KISS is a band that have been a major influence of hard rock and heavy metal, and have written some of the most catchiest and memorable riffs in the history of hard rock. Inspiring countless metal acts like Mötley Crüe, Pantera, Anthrax, GWAR, Ghost, Metallica and Slipknot. Formed in 1973, the original lineup of Paul Stanley, Gene Simmons, Peter Criss and Ace Frehley would create a legacy for over fifty years. KISS officially retired (at the time of this writing) in 2023. KISS will reportedly become the first American band to go fully virtual and stage its own avatar show, making the announcement to it's fanbase at the end of the band's final show in New York. The "virtual" edition of the band will debut in 2027.

So you may be asking, why has this influential and pop culture icon, being included in an article called "Why The Hate?"? Well, the band has had a successful career, but there have been some criticism towards the band. Things like the band's imagery and not creating individuality in its newest members, their one note style of song and lack of originality. The stigma and criticism of one of it's members takes on heavy metal and rock music and other issues. Today, I will dive into this band's legacy, I'll be looking at the band's sound throughout the years, the band members themselves, and the legacy that this band has left in their fire breathing and blood spitting wake. Do these painted legends deserve the hate? Let's find out.


KISS made its debut with two records in 1974. Their self titled debut album in February, followed by Hotter Than Hell seven months later. The band would follow that with Dressed To Kill in 1975. That album would feature one of the band's most iconic and recognizable songs with "Rock and Roll All Nite". KISS would follow up the success of that album with the band's first "live" double album Alive! in 1975. The album would face criticism for not being a "true" live album since some of the band's parts had to be re-recorded and spliced in to replace the original audio. Through it's iconic live image, it would become a classic live album in metal history.

The band's popularity would skyrocket with the band's fourth album Destroyer in 1976. With it's iconic artwork, along with some of the band's biggest and well known songs like "Detroit Rock City", "Shout It Out Loud" and the band's biggest commercial hit, the ballad "Beth". The band would continue the success of this record, releasing the album Rock and Roll Over that same year and followed up with Love Gun in 1977. KISS would incorporate elements of disco in 1979 with their album Dynasty, featured prominently on the lead single "I Was Made For Loving You". The album received mixed reviews from the die-hard fans, accusing the band of chasing trends instead of making them. The fanbase would also call this out of the band with the following album Unmasked in 1980, a foreshadowing title of what the band would do in the future.

KISS would go into an experimental direction with their 1981 album Music From "The Elder". This would also be the debut of new drummer Eric Carr on drums and would be the last with guitarist Ace Frehley. Focusing on a more progressive rock sound, the album was very divisive and considered a commercial failure for the band. Ending the band's streak of successful records. The band would return to it's original heavy metal sound with the follow up Creatures of The Night.

In a shocking move to the fans, KISS would make a bold move and drop their legendary makeup and costumes with the release of Lick It Up in 1983. This would officially mark the debut of Vinnie Vincent on guitars, though he would only appear on this album. The album mixed the band's classic sound, along with the popularity of glam rock and hair metal of the 80's. The follow up, Animalize, would feature new guitarist Mark St. John for the album, but again would only be with the band for this album. it also continued the success and sound of the previous album. Asylum would be the band's thirteenth studio album and would mark the debut of Bruce Kulick and would remain with the band for many albums ahead. He would also have a more prominent presence on the band's next album Crazy Nights.

KISS would unfortunately have another album misstep with the release of their fifteenth studio album Hot in The Shade in 1989. The album received critiques from the fanbase as being too generic and formulaic. it is one of the band's lowest rated albums, along with one of the only albums in the band's discography to not go platinum. The follow up album Revenge received better reviews and the album would be dedicated to late drummer Eric Carr who passed away in 1991 due to heart cancer. He would actually pass away the same day as Queen front man Freddie Mercury, unfortunately overshadowing Carr's history and impact in music. The album would mark the debut of Eric Singer on drums. Revenge strayed away from the glam metal success of the 80's to a much heavier sound that heavy metal was beginning to shift to in the 90's.

After Revenge, KISS would change sound again to follow the burgeoning grunge/alternative sound with Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions in 1997. Many fans panned the record and called out KISS for chasing trends again and abandoning the sound that made them legends. Critics said some of the songs were very generic and forgettable. Stating that they would be better done by another act or KISS covering B-Side alternative songs from more popular bands at the time. After that release, KISS would reunite with original members Criss and Frehley. The first album of the original lineup since 1979's Dynasty album. The album, Psycho Circus, would have the band again return to the band's trademark sound for the rest of their recordings, as well as returning to their makeup and costumes in press and live performances. The album did sell well due to the excitement of the original lineup together, but critics did not like the record. Frehley and Criss would leave the band again with Singer replacing Criss and new guitarist Tommy Thayer would join the band replacing Frehley. This lineup would be the final lineup for the rest of the studio albums and live performances.

Following Psycho Circus, the band would tour and go on hiatus to focus on other projects and business ventures. The band would return in 2009 with Sonic Boom, the band's first album in eleven years and longest gap between records. Led by the single "Modern Day Delilah" and "Never Enough", the album received positive reviews from critics and the fanbase. The band's final studio album, at the time of this article, was 2012's Monster. Debuting at number three on the Billboard 200 and selling over 60,000 copies in the first week in the U.S.

After reviewing their discography, does the music deserve the hate? Musically, KISS has some talented musicians in it and some good material and some not-so-good material. Stanley has one of the best theatrical and powerful voices in hard rock. Granted yes, some of the songs can be formulaic and some songs could be interspersed between different albums and you wouldn't know the difference. But, KISS has a sound that is like AC/DC in the way that it's the sound the band likes to do and is known for, and they have the old "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mindset. KISS did try to venture into other genres to incorporate into their sound and some worked (Dynasty), and some were misses or weren't quite nailed (Music For "The Elder" and Carnival of Souls: The Final Sessions). In my opinion, KISS musically doesn't deserve the hate.

SECOND TOPIC: The Band Themselves

The two main figureheads of KISS is Simmons and Stanley. Since they have been with the band the longest, they will be the main focus of this section. Stanley, though the most flamboyant member of the band on stage and on the albums, is actually more reserved offstage. There isn't a lot of controversies or bad blood towards other members of the band throughout the band's longevity. He has performed in the Toronto production of  The Phantom of The Opera following positive reviews and reception 1999. He currently has his own side project Paul Stanley's Soul Station, that released an album Now and Then in 2021.

A lot of the criticism towards KISS leans towards the band's bassist and front man Gene Simmons. There have been statements that Simmons has said that portray him in a sleazeball, sexist type personality and attitude. One NPR interview in 2002 featured Simmons stating the following to Fresh Air host Terry Gross:

"If you want to welcome me with open arms, I'm afraid you're also going to have to welcome me with open legs"

Simmons refused to grant NPR permission to air the interview, but the interview and quote appeared in print in Gross' book All I Did Was Ask. Ace Frehley has stated in a Rolling Stone interview that Simmons had groped his wife, calling Simmons an "asshole and a sex addict". Continually pushing the stigma of Simmons' sleazy attitude and personality. Another example of misjudging social ques was Simmons' statement regarding suicide and depression. In an interview with Songfacts.com, Simmons said the following regarding people with depression to self-harm:

I never understand, because I always call them on their bluff. I'm the guy who says 'Jump!' when there's a guy on top of a building who says, "That's it, I can't take it anymore, I'm going to jump." Are you kidding? Why are you announcing it? Shut the fuck up, have some dignity and jump! You've got the crowd.

Many people were upset with this comment, including Mötley Crüe bassist Nikki Sixx, who has a history of depression and was very upset with Simmons attitude towards a serious issue. Simmons would later clarify his comments and would apologize for his remark, but the damage was already done.

Simmons' hand gesture he tried to trademark in 2017.

Another criticism that really stung and hurt Simmons' image with the fanbase was when he tried to trademark the heavy metal hand gesture that is an iconic symbol of heavy metal history. Granted, his version is different than the normal hand gesture with just the index finger and pinky that we all know. But again, to copyright/trademark a universal symbol is such a new low and really not necessary. That's like trying to trademark a thumbs up or a high-five. With the fanbase and his critics citing "not everything is for sale" and "you can't buy a symbol". Hurting Simmons' image with the hard rock and heavy metal community with this move.

Finally, Simmons has constantly stated in multiple interviews that rock is dead. In an interview with Metal Injection, he stated:

"I stand by my words: rock is dead. The people that killed it are fans. Fans killed the thing they loved by downloading and file sharing for free. How do you expect somebody who loves the guitar to come into this creative process? You've got to invent yourself. And so rock is dead."

I do agree that file sharing and piracy did hurt the music industry at the time of it's rise, just ask Lars Ulrich of Metallica. But this article was in 2022. There is still streaming services like Apple Music, Tidal, Spotify, Pandora as well as physical purchases available through band websites and Bandcamp. And yes, those streaming services do not pay their artists a lot per stream, but to blame the fans in such a flagrant way is a little douchebag-esque. Especially coming from an artist who made so much money with the band's licensing, merchandise and success pre-piracy over the years. To damn the fanbase and have a moment of saying the quiet part loud and the loud part quiet, hurt his image and support from the rock and metal community.

One thing I do need to bring up with KISS is the imagery of the band. The original four members face paint and costumes is so iconic and easily identifiable. In the early 80's, new members Vinnie Vincent and Eric Carr were able to have their own unique costumes and new face paint to showcase individuality. Once Eric Singer and Tommy Thayer joined the band, they were not given their own face pain designs and costumes like Carr and Vincent. They donned the Criss & Frehley makeup until the band's final performance in 2023. Thayer stated with an interview with Guitar World:

“I’ve been a fan for longer than probably most of these people, so I understand,” he says. “But you can’t expect things to be exactly how they were 40 years ago. That’s a fantasy. So I don’t let it bother me. I’m comfortable and confident with where I am and what I do.”

Singer is also along the same mindset as well in the quotes I have found. For me, I like the individuality of new members. I mean, take Slipknot for example. Whenever there is new members, they get new masks and identity/nickname. GWAR did have the core "personas" being played by multiple members, but in later years, guitarists were given new identities and costumes. Especially after the losing of the band's lead singer Oderus Urungus, the new singer got a new costume, persona and backstory. Not wearing the Oderus costume and pretending to mimic or imitate him. I can understand maybe doing a particular album in their entirety tour like playing Destroyer and wearing that era of KISS costume and makeup, but I think band's need to have individuality or promote it, but also if the performers are ok with it, then that's there prerogative.

After reviewing all the issues regarding the band themselves, I would say Stanley doesn't deserve the hate, but Simmons does deserve the hate he has gotten for the remarks he has said as well as the idea of trademarking an iconic symbol of hard rock and heavy metal.

KISS has stood the test of time as one of the most recognizable and iconic bands in hard rock and heavy metal history. Inspiring countless people to pick up instruments, push the idea of visual media in stage performance, and music that is catchy and memorable. With so many licensed memorabilia throughout the band's career, the band's trademark has become an ongoing joke. I was even tempted to put a trademark logo on the title of this article to continue the running gag. The band's legacy still stands strong, and with the tease of being an all virtual band in 2027. Recently, at time of writing, KISS just sold their brand name, back catalogue, and IP to Swedish company Pophouse Entertainment Group for over $300 million dollars.

Do you think KISS deserves the hate? What are your thoughts on the band? Let us know in the comments section and on our social media. As well as let us know what band/artist we should do next. This has been another edition of Why The Hate?

Does KISS deserve the hate? - Online Poll - StrawPoll
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