Debate is healthy, but for the obstinate it can feel like being trapped in a loony bin when you know you’re sane. I got into a days-long argument in college about whether my friends only existed in my imagination. They would say,
“If you’re imagining all of this, am I going to punch you in the stomach?” I’d say, “Well, it’s my subconscious inventing what you do, so I can’t really predict what’s going to happen.” Then one would punch me in the stomach, and say, “Well, I just decided to punch you in the stomach and then did it, so I must exist.” And I’d say, “Yeah I knew you’d say that.” When the debate comes to semantics, though, it can be even more frustrating trying to decide who’s right—the meanings of certain words are just totally subjective. “Icon” is one of these words.
Past FADER icon issues each focused on one totemic figure, filtering that person’s life and work through our particular lens. Kurt Cobain, Miles Davis, Nina Simone, Jerry Garcia, Aaliyah, David Byrne: all universally known and appreciated, canonized figures in the pop culture pantheon. But with the modern world more splintered than ever and mass appeal much harder to come by, is that the only definition of an icon? Is an icon only someone who means something to everyone? Or can it be someone who means everything to relatively few?
To find the answer, we took our website’s RSS feed, broke every post down to its basic elements, entered the keywords into our iPad prototype and threw it out the window. We then sent an intern downstairs to yell at us from the street the first name that came to her mind when she looked at the pile of nanochips and tiny aliens lying on the sidewalk. Unfortunately, “Doug” was not an acceptable answer, so we went about things the old-fashioned way, looking at all the new music we’ve loved in the last year and all the new music we’re looking forward to in the coming one. And without giving away our top secret algorithms, it became evident pretty early on that dark, challenging rock, and hard, disorderly dancehall were recurring patterns. These, of course, are two strains of music that aren’t readily represented by any one person, but then we realized we didn’t have to pick just one.
For the first time ever, we’re printing two separate icon double-covers: one, the inimitable provocateur of punk and post-punk, Siouxsie Sioux; the other, a man whose incomparable rumble is still the standard in dancehall, Shabba Ranks. These two may not be totally obvious on the surface, but that’s not how we do things here. We prefer to start the debate on our terms, listen to what everyone has to say and then skip into the sunset in oblivious victory. Not that there’s a winner in this argument—there isn’t—but what fun would it be if all we did was pick ringers?