28.08,2014. Shanghai, China
HIM Wings of a Butterfly live at Sonisphere, Knebworth, UK, 2014
The Few, the Proud, the Strange: HIM’s Fans
In this article, I will discuss the fans of the fandom itself. If there’s any piece I would advise reading thoroughly, it’s this one; I make generalizations and use hedged language in order to make my point at the end.
That being said, who are fans of HIM? In all honesty, they tend to be female. Though I have seen guys at HIM concerts, the crowd tends to have two X-chromosomes. These guys might genuinely like HIM; it’s an entirely plausible occurrence. Or, these guys might just tag along with their girlfriends due to a combination of obligation, force, and love; the motive here then is scoring boyfriend points, hoping to cash in for sex points. A male friend of mine offered to go with me to my HIM show for reasons I cannot seem to figure out. He doesn’t seem like the kind of guy to listen to HIM because HIM is well… girly. I could not imagine my blond behemoth of a friend towering over squealing girls, rocking out to songs with titles like “Join Me in Death” and “Passion’s Killing Floor.”
But is HIM girly because of their fan base or because of their music and persona? The rise of HIM in America is mostly due to entering the scene at the right time; HIM had success in Europe fifteen years prior. Obviously HIM had fans before Dark Light, but why? How is HIM the most successful Finnish band ever?
In the unofficial documentary, Poison Arrow, fans, friends, and music know-it-alls alike were asked to describe HIM in one word. The answers ranged from “successful” and “flexible” to “sexy,” “mystic,” and “romantic.” Take a wild guess which gender answered which words. Every time a female fan talked about HIM, her smile grew, eyes shined, and cheeks burned red.
Music journalist Natasha Scharf speculates, there are “two things that got people interested. The first is Ville.” Ville Valo is the singer and is the frontman both on and off stage. Ville appeared on the first three of the band’s eight-CD discography, making him a logo for the band. Interviews tend to also center on him. Scharf says he has that “soft, pretty boy [image], but at the same time, [a] kind of dangerous [image] because he’s always smoking and he loves his Jack Daniel’s… Girls love that kind of thing.” He is tall, has a baritone-pitched voice, and is jovial in interviews. He takes off – or rather, took off – his shirt during shows to expose his heavily tattooed body. My favorite reaction when asked about Ville’s attractiveness has to be the non-word exclamatory this girl does.
It seems that sex appeal has a lot to do with HIM’s appeal among girls. There’s a long history of female fans being attracted to the male frontman. It is impossible to argue that mainstream success has nothing to do with attractiveness; that’s not how marketing works. In the case of HIM’s music, Valo is the sole lyricist. His songs are semi-autobiographical about his love life. He’s not afraid to express his feelings and be sensitive. He is well read and poetic (or cryptic depending on your reading of his lyrics). This combination makes Valo a knockout for girls who like a gothic Jim Morrison.
And is being known for having a large female fan base bad? Not at all. It sure as hell worked for the Beatles, so why can’t it work for five guys from Helsinki? HIM has five platinum albums in their home country. They are the first Finnish band to receive a gold status in the U.S. They sell out tickets for their shows around the world. These achievements are thanks to the fans themselves. In terms of musical talent, Mikko “Linde” Lindström, the guitarist, was a member of Ian Gillan and Tony Iommi’s supergroup WhoCares. The band received a nomination for “Best Boxed/Special Limited Edition packaging” for Venus Doom at the 50th annual Grammy Awards. Their recent tour had their first ever stops in South America and China, places they will most likely return to in the future.
Of course, the claims about fans I make in this article are just claims – I am speculating based on personal experience and some research. These are broad generalizations (no pun intended). There are girls who like the band solely because of how sexy they think Ville is. There are girls who find the guys unattractive. There are guys who have crushes on the band members and guys who want to be them, not be with them.
What I truly believe is that fans have made personal connections to the music and the lyrics. If the band were solely riding high only on Valo’s sex appeal, the band would’ve ended years ago. They would have been a flash in the pan with the emergence of newer, “sexier” bands. HIM would not have survived 2005, the topic of my next article.
Why did I choose this song?: This was the song that pulled HIM out of Finland and into Europe. Germany in particular latched onto HIM and this song. It was the first song many European HIM fans heard from this band due to its use on movie soundtracks, commercials, and airplay. “Join Me” is also one of the best-selling singles in Finnish music history. Also, this piece is about fans, so a song with “join me” in its title is appropriate.
deep shadows and brilliant highlights
released: august 27, 2001