Keeping Up Rappearances: A Lesson From Will Self Via Millie Jackson

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A friend of mine recently confessed to me that when we first met four years ago–and before we became friends–she thought my sartorial choices emanated the style-vibes of “a crazy person.” Following further interrogation, she revealed she did not mean “crazy person” in a nice or Wburg-quirky way, but the kinda crazy person whose entrance in an elevator would make you begin fake-texting.

This was a small shock to me, because I do care about my clothes and I am interested in understanding the way others perceive me because of them. My curiosity is maximized in the cases I don’t understand what can be considered an instant redflag. Requesting further details from my friend and the reasoning behind her statement, she–erroneously–remembered me wearing “a pattern shirt and pattern shorts, which I have never owned. In any case the stylistic ensemble led to somewhat undesired results, but that was partially because it did not make sense to her, at that time, for me to dress unlike who she was initially assuming I was.

I was talking about music with a friend from the past, a friend who today only accesses me through social media due to a geographic division and has not seen me in more than four years IRL. She told me “i could never picture you being into rap,” despite the fact I was simultaneously telling her what rap music I was enjoying the most at that moment. As I reiterated my genre-preference, which is certainly not exclusive, she thought adding “i so thought you were a postal service kind of guy.” That’s where that conversation ended.

During my teenage years, I was always agitated when I witnessed the bullshit-inconsequential style metamorphosis of my surroundings according to their music preferences: the Nirvana-heads, the too-pop Britney stans, the purposefully arcane snobs etc. I consistently refuse to accept the possibility of a world where similar high-school groups become a part of a college-world and ultimately end up being a part of “the real world.” To a degree, I think this mentality is somewhat what both my friends succumbed to, to decide that “I look crazy” or appear like “a postal service kind of guy.”

The jugular

I am not sure what I could appreciate in bands like The Postal Service, and this is not a jaded criticism, but rather my acceptance of lack of familiarity to their work. I have of course heard some of their songs, but the way they made me feel as a listener did not provoke my curiosity.

Sometimes I wonder if my preference as a listener for songs that feel a little more “guttural” in regards to content and execution is problematic. Specifically, I would hate to fall into the trap of considering the sentiments of musicians in certain genres as saccharine due to the genre they belong to, but the mechanism of the music industry gives it deeper implications. The large financial interests in commercial music make it “opening up” artists’ work to be inclusive of a larger audience a strategic necessity; to appeal to more customers and make many huge Billboard hits.

I really admire and appreciate the majority of Will Self’s work I have been exposed to, with periodical exceptions of batshit journal entries in The London Review of Books. In an amazing, thorough interview he gave, he stated:

If you write a novel in which nobody has a shit, nobody pisses, farts, cuts themselves, nobody has an awful fugue where they are aware of their blood circulation or their swollen liver or the wheeze in their lungs or the spot on the line of their jaw – what are you saying about the world at that point? You’re saying that the important thing is nothing to do with embodiment. You’re saying that the important thing is that we’re not like animals, whereas of course we are animals.

Personally, I have always been more intrigued to consume music by people who have a less populist approach, sans disregarding the prowess of solid, mainstream pop. Millie Jackson is a musician whose approach I really love, and who I generally admire for her candidness, progressiveness and perseverance in doing things the way she wanted to all along, challenging notions of creative agency during her youth.

Jackson’s wild side is quickly summarized in this incredible 2-minute video, where she discusses her major commercial hit My Man, A Sweet Man, which she never truthfully dug, but did for studio-purposes. “Who cares?” is/ was her aphoristic reaction to such a sugary song. The financial success of the album–it was certified gold–meant shit to Jackson, and that was perhaps what led her to louder voicing her artistic wants. To Jackson, keeping true to her personal pursuits was a deliberate choice.

From now on, she would give a shit.

NOTE:

Initially, the intended pop-chanteuse who chooses “less but more meaningful is better” was Sky Ferreira, but she then got arrested for listening to too much Nirvana. This is a lie. TC mark

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