The 21 Biggest Egos in the History of Pop Music

NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 13:  Kanye West takes the microphone from Taylor Swift and speaks onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on September 13, 2009 in New York City.  (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

NEW YORK – SEPTEMBER 13: Kanye West takes the microphone from Taylor Swift and speaks onstage during the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards at Radio City Music Hall on September 13, 2009 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage)

Egos have been around for a long time. Odysseus had an ego, Louis XIV had an ego, Wu Zeitan had an ego. For as long as we’ve recorded history, there have been people feeling themselves, sometime for good reason. So, naturally, many of the people on this list are responsible for some truly amazing music, a feat that often leads to a lot of hubris. But who, in the grand history of pop music, is most convinced of their genius and relevance? Don’t worry, I’ve come up with a highly advanced formula to determine just that.

Each contestant’s ego was rated on five different aspects: 1) Self-Importance (how much better they think they are). 2) Self-Righteousness (how much better they think their ethics and practices are). 3) Diminished Self-Awareness (how little they’re aware of their own silliness). 4) Messiah Factor (how much they think they’re leading people out of darkness. And, lastly 5) General Dickishness (self-explanatory). The scores for each aspect are graded from 1-10, then all scores were added up into the ego’s representing number. In the event of a tie, I selected the contestant that just felt more deserving to by higher on the list.

Damon Albarn

Damon Albarn

21) Damon Albarn

Self-Importance: 6
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 3
Messiah Factor: 2
General Dickishness: 8
Total: 27

Damon Albarn barely makes this list by being just enough of a dick to separate him
from boring stardom. Eventually the mountain of chiding, monosyllabic interviews and hoity-toity pop art pretensions earns you a reputation. Surprisingly, Albarn is perhaps the sanest of the Britpop icons.

Queen Beyonce

Queen Beyonce

20) Beyonce

Self-Importance: 9
Self-Righteousness: 7
Diminished Self-Awareness: 5
Messiah Factor: 6
General Dickishness: 1
Total: 28

Look, I know you don’t want to believe Beyonce has a big ego, and there’s no question she comes off as genuine and humble in plenty of interviews. But the woman has a museum dedicated to herself in her house. Is there anyone more caught up in the Beyonce mythology than Beyonce herself? Do you really think you could be friends with Beyonce?

Dee Snider

Dee Snider

19) Dee Snider

Self-Importance: 7
Self-Righteousness: 5
Diminished Self-Awareness: 7
Messiah Factor: 6
General Dickishness: 3
Total: 28

Dee Snider was the lead singer of Twisted Sister. Somehow that’s afforded him enough cultural capital to think he belongs on every VH1 talking-head retrospective that exists. If you are the guy from “We’re Not Gonna Take It” you are not an authority ofnanything.

Noel Gallagher

Noel Gallagher

18) Noel Gallagher

Self-Importance
: 6
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 1
Messiah Factor: 5
General Dickishness: 10
Total: 30

I interviewed Noel Gallagher once. He told me he had a giant house that makes you feel like a rockstar, and implied that I would never even come close to tasting such a thing. It’s really hard to hate Noel, he’s a dick in such a pure, knowing way.

Adam Levine

Adam Levine

17) Adam Levine

Self-Importance: 7
Self-Righteousness: 5
Diminished Self-Awareness: 8
Messiah Factor: 5
General Dickishness: 7
Total: 32

I’m fairly certain Adam Levine has absolutely no idea why he should be on this list. That is what makes him tragic.

Steve Albini

Steve Albini

16) Steve Albini

Self-Importance: 5
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 5
Messiah Factor: 5
General Dickishness: 10.
Total: 33

Steve Albini is so staunchly, antagonistically attached to his DIY ethics that it’s filled him with the same resentful, segregationist pretentions he was ostensibly fighting against. You’re not encouraging anyone when even Sonic Youth isn’t punk enough.

Madonna

Madonna

15) Madonna

Self-Importance: 8
Self-Righteousness: 9
Diminished Self-Awareness: 7
Messiah Factor: 7
General Dickishness: 2
Total: 33

If this was a couple decades ago, Madonna would probably be at the top of this list. But age has mellowed her, and in 2013 it seems like Madonna is very much comfortable in her Madonna-ness.

Gene Simmons

Gene Simmons

14) Gene Simmons

Self-Importance
: 8
Self-Righteousness: 6
Diminished Self-Awareness: 7
Messiah Factor: 8
General Dickishness: 8
Total: 37

In the next couple of years, Gene Simmons will be invited to teach a semester as a guest professor somewhere in America. He will not for one moment consider how lucky he is.

Henry Rollins

Henry Rollins

13) Henry Rollins

Self-Importance: 8
Self-Righteousness: 9
Diminished Self-Awareness: 6
Messiah Factor: 6
General Dickishness: 8
Total: 37

Henry Rollins is very good screaming in a punk band, and being a thoughtful person when asked a question. But along the way, it seems he’s started to believe he was the wisest person in the room.

Justin Bieber

Justin Bieber

12) Justin Bieber

Self-Importance: 9
Self-Righteousness: 4
Diminished Self-Awareness: 10
Messiah Factor: 7
General Dickishness: 8
Total: 38

There’s been enough written about Justin Bieber’s unsustainable ego that it’s not even worth a joke, but I will say I cannot wait to watch him fall into the sun.

Axl Rose

Axl Rose

11) Axl Rose

Self-Importance
: 8
Self-Righteousness: 7
Diminished Self-Awareness: 9
Messiah Factor: 8
General Dickishness: 6
Total: 38

Axl Rose believed the reason people liked Guns ‘N Roses was Axl Rose.

MIA

MIA

10) M.I.A.

Self-Importance
: 9
Self-Righteousness: 10
Diminished Self-Awareness: 6
Messiah Factor: 7
General Dickishness: 7
Total: 39

M.I.A. is the only person left on earth who thinks her music videos are transgressive.

Chris Cornell

Chris Cornell

9) Chris Cornell

Self-Importance: 8
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 8
Messiah Factor: 7
General Dickishness: 9
Total: 40

Would it surprise you if Chris Cornell fucked to his own music? Like, would that even remotely shock you?

Bono

Bono

8) Bono

Self-Importance: 7
Self-Righteousness: 10
Diminished Self-Awareness: 9
Messiah Factor: 10
General Dickishness: 4
Total: 40

Here’s the thing. Bono isn’t a dick. In fact, by most accounts, he’s a perfectly pleasant man who’s incredibly passionate about the aesthetics and philosophies around music. But there are days when Bono is convinced that he controls the fate of the universe. There are moments where Bono feels he is the one thing fending off oblivion. That is the problem with Bono.

Lou Reed

Lou Reed

6) Lou Reed

Self-Importance: 9
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 8
Messiah Factor: 9,
General Dickishness : 7
Total: 41

I mean, Lulu exists, so there isn’t anything really prescient to write here. I do wonder if Lou Reed ever believed he would someday be an entitled old man.

Courtney Love

Courtney Love

5) Courtney Love

Self-Importance: 8
Self-Righteousness: 9
Diminished Self-Awareness: 10
Messiah Factor: 5
General Dickishness: 10
Total: 42

The last time Courtney Love felt shame was sometime in 2002.

Kanye West

Kanye West

4) Kanye West

Self-Importance: 10
Self-Righteousness: 8
Diminished Self-Awareness: 6
Messiah Factor: 9
General Dickishness: 9
Total: 42

At this point it seems like Kanye West has internalized his reputation of being an egotistical monster, and has actually created a weird rampaging character constructed on the basis of that reputation. Really, it’s hard to understate just how weird Kanye is.

Prince

Prince

3) Prince

Self-Importance: 10
Self-Righteousness: 9
Diminished Self-Awareness: 10
Messiah Factor: 8
General Dickishness: 5
Total: 42

Prince has reached a level of punchdrunk superstardom that he actually thinks he is bigger than the internet itself.

Morrissey

Morrissey

2) Morrissey

Self-Importance: 9
Self-Righteousness: 10
Diminished Self-Awareness: 5
Messiah Factor: 9
General Dickishness: 10
Total: 43

In some ways I don’t think Morrissey even has an ego. He’s just so comfortably assured in his Morrissey-ness. It seems like he’s tried his hardest to embody even the pettiest and angriest imaginations of his role in pop culture. Because of that, there will never be another Morrissey.

Billy Corgan

Billy Corgan

1) Billy Corgan

Self-Importance: 10
Self-Righteousness: 10
Diminished Self-Awareness: 10
Messiah Factor: 10
General Dickishness: 10
Total: 50

This is it. If you could divide by zero when calculating the egos of famous musicians, it would compute the ever-staring bald head of Billy Corgan. He’s eluded shame, prudence, accountability, the antagonism of thousands of people, and the cold fact that the last good Smashing Pumpkins song came out sometime in 1998. Corgan has given us a truly virtuosic performance.

Liza Thorn

Liza Thorn

1) Liza Thorn

Self-Importance: 10
Self-Righteousness: 10
Diminished Self-Awareness: 10
Messiah Factor: 10
General Dickishness: 10
Total: 50

Back into the night. After a pit stop for some Cheerwine,  the next stop was a   heavy-metal bar in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, where a small recording company had organized a showcase of gothwave and dark, dark pop. You could count on one hand the number of people who weren’t wearing all black.   The Starred duo closed out the night, with its singer, Liza Thorn, bringing things to a narcotic lull. She looked wounded, and sounded even more so, in songs that sounded like funeral folk. It was unnerving, almost worrying. “Can I have some more monitor?” her band mate Matthew Koshak asked early in the set. “Can I have some more alcohol?” said Ms. Thorn.  She’s famous among The Walking Dead,  drinks like hell when singing in gritty, crusty and oh-so-cheap Brooklyn bars,  takes naps on Jim Morrison’s grave, and thinks she’s too hot to grant you an interview.  Loves to show her tiny breast and fur coats she buys at thrift shops.

Hope you enjoy this list of big egos!

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