The hard-rock scene has long been locked in a power struggle between two warring factions: bands that wear crazy masks, and bands that paint crazy shit on their faces. You’d think they’d be brothers in arms, allied against all the boring bands who never wear any sort of costume or disguise, but there are vicious feuds boiling under the surface. (Probably.) So far this year, mask-wearing bands like Slipknot and Hollywood Undead have had the upper hand on the radio, with both charting regularly on Billboard’s Hot Mainstream Rock Tracks. But guys who prefer to look demonic by painting their faces, David Puddy-style, are making a comeback; new hits by Mudvayne and Rob Zombie are charting right now. Zombie debuted last week at No. 35 with “War Zone,” from Marvel’s latest attempt to reboot The Punisher franchise, and Mudvayne has already peaked at No. 7 with “Do What You Do”:
Of course, you can actually see the faces of the members of Mudvayne in that video, and Zombie has been spending more time applying ghoulish makeup to the casts of his films than his own face in recent years, but make no mistake: Once a face-painter, always a face-painter. (Just ask Gene Simmons.) “Do What You Do” is Mudvayne’s fourth top 10 rock hit, a streak that only began in 2005 with the chart-topping “Happy?” and its two follow-ups. As well-known as the band is for its hilariously over-the-top 2000 video “Dig” and their face-painting antics on the red carpet when that clip was nominated for a Video Music Award, Mudvayne didn’t become a real radio staple until much more recently. But let’s hope they don’t start thinking that fans will be happy with them as just a bunch of garden-variety ugly dudes, and that they go back to their roots sooner than later.
Idolator has mentioned that the title track from Guns N’ Roses’ Chinese Democracy has had a somewhat soft radio impact, whether compared to the performance of recent comeback singles by fellow monsters of rock Metallica and AC/DC or to the ridiculously high expectations attached to Axl Rose’s first all-originals album in 17 years. Still, “Democracy” has steadily climbed in the five weeks since its debut, and has already reached a few landmarks: at No. 5, it’s GNR’s biggest Mainstream Rock hit since 1991′s “Don’t Cry,” and if it ascends higher than No. 3, where both “Cry” and “You Can Be Mine” peaked, it’ll be the band’s best-charting rock single. Yes, amazingly, one of the biggest rock bands of the past 20 years never had a rock No. 1, and even its Hot 100 chart-topper “Sweet Child O’ Mine” peaked at No. 7 on Mainstream Rock. “Chinese Democracy” is also, at No. 24, the band’s very first Modern Rock hit, which is yet another sign that nobody really knows what “modern rock” is anymore.
But it’ll be very interesting to see what happens with the band’s chart positions next week, both because the album will be on sale by then, and because the album’s second single, “Better,” was released to radio on Monday. “Better” has long been my favorite of the leaked songs that have been making their way to the Internet since 2006, and when it wasn’t chosen as the first official single I thought Axl was making a big mistake. I’m still trying to figure out whether the muted response to “Chinese Democracy” was a factor in “Better” coming out now or whether this was the plan all along. Rap and R&B artists have long practiced the art of the warm-up single preceding the big surefire hit, but it’s a method that has only caught on with mainstream rock acts fairly recently–think Coldplay’s one-two punch of “Violet Hill” and “Viva La Vida.” And with “Better” now getting its chance at radio, I’m pretty confident it’ll turn out to be the real Guns comeback single. The album’s sole retailer might wanna start getting a “Get ‘Better’ at Best Buy” ad campaign ready.