There always comes a point, when someone asks me to write for them, that I decide it's time to write about sex.
When it comes to a column about music, that's not as difficult as you might think. Sex is everywhere in pop music—rock 'n' roll, hip hop, r&b, they're full of it. From the moment Elvis shimmied his hips on television, there's been something not just sexual, but transgressively sexual about music. From the moment there was a youth culture around music, we've used it to tell our parents that we were thinking about sex whether they liked it or not.
Not long ago, I got into a conversation on Twitter about why feminists love Bruce Springsteen. Of course I can't speak for all feminists or even most feminists, but I can certainly discuss my love for Springsteen. And it seems only right to follow talk about Johnny Cash and U.S. politics with discussion of the other oft-misappropriated American blue-collar icon who's a major influence in my life.
A few months ago, I read a lovely post on country music by Garland Grey over at Tiger Beatdown, and I was quite enjoying myself until he included Johnny Cash as a "toxic model for masculinity" and I hit the roof internally*.
Because Johnny Cash may be the only model for masculinity I turn to. (Well, aside from Springsteen, about whom more later!)
And now again, as the U.S. writhes under the weight of its own myths, I go back to Cash as well.
On election day I was cheerily envisioning a future beyond hate and war with Robyn and Janelle Monae. Yesterday and today I woke up and the future looked impossibly angry and male and white, surging up from the past, all grudge-guns firing.
If you happen to follow me on Tumblr, my obsession with Alison Mosshart is no secret. The witchy-haired singer/guitarist/all-around rock superheroine from The Kills and The Dead Weather probably occupies more space on my Tumblr than anyone aside from David Bowie and Paul Simonon of the Clash (about both of whom, more later). Videos after the jump!
By the end (I'm hoping not for good, but for now, anyway) of Sleater-Kinney Corin Tucker's voice was a finely honed weapon, full of deep, slow, sexy soul and capable of an earsplitting wail, a bonechilling snarl, a rock'n'roll howl that didn't so much as defy gender as rip the guts straight out of it.
Her new record, 1,000 Years puts that voice front and center, without the thrash that made The Woods so threatening at the time.
Because I'm not a musician, I'm a writer, I tend to like and analyze and pick at the lyrics of songs. But at the same time, to be any sort of a pop music critic I have to look at the whole package, not just the lyrics. Each part of a pop song is a deliberate choice, and sometimes those choices deliberately contradict one another, undercut one meaning and substitute another, add layer upon layer and give you things to think about with each listen.