It’s only in the past year or so that I’ve fallen in love with the musical genius of Ronnie Radke. I have to thank a friend, who actually doesn’t much care for Ronnie, for introducing me to him when he referenced one of Ronnie’s oldest songs with the timeless line “Why do good girls like bad guys?” When he said that, I realized I didn’t actually know that song- though I certainly recognized the sentiment- nor who Ronnie really was. Cue quick Wikipedia read-through, & I swiftly filed Ronnie away under the category of rock stars who are very much not my type (musically or personally). Why was I so quick to reject him? Well, his Wikipedia page discusses his imprisonment, drug use, accusations of domestic violence (never proven), & a myriad of other less than flattering situations, so can you really blame me for saying “No thanks, not someone I’m interested in learning more about or whose music I care to know”?
In any case, over the next few weeks for some reason I kept running into Ronnie’s name & decided to check out some of his music as well as some of his interviews. I soon came to realize that I had judged him far too quickly- & far too harshly. I still remember the first time I listened to The Drug in Me is Reimagined & asking myself “How is this the same guy I read about on Wikipedia & dismissed so quickly?” The gorgeous piano ballad that builds up into a serious rock opera is absolutely brilliant, & suddenly I knew I couldn’t ignore Ronnie anymore. Someone who could take one of his old pop-punk type songs & transform it- with the exact same lyrics- into a rock opera just HAD to be someone worth knowing more about. Then came the interviews Ronnie has done with Ryan J Downey over the years, & those REALLY changed my mind about him. These are not your typical rock star interviews- they’re more akin to therapy sessions than traditional interviews. Some date back as far as 2013- not long before his daughter was born- & others are as recent as 2021. You can find them all on YouTube, & I strongly encourage you to check them out if you want to have a better understanding of who Ronnie is. Or if you just want to hear the story of someone who has overcome some pretty insane obstacles in his life- some of which I will discuss below.
So, on that note, here are 10 reasons why I- a proverbial good girl- like Ronnie Radke- a proverbial bad guy- though I like to think these reasons are far less superficial than one usually assumes when someone uses that phrase.
- He can make almost any kind of music. I think the only thing I haven’t heard Ronnie do is a straight-up country song (though the closing song on Fashionably Late definitely has some country vibes). From the insanely fast rapping on his brand new song Watch the World Burn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qMXESlny4-I) to the piano ballad/rock opera of the aforementioned The Drug in Me is Reimagined (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B2cbhYihBWY) & I’m Not a Vampire Revamped (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2nWmBJxW9q0), the man is a true musical genius. You want pop punk? Check out Fashionably Late (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPoaKxm4wDg). You want more traditional rock/metal? Check out Zombified (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YDDz1Er2IXA). You want rap + metal breakdowns with operatic vocals sprinkled in? Check out the aforementioned new song Watch the World Burn or Voices in My Head (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7_e_NY-f3g). I could go on & on, but if it weren’t for his distinctive voice, it would at times be hard to believe that the same man is writing & performing all these songs- but he is. How many other bands can lay claim to a singer with such versatile abilities? Not many. That’s not a diss on anyone else. But whatever you say about Ronnie, you cannot objectively say he isn’t talented.
- He has overcome an incredibly painful childhood. As is referenced often in his lyrics, Ronnie’s mother left him, his brother, & their dad when Ronnie was just a toddler, largely because of her drug addiction. He has had essentially no relationship with her from there on out. Obviously, this led to some major issues in his life- & probably still does. But he’s the first to admit that. In Just Like You he sings “You don’t wanna be too close to me ’cause you might see my broken heart… I’m just a boy who’s angry at his mom.” In interviews & in his recently released autobiography (cowritten by Ryan J Downey, the interviewer I mentioned earlier), Ronnie has talked about how it took him a long time to learn how to have healthy relationships with women because of his relationship- or lack thereof- with his mother. It’s this kind of insight & willingness to examine his own past that has led to the more mature version of Ronnie we see today. Which leads me right into the next point.
- Despite a litany of toxic relationships– which no doubt inspired Bad Girls Club (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TzLZN1K-PUE– side note: Ronnie now calls this song “cringey” but I must confess I have a soft spot for it- it’s a brilliant way to show that women can be toxic too)- Ronnie has now managed to establish & maintain what by all reports is a very healthy long term relationship. Since at least 2019 he has been in a serious relationship with Saraya Bevis- aka Paige of WWE. I gained a whole new respect for Ronnie when I watched an interview Saraya did in which she discussed their relationship & how he helped her achieve sobriety, took care of her after her neck surgery, & generally encouraged her to be the healthiest version of herself (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A-wQ7hwGZ_M). Perhaps most impressive was the fact that after years of being good friends, she finally confessed to Ronnie her true feelings for him, but because of a recent breakup she had experienced, Ronnie encouraged her to wait a while before beginning a relationship with him because he didn’t want to hurt her, nor did he want to risk their relationship not working out because he wanted it as much as she did. Especially considering how absolutely gorgeous Saraya is, the fact that Ronnie had that kind of foresight & self control is impressive. And it paid off! Because after she took some time to heal, as he had suggested, they did end up together & have been together ever since. Maybe some people preferred the wilder, womanizing Ronnie, but I much prefer this version.
- As I’ve already referenced, Ronnie is not afraid to admit his past mistakes. Whether it’s confessing that he now finds songs like Bad Girls Club & Alone (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcbOfVKSMkA) “cringey,” calling himself an idiot for throwing a mic stand into a crowd, expressing extreme regret over the fight that eventually led to his imprisonment (see below), or admitting embarrassment about his past Tweets, this is a guy who is not afraid to say he’s made some major mistakes. Considering some of the things he’s done, I couldn’t admire him the way I do if he weren’t capable of such honesty.
- He overcame imprisonment. Yes, Ronnie went to prison. No, he isn’t a murderer as the internet loves to claim. He was involved in a fight in the desert outside Vegas in which someone else fired a weapon that killed another man. Because Ronnie was involved in setting up the fight & because he had brass knuckles in his pocket (that incidentally were never used), he was arrested for various charges. But what actually sent him to prison for 2.5 years was violating his probation related to the previous charges. This happened largely because of his drug use & the fact that he was touring with his band & inevitably missed parole check-ins. As you might expect, while he was in prison, Ronnie’s original band Escape the Fate fired him. I can’t say I truly blame them in light of the circumstances- after all Ronnie was an addict when he went to prison, so he was a mess all around. In any case, Ronnie used his time in prison to form a new band (Falling in Reverse) & write what would become their debut album The Drug in Me is You. Obviously that was no small feat & most people in his situation would have just given up on their dreams. Not Ronnie. He just used it as fuel to light the fire under his own feet. Oh yeah, have I mentioned that Falling in Reverse ended up being a way bigger band than Escape the Fate? Yep.
- Speaking of drugs, Ronnie has overcome opiate addiction. He used, or at least tried, other drugs too, but opiates, including heroin, were his drug of choice. Experiencing opiate withdrawal in prison was no picnic but Ronnie did it, & furthermore while in prison he realized that drugs weren’t making him more creative or fueling his artistic dreams. In fact, they were only having a deleterious effect on his life & career. Despite the many temptations I’m sure he has faced since his release, he has remained sober ever since. In fact, he cut out alcohol entirely a few years ago too, even though he had never had the same struggles with that as with opiates. But again, he realized it was an unhealthy distraction from greater things. I suppose some people like their rock stars to have crazy tales of drunkenness & debauchery- but not me. I prefer mine smart & sober. They make better music that way, & they’re a lot less likely to suffer an early death.
- He says whatever he wants & doesn’t bow to political correctness. Just check out the lyrics to Zombified if you want Ronnie’s feelings on cancel culture. He is someone who even the rock world has tried to cancel at times. After all, with his past he is very easy to vilify. It’s sad to see how even after being sober for years, the media has often continued to refer to him as a drug user- as if that’s all he’s ever been or ever will be! Are there times when I don’t agree with everything Ronnie says or does? Of course. But I don’t even agree with my own HUSBAND all the time. I can’t expect rock stars to always think the same as I do! That would be boring. I’ll give you a very timely example. On the recent Shiprocked cruise, Ronnie called out Atilla frontman Chris Fronzak. I’m not going to go into detail, but I found most of the “beef” between these two to be quite childish & silly. Having said that, I also don’t put it past Ronnie (or Chris) to have ignited this “beef” just to get their names in the headlines right before the release of the band’s newest song. I mean, it’s free publicity. I might not necessarily approve of the tactic- but I can’t deny the genius there because it certainly worked!
- Despite the original tension between the bands- very understandable of course- Ronnie has actually made up with his former band Escape the Fate. They have actually toured together many times. In fact, they’re on tour together right now. I’m seeing them both this weekend, & I can’t wait! (That is, if I can get over this miserable strep throat that has made me far, far sicker than I was with Covid last year. Sighhhh…)
- Ronnie is proof that we CAN escape our fate (yes, that’s a reference to his original band’s name). Here’s a man from a broken family- whose MOTHER abandoned him- who ended up addicted to opiates & in prison by the age of 25. And yet, here he is- at almost 40- more successful than he’s ever been! He’s co-headlining a tour with Papa Roach for the second time in the past few months & they’re selling out arenas left & right. His last 3 singles have all hit #1 on rock radio, despite being very much outside of the typical rock radio format. His latest music video hit 1 million views in 24 hrs (maybe less). He’s published his autobiography. He has stayed sober for over a decade, & despite the fact that their relationship ended poorly, he has maintained a healthy, working relationship with his daughter’s mother & has always been a part of his daughter’s life, regardless of any issues between him & her mother. Whether you like Ronnie or his music or not, you can’t deny that he has truly turned his life around. There are so many points in his life when Ronnie could have just given up & consigned himself to his natural “fate,” but he never has. And THAT is inspiring!
- As a natural follow up to the last point, Ronnie is proof that people CAN change, that we can in fact evolve into better versions of ourselves, regardless of our past or the obstacles we face. I think it’s fair to say that the Ronnie of the past decade or so is not the same Ronnie the world knew in his Escape the Fate days, or even his early Falling in Reverse days. (I wouldn’t even like him if he hadn’t evolved.) He has changed so much about himself- everything from his hair/fashion to his on-stage persona to his musical style. Watching his old videos, it’s hard to believe that the Ronnie of the 2020s is the same man as the 2006 Ronnie with Nikki Sixx style hair & eyeliner. It wasn’t a bad look, especially at the time, but I much prefer the more natural look he’s going with these days. The long black hair- that isn’t teased up like the 80s- the much plainer clothes, & the blacked out tattoos all serve to showcase his Native American features that make him naturally gorgeous (e.g. the shape of his eyes, his high cheekbones, his elegant skin tone- he is part Blackfoot Native American). Ronnie will be the first to admit that his older appearance & even some of his older songs make him cringe. But hey, who among us doesn’t have parts of our past that make us cringe? On a more serious note, while Ronnie has incorporated various music styles for most of his career, it’s in the past decade that he has really perfected the ability to blend everything from rap to metal to rock opera. He is equal parts Eminem, Corey Taylor, & Freddie Mercury. I realize some people find that disconcerting or confusing, but I find it inspiring. Most importantly, Ronnie has learned how to apologize for his past mistakes, how to analyze his own behavior, & how to better control his temper. No doubt all of these things have contributed to the greater & greater success he is now seeing. He still makes mistakes, as we all do. But at the end of the day, he is continually learning, growing, & trying to be better. Combine his messy past with his current success, & it’s safe to say that Ronnie is one of the most relatable rock stars of the day. It’s so easy at times to condemn him, but when you really think about it, most of the time he’s likely no worse than the average person- he just gets a lot more media attention for his mistakes than most of us do! After all, as his own song says, “I am aware that I am an asshole/I really don’t care about all of that though/I’m living my life the way that I want to/And you can’t deny/That honestly I’m just like you.”