The Top 9 sellingoutest musicians in pop history

Proudly gay pop icon Elton John last month played Rush Limbaugh's most recent wedding, obviously bringing into question Elton's valuation of morals over-- do we really need to spell this out for you? Bottom line is it was a sellout for the record books. Here's some other sad cases of how the musically mighty have fallen -- a total of nine since we're on the topic of selling people short.

The Who

They telegraphed it way back in 1967 with "The Who Sell Out." And in interviews over the years, Pete Townsend and Roger Daltrey have made absolutely no bones about wanting to be filthy rich; no apologies from a bunch of Brit working class lads. But Who knew they'd turn into the most recognizable aspect of the "CSI" brand behind David Caruso's cheesy shades: The intro music. And then there was that godawful medley -- medley, for cryin' out loud -- at last year's Super Bowl. Put the hearing aids down and back away from the amplifiers, boys.

Flavor Flav

Flav was never the most revolutionary component of Public Enemy. At his best, he was the yin to Chuck D's militant, authoritative yang, a comedic foil that could be counted on to be both smart-ass hypeman and a memorable MC in his own right (c.f. "911 Is a Joke"). But while his role in PE was comparatively lighthearted, it was still a shock to see him spend most of the '00s as the oafish centerpiece of VH1's most emptyheaded offerings. Hooking him up with Brigitte Nielsen on 'The Surreal Life', chronicling their breakup in 'Strange Love' and finally embroiling him in one of the most classless dating-competition shows ever, 'Flavor of Love': it takes a viewership of millions to hold Flav back.

Bob Dylan

Early in his career, Bob Dylan made a reputation for being completely adverse to media publicity. Any music critic that dared attempt an interview ended up looking like a soulless industry pawn. In 2007, it became obvious that his shyness to the media had conclusively faded when he appeared in a Cadillac commercial driving an Escalade down a rustic highway (listening to his own XM radio show, nonetheless). Sorry Bobby, not even aviators and a mustache can make driving an Escalade pass as art.


When Jewel hit the scene in the mid-90s with Pieces of You, her sound was already derivative. Anyone who had ever been in a coffee shop during a live music night had pretty much experienced Jewel live: Acoustic guitar, angsty lyrics, the occasional reference to Jesus, and lessons on the importance of kindness. Regardless, her sound fit her and didn't seem forced or overly contrived. Things changed in 2003 when 0304 came out. Fans should have been suspicious from the start: the cover featured the folk songstress in tight-fitting neon clothes. The album's first single, "Intuition," included synthesized beats and the video was mostly Jewel dancing in a corset in front of a sign that read "Big Pimpin." Though she later stated that the album was intended to be ironic, and yeah, we can see that a little bit, that doesn't excuse the underlying--if not outwardly blatant--desperation. However, there is a little bit of a happy ending to this sell-out: "Intuition" eventually made its way onto a lady's razorblade commercial, where it belongs.


No one will ever touch Elvis Presley's ability to capture the public's imagination or to embarrass them with a fatuous and self-indulgent fall from grace. This country boy from Tupelo hit the world at large like a force of nature, possessed of an innate charisma and uninhibited sexuality that forever changed popular culture. Yet at heart the King was a mama's boy all too willing to build a personal fortune while squandering his considerable reputation on a succession of opportunistic B-movie roles and overly-sentimental country recordings. Dying on his toilet a bloated and sweaty man of just 42, Presley's rise and fall embodies the American Dream in all its grotesque and gaudy splendor.

Gwen Stefani

Remember when Gwen Stefani was actually cool? We know it's a hard thing to recall. No Doubt burst onto the music scene in 1995 with Tragic Kingdom, reviving ska pop and rocking the mainstream music world. They brought something young people with all their teenage angst were craving: a sensation that appeared more authentic than all the other shit flying around. Stefani was a much-needed tough chick with attitude, power, and outfits that ranged from outright masculine to totally ridiculous. Fast forward to the present. Stefani launched her solo career in 2004 and has since sold herself to the world of female pop stardom: she's sexy, shakes her ass, and talks dirty in commercials. Where did our kick-your-ass ska queen go?  

Wyclef Jean

When a massive earthquake struck Haiti in mid-January response around the world was immediate (if not long-lasting). One of the quickest and most popular ways to help that emerged in the immediate aftermath was texting "50505" to YELE, a foundation Wyclef Jean established in 2005 for that exact purpose. Sadly, the whole enterprise was brought into serious question after The Smoking Gun published tax documents showing mismanagement and misappropriation of funds, including an exorbitant salary to Jean's assistant-cum-lover Zakiya Khatou-Chevassus, as well as paying himself for performing at a Yele fundraiser. While some may sell out their music for their bank account, Jean arguably sold out his entire country, either by crook or by naivete.

Black Eyed Peas

Remember ten years ago? They used to sound like a less-interesting Jurassic 5, all granola and shit. Now, well, you know. If you had to boil it down to one nail in the coffin, we'll give you a few hints: her name starts with an F and she's the ultimate overgrown teenybopper. Do 40-year-old women usually rap about their underwear? No.

There are certainly more to be added to the list. Let us know your opinion in the comments below, we'd love to hear it.