Everyone Loves You When You're Dead: Journeys into Fame & Madness by Neil Strauss
On my daily web searches, I kept hearing all this commotion about Neil Strauss’s new book Everyone Loves You When You’re Dead. The few excerpts I read made it sound pretty interesting so I took a chance and bought it off Amazon. I was getting pretty psyched for it as I kept reading snippets of all unpublished interviews with some of my favorite musicians, comedians, and actors.
Strauss stated that the goal of him writing this book was to try and show the public the inner scope of the artist. This was done by showcasing a line they said, how they answered or didn’t answer a question or even how they dealt with a difficult question. Not in any interview did Strauss ever give away his personal thoughts about the subject/interviewee which as we all know, a good journalist would never do. However, being neutral can be difficult especially if you hear or see things that go against your beliefs. I bring this up in this section specifically because I know if I were to have done some of these interviews I might not have been so easy going and relaxed.
Many of the artists’ interviews that were published in ELYWYD seemed to embody the stereotype they were handed once they hit the pinnacle of their career. The so-called “rock stars” all seemed to loathe themselves and ponder why they aren’t happy over and over again. Some (mostly just Oasis) went the opposite direction and compared themselves to God and being better than the Beatles. (Sidenote: As an Oasis fan, I can honestly say they are nowhere as talented or charming as the Beatles were at their worst. Furthermore, the personalities of both Liam and Noel are so revolting that it takes away from their talent and makes me not want to buy their records).
The extremely versatile interviews that took place portrayed just how talented and intelligent Mr. Stauss is. The ability to connect to a depressed, apathetic Trent Reznor one day and then spoiled teen queen Christina Aguilera the next, showed how adaptable he had to make himself. His ability to immerse himself into an artist’s world and roll with the punches, regardless of the demands put upon him, showcased him as being much more than a journalist. Not just anybody can buy Pampers and talk about gangbanging with Snoop Dogg at 8am in L.A and then fly to Louisiana to try and fool Britney Spears into thinking you're a psychic.
The book has some surprising elements to it. Some of the shocking stuff may just be news to me or it may be news to the entire country. Since the 507 page book was broken up into 10 acts I find I am going to have to break up this review into something similar. Although Strauss did not separate the interviews by genre, I feel that will be the most organized and concise way for me to do it.
One specific interview that comes to mind was with The Game. Not only does he come off as a pompous asshole who brags about selling the best crack; he fails to credit his brother as really being the one who brought him into the rap world. That and his ugly ass face tattoo put him on my radar as an artist I will never support. In one of the earlier interviews, Strauss finds himself driving Snoop Dogg to get his baby some diapers. It comes as no surprise to anyone that Snoop is smoking joints throughout the whole interview, however, I did find it interesting when he tries to persuade Strauss into bootlegging his new album and leaking it on the Internet. They mainly focused on Snoop’s then-departure from Death Row Records and his volatile relationship with then-enemy Tupac Shakur. The interview was enlightening and anyone who followed the early ‘90s rap game would definitely want to read this.
Although a few other hip hop artists were featured, I think the only other real piece I read that stayed with me was with the hip hop group N.W.A. The interview was conducted with each member separately and focused on their reactions of Eazy-E dying of AIDS and any regrets they had. I found it to be compelling and slightly sad.
There were a good amount of interviews with pop artists throughout the book but only some stood out to me. Madonna describing the feeling of being an outsider, Christina Aguilera coming off as a spoiled pop princess who hadn’t learned how to answer questions yet, and Cher describing how her 1999 hit “Believe” came about. You didn’t really learn anything new with these artists but the interviews did help to put their personalities in perspective a little bit better
I’ve heard over & over again that really funny comedians are usually depressing human beings. Maybe this is true, maybe not. But after reading Strauss’s interview with Ben Stiller, I was a little taken aback by his aloofness. He didn’t answer questions very well and his seemingly outgoing personality was definitely not shown. The opposite goes for Chris Rock. I found his interview to be actually semi-enlightening and it seemed to me his off stage persona is right on with his on stage one.
Strauss had the opportunity to interview so many incredible bands that I would be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous. I am trying so hard not to give anything away for anyone who potentially might wind up reading this book. Some of the more controversial (and longest) interviews were definitely those Strauss had with Nine Inch Nails, Motley Crue, Soul Asylum, and At the Drive-In. Some of these interviews were more revealing than a autobiography would have been.
I call them “old time” groups because well…they were before my time. I had a professor in college that was obsessed with Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. After reading his interviews, it makes me wonder how this guy used to be before the drugs messed up his brain. I guess the same could be said for Ozzy, but in the case of Wilson, I felt as if he was being talked to like a child. Strauss’s ability to ask hardlined questions to members of The Who, Pink Floyd, and Led Zeppelin without flinching showed he was braver than most would have been.
Neil Strauss is truly a pioneer of music journalism. For all music fans, regardless of the genre, I suggest picking this book up. Whether you read it all in one day or over the course of a year, I guarantee you won’t regret it.