The Effectiveness of ‘Gimmicks’ in Music

Lots of people tend to dislike ‘gimmicky’ music, but I think it can really add something, provided that the gimmick fits the music. After all, music isn’t just entertainment, its goal is to set a mood that the listener will enjoy. If the gimmick fits, it will add to the listening experience; but if its out of place, then it will only hurt. Here I’ll be looking at several bands which feature gimmicks, and commenting on their effectiveness at setting the mood.

White Zombie

Back in their heydey, listening to White Zombie was like was like turning on a lava lamp and a strobe light to watch a horror b-movie after dropping acid, while waiting for your moonshine to ferment in your bathtub. The image they portrayed not only in the themes of the music itself but also how they presented themselves was creepy, and even a little scary. But it was fun nonetheless, because it was so different. Lead singer Rob Zombie’s first solo venture applies here too, but he’s since gone a bit more “mainstream”.


Fozzy is now a “serious” band, but when they started out they were a cover band with a hilarious backstory. WWE wrestler and lead singer Chris Jericho, under the stage name “Moongoose McQueen”, claims that Fozzy took a record deal in Japan 20 years ago, however the record company soon went out of business, leaving them stranded in Japan. When they finally made it back to the U.S., they found that famous artists such as Black Sabbath, Judas Priest, and Iron Maiden had stolen their demos and re-recorded them as their own work. McQueen also maintains that he is completely unaware of who Chris Jericho is, despite Jericho being the biggest Fozzy fan in the world. Notable quotes: “The Black album? Look at me, I’m dressed in the black album”; “basically I play all the instruments: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, the piccolo, the flute, uh, timbalis, they’re good. Goat bones, goat bones from Brazil, I’m very fluent in goat bones. So basically, the only reason I carry the other members of Fozzy with me is just so we can play live.”


“Axe” is common slang for a guitar, but only one band will show up on stage with an actual axe. That band is Battlelore, and in addition to the axe, they’ll be dressed in full armor, wearing pointy ear prosthetics, and with their faces painted like uruk-hai. Why? Because all their songs are about Lord of the Rings. And contrary to making them look like pathetic LARPers, the costumes just make them rock even harder.

Black Metal (Almost all of it)

Most black metal bands tend to portray themselves as evil or demonic, and to help accomplish this, they use “corpse paint” – black and white makeup applied to make the wearer appear dead or otherwise evil. Unfortunately for these bands, it just ends up making them look comical. Some of them even go further, and perform with ridiculously spiky weapons or clothing. And since so many bands do this, even if it once added to the music, it’s become incredibly stale.


Ugh, those masks. The only point to them is “hey look, we’re wearing masks! Aren’t we edgy?” There’s not even any congruence between them, no unifying theme. They’re just…wearing masks. And their singer looks like John Travolta in Battlefield Earth. And don’t even get me started on Pinocchio nose.


Eminem is, quite frankly, a genius. He’s flipped the entire hip-hop world on his head by drawing attention to the fact that he’s white. While white rappers before him have traditionally tried to ignore the “white people can’t rap” stereotype, he’s effectively eliminated it by being a stereotype himself, in a comedic manner. He mentioned it over and over, until it wasn’t even a thing anymore. And it worked.



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