Last week I was doing this thing I do with my roommates where we watch videos on YouTube that eventually shame spiral into "No Shoes, No Shirt, No Problem" by Kenny Chesney. So, aside from that last detail, "the thing literally everyone does." Anyhow, one of the suggested links that came up was for what sounded like a very thick homestyle milkshake and I was intrigued, Alabama Shakes, what is this? Suffice to say it wasn't a milkshake instead it was a beautiful bellowing angel of a woman drawling out what felt like my heart in that moment, on the SNL stage, and from the moment I saw her I was transfixed by all the shapes her mouth was making.
Her mouth also roused something in me (gross, relax) that has been getting slowly irked (I said relax) for a while now. Which is this trend or idea or general genre of the female singer-songwriter who somehow has to shrivel to remain sincere. This floppy prospector hat wearing type who whispers her feelings to you while maintaining a little pout and unconvincing posture and about a hundred dangling bracelets that are probably lending to the overall slouch. Why are you sitting on a lonely stool, or in a half-made bed in rain cloud lighting, to express yourself, at best, with what seems like the frustration of someone who cant get a subway turnstile to work right malevolence?
Use your whole body, that is why you have it. It shouldn't have been so jarring to see a woman sing not like a dainty dried out wildflower. And what's with all these allusions to being a gypsy or an untamed rose or an undiscovered Peak Freen flavour, like please do us all a favour and administer some of the same thoughtfulness and care and unabashed embarrassing sincerity to your words and to your music. I am so tired of everybody trying to harken back to a bygone era by acting and dressing 60 years older.
Maybe I am a bit more critical than most, or self-identify too much with the person or people delivering me the music I am listening to, but I want a force who will eat a hot dog with me and run howling down a steep hill in the dark, not an anaemic witch who keeps pushing her hair back and plucking a string that is never gonna be her tune.
Fuck, forgive me, but don't we all just want a best bud in the music we get swept up in? It's not idolatry, it's just isolating the shittier parts of yourself in someone who's expresses them better. Convince me. I want to be convinced. Your music is a reckoning and where are you using it? Is it college rock? How old are they? If this could be the new college rock we'd cure bros for all time. And here's maybe the best part: all the dudes in this band were just wearing shirts playing a thing and you forget about them. You observe the quality and fabric for a second and the way they are playing the thing and then your eyes rove all the way back to her.
What are the "cool" implications of this band I don't know, I don't care. I heard that they met in highschool and Brittany Howard (I should start using her name) went up to one of the guys because he wore "weird band shirts" and I guess that doesn't happen much in Alabama. Maybe they are shitty people (jk I don't think that) or maybe they aren't bred out of some tired-ass scene that is so self congratulatory and insular that the people in it are exhausted before they even pick up a guitar, but that's the sincerity I am driving at. It just feels ingrained. It feels like they give a shit, moreover, that they've had to defend themselves.
It's not anybody's role to tell someone how to sing, but can we all get a little bit better acquainted with the playing field please so we can get closer to levelling it?
And I suppose there's no way around this so I'll just say it, white women, take off your prospector hats and identify with something. Make a song about how you spent one hundreds years knitting a shrug or you got a normal pizza and for a minute thought, "What am I hiding?" Make a song that comes across very angry on purpose. Stop being a wisp of an Aztec print on the side of a wild horse about to get slaughtered for that restaurant you like to eat at. If all you have to say is you are mad at your boyfriend and your Etsy store is tanking then cool, these are white women problems and your built-in audience is basically the universe. Just get away from me and make a new Tumblr about it.
Follow Katie Heindl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/wtevs