Keith Richards calls pop music “rubbish”, dismisses “synthesized muzak” and doesn’t get rap: “I don’t really like to hear people yelling at me”

Keith Richards
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Don’t get angry with me,” sings Mick Jagger on The Rolling Stones’ latest single, and the good news for him is that guitarist Keith Richards seems to be directing his current ire elsewhere.

In a new interview with The Telegraph (paywall), The Human Riff takes aim at various musical targets, including pop music, synthesized “muzak” and rap.

The pop genre actually gets off pretty lightly. In fact, Richards prefaces his complaints about it by saying “I don’t want to start complaining about pop music.”

But he can’t resist: “It’s always been rubbish. I mean, that’s the point of it,” Richards argues. “They make it as cheap and as easy as possible and therefore it always sounds the same; there’s very little feel in it.”

Next up, music made electronically: “I like to hear music by people playing instruments,” states Richards. “That is, I don’t like to hear plastic synthesised muzak, as it used to be known, what you hear in ­elevators, which is now the par for the course.”

Perhaps Richards’ greatest beef, however, seems to be with hip-hop, which he appears to suggest isn’t even music at all. “I don’t really like to hear people yelling at me and telling me it’s music, aka rap,” he makes clear. “I can get enough of that without ­leaving my house.”

This isn’t the first time Richards has expressed his distaste for rap music. In 2015, he told the New York Daily News (via Rolling Stone): “Rap - so many words, so little said. What rap did that was impressive was to show there are so many tone-deaf people out there. All they need is a drum beat and somebody yelling over it and they’re happy. There’s an enormous market for people who can’t tell one note from another.”

In the same interview, Richards was also rather dismissive of heavy metal: “Millions are in love with Metallica and Black Sabbath,” he said. “I just thought they were great jokes”.

Before you go away with the impression that Richards doesn’t like listening to anything, though, we should say that he does tell The Telegraph that he’s a fan of blues, jazz and classical. 

Of course, The Stones have plenty of new music of their own on the way - new album Hackney Diamonds will be released on 20 October, and we’ll get to hear another track from the record, Sweet Sounds Of Heaven, on Thursday. This features both Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder, and ahead of the full reveal we’ve been treated to a 15-second preview.

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Ben Rogerson

I’m the Deputy Editor of MusicRadar, having worked on the site since its launch in 2007. I previously spent eight years working on our sister magazine, Computer Music. I’ve been playing the piano, gigging in bands and failing to finish tracks at home for more than 30 years, 24 of which I’ve also spent writing about music and the ever-changing technology used to make it.