The world is still reacting to last night’s news of Scott Weiland’s death at the age of 48, and as the mourning process continues, many rock fans are coming together to discuss his legacy as the leader of Stone Temple Pilots and Velvet Revolver, as well as share some of their Weiland moments on record. The world will remember Weiland best for STP songs like “Plush,” “Vasoline,” “Interstate Love Song” and “Sour Girl,” but let’s take a moment to honor “Sex Type Thing,” the second track on the first Stone Temple Pilots album (1992's Core) and perhaps Weiland’s most devastatingly honest musical moment.
Full disclosure: this article was inspired by a Tumblr post on Friday morning by Rolling Stone online producer and Pitchfork contributor Suzy Exposito, who eloquently wrote about “Sex Type Thing” as a song that acknowledges the predatory power of masculinity by having Weiland embody a scarily aggressive role. Throughout the song, Weiland weaves his way through huge riffs and crunching drums and sneers lines like, “I said ya shouldn’t have worn that dress!” and “I ain’t, I ain’t, I ain’t/Buying into your apathy,” presumably to a female subject. It’s a song that chronicles a pursuit without consent, as Weiland dons the mask of a man who will stop at nothing to get under a woman’s skin.
The first five times I heard this song on modern-rock radio, I learned the hooks without paying attention to the lyrics. The next five times I heard “Sex Type Thing,” I thought that Weiland and the song were gross and offensive. Then, like Exposito, I read up on Weiland, and realized that he was personally affected by sexual assault, as his girlfriend had been raped by a group of men. Weiland had written the song to advocate against date rape, by depicting how easy it is for men to abuse power and convince themselves that assault can be justified. With the layers of the song peeled back, I embraced it.
Would “Sex Type Thing” have resonated had Weiland been singing from third-person point of view? Had Weiland explicitly spelled out that he was playing a villain, would the song have been as effective? In both cases, probably not. Stone Temple Pilots painted in the subtlest shades to underline the horror of this type of attack, and trusted its audience to see beyond the bombastic rock riffs and into the abuse of power that Weiland describes.
“It’s easy for anyone, survivor or not, to say that rape is objectively bad,” Exposito writes. “It’s a whole other, scarier thing for somebody to acknowledge that they have the capacity to be horribly violent, that they can take on such a threatening persona as well as they can reject or suppress it altogether.” It’s worth noting that Weiland and STP released this song in 1992, at a time when the rock community was not too far removed from hair metal and lunkheaded songs titled “Girls, Girls, Girls.” Stone Temple Pilots did not have to record a song as harrowingly realistic this, but took it upon themselves to do so.
For those who remember Scott Weiland as some Hard Rock Guy and drug addict—do yourself a favor, and listen to “Sex Type Thing.” Its message rings true decades later, and will continue to do so in a world that sadly no longer includes Scott Weiland.