In Defense Of Joanna Newsom
Zach Hart Monday, May 10, 2010
Joanna Newsom decided to shake up Monday with some comments ranging from Lady Gaga to Bloggers. After seeing twitter and blog comments, I decided to swoop in and voice my opinion on the matter.
First, the Lady Gaga remark. Newsom said:
"I'm mystified by the laziness of people looking at how she presents herself, and somehow assuming that implies there's a high level of intelligence in the songwriting. Her approach to image is really interesting, but you listen to the music, and you just hear glow sticks.”
Quite frankly this is what I’ve been yelling about since the sudden fame of Mrs. Gaga. I feel like Gaga is a quite interesting performer…a walking piece of changing art that rips and thumbs up Bowie and Warhol. But, as Newsom declares, if you listen to Gaga’s music, there is no separation from Kesha or Britney Spears. Nobody is saying this is bad, lots of people love pop music, but the simple fact is that bloggers and journalist are trying to make her music much more than it is. Newsom’s criticisms are dead on…when “indie” publication Pitchfork gives The Fame Monster a 7.8, then these criticisms are just. When has a mainstream pop act ever received such a score from an indie publication? Why did they even review it? These are the frustrating questions that Newsom is addressing with her comments. Mystified…yes, I’m mystified that so many intelligent people have confused Gaga’s shocking wardrobe/larger than life performances with her songs being high art. Nowhere does she say that people shouldn’t listen or like Lady Gaga…she is mystified by the confusing classification of pop music as something else.
Now to Newsom’s comment that has really been taken out of context. She “went after bloggers” by saying:
“Ever since the release of The Milk-Eyed Mender, Newsom has been aware of how she and her work are scrutinized. The heaps of critical praise that her debut received coincided with the mounting influence of music blogs, and while much of the attention on Newsom was incited by genuine admiration, discussion about her singing and look often overshadowed appreciation for her musicianship. Because of her distinctive voice, her fondness for vintage dresses, and the fanciful imagery of songs with titles such as “Bridges And Balloons” and “Peach, Plum, Pear,” she was tagged with terms like “elfin princess” and “wood nymph.” However, Newsom was more concerned about how her music was being perceived._…_Newsom admits to being “vulnerable to the call of the Internet” and knew that fans were ascribing titles to the unrecorded songs that would appear on Have One On Me. “When I was playing new songs, people would refer to then by these titles that I hadn’t referred to them by, and they would do it real authoritatively, like super know-it-all,” she says. “It really annoyed me.” But in September 2009, Newsom called it quits and stopped reading about herself, recognizing it as destructive and dangerous. “I’m a girl, and I’m human, and so probably the things that get to me the most are just when someone’s like, ‘that girl’s ugly,’ or ’stupid,’ or really playground shit,” she confesses. “Everything kind of affects me somehow if I read it, but that’s the stuff that drains your energy the most. Anything that engages the work is something that you somehow can step away from. I’ve read horrible, scathing reviews, and some of them are kind of good, kind of well-written, and occasionally they’re even funny. I remember with Ys, there were a few things that I read that made me laugh a lot, that were tearing it apart but making really good points. And somehow that doesn’t hurt my feelings as much. But there’s a class of insult that you can’t engage with at all, and you can’t defend yourself against in any way, and it just resonates with a very primal part of you. No one wants anyone to think they’re ugly and stupid, so somehow that’s the stuff that gets me.”_…_“I might just be talking about it and someone would point out, ‘What the hell are you doing spending one second of your time caring about what some dumbo in some far-off state has to anonymously say about you on a blog that five people read? It’s just a waste of energy. Regardless of what it was that made me realize once and for all that I needed to not read that stuff, it was one little episode that was representative of a whole larger truth, which is that no matter what I read on the Internet, whether it’s ‘good’ or ‘bad,’ it still makes me feel weird. It’s counterproductive. Even something that is a glowing review still leaves a weird taste in my mouth.”
I don’t think she's attacking music bloggers, rather analyzing her own reading of said blogs. She’s basically saying that reading about yourself doesn’t have any added value. I completely agree…how can it be helpful to read random and half-hashed comments on reviews of her work?
The web is ablaze with Newsom’s shocking comments, but please read her comments and not the headlines from bloggers…she is basically questioning why people are confusing Lady Gaga’s pop music with high art (VALID) and analyzing her own use of reading music blogs…concluding it’s not beneficial (VALID). I’m with you Joanna…even though you’re not reading this.