Ask any fan of 80s metal music about Michael Sweet and expect one of two reactions. They will say either Sweet is a visionary or a joke, maybe a bit of both. As the lead singer of pioneering Christian hair metal band Stryper, Sweet practically invented a genre to call his own. While metalheads are split over whether or not to include the yellow and black attack among the pantheon of hair metal gods, Sweet never let the debate keep him down or hold him back.
In the 2000s, Sweet went on to front a resurrected Boston, reaching back even further in time to garner another generation of rock fans. And all along the way he continued to compose and produce a relatively steady stream of rock tracks. He was no superstar filling stadiums, but he kept his fans rocking for decades. Some have dared call Sweet the most productive musician in the biz.
While there’s already no shortage of reasons why Sweet is a divisive figure among rock fandom – can lovers of Iron Maiden really peaceably coexist with the guy who sang To Hell With the Devil?
Sweet, meanwhile is fully embracing both his hair metal roots and his iconoclastic pedigree. A track on his most recent release pokes fun at aging rockers who switch over to a country sound trying to stay relevant. This scenario continues to play out, to hit and miss results. Bret Michaels largely missed. Bon Jovi hit early with the Blaze of Glory soundtrack before finding renewed crossover appeal thanks to duets with Jennifer Nettles.
The latest entry into the Rock Goes Country Songbook? Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler who just dropped a bluegrass and rockabilly influenced album and kicked off a smaller venue tour hoping to engage curious country fans.
There’s no doubt Tyler will get more press than Sweet this go round, but both men have produced plenty of ammo for all sides to continue waging this war of tastes, nostalgia, and the struggle to determine How It Should Be.
David Milberg is an experienced credit analyst in NYC.