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These days, it’s not too hard being the Black Keys. The Ohio-bred duo of singer-guitarist Dan Auerbach and drummer Patrick Carney earned its first No. 1 album this week, as new LP Turn Blue beat out Michael Jackson‘s posthumous Xscape by about 7,000 units. They’ve got Grammys and platinum records, but they’ve never lost their snarky, smart-aleck roots. The Black Keys have beefed and sparred with far more tormentors than your average rock band. As history tells us, their fights tend to conveniently coincide with new album cycles. And their targets are often hefty ones — major corporations, Michael Jackson and an artist who wishes he was Michael Jackson.
Here are the Black Keys’ six most legendary, internet-famous beefs:
1. The Keys vs. Justin Bieber
TMZ shoved a mic in Carney’s face following the 2013 Grammys and opened up a big, stinkin’ rockist vs. poptimist can of worms. When a journalist asked if Justin Bieber should feel burned for not being nominated or invited to perform, Carney responded, “He’s rich, right? Grammys are for, like, music, not for money … and he’s making a lot of money. He should be happy, I guess.”
Bieber fired back to his (at the time) 34 million Twitter followers, “the black keys drummer should be slapped around haha.” After that, Beliebers with handles like @HolyBieberSwag_ and @SwaggyBiebsfo descended on Carney’s account with a deluge of insults, albeit earning him a considerable increase in followers.
In a Rolling Stone interview this month, Carney didn’t exactly backpedal on his diss: “Justin Bieber, like a fucking irresponsible asshole, sicced 40 million Twitter followers on me because I paid him a compliment he didn’t understand. … He shouldn’t be fucking telling his followers to slap me, and then also be doing anti-bullying bullshit. It’s so irresponsible.”
2. The Keys vs. Michael Jackson
When the Black Keys found themselves in competition with the posthumous Michael Jackson album Xscape, Carney had some harsh words for the MJ project. “(It’s) some fucking bullshit that sucks so bad that it took them three years after he died to make it listenable,” Carney told Rolling Stone. “Like he had to be dead for three years for it to be released.” He surmised that the album was put into production because “L.A. Reid needed a new boat.”
3. The Keys vs. Jack White
Last August, TMZ leaked emails sent from Jack White to his ex-wife Karen Elson that showcased White’s strong dislike for the Black Keys. White accuses the Black Keys of copying his style and even tried to have his children removed from classes with the children of Keys’ guitarist-vocalist Dan Auerbach (they attend the same private school in Nashville). In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Carney said White “obviously sounds like an asshole,” though he admitted he felt embarrassed for him, since the emails were never meant to be publicized. Auerbach echoed the same sentiment, heaping blame on TMZ for leaking the sensitive material.
While this one’s pretty much White’s doing, it’s understandable why he thinks the Keys are biting his style. Making blues-influenced rock music? Check. Moving from a Rust Belt city to Nashville to make that music? Check? Producing lots of their favorite artists? Check. If Dan Auerbach starts rocking fedoras and red blazer/pant ensembles, White might need to seek therapy.
4. The Keys vs. Spotify
If you’re listening to the Black Keys’ El Camino or Turn Blue for free, there’s a good chance you’re doing it illegally. That’s because Carney and Auerbach are big opponents of the free streaming services of Spotify and others, whom they feel are cheating artists out of well-deserved cash. In a 2012 Rolling Stone interview, Carney called Spotify board member (and Napster founder) Sean Parker an “asshole,” saying, “that guy has $2 billion that he made from figuring out ways to steal royalties from artists, and that’s the bottom line. … The idea of a streaming service, like Netflix for music, I’m not totally against it. It’s just we won’t put all of our music on it until there are enough subscribers for it to make sense.”
5. The Keys vs. The Home Depot and Pizza Hut
The Black Keys aren’t entirely opposed to cashing some synch checks, as their tunes have soundtracked ads for Victoria’s Secret, Zales, American Express, Subaru and others. But when companies try to use their songs without permission, you better believe Auerbach and Carney will fight back. Back in 2012, they reached settlements with Home Depot and Pizza Hut for misappropriating “Lonely Boy” and “Gold on the Ceiling,” respectively.
6. The Black Keys vs. Insane Clown Posse
The Keys threw some shade at Insane Clown Posse in a 2008 interview with Pitchfork. Upon being told that ICP had sold over six million records, Carney quipped, “There are at least six million retarded people roaming the streets with credit cards.” Auerbach added, “With at least $12.99.”
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.
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