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Presenting: THINGS THAT HAPPENED BECAUSE THE MILLIONARES WERE BOOKED. Lilith Fair Edition!

Do you hear that sound, ladies? The indescribably gentle sound of Canadian acoustic guitars on the breeze? Strum, strum, strum… it is the music of the heart! And, perhaps more specifically, the music of Lilith Fair, which has unveiled its new line-up. Which looks exactly like its old line-up, actually, and will make you feel for all the world as if Buffy is still on the air (yay!) and also like you cannot for the love of God turn on the radio without hearing that one Meredith Brooks song or possibly Paula Cole wondering where the cowboys have gooo-uh-OOOOOOONE (eh). Let’s run down the list, shall we? Sheryl Crow, check, Sarah McLachlan, check and of course, Indigo Girls, check, Ke$ha… wait a second!

Ke$ha! What are you doing here? I thought you were wandering around LA, passing out in bathtubs and causing families of suburban squares to drop their pancakes! Possibly because they were afrighted by your strange resemblance to Dee Snider! Because, you know, last time he visited, things didn’t turn out well.

Now, it is not as if I am suggesting Ke$ha has nothing to contribute to a semi-feminist women’s music festival. She has penned, for example, this touching ode to the bonds of sisterhood, entitled “Backstabber,” which I will be posting here for you in lyrics-containing amateur-You-Tube video format, so that you can appreciate its subtle poetry.

Ah, yes. “I’m sick and tired of hearing all about my life / From other bitches with all of your lies / Wrapped up so tight, so maybe you should / shut your mouth, shut your mouth, shut your fucking mouth.” Was that an allusion to Auden I noticed there? I think it was! Oh, no, wait. I think it was not, is what I meant to say. So, yes: Ke$ha has nothing to contribute to a semi-feminist women’s music festival. Sorry.

And we can talk about Lilith Fair, and how it was a co-optation of other all-girl or pro-girl music scenes and festivals, including Riot Grrl and the “women’s music” (often specifically lesbian women’s music) of the second wave, or even Michfest, which was once beloved until they wouldn’t back down on the damn “hating trans women” thing, FOR CHRISSAKES, with the difference being that Lilith Fair smoothed off all or most of the really radical politics and challenging noises and instead served you a spectacularly bland soup of folky harmonies, served at room temperature so that you don’t burn your mouth on it. Or we could save that for another post. (A post I have written… in the past!) For now I will just say, this is maybe an inherent problem in removing all of the actual politics from your feminism and coming up with a profit-friendly, inoffensive message of, “ladies! They’re okay, I guess?” Because if Lilith Fair is just “music with ladies in it,” then there’s no guiding principle to choose which ladies go there or why you want those ladies to be present or what purpose you want your festival to have other than proving that ladies can make terrible radio jams too and people will pay money for them. And you end up inviting, I guess, Ke$ha. And you don’t even want to know what that girl just left in your bathtub.

13 Comments

  1. jfruh wrote:

    Wait! Isn’t … isn’t the person driving the firebird with the mullet and the drawn-on Fu Manchu a drag king? That was my initial impression, but maybe not? It would sure change how I feel about this video!

    Also: Auto-Tune! Maybe people shouldn’t use it so much?

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 5:14 pm | Permalink
  2. Roxie wrote:

    MICK JAGGER? Ew.
    Also, she sounds drunk/high on those tracks and seems like The Millionaires’ unsupervised kid sister.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 7:10 pm | Permalink
  3. Roxie wrote:

    Eep! Goes to show how well I read the post title -_-

    Wednesday, December 16, 2009 at 7:24 pm | Permalink
  4. Gnatalby wrote:

    I like that Ke$ha uses the boy band staple address “Girl.”

    It seems oddly out of place. Usually when I am addressed as girl it is to tell me that I am the one, that I am everyone in the world to [him] or even that I am shocking him with my electric feel.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 4:10 am | Permalink
  5. PilgrimSoul wrote:

    Sady, forgive me, I’m not trying to pull anything here, but I am a bit confused why Lilith Fair offends you so. Let me lay my cards on the table here: I am Canadian (and so, I suppose, biased towards Canadian acoustic pop music and Sarah McLachlan generally) and I attended Lilith Fair back in the day in Ottawa. I was also the kind of proto-feminist girl I have not yet encountered outside of Ottawa who had a ton of friends who were really into paganism and literally did the dance naked in the wood thing and loved Celtic music, etc. So it’s possible I’m just taking this personally though my life path went in a bit of a different direction thereafter.

    But: I wonder why you’re offended because, to me, Lilith Fair is, like some of the more “mainstream” feminist blogs on the internet, a gateway drug. I mean, I had never heard of Meshell Ndaegeocello before I went to Lilith Fair, and maybe my chronology is out of order but I think I would have encountered her as a seminal Lilith Fair figure at about the same time she was dating Rebecca Walker, so I think your gloss of “appropriation” is a bit strong. The “festival,” corporatized though it was, did have some connection to genuine political feminism. Many of its artists also played at the places you mention.

    I think this ties into a problem I have more generally with this argument I’ve seen you and I think Amanda too developing: I don’t know how it serves feminism (which I understand you to be trying to do here and I grant you good faith there!) to spend all this time being like, “Oh god, that portion of our development was so. embarassing. and artistically bankrupt.” I mean if you want to make a criticism of the incporation of corporate sponsors in the festival and whatnot that seems fine to me, and I also have no problem with the observation that it was overwhelmingly white and folky. But I think where I have to get off the bus is where we are saying that it is just uncool, uncool to like white women’s folk music. That strikes me as taking us straight back into the devaluation of the feminine. Because there you are getting into aesthetic preferences, and while you know full well that I agree with you that aesthetic preferences are political, I fail to see the political problem with liking that sort of music from a feminist perspective. It’s no more essentializing to like it than to dismiss it, is what I’m trying to say.

    I just think it’s a mistake to demand inclusivity in a movement by way of telling certain people their difference is aesthetically bankrupt on criteria that strike me as… shaky, on feminist grounds.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 9:39 am | Permalink
  6. Sady wrote:

    @jfruh: We don’t know what Barry is up to. All we know, courtesy of his sweet vanity license plate, is that he is Barry. Only a fool inquires further into Barry’s imposing mystique.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 1:54 pm | Permalink
  7. Alprazolam wrote:

    @pilgrimsoul; the issue here does not seem to be aesthetic but more to do with the message involved here. To portray lillith fair in box feminist light seems disingenuous when viewing the content which is mainstream and as a result, not very challenging. Which seemed to be the point of the article to me. There’s nothing radical about paula cole asking where the real men have gone (“i will do the dishes if you pay all the bills?” VOM) or ke$ha, or to give her her full title, keydollarsignha, singing about partyzz omg. To use a deliberately extreme example, saying a festival of women artists singing about such things (and I know these are not fully representative examples but I think their citation is indicitave of a wider trend) has feminist relevance is like saying Prussian Blue (google them) is a feminist band because both members are female. A festival devoted to women could be a beautiful, powerful thing, but instead…hm. Where are the bikini kills on the billing? (Split up.) The breeders and the sleater kinneys? (They split up too.)
    Shit.
    Oh well.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 6:47 pm | Permalink
  8. Alprazolam wrote:

    Box feminist light? Lol.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 6:49 pm | Permalink
  9. Sady wrote:

    @Alprazolam: Right. And to that, I’d add that there’s nothing wrong with having taste. The insistence that I MUST, as either a woman or a feminist, either support or refrain from criticizing a vaguely feminist women’s music festival because the politics and/or possession of vaginas corresponds to some small degree with mine, regardless of whether I find the actual music any good or whether I find the politics well-executed or admirable on any level other than the absence of bad intention, is frankly offensive. If Sugar Ray inexplicably became the most commercially friendly face of feminism, I’d probably object to that too. Especially with this new line-up, which differs in such a small degree and is flawed in so many of the ways the old line-up was, the out-of-touchness of Lilith Fair is even more apparent. And you’re right: I can’t criticize anyone, on political grounds, for liking adult-contemporary white-lady music of the late ’90s. I can say that a festival organized around promoting adult-contemporary white-lady music of the late ’90s, with those who were not adult-contemporary white-ladies often given smaller stages or weird slots on the playing order that ensured fewer people would hear them, and with only a precious few of the acts expressing anything like a feminist politics in their work, which festival was nevertheless attended by some nascent or active feminists, is not de facto feminist and does not de facto deserve my feminist (or female) support. In fact, even when it comes to things that ARE explicitly, actively feminist, I have no obligation to silence my own criticism. And “Lilith Fair” just doesn’t necessarily equate to “feminism.” It was just marketed that way. Which means I have no reason not to make fun.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 7:36 pm | Permalink
  10. Sady wrote:

    @Me: And, for the record, I actually LIKE a good deal of folk music, including folk by some white ladies. (There’s a white lady named Joni Mitchell! I wonder if anyone has heard of her?) The adult-contempo folk at Lilith Fair, not so much.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 7:45 pm | Permalink
  11. PilgrimSoul wrote:

    The insistence that I MUST, as either a woman or a feminist, either support or refrain from criticizing a vaguely feminist women’s music festival because the politics and/or possession of vaginas corresponds to some small degree with mine, regardless of whether I find the actual music any good or whether I find the politics well-executed or admirable on any level other than the absence of bad intention, is frankly offensive.

    I said nothing of this kind. What I said is that you appeared, to me, to be importing aesthetic judgment into the question where I didn’t think it belonged. You have clarified that you do not! (Sort of. You apparently term “adult contempo” everyone you don’t like.) In which case we are apparently in agreement! But please don’t paraphrase me in such an inaccurate fashion.

    Thursday, December 17, 2009 at 8:00 pm | Permalink
  12. GATECREWGIRL wrote:

    Sadly, Barry is actually a dude. Specifically ex-MTV VJ Simon Rex. Tragic. The video would have been WAY BETTER if Barry was a drag king. That Trans Am does kick ass, though.

    I would really, really REALLY like to see Lita Ford at a Lilith Fair. Or maybe the Donnas. How about Go Betty Go? While I do occasionally enjoy Sarah MacLachlan (and most definitely the Indigo Girls), I am a Lady who likes to thrash on her Jackson Dinky with EMG 81/85s (that I installed myself) and I personally would appreciate the inclusion of some Ladies who kick ass on their electric guitars in a Lady Music Festival. Feminists are as diverse as the music genres are and it would be nice for the Lilith Fair to represent more than just the folky genre. No, Ke$ha does not count. Auto-Tune is cheating!

    Friday, December 18, 2009 at 8:14 am | Permalink
  13. GATECREWGIRL wrote:

    After rereading some of the debate I feel I should clarify. I was implying that Lita Ford and Allison Robertson (of the Donnas) deserved billing on a feminist-concert-festival-thing ticket because they have struggled to succeed in a very man-dominated world. Namely that of playing an electric guitar well in a REAL rock band. Which to this day remains man-dominated (I am talking about true guitar-driven rock, which seems to have become increasingly less popular with the advent of things like Auto-Tune and overproduced garbage like that churned out by bands like Nickelback). Back to my point, which is: OMG! A Lady! Playing an electric guitar! Well! Perhaps better than many men! What shall we do?! Whether or not these artists specifically bring up feminist issues in their/their band’s lyrics is most definitely a subject for debate.

    A side note: Lita Ford’s insistence in the mid-late 80s of being scantily clad while playing her electric guitar VERY VERY WELL in the interest of selling more records could also be debated (sellout vs. Megan Fox?) on the same line of questioning.

    Friday, December 18, 2009 at 10:20 am | Permalink