10 Tackiest Rock Cliches

Are cliches your guilty pleasure or a vomit stimulation?

Ultimate Guitar

As a fairly limited music genre stretching for almost seven decades, rock spawned a good deal of cliches going far beyond the genre's domain these days. Whether they're lyric or image-related, the cliches are definitely out there, so join us as we make a brief rundown of ten tacky rock cliches. While we're at it, do you see these as a guilty pleasure or a vomit stimulation?

Cock-Rock Lovin'

Can't live with 'em, can't live without 'em. The so-called angel/devil lyric approach of making riff-heavy macho rockers about treating women like crap and then evening it out with mellow ballads about that special one you've lost for good has been widespread among bands for quite some time now. You could take Whitesnake as one of the earlier extreme examples or Nickelback as the modern ones (or any of hundreds of groups in between). Basically, these guys are on a prowl, reaching for the sky, bringing girls to their knees looking for all of their love (hugs 'n' kisses too). It's the kind of lyrics tacky enough to make your teeth cringe, gut if done right, it's guilty pleasures galore.

Sticking It to the Man

At numerous occasions, rock was the music of cultural rebellion that helped shaped a modern man's mindset and expand many horizons. But probably even more often, rock bands forced rebelliousness just for the sake of it. Youth going wild, breaking the law and chains of society in a hectic rock frenzy. Why? They saw the writing on the wall apparently, and now they're not gonna take it anymore. And f--k you, they won't do what you tell them!

Running Free Forever Young

Freedom comes as a crucial matter for any outstanding rocker, that's why they're sticking it to the man in the first place. Commonly open road-related (preferably including a Harley Davidson bike), hope and freedom are what it's all about. The feeling of running wild and free, forever young, ramblin' on on your steel horse (or a freight train) is the greatest one out there; after all, you were born to run. So go on free bird, you're half way there anyhow.

The (insert word here)s

This one's an earlier rock trend but still a definite cliche. The early rock heroes, vastly a part of the British invasion, had a strange tendency to name themselves using the so-called "The (insert word here)s" pattern. The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Kinks, The Byrds, The Zombies, The Hollies, The Animals, The Yardbirds, The Beach Boys, The Monkees, The Searchers, The Troggs, and these are all major names or genuine rock legends, the entire list of groups likely goes on for miles.

As a wise man once said, "everything steel is good, and anything good must be compared to steel." Of course we're talking mostly about power and to a good extent heavy metal domain. Manowar might pop up to one's mind as a synonym for manly men metal cliche, but there's plenty of power metallers to go around with. Dragons, witches, wizards, armies of evil, mighty foes, they have all fallen ... by steel ... so far away.

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High in High School

High school is the time when most rock and metal fans are at the height of their musical passion. It's actually the time from which we all have our greatest memories regarding rock - the spark was stronger than ever and music had that magical effect strong enough to shape the future course of our lives. But back to the topic, a lot of bands out there sang about high school, taking the evil teachers cliche to a whole new level. School's out, leave those kids alone, they just wanna rock, or be high in high school, or they're hot for teacher, who knows.

Satanism and Gory Horror Stuff

Ever since Black Sabbath first reached success with horror themes, the gory aspect of metal music was taken to a new level several times, but in a whole lot of places in between, it got worn out and over-used to the max. Same could be said about Satanism and occult themes. If done right, the horror effect can truly be something special, but mess up a few (or many) things, and the only effect you'll get is people rolling their eyes over, or just laughing.

Devil Horns

Once again somewhat of a Sabbath-related subject, the devil horns just top the Satanism stuff, since they became so overused over time that they even have a tendency to become a cliche of the mainstream media (if they haven't already), let alone the rock domain.

Big-A-s Hair

This one's a fairly obvious choice, so even mentioning it is a cliche. The '80s big hair got really big at a certain point, making it nothing short of ridiculous and easily earning it a spot on the list.

Stage Antics

This one deserves an article of its own, so we'll just cover the basics. Smashing guitars, choreographed jamming, mic twirling, drumstick twirling, guitar twirling Yngwie style, hour-long guitar solos, hour-long drum solos, hour-long bass solos (yeah right) and then there's the rock show lingo - the whole "Make some noise!" "Are you ready to rock?" "Lemme hear you!" "I can't hear you!" "Helooo (insert city name, possibly wrong)!" thing, and that's just the basics.

So we've only scratched the surface here, feel free to share any other rock cliches you can think of in the comments. But back to the big question - do you consider these cliches as a guilty pleasure or they just make you sick? And would the rock world be better off without them?

88 comments sorted by best / new / date

    About the "The (insert word here)s " cliche - there is a band which take their name from it - post-punk/no wave band called The The .
    The Doors, The Yardbirds, The Black Crowes, The Ramones, The Clash, The Police, The Germs, The Black Keys, The Cars, The Stooges, The Dead Kennedys, The Winery Dogs, The Cult, The Who, The White Stripes, The Killers, The Crickets, The New York Dolls, The Grateful Dead...wow, there are a lot of insert word here bands!
    The Strokes, the Church, the Talking Heads, the Band(actually describes them), the Melvins, the Buzzcocks, the Cure, the Rapture, the Slits, the Pixies, the Freshmen, the Faces, the Subways, the Misfits, the Music, the Gallows, the Temptations, the Streets, the Enemy, the Prodigy, the Verve, the Priests(see "the Band"), the View, the Fall, the Answer, the Calling, the Pogues, the Gossip...
    The Metallica, The Megadeth, The Tool, The Iron Maiden, The Black Sabbath, The Ozzy Osbourne
    ^ “The A Perfect Circles"
    The Sword (I know, just one name, just wanted to complete your list with my suggestions...)
    Being a Pixies fan, I can tell you there is no "the" in front of Pixies. Just a technicality.
    to be fair, the band had different names (another cliche of the somebody and the somethings and a "non-cliche" name after that). bob dylan hired them for touring and referred to them as "the band" instead of using a name and they just went with it after moving on to their own thing.
    The fray, the jam, the rasmus, the kills, the new pornographers, the breeders, the haunted, the damned, the offspring, the psychedelic furs, the velvet underground...
    Going off the "the"-ing, would Verb The Noun-type names count? Capture The Crown, Protest The Hero, Destroy The Runner, Blessthefall, Pierce The Veil, Slice The Cake, those types of bands. Or, for metal, noun-noun bands. You know, bands that could be named after a town in Skyrim. Skyfire, Nightwish, Hammerfall, Moonsorrow, Moonspell, Starkill, Wintersun, Firewind, Wolfchant, Blackguard... you get the idea. It's getting out of hand.
    Funnily enough, Hammerfall are pretty close, considering there is the region 'Hammerfell" in Tamriel.
    Nah, Hammerfall is a different type of metal entirely: WoW metal. Meaning they're literally named after a town in Warcraft. Wait, no, I lied. The town is named after them.
    How about Protoman? A band that makes frickin' rock operas about Megaman game series and they didn't suck. They also have cover album of Queen songs (their vocalist should replace Adam Lambert on Queen reunion, seriously). Did I mentioned that there's second band that also plays songs about Megaman?
    Seeing as we're 'sub-topicing', said listings aren't even thát ridiculous. I mean, living in modern times where 'pirate metal' is actually a thing (Alestorm), and a band that's named after Mount Doom (Amon Amarth) or a band singing about essentially Middle-Earth (Blind Guardian),... You think you have wicked idea, but there's always someone 'more wickeder' than you.
    You know I thought Slice the Cake was a hilarious fake band name then I looked it up, and was disappointed it was real and just another screamo whiny metal band...
    Haha, that Manowar name generator is spot-on lol.
    Sadly enough I kinda wrote a song about slaying dragons with my sword and my glorious king with blood of metal!
    Danjo's Guitar
    If you got rid of those things and the bands associated with them, I'm pretty sure there wouldn't be anything left in Rock music.
    Why is beiber doing the dvil horns. He doesn't deserve to hold the symbol of rock n roll
    It's just his favorite toy when he's having a party with 4 young boys, the picture was taken out of context.
    Please, the devil horns are so old and hackneyed. Brittney Spears used them, they've been played out for a hot minute.
    At least half of these apply to almost all of my favorite bands...
    the shit about the open road and harleys really pisses me off... Most haven't experienced that in the first place anyhow. Never leaving the city and such
    I feel ya. There's this guy in my town, trying to make it as a countryrock singer-songwriter with just his acoustic guitar. His genre is based on Americana, rock 'n roll and riding free and such. He's probably never even been in the USA, and he doesn't have his motorcycle license.
    I couldn't disagree more with everything on this list. This is what makes rock n' roll, rock n' roll. The reason why rock is dead in the present is because everything has to be stripped down, and the age of the rockstar is gone. No one looks out of this world anymore. Everyone who's on stage looks like they're wearing the same clothes they went to work with on a gas station. If you look at EDM, they're the ones having fun, and they're the actual rockstars of this era. And that's a reason why that genre is doing so well, because there's not this weird notion that the music is everything. Music has never been the only thing that has driven rock n' roll forward. All of these tacky cliches made it what it was.
    "the rock show lingo" Paul Stanley so much. Someone even made compilation, named something like "Let me get this of my chest"
    I never blasted a writer on UG before, though I've seen it done a lot and for good reason. This is the dumbest article I've ever seen. First you suggest that Rock is limited, and then offer a list of cliches that cover not only some of the fringe genres it has created. AND also a whole lot of cliches which are not exclusive to Rock music: big hair is in other genres from Donna Summers, to Lil Wayne, to Ludacris, the "The" phenomenon covers plenty of non-rock acts from "The O'Jays", "The Pips" and "The Black Eyed Peas". And most of the cliches also represent other media such as television, film, theater and art: *Cock-rock Loving* - "A Streetcar named desire" *Sticking it to the man* applies to everyone under the age of 30, and is much more prevalent in rap music than Rock. *running free forever young* was invented by pirates. *comparing things to Steel* - "Atlas Shrugged" *high in high school* writing about life during high school or college accounts for an entire genre of movies which were epitomized in the American Pie movies, but also "Grease" and the "high school musical" franchise, and not because of the immaturity of the artists who write them, but because kids in that age range spend more money on music than any other demographic. I could go on. The point is that most of these aren't even cliches, any more than saying books are cliches for having words in them. And before you suggest that rock lacks identity for capitulating these "cliches", consider the cliches of other genres: rap - guns, 40s and bitches R&B - having sex and cheating country - she thinks my tractor's sexy reggae - smoking weed pop - i got a crush, he broke up with me Maybe because Rock is less narrowly defined, there isn't a strong sense of identity. Its like comparing eskimos to white people in the midwest. One group has a lot more in common than the other, so they have a greater kinship.
    Rock is less narrowly defined than country, rap, or pop based on... what exactly (besides your completely unsubstantial personal anecdotal experience based on listening to maybe a couple of songs from Billboard's Top 40 chart and what you've heard people say about these genres)? In fact, I would not be surprised if you have never heard of maybe Jimmy Cliff, Waylon Jennings, Kool Keith, or a number of artists that aren't Bob Marley, Taylor Swift, or Lil Wayne. I mean... the genres that you listed all date back at least 30 or 40 years (with hip-hop being arguably the youngest of those genres you mentioned) and are found throughout ever part of the world. There are thousands of artists spanning dozens of styles and subgenres within each of them and lyrically they all encompass quite a wide variety of themes. Can you even tell me that you've heard of rock-steady or dancehall? What about noise pop? Horrorcore? The Bakersfield sound? I'm guessing that you haven't heard of any of these various subgenres and aren't aware of variations in style from different geographical regions. Simply put, you're criticizing the author for doing something, and then you do the same thing, but worse, with far less development of your points and absolutely no real anything to base your silly notions on. And your analogy is pretty atrocious.
    Think of it this way. If this article covered all genres instead of just rock and metal, people would use the "this is ultimate guitar, not ultimate music" speech.
    I like these. I think rock and metal lacks identity nowadays. We have nothing that defines us anymore as something else out there. Jazz has the same problem as us. They are stuck up. We are so set on our music and that's it. People looking bad-ass (or ridiculous which got WAY more attention) and lyrics that struck a note with us while they looked like that. Pop music has its image, so people emulate it and it grows, we have nothing anymore. And our playing is as precise as their auto-tune and beat machines anyway. There isn't any feeling anymore.
    What drives me mad is a support band who in the middle of their set ask: "are you looking foward to ... ..." to get a cheer. Just play your own set - your biggest cheer of the night should not be for naming another band!
    Funny thing is that as much as the bands in the 80's loved making their name doing the "The [insert word]" pattern a lot of the new bands nowdays (especially in progressive metal) do another funny naming cliche naming their band some word in plural (like reflections, circles, structures, monuments, etc.)
    everybody loves a nice cliche. they became cliche because they work and for the most part the rock ones are freaking cool
    Who is the hipster douchebag who wrote this? Weak.
    Apparently very similar to all of the other users here. Suddenly I remember why I haven't been back in months.
    Funny article well presented until you show that little arsehole Bieber WTF is he even doing on such a glorious site as this. he aint no fkin rocker
    Seriously, Oh My God. How can people really get insulted when they see a picture of Justin Bieber? And even more insulted when he does the devil horns - like it was a holy sign that only the "chosen ones" are allowed to use. You are pathetic. I think the pictures made the article. Especially the Justin Bieber picture. I think it was a hilarious picture.
    Van Hammersmith
    Missed: Dying Young! Usually from drugs or alcohol. Not that I'm against those things, but you gotta pick your spots. Not many people die from a deadly combination of combining beer and weed, you know what I'm saying? Yeah, you do.
    This guy's obviously just a little weenie who's jealous of my big Harley.
    you know, these all may be cliches, but as well as that, they're what make rock n roll what it is. really, what would rock be without all of these things? it truly wouldn't be the same as the music we all fell in love with
    It bothers me that they used that picture of Paul from the Clash smashing his bass for "stage antics". He was actually really upset for doing that, and never did it again... The Clash rarely did ANY of the stuff in your "antics" list. Use a picture of Kiss, or another band that was more show than actual music.
    the whole "Make some noise!" "Are you ready to rock?" "Lemme hear you!" "I can't hear you!" "Helooo (insert city name, possibly wrong)!" sorry but hetfield. ARE YOU ALIVE TOIGHT!!!????? HOW DEOES IT FEEL TO BE ALIVE????!!!! IN THE METALLICA FAMILY!!!!! OHHHH YEAH????!!!!!
    Y'know what's a bigger cliche' missed here? "(Insert name here) and the _____" band names.
    Oh. Apparently I got teh censor. I said, "Those a*s*s*h*o*l*e*s" from Metallica who sold out in an empire corporate kind of way and KING A*S*S*H*O*L*E LARS ULRICH OF DANMARK!
    Many of those "The (Blank)" bands, although cliche in terms of names, were good talents nonetheless. Obviously the gods themselves, The Beatles, but even the lesser known Zombies were quite underrated. Also, I know I'll be crucified for this by some die hard fanboi but how funny is it that "rebellion" was packaged and sold in such a corporate way by record giants for so many decades? Ironically those *******s from Metallica, founded upon "sticking it to the man" the thrash way have gone on to become the biggest corporate shills in the history of music. Going after 12 year olds for illegal downloading while having ripped off Excel's "Tap In" for Enter Sandman w no royalties? Worried that there will only be a few $100,000 Mercedes to purchase next year and no new $300,000 Ferraris? Time to go after teens and preteens who downloaded 1 song! And how about ******* Lars' 10 million dollar Danish art collection? I'm sure it's grown since then. Yeah James, "So angrrryeeahhhnahh!" considering that you're driving a golden Escalade to take your overprivileged little shits to soccer practice at the 50,000 a year elementary school. This is no different from rappers and what they used to do with them. Lots of real but lots of fake. That's why the ghetto black dudes from the hood discern between what they call "real niggas" and "**** niggas". Rebellion. Lulz.
    Are you seriously bitching about Metallica and Napster? Take me to your time machine please.
    Please, if he was talking about Lil Wayne doing the same thing instead of Metallica, this would have been to most thumbs-uped post on this article.
    Eh, I disagree mostly with the "Stage Antics" one. You can listen to their music anytime you want, but the concerts are to experience the band and they would be a bit less fun if it was just the band playing up there with no energy. It's a much more fun experience when the band is up there and having at least a small bit of interaction with the audience.
    When I saw Ozzy in 2007 he stood in one spot on the stage kind of convulsing while singing. The other band members were just standing around too, with the exception of Zakk who would occasionally walk over a put a foot up on a monitor and let his honeywell fans blow his long golden locks. Talk about being utterly let down by a performance, especially after watching Rob Zombie open up for him with crazy demons and ghouls all over the stage, completely wound up only to be let down by the headliner.
    So if you can't name your band NounNoun, VerbTheNoun, TheNoun because otherwise you run into "cliches", how the hell WOULD you come up with a reasonable name (aside from one-word names)?
    This article is such a cluster-f of half thought through concepts. Well done on spelling, I guess.
    Maybe, just maybe, the concept of "the rcok star" should just. . . DIE! It's old and tired, and most people don't want to see guys with no idea of how awful their love songs are get up on stage and hump the air well into their 60s, 70s, 80s.
    Robert Overbeek
    Who's the perty broad with blond big hair..lol.I love black metal but Abigail Williams seems real..the rest plastic!!!
    Robert Overbeek
    Who's the perty broad with blond big hair..lol.I love black metal but Abigail Williams seems real..the rest plastic!!!
    I'd say this is fairly hit-and-miss. Whilst most of these are true, a few of them are rather vague and could apply to any medium of art/entertainment, let alone Rock music. Also the point about bands with 'The' at the beginning of their name didn't make any sense, what makes those name any different from any other band name? What seperates Rock band names from prefacing words with 'The' in general? I don't understand. It's certainly nothing unique to Rock music, couldn't you apply this criticism to 'The Dave Brubeck Quartet' or 'The London Symphony Orchestra'? One last point - a minor qualm on my part, I wasn't pleased with the use of Rage Against the Machine lyrics in the section regarding meaningless rebellion. All members of Rage in their personal lives and as a band are heavily involved in charity and political pressure groups, they are genuinly passionate about changing the world and their music reflects that. Whilst I can understand applying this criticism to a great many bands, from the Sex Pistols to Green Day, I think it's unfair to apply it to RAtM, who are, atleast I believe; very sincere.
    Rock cliche? The A to D/A change, as per the into of "All Right Now" by Free. Also used by Rolling Stones, Queen, AC/DC, you name it... nearly as ubiquitous as the Chuck Berry boogie. I love 'em both!