Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” Lyrics Meaning
Lyrically this is a relatively-complex song, to say the least. For instance, the name of this track was derived from an influential 1960s book by American author Marylin Bender whose title is “The Beautiful People”. This tune was also influenced by the teaching of Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900). Nietzsche was a 19th century philosopher who had many deep things to say concerning just about everything.
But more specifically in that regard, it concerns a semi-complex philosophy he put forth called Übermensch which more or less reads like a classic case of social Darwinism. Marilyn also brings up “capitalism” and “old-fashioned fascism” in the lyrics. And all of these combined come together to form sort of a protest song being relayed by the band.
And for the sake of readability, we will term what it is they are confronting, as Marilyn has, simply as “the culture of beauty”. But by the end of this post, after further analyzing all of the above, it shall be revealed that the main idea which this song is putting forth is a rather-simple one.
The Beautiful People
Within the context of the song (and the book it was derived from), what the titular term refers to, put as simply as possible, is American culture’s obsession with beauty. Or stated differently, let’s say that even everyday people are under a considerable amount of pressure to be physically attractive. And if they don’t live up to that ideology, their self-esteem is most often negatively affected. And this entire state of affairs has Marilyn Manson pissed off.
So the singer commences by artistically taking on the role of culture’s rulers. He does so as a roundabout way of highlighting how the privileged oftentimes view themselves superior to those who are “weak”. Or rather let’s postulate that at this particular point, the overall impression being put forth is that being “beautiful” isn’t so much about your looks as it is the class you belong to. Or rather the American/Western concept of beauty is intermingled with wealth/materialism.
So for the most part, this particular passage can be read as a criticism of capitalist ideology. And while they’re at it, the band concludes the verse by also apparently taking a couple of jabs at organized religion (i.e. Christianity). It is worth stating that organized religion is another system which Manson has been known not to be too particularly fond of (i.e. the title of the album this song is featured on).
The second verse is a bit more-challenging to decipher. But going a bit out on a limb, we’ll say the first half of it may be alluding to the notion that no matter how someone may appear externally, internally we’re all defiled. And the second half is when Marilyn brings up the aforementioned references to “capitalism” and “fascism”. And the vocalist comes off as if he is espousing the latter over the former.
However, all things considered, such will logically be a symbolic as opposed to literal statement. And it appears that what he is actually saying, in layman’s terms so to speak, is that ultimately the culture of beauty will, or maybe can only be overcome by a culture of ruthlessness. Or perhaps he’s just fantasizing about something like that.
Chorus of “The Beautiful People”
Meanwhile the chorus(es) appears to be based on two different concepts. First would be one hinting at the oppressive nature of the culture of beauty. Or stated differently, it would seem that Marilyn Manson equates the pressure for one to always appear beautiful as being akin to some type of captivity or imprisonment. And considering that such a thought process is once again dominant in American/Western society, then by extension the entire culture in and of itself is oppressive.
And secondly, which we can confidently conclude is the thesis statement of “The Beautiful People”, is the assertion that the culture of beauty is vain. That’s the concept which all of the metaphors and philosophical backgrounds and even the imagery on the music video, where Marilyn Manson appears as distastefully as possible, is ultimately meant to lead the audience back to. And it can be further said, taking the content of the intro into consideration for instance, that that vocalist actually hates individuals who operate under said mode of thinking.
Marilyn Manson performed this song during the 1997 MTV VMAs. During that same ceremony the track’s music video, as put together by director Florida Sigismondi, was nominated for multiple awards. Said clip was filmed in an old alcohol distillery located in Toronto. And just to note, the video utilizes the radio edit of this song which is devoid of curse words.
Writing and Recording of “The Beautiful People”
This song was written by Marilyn Manson (lyrics) alongside Jeordie White (aka Twiggy Ramirez, music). Manson also had a hand in producing the track. He did so in conjunction with Dave Ogilvie and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails’ fame.
Marilyn Manson, once again in conjunction with Ramirez as well as another former bandmate, Ginger Fish, recorded the original demo of “The Beautiful People” inside of a hotel room.
Release Date of “The Beautiful People”
Labels Interscope Records and Nothing Records put this track out on 22 September 1996. They did so for the song to serve as the lead single from Marilyn Manson’s second album, “Antichrist Superstar “(1996). The project made it to number 3 on the Billboard 200.
This is considered to be one of the best songs in Marilyn Manson’s catalog and even the track that put the band on the map. For instance, it topped the UK Rock and Metal Chart. It also broke the top 20 of the UK Singles Chart, in addition to being certified silver across the pond. It also reached number two on RPM’s Rock/Alternative Chart (Canada) and achieved gold status in Sweden.
The intro to this song features a short speech sample by Tex Watson. For the record, Watson was part of the infamous Manson Family of murderers from late-1960s California. In 1971, he was convicted of murdering seven people. He barely escaped execution and received a life sentence instead. And as of the year 2020 he’s still locked up at the old age of 75.
Variants of “The Beautiful People”
Besides a ‘clean’ radio edit, there are also other versions of “The Beautiful People” in existence. One is featured on Marilyn Manson’s “Remix & Repent” (1997) EP. That version is referred to as “The Horrible People”.
Another, which is called “The Not-So-Beautiful People”, was used by the WWF in 1997. A different incarnation of the song was also used by its successor, the WWE, around the turn of the century. There is also a slightly-modified version of the original featured on “Lest We Forget” (2004), a Marilyn Manson compilation album.
Appearance in Video Games
This track has been featured on a number of popular music-based videogames. For example, it appears on “Guitar Hero 5” (2009) and “Rock Band 3” (2010).
Covers of “The Beautiful People”
The Nine Inch Nails (2000) are on record as having covered this song, as are the following:
- Rammstein (2012)
- Johnny Depp (2014)
- Cyndi Lauper (2019)
And all of the above did so alongside Marilyn Manson. Other notable artists who have covered “The Beautiful People” inlude Christina Aguilera (2010) and Avril Lavigne (2011).
And interesting to note is that at one point during the late-1990s, Manson was actually discussing doing a remix of this song alongside none other than West Coast rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg.