testament to the power of Beavis’ withering asides than any distinctive shittiness. Despite rumors that Winger himself wasn’t pleased about becoming the perfectly chiseled face of a fading genre, the classically trained ex–Alice Cooper sideman has a sense of humor about it now. “The record took off, and it was like, ‘What do we wear?'” he told SPIN in 2007. “So we turn on MTV and decide to dress up like Whitesnake. When you’re a kid, you want to dress up like that; you want to lose yourself in fantasyland.” S.K.
CHARGE AGAINST: Shiny-suited huckster milking the unquenchable greed of the Jiggy era.
CASE FILES: Like Suge Knight notoriously explained, Puffy was the “executive producer all in the videos, all on the records…dancing,” i.e., ostensibly a backstage figure who clearly wanted more attention for himself than the artists he was promoting. He would ultimately get it through wanton appropriation of enormous chunks of the Police, Led Zeppelin, and David Bowie: A karaoke-rap style that was sacrilege to rock fans and just plain hackwork to hip-hop heads. His champagne-pouring, speedboat-driving, Jacuzzi-soaking antics were essentially the reason people started paying attention to indie-rap labels such as Rawkus. Also, no one likes a guy who forces you to call him by his self-imposed nickname.
THE DEFENSE: “What’s the 411?,” “Flava in Ya Ear,” “Juicy,” “Hypnotize,” “Fucking You Tonight,”
“Victory,” “It’s All About the Benjamins,” “Feels So Good,” “Dead Wrong,” “That’s Gangsta,” “Bad Boy
for Life,” “Let’s Get It,” “Special Delivery,” “Roc Boys (and the Winner Is)…,” “Ass on the Floor”…. CHRISTOPHER R. WEINGARTEN