Phil Collen says today’s bands lack “star power” and argues that “the TikTok and YouTube crowd” are part of the problem

Phil Collen performing live
(Image credit: Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Live Nation)

Phil Collen was recently asked to name an artist that Def Leppard could “pass the baton” to after he and his bandmates called it a day. He was unable to provide any suggestions, and he believes today’s rock bands lack the “star power” of older groups.

Collen’s comments came while he was in conversation with Listen Next!, with the Def Leppard electric guitar star revealing he’s still waiting to hear a band that he believes matches the caliber of his contemporaries.

And, during his observation, Collen hypothesized that the “problem” is partially down to the “TikTok and YouTube crowd”.

“I don't know,” Collen said in response to the original question. “I'm still waiting, actually. You hear a lot of stuff out there, but it's few and far between. There's a problem, I think, and I think it's the TikTok and YouTube crowd.

“When bands or artists would write before,” he continued, “it would be because they wanted to be an artist and wanted to express themselves, and write songs and share them and go, 'Wow. Check this out,' as opposed to, 'Wow. Look at me. Please love me.’

“I don't wanna sound like an old dude, but that's what I noticed. And I'm still waiting for someone like Prince or [Led] Zeppelin or something that has a bit more something to it. There's very little stuff.”

Collen didn’t reserve his praise for Prince and Led Zeppelin, though, and went on to laud the “star power” of bands like Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Sex Pistols, Nirvana and Foo Fighters.

He continued, “Metallica’s great; when you see them, there's a big difference. Guns N' Roses are awesome. I don't see that anymore. I don't see that star power. I don't see that kind of thing. So, that's what I'm waiting for. 

“There hasn't been any of that. Nirvana was… Obviously, Foo Fighters is an offshoot of Nirvana. And I love the Foo Fighters; I think they're great. But when Nirvana came out, I was, like, 'Woah, this is amazing.' The Sex Pistols: amazing. But I'm just waiting.”

Collen also went on to discuss what this means for future rock festival headliners, suggesting that the music scene is currently lacking “inspired” music and instead filled with “derivative stuff”.

Phil Collen of Def Leppard performs onstage during the 2019 iHeartRadio Music Festival at T-Mobile Arena on September 21, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

(Image credit: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for iHeartMedia)

“That question comes up quite a bit,” Collen commented. “People go, 'What about this?' And I don't hear anything. I hear derivative stuff and stuff that's not inspired. 

“You wanna get inspired,” he added. “It's like in every genre of music. You listen to the old R&B – you listen to Stevie Wonder, you listen to Marvin Gaye and stuff like that – nothing is like that anymore. 

“I think we've kind of comfortably got into something else that doesn't really demand that kind of excellence. It's rare that that kind of talent comes along.”

Earlier this year, Def Leppard released Diamond Star Halos, their first studio album in seven years. The band is currently in the midst of a co-headlining tour with Mötley Crüe, Poison and Joan Jett & The Blackhearts.

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Matt Owen

Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.