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Morrissey: A Musical Enigma

By Edited Nov 20, 2016 1 3

Completely unfamiliar to many, the object of absolute adoration for others.


Morrissey isn’t the sort of singer people either love or hate, instead he’s the sort of singer that people either love or don’t know exists. Morrissey occupies a sort of netherworld in the music industry. His music is catchy and memorable, but far from top 40. Morrissey lyrics are often regarded as morose but are in fact much more versatile than many realize. His style is attractive and alluring, yet something that many just don’t get. Morrissey thrives in that special realm in the entertainment world where only a particular niche is appealed to, but that niche is so devoted that the fans end up becoming referred to as the proverbial cult following.

Although he can play the guitar and piano Morrissey is primarily a singer, songwriter, and lyricists. Yet, as most successful singers, he’s not just a good voice, he’s a personality, a unique character, and ultimately a mode of expression. Herein lies the key to understanding Morrissey. Yes his voice is resonant and appealing, yes his musical style is exceptional and worthy, but his real appeal is his sort of expression, an expression that numerous fans don’t simply enjoy hearing, but feeling. In other words, his fans find a vicarious sort of expression of themselves through Morrissey, in both his unconventional music and magnetic personality.

Unpredictable and Unclassifiable

All successful entertainers of course have a remarkable appeal to their fans. Many draw people from certain, obvious demographics. Justin Bieber for example, is completely suited and packaged for teenage girls. Taylor Swift appeals to both teenage and young adult women while at the same time being irresistibly sexy to men. The demographics of these and most entertainers are clearly understood from the beginning and catered to. Morrissey however was never predictable, nor classifiable. Starting in the 80's with the English band The Smiths, Morrissey’s creative expression was mostly appreciated by the college and alternative rock crowd. Through the years of his solo career however his music has thrived beyond the alternative genre, sometimes bordering on mainstream music in Europe  and often feeling delightfully underground in the U.S. Ultimately, Morrissey has developed his own distinctive classification of music and style. For those who don’t get it, he’s just sort of odd and rather depressing. What else could top 40 listeners make of a man who sings such songs as “Girlfriend in a Coma”, “Hairdresser on Fire”, and “Unlovable”. For those who truly do get it however, Morrissey is something close to a demigod. 

Morrissey's Fans

Just who does “get” Morrissey? Just who is it who fills the sold out concert halls where he performs? Just who is it who finds it irresistible to rush the stage when he is singing to make some sort of contact with the man? Interestingly enough, mainly men, and by now, a lot of middle aged men. Is it a gay thing? This is what many have guessed but most of these men seem to be straight and are often married and settled. As for Morrissey himself? As with every other realm, he doesn’t seem to fit any category. He’s completely vague about his own sexuality and claims, and it has been verified by those close to him, to be absolutely celibate.

morissey a musical enigma

In the end, no one can fully understand or describe Morrissey’s appeal and this itself is perhaps the greatest part of his appeal, to remain an enigma, to write and sing songs with such a distinctive style that completely mesmerize his adorers and while baffling everyone else.



Jan 20, 2012 1:56am
i loved the Smiths in the 80s although, woefully, lost track of Morrisey once i went to college. you're right--his appeal really is hard to put your finger on but it exists all the same. i always found his music with the Smiths to be cathartic and, well, so very cool! great article!
Jan 20, 2012 2:22am
Moz still rocks solo (I still crack up at "You're the One for Me, Fattie"), but my all-time favorite Smith's tune has got to be "Girlfriend in a Coma". Morrissey's a rare bird indeed, and maybe this piece can get him some new fans (and he at least is aging gracefully in terms of his behavior)! Good job. A thumb's up.
Jan 20, 2012 10:51am
Thanks, and "Girlfriend in a Coma" is definitely the song that first turned me on to Morrissey. Humorous and sad at the same time, a wonderful voice, and an unforgettable song. There's just something about his music that grabs me deep down. Anytime I listen to him it takes me back to certain times in my life like nothing else can. He also brings out the loner-rebel in me.
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