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Trading In, Trading Up: Substitutions for the Sexiest Man of 2013

The tiny, challenged television in my house has four channels, including QVC and Telemundo. On Monday nights, I occasionally coax it on; “The Voice,” an American Idol reincarnation starring Adam Levine’s rabid smirk, invariably appears. Levine, the lead singer of Maroon Five, recently proposed to his third consecutive Victoria’s Secret model girlfriend; whenever he comes onscreen, the shivering teen hopefuls under his tutelage still blink violently. But I’ve never been able to get there. There’s something shiny and sinister about him, in a particularly California tint: a sugar-wax, avocado-smoothie, let’s-skip-all-of-this feeling.

Yesterday, People Magazine crowned Levine 2013’s Sexiest Man Alive. I gasped and I shuddered. I waded through denial, then anger. Now, I bargain.

Pining for sexier times, I found that my initial fantasy football game leaned nostalgic: David Bowie for Justin Bieber, Jimi Hendrix for Bruno Mars, Omar Sharif for Robert Pattinson. But as I fretted and doodled and Google imaged, a revelation shone upon me: the sexiness is still all around us. Sometimes it wears a jort miniskort (I’m looking at you, Christopher Owens). Sometimes it hits itself in the head with a microphone (call me, Sam France). Often it hops in the passenger side of a convertible (Shingai Shoniwa, everything: yes).

Sexiness to me is a matter of looking in the weird places, of spotting the morels around the edge of the forest. So, for your viewing pleasure, I share my own freaky roster of Levine substitutes, all of them musical contemporaries if not quite his peers in auto-tuned slickness. Come with me into the world of 2013’s sexiest men and women. Feel no longer afraid.

Gary Clark Jr.

I first heard Gary in the mid-July dry heat of Austin, his hometown, cruising along the freeway in an ancient silver Mazda 6. I shouted “WHO IS THIS?” at the musician friends I was driving with and while they went on and on about his technique I nodded along, mentally naming our children. The unzipped combat boots, the all-weather beanies, the way he plays his Epiphone Casino, his relentless basslines—it all feels so deeply rooted, fiercely sultry and understated all at the same time. I don’t usually listen to the blues, but when Gary Clark Jr. plays I watch and listen. 

Christopher Owens

The moment I glimpsed Christopher, I knew he was the answer to a few questions, the first of which was: who have we loved since Kurt Cobain? It was the fall of 2011 in New York; he was still with his band GIRLS. There were rings under his eyes, his hair was in a greasy, bleached bob and he had an air of worn mischief, a slight snaggletooth, a sideways glance. I continued loving him through the skort, through the twee solo album, through the tepid later shows where anemic models making eyes at each other served as the key entertainment. His wild upbringing in the Children of God, his travels through Slovenia and Amarillo, his experimental relationship with preciousness. He was the opposite of a Dupont Circle happy hour, a foil to everything in my life at that time that I didn’t know I wanted to leave yet.

Sam France

Sam France, the lead singer of Foxygen, came on my radar last summer when he climbed the Mass MoCa stage scaffolding, got thrown down by a bouncer, smacked his head with a mic and mock-strangled himself. My memorable manic pixie. But beyond the theatrical fireworks and seventies outfits (he’s often spotted in wide wale corduroy, fur & paisley), France is a vocal showman—listen to the riff on “Shuggie,” where he flits between a high-pitched chorus line and a deep booming wailHe dates (or dated, who knows) the ethereal Elizabeth Le Fey, a rainbow-haired former traveling member of Foxygen who was ousted over charges of “unprofessionalism.” Like many women of rock before her, she took the last word.

Ezra Miller

Ezra Miller is only 20 years old, so you will not be able to legally have a cocktail with him. Here are other things that he likes to do: talk about neuroscience, play drums, watch The Wizard of Oz, change the style of his jet-black waves. I haven’t seen his two latest movies, We Need to Talk about Kevin and The Perks of Being a Wallflower, but I—as part of my responsibility as a journalist—will. I will do it. Miller identifies as queer, saying in an interview that “I think the way society splits the human being in half is kind of tragic, and I think we should all be as open a book as possible when it comes to loving another human.”

Shingai Shoniwa

For our ladies who like ladies, I can’t get enough of Shingai Shoniwa—straightup badass poppy inflection, play and pompadour. I will watch her in the Noisette’s “Never Forget You” video ten times in a row without getting bored, because she’s having so much fun. The cackle at 2:12? Yes. Looking divine in a shoulder-padded banana yellow blazer, as she does in “Don’t Upset the Rythym”? Stop. Don’t stop. Never leave.


Freak folky, gender-bending, performative and yet somehow subtle sister pair, raised separately with their divorced parents (think The Parent Trap, minus the twinliness and bad British accents, plus vision quests with their farmer father, vagabond adventures with their Native American / Syrian artist mother). The CR unique brand of creepy-hot reaches a pinnacle on the single “Werewolf” and shines in “By Your Side,” where they sing “All I wanted was to be your housewife / I’ll iron your clothes / I’ll shine your shoes / I’ll make your bed / And cook your food.” You know they won’t and you don’t want them to, but picturing such a performance delights nonetheless.

There’s room for more on this team, so tell me: what sexy rocks did I leave unturned?

Melissa Batchelor Warnke tweets @thewarnke


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