I have a hard time to figure out Josh Tillman aka Father John Misty. Is he a complete arrogant prick? Is he even sincere for a few minutes? One sure thing, he is the anti-Ryan Adams, because Adams recently crossed that line separating mainstream from indie by covering an entire Taylor Swift album. As we already know, Father John Misty covered the covers in the style ofLou Reed, then he deleted the whole thing letting us think it was a complete joke… at Swift or Adams’ expense. What was that exactly?
In a new interview with Billboard magazine, Tillman gets even more surprising and explains his intentions about the episode that he calls ‘the thing’:
‘I’ll say as basically as I can that I wanted to test the limits of how far you could get people to play along if this one person’s name was involved.’
And all interview-long, Tillman never mentions Taylor Swift’s name, he just refers to her as ‘this person’… isn’t it astonishing or totally pedantic? Does he find himself so above mainstream culture he doesn’t even want to pronounce her name?
‘That’s all that mattered. It had nothing to do with me, it had nothing to do with Ryan Adams. It just had to do with this person’s name being involved,’ he continues ‘And that was good for clicks. So I wanted to test, ‘If I put something out here that is associated with this thing that is just barely clinging to the fringes of what could be considered relevant will it get printed in wide circulation?’ And it did.’
The rest of the conversation is not going to make Tillman more attractive or loveable, and I am not sure I can follow the whole rant:
‘I’m a person who upholds certain dualities that I think a lot of musicians now view as being quaint. I’m very suspicious of the mainstream, which is definitely the height of quaint. I think that the lines have blurred in superficial ways, I think certain dualities still exist and that there’s value in judging something as objectively as you can based on its sophistication or its beauty or its dignity.’
While talking about the myth surrounding his character:
‘You become an object in some respect. And objects are animated by other people’s imaginations. So in that respect, I think there is [a mythology about me]. What I realized is that the potential of these songs or this topic is there’s a lot more in what they can mean for people and in what they can accomplish. That has also been a shift from my anti-idealistic into a more idealistic approach for me personally into what music is good for.’
Going back to the pop stars whom he will never name (exception of Katy Perry, because ‘these 700-word Sasha Frere Jones Katy Perry reviews in The New Yorker make me feel like I’m living in a crazy world’) he has more to say in his cryptic pseudo-intellectual style:
‘There are certain pop stars that I think are poster children for cynicism. But it would be a hard sell since they, in such a superficial way, represent the mandate of the age, like being yourself and being different and being quirky. But being a certain type of different and being a certain type of quirky. There’s a huge difference between permissible transgression and impermissible transgression. Permission transgression is to be different and to be yourself and whatever, and then impermissible transgression is to not like that person or that person’s music or what that person represents. And if you dare do that then that person’s fans will turn on you and they will destroy you… I just think that pop music is a touchstone for so much of what’s going on in the collective psyche right now. That’s what that song ‘The Memo’ that I put [in September] is about: The ways in which we chose to entertain ourselves say a lot about who we are.’
Did you get it? Between all this talk about duality and transgression, Billboard also mentions that ‘he references Marx’s commodity fetishism several times’ that will help prevent him from being too mainstream.
‘This is like the most pretentious way of framing it, the only role I can really live with is to be an outsider. I don’t aspire to crossing over. It’s very important to me that I maintain my ability to say certain things. You don’t move into that other realm without making concessions — that’s the price of admission for moving into wider exposure. I don’t think I really have to worry about it too much because the things that I’m interested in talking about and the ways in which I’m interesting in addressing those things will always prevent me from doing that… In my mind it’s just important for me to maintain these dualities and to stay on one side — and to stay on the side where I belong.’
I don’t like Swift more than he does, but doesn’t he realize how pretentious he sounds there? Tillman should shave his beard which makes him look like a 19th century philosopher wannabe and he should write a song for Taylor Swift… but even if he does I am sire he will be able to justify it by his duality for permissive transgression or some shit like this.
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