“RS” Cover Boy Causing Old-Guard Readers To Yell, “Get Off My Lawn”

rsefron.jpgThe next issue of Rolling Stone has as its cover subject High School Musical cutie/frequent Bop subject Zac Efron, who is captured in an awkward pose that looks like he’s sheepishly feeling himself up while showing off his Tegan and Sara-inspired haircut. Slightly creepy, yet repurposable photo selection aside, I think it’s admirable that RS decided to seize the moment and actually put on its cover an artist who a) is under 40 and b) has had something resembling music-biz success this year. But the fact that Efron’s music career was spawned in large part by TV–and not just TV, but The Disney Channel–has resulted in some (probably pretty predictable!) fussing from readers. A sampling of the comments thread, which has reached 41 comments in the last 12 hours and surely will explode once people straggle into work, follows.

First, a comment from the Old Guard who apparently didn’t know me in ninth grade:

Steve | 8/7/2007, 8:59 pm EST

Wow…from Guns N’ Roses to…this?

You can’t sell the same magazine to music fans and 14 year old girls. Pick one.

Next, the Aesthetic Police weigh in on the admittedly one-note tone of RS‘ recent cover choices:

Jake | 8/7/2007, 10:57 pm EST

rolling stone used to be known for their magazine covers. i’ve noticed a trend in the last few years that almost every cover looks the same. The artist the cover story is about in front of a white background. It’s boring. I go to an art school and have several friends who are photography majors, any one of which could take a better cover photo for you.

And here’s Kevin, who stayed up late for the purpose of basically synthesizing all of the current subscribers’ complaints into one post–he even got in a dig at RS‘ relentless boomer mythologizing:

Kevin | 8/8/2007, 1:07 am EST

Christ, I thought this mag couldn’t sink lower than the perpetual white background, a bunch of history lessons on classic bands people already love, and the kind of snide “we-have-cred-from-t he-60 ‘s-so -don’t-questions-us” attitude to do all this shit. Now they put a kid from a fricking MADE FOR TV MOVIE on the cover. I don’t care if his record was #1 for the rest of the century. COVER BETTER MUSIC (and I can’t emphasize music enough).

Sure, cover what’s popular or # 1 somewhere inside. But don’t tell me this kid deserves the cover of a Rolling Stone because a pack of prepubescent girls (and guys, to be fair) bought the soundtrack.

And finally, we have this comment from coolbreath86, whose cool breath is like an ice-water reminder of just why this cover subject was chosen:

coolbreath86 | 8/8/2007, 1:55 am EST

ppjjjjj…. you men can say whatever you want… still not gonna change the fact that he’s FINE AS CRAP to us ladies and that’s what sells the mag… shoot! I don’t even read rolling stone, but now I’m buy this one just because he’s on the cover. No Shame.

The Next Cover of Rolling Stone Revealed: Zac Efron [RS]

  • King of Pants

    I am very glad the Web has given everyone a voice.

  • Audif Jackson Winters III

    Is this guy really “America’s New Heartthrob”, though? I thought High School Musical was geared towards the 8 to 12 year old set.

  • Chris Molanphy

    The most apt criticism is the white-background one, actually. The recent pathetic range of RS covers could be tolerated if they didn’t all look so distressingly bland. RS used to win design awards for a reason.

    I have mixed feelings about this cover choice – don’t like it for myself but see the wisdom/sales savvy – but anyone crying “not true to your history” need only look at RS‘s
    1972 topless (virtually bottomless) David Cassidy cover for a reminder that everything complained about in the comments – from “TV star” to “teen girl sweater meat” - is not unprecedented.

  • Hyman Decent


  • The Van Buren Boys

    At least they’re covering someone who has at least done something music related this century. Definately wouldn’t be my first choice for a cover story but whatever, it’s not like I would ever purchase Rolling Stone to begin with. However, anything that pisses off the baby-boomer readers is okay in my book.

  • AL

    @dennisobell: oh wow. as awkward as zefron’s (this is what the kids call him, really) pose is, at least it’s not a pit-shot.

    also, everyone seems to be forgetting that he has a starring role in Hairspray.

  • Lucas Jensen

    Amen, coolbreath86. Amen.

  • Bazooka Tooth

    Everyone also seems to be forgetting that rolling stone stopped being a good music magazine back in like 2000.

  • Chris Molanphy

    @Aquemini: Wow…memories are short. I’ve heard this argument about Rolling Stone for years ranging all the way back to the ’80s. (I’ve even met a Baby Boomer or two who claim there was a point in the mid-’70s where it started sucking.)

    I once interviewed Bob Guccione, Jr when he was still editor of SPIN, and he openly admitted he launched the magazine in 1985 because he felt RS was “no longer meaningful.”

    The messier truth is, RS‘s worth as a magazine has waxed and waned over the years – I really liked it in the mid-’90s, for example, when SPIN surprisingly started sucking, but in the late ’80s/early ’90s it was often clueless. Right now is one of the mediocre periods; it’ll probably come back again, when the next wave of good writers comes in, or if the music business rights itself.

  • Bob Loblaw

    @dennisobell: You really think it could
    come back? Seems like there’s far too much momentum here, and it’s all
    in the wrong direction–there’s so much ad revenue at stake now that
    nothing but the vigorously market-tested can make the magazine. Shaking
    things up editorially would be a costly proposition.

  • Tenno

    My heart is going pitter-pat right to the gun store yo!

    RS is definately mediocre and all the mags generally have their moments. Still, small props for minor relevency for once.

    The bomb that is Blender is the one that really rags me though, that mag used to make me laugh….. now I’m just like, “What, Clarkson again!”


  • dsven

    Getting all angry about RS’s cover choice selection is an exercise in futility. I think the turning point was Britney’s Lolita-like cover shot in 1999. I think she was on the cover another 5 times in the next 3 years.

    Backstreet Boys, N’Sync…Jennifer Love Hewitt.

    Clay Aiken in 2003…AND Ruben Studdard!

    I could go on and on…at least Blender is consistent and puts a hot chick on the cover nearly every issue, regardless of musical merit.

  • Ned Raggett

    Wait, what’s the bit about mosh-pit killings?!

  • Chris Molanphy

    @Bob Loblaw: You make a valid point. Truthfully, to narrow my point even further, I often judge an issue of RS section by section. The record reviews have actually improved a bit lately (they’re getting admirably stingy with the stars), and I’ve always felt their front News section is surprisingly strong for a mainstream publication (they pick up industry stories late, but because of their clout they get interesting quotes and have good sources).

    But the middle of the “book,” as they say in the biz, goes from impressive to embarrassing almost issue-to-issue. There’s actually a good crop of regulars writing for the magazine right now – including some friends of mine, so obviously I’m biased – but the need to produce newsstand-friendly cover fodder results in a lot of johnny-come-lately crap that Blender, lately, has put to shame.

  • nonce

    Quick fix, RS editors. See that M.I.A. story way down at the bottom? Put her on the cover, and let her supply her own photo. Relevant, interesting, and the opposite of your new “let’s make RS covers look like American Apparel ads!” design policy.

    And change that story title while you’re at it or she’s going to call you up while she’s having breakfast one of these days.

  • Vulture.Protein

    About the cover: I’ve never seen a happier Eunuch before! He’s not feeling himself up, he’s trying to find his balls.

  • Juancho

    @dennisobell: You’re right. All music magazines wax and wane (I haven’t read DownBeat in at least 5 years), but I think RS is really struggling with its identity right now. Is it a pop culture or a music mag? Does it want to target boomers or the current generation?

    I think music writing just doesn’t have a lot to say these days with the advent of blogs and everything being online. Take Spin for example, which I get for free. The first section I turn to is always “72 Hours in…”, which is always interesting. I will read Raftery’s articles. But most of their reviews are of bands I’ve never even heard of. Small labels can’t be bringing in a lot of ad dollars or readers.

  • antistar

    The mag has improved slightly over the last year or so. I noticed David Fricke wrote a couple of album reviews in the last issue. At the same time, I think Spin has improved overall also. Putting this kid on the cover is not going to help Rolling Stone’s questionable creditability, but being stuck in the past isn’t going to either.

  • Rilo-Andy

    A few thoughts, so bare with me…

    I actually watched High School Musical (Hey sometimes you make bad choices when you’re a theatre kid and your theatre friends recommend stuff to you.) The problem here is that on further research, the kid didn’t even sing most of his own songs for the movie because his voice is in a lower range, and the filmakers wanted someone who could sing tenor for the role so they got someone else to sing most of the songs. So now his musical accomplishments seem suspect to me, so why put him on the cover? Someone else made the comment that he’s starring in the movie version of Hairspray, and again I question if it’s really him singing. I guess what I’m really asking is why is he on the cover!!!??

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  • col

    very cool that you are selective about who can comment. i dig idolater. i link to you guys from my blog [colsblog.com.] (will flattery get me anywhere?)

    someone needs to tell RS that the glory days are over, folks. i got a renewal notice the same day the recent issue arrived, with guns and roses on the cover. LAME! it was the final straw after that irritatingly self aggrandizing Summer of ’67 special issue.

    a new disney boy TV confection is progress, because at least it’s focused on the now. but i still won’t be renewing.