“The Beautiful People” is a song by American rock band Marilyn Manson. It was released as the lead single from the band’s second studio album, Antichrist Superstar, in September 1996. The song was written by frontman Marilyn Manson and bass player Twiggy Ramirez and was produced by Trent Reznor, Dave Ogilvie and Manson himself.
The song was actually written in 1994 with Manson writing the lyrics and Ramirez the music. The original demo version was written in a hotel room during a tour and recorded to four-track by Manson, Ramirez, and drummer Ginger Fish. Manson recalled to Kerrang! magazine in May 2005:
I write phrases constantly and I have about 15 different notebooks going at the same time. I’ll write lots of different things in each book. I have to lay them all out in the same place and pull things from each of them to write a song. I was on tour and I remember recording it on my four-track with Twiggy and my drummer Ginger in a hotel room. It was somewhere in the South, which is ironic. I remember playing the drum beat on the floor and then having my drummer duplicate that on the drum machine. It happened in one day pretty much. It happened maybe two-and-a-half years before ‘Antichrist Superstar’ was released, and if I played you that four-track recording, it would sound identical.
The title of the song comes from Marilyn Bender’s 1967 book The Beautiful People, which exposed the world of scandal within the “jet-set” 60s lifestyle and the culture of beauty as it pertained to fashion and politics. The phrase itself was popularized by Vogue magazine in the early 60s and was particularly used to describe the Kennedy family, a frequent source of inspiration in Marilyn Manson’s work. Again, in the interview released to Kerrang! Manson said:
The term “The Beautiful People” was inspired by a book that came out in the mid-’60s. It was about the Kennedys, politics and fashion at the time. The whole culture of beauty as being created at the time. We live in a world where the culture of beauty is taken for granted, but it didn’t exist in the same way in the ’60s. Then Charles Manson and his “family” took that culture, hated it and reacted against it. In many ways his reaction is the same as mine, but I’m playing with it from both sides. I make things glamorous as a revolt to glamour.
The song is preceded with a few seconds of backwards-guitar feedback and electronic noise. It includes a heavily distorted spoken sample by Tex Watson, a member of the so-called Charles Manson’s “family”, stating “[We would] swoop down on the town. . . [and] kill everyone that wasn’t beautiful“.
Lyrically, it is intertwined with the Antichrist Superstar album’s overarching theme, a semi-narrative examination of the Nietzschean Übermensch. Within this context, “The Beautiful People” deals explicitly with the destructive manifestation of the Will to Power (“There’s no time to discriminate / hate every motherfucker that’s in your way“), while also exploring Nietzsche’s view of master-slave morality (“It’s not your fault that you’re always wrong / The weak ones are there to justify the strong“), in particular the concept’s connection with Social Darwinism and its relation to various political and economic systems such as capitalism and fascism.
According to Manson in CMJ, 1997:
“The Beautiful People is a statement on the fascism of beauty. With commercialism and television, everything’s completely dictated to you, and if you don’t fit into the status quo. You’re made to feel not as good as everyone else.”
He commented on this, furthermore, in the Rolling Stone State of the Union address in 1997, stating how young adults feel extremely pressured to fit into a particular mold in order to be successful as well as beautiful.
I don’t want you and I don’t need you
don’t bother to resist I’ll beat you
It’s not your fault that you’re always wrong
the weak ones are there to justify the strong
the beautiful people the beautiful people
it’s all relative to the size of your steeple
you can’t see the forest for the trees
you can’t smell
your own shit on your knees
Hey you what do you see?
something beautiful something free?
hey you, are you trying to be mean?
if you live with apes man, it’s hard to be clean
there’s no time to discriminate,
hate every motherfucker
that’s in your way
the worms will live in every host
it’s hard to pick which one they eat most
the horrible people, the horrible people
it’s as anatomic as the size of your steeple
capitalism has made it this way,
will take it away
(in the censored version “motherfucker” is replaced with “other hater”)