Graham: Kid Rock's antics, politics overshadow his music

Adam Graham
The Detroit News
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Kid Rock has always looked up to Bob Seger, but he’s turning into Ted Nugent.

They are on two distinctive paths. Seger has always maintained class and dignity, and has been able to enjoy a healthy career touring and releasing music when he wants. He is heading into retirement from the road as a rock 'n' roll legend and a Michigan treasure.

Members of Sweet Tea Trio including Kate Falcon, Victoria Camp and Savannah Coker. Kid Rock concert, the first event at the New Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan on September 12, 2017.

Nugent says and does what he wants, and his music long ago took a backseat to his politics. An entire generation of music listeners only knows Nugent — if they know him at all — as the crazy deer hunting guy on TV talk shows.   

With his latest rant on Oprah Winfrey and his continued beef with "The View" co-host Joy Behar, Rock is once again letting his politics and his antics overshadow his music. And it’s not a particularly good look.

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Last weekend, Rock – the Romeo native who turns 49 next month – went on a drunken, profanity-laced rant against Winfrey and Behar at his honky tonk in Nashville, Tennessee. He threw Kathy Lee Gifford into the mix as well, because if you’re beefing with two female television talk show hosts, you might as well throw a third into the mix. (It should be noted that Winfrey, Behar and Gifford aren’t and haven’t been saying anything about Rock anytime recently.)  

Rock went on to clarify on social media thathis people once approached him to appear on Winfrey’s show, but in order to do so he had to write down five reasons why he loved her and loved her show. He responded with an emoji of a pride flag, and said “f--- that and her. End of story.” OK then.

The fallout led to pressure from the National Action Network, which protested Wednesday outside Rock’s Made in Detroit restaurant at Little Caesars Arena. Rather than renewing his licensing agreement for the space, Rock pulled out, and in a Facebook post he took aim at his critics, detailed the money he’s brought into the city over the years and touted “Trump 2020!!”

Rock has been operating without a filter for a long time, but has turned up the volume in recent years. He parted ways with his publicist in 2017 and has since been operating untethered on his own.

He remains a strong concert draw in Metro Detroit; he sold out six concerts at Little Caesars Arena in Sept. 2017, the venue’s inaugural string of shows, and sold out four concerts at DTE Energy Music Theatre this past September. His hometown fans remain loyal, and will likely continue to, even as others in Metro Detroit wear their association with the country rock and roller as a stain.

As his politics have gotten louder — remember his phony bid for Michigan Senate in 2017? — his music has gotten quieter. His two most recent albums, 2015’s “First Kiss” and 2018’s “Sweet Southern Sugar,” failed to yield any crossover hits and were the weakest-performing albums since his 1998 mainstream breakthrough.

His concerts, meanwhile, could use a refresher: he’s been teeing up a dance break with his backup dancers with the same line about Justin Bieber since Bieber was a teenager.

So like Nugent, Rock now makes news with his mouth, going on unprompted rants and attacking without being provoked. When there are consequences, he wants to play the victim, and say that people are coming for his free speech. No, words have consequences, and if one of those consequences is backing out of a corporate arena space, that’s what it is, and he’s free to take his Made in America restaurant to anywhere else he wants to in town.

But when the fire is raging, Rock’s not one to quiet down. On Wednesday, after the news of his restaurant and his Facebook post got tongues wagging, he took to social media once again.

“I am beholden to no one, no corporate sponsors, no label and I am gonna go the f--- off!” he wrote, saying “all this BS” is fuel for a new record next year. “You haters better be shaking in your boots,” he said, promising to make his “best record and tour ever.”

He signed the post, “Devil Without a Cause.”

“Devil Without a Cause” is, of course, the album that took Kid Rock from local talent to worldwide star. Back then, the moniker was a brash description of his attitude toward the world. Today, however, it has proven to be a prescient descriptor of things to come, as Rock digs in to try to find a fight even when there isn’t one to be found.

Nugent would be proud. Seger, not so much.

Twitter: @grahamorama

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