This is the most controversial rock song of the year–but not for reasons you might think.

One night in 1982, I was finishing up some university homework while listening to Howard Mandshein on CITI-FM, Winnipeg’s balls-to-the-wall rock station.

“I’m going to play you a song,” he said, “but I’m not going to tell you who it is. Just open your ears and open your mind. Let the music do the talking.”

The song began. Good riff. A solid dose of aggro. Great guitar solo.

Once it ended, Howard gave us the punchline: “You just enjoyed a Michael Jackson song.”

Had he just punked his listeners? Or had he just pointed out our prejudices and biases when it came to music? It was a lesson I never forgot.

The same sort of thing happened just a couple of days ago when a new rock song appeared. No matter which way you slice it, it undeniably rocks. It tickets all the boxes. It’s got a good hook. It’s well-produced and performed. It’s got a little old-school hair metal-like gender-bending. The video seems to have been shot at The Viper Club on Sunset Boulevard.

But will rock fans accept it?

Let’s conduct a test. Click here and then close your eyes and just listen. I’ll wait.

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See what I mean? Not bad, right?

But here’s the surprise reveal: The music comes from Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars, and country star Chris Stapleton. Ed wrote the song for his new album No. 6 Collaborations. The video is a McGuffin featuring some female models lip-syncing to the song.

Now that you know who’s responsible for the song, what do you think? If you were programming a rock radio station, would you play it? It’s a good song, but

Radio consultant Fred Jacobs goes deeper into the situation here. Let the debate begin.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 30+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

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