Artist of the Week: Gossip

gossip

In a celebrity-obsessed age of product placement and plastic pop stars, Gossip are arguably the realest band in rock 'n roll. Led by the Arkansas-born Beth Ditto, an often naked, unapologetically overweight outspoken feminist named NME's coolest person in rock, Gossip have been breaking boundaries with their fiery soul-punk since 1999. Not because they're bleeding heart activists (although they do wear their politics on their sleeves) or out to shock people, but because they just are who they are -- not out to please anybody or make a million fans -- totally real. As guitarist Brace Paine, original drummer Kathy Mendonca (now replaced by Hannah Blilie) and Beth put it, way back in the beginning, "We started a band 'cause we were bored. Our mission is to make you dance, and if you're not gonna dance, just stay at home and listen to the oldies station."

Let's get back to Beth a minute because she deserves way more than one run-on sentence. One of the music world's fiercest individuals, the powerhouse has appeared nude on several magazine covers under unflaggingly punk circumstances. In interviews she has admitted everything from a distaste for deodorant to having eaten squirrels (although she later claimed it was her cousin who ate the critters). But she's not all outrage all the time. What her philosophy really comes down to may have been revealed in her regular Guardian column, "What Would Beth Ditto Do," where she said, "Women aren't cats, we aren't pets, we are just people trying to cross the freaking street to get an ice-cream."

Although obviously not your average spotlight stealers, Gossip have more than earned their infamy. Formed in Arkansas back in '99, they relocated to Olympia, Washington where they signed with Calvin Johnson's legendary indie label, K Records. Their big break came six years later by way of third full-length, Standing In The Way Of Control. The title track, an all-out anthem, quickly hit #1 on the UK charts and became the unofficial theme song of British teen melodrama, Skins. This was a particularly major breakthrough because the song was written as an angry response to the US government's refusal to allow gays the right to marry. Again, not your average spotlight stealers.

Since then the band has been signed to a division of Sony Records where they're in the midst of work on a major label debut. They also closed the Glastonbury Festival and spent last summer touring North America as part of the True Colors Tour 2007, a star-studded event thrown to raise money for the Human Rights Campaign. For that reason and so many more, the fearless trailblazers are taking over MTV for the week. Watch as they go back to high school to play a totally punk prom and talk some frank trash about growing up weird. Warm up with the samples below and catch the full show here. ALSO: Be the first to see Gossip's exclusive MTV photo shoot.