Jonathan Davis on Jonathan Davis: “I cry, I bleed, I take a dump.” The former mortuary student, famous sex-abuse victim, and still-world-famous wigga may have once seemed the poor man’s Kurt Cobain—if you prick him, sure he’ll bleed, but don’t think he won’t also crap his pants. Or leave a coil on your lawn. Cobain had the wherewithballs to claim feminism, but Davis—who broke down sobbing at the end of Korn’s first album, in an agonizing, deeply intimate update of Cobain smashing his guitar during “Endless, Nameless”—was consumed by psychodrama, not to mention smitten with s/m. Nothing heroic about it. Jonathan Davis was pop’s class clown—the scary, Stephen King kind.

A decade later, it seems more fitting to compare Davis to 50 Cent, a kindred unlikely populist with real scars fleshing out his backstory. Davis has become, like 50, Cobain’s anathema: an entertainer. Korn’s seventh album, which follows 2003’s back-to-basics flop
Take a Look in the Mirror, an ’04 cover of Cameo’s “Word Up,” and the departure of guitarist Head to the arms of Christ, finds Davis inhabiting the role as never before. He hired the Matrix, who co-wrote most of the songs, and Nine Inch Nails producer Atticus Ross. Together, they created the bubblegum industrial album of 2005. There’s nothing to be gleaned from the familiar, fragmentary musings on anxiety, religion, and kinks, but the melodies that carry them are a real change. Davis, with his bizarre, nasal intonation, sounds like the noisy goth teen who delights in fucking with mallgoers. The quiet kid lashing out in therapy is gone. “I’m a big rock star, I got a beautiful girl, and they still call me a fag. It’s like high school never ends—the jocks are always on top,” he has said. It’s a truth that bears telling, and retelling.