The Terrible/Genius Scale


On a notable episode of How I Met Your Mother, the character Barney Stinson (Neil Patrick Harris) explains a concept called “The Crazy/Hot Scale.” The scale was basically an X and Y axis. On the “Y” axis was “Amount of Hotness.” Accordingly, on the “X” axis was “Amount of Craziness.” The idea of the scale was that one of Barney’s female conquests had to be more hot than they were crazy (remaining below the “Vicki Mendoza Diagonal”) or they were not worth pursuing. There is a certain point where, as Barney explains it “Her craziness grows, but her hotness stays the same,” and the diagonal is the threshold that must be satisfied in order for this to continue to be a worthwhile endeavor.

Barney’s kind of a scumbag, though he undergoes tremendous growth throughout the course of the series. I do like the idea of the Crazy/Hot scale, however, and I’d like to apply it to rock musicians.

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In this day and age, due to the fact that anybody’s communication can go to anybody else, we are treated to a lot of statements from celebrities that, frankly, we were probably better off never hearing. Whether it’s Steve Miller‘s dickish behavior at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame or every waking moment of Gene Simmons‘s life, it seems as if many of our favorite rock musicians are determined to undo every last bit of goodwill that we, as a society, have for them.

All Michael Jackson had to do was die, and we suddenly forgot that for most of the 90’s and 2000’s, he was in a courtroom more than a recording studio. Had he lived, we would have probably seen the breaking point. Luckily he preserved his legacy while we could convincingly rewrite it.

I now propose, as applies to artists (in this case, rock musicians, but we could easily branch it out) The Terrible/Genius Scale.

This is a similar principle to Barney’s scale. There is a certain line, a certain perfect combination of terrible and genius that represents the absolute limit that we as a society will accept.

Sinead O’Connor found this out the hard way when she offended every Catholic in the whole world at the same time. Maybe if she’d actually written her most famous song, she would have stayed below the line, but who can really be sure?

The last significant news about Sinead O’Connor was that she got lost in a suburb of Chicago, btw. It’s unclear what song she was singing, if any.

As for the name of that diagonal? I don’t think there’s anything more appropriate, regardless of the medium you’re talking about, than referring to this as the “Kanye West Diagonal.” Dude is constantly losing my support and then somehow getting it back. I don’t quite get it myself. He embodies the line while still respecting its boundaries.

So I call onto you, Rocknutters: What rock bands or artists are in danger of running afoul of this precious line? Which outspoken lead singers need to cool it!? How about “genius” songwriters that are proving to be more trouble than they’re worth?

As a huge Smiths fan, I feel as though Morrissey might be in danger of crossing the line. Ditto Bono, though I’m not nearly as fond of U2.

And, obviously, Axl Rose is a conclusively terrible person.

Please fill the comments with other potential “Good-Will-Breakers”!


Photo credit: By rodrigoferrari (Kanye West 05) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

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