I have been trying so hard NOT to write about this. Doja Cat – Kiss Me More (Official Video) ft. SZA I am not sure why. This seems a natural for me to rhapsodise over and yet I have been shying away from engagement. Is it my age? Do I feel somewhat embarrassed that I should still myself falling for such obvious sleights of hand, chord sequences, ways of singing, after all these years? Every time it comes on the radio, EVERY TIME, I ask my kids, WHO IS THIS? and every time they respond DOJA CAT. Dad we told you this loads of times now. Every time. I am not sure what connotations I derive from this. I can see from the video that there is some degree of sexuality, of sensuousness involved. Pussy is mentioned several times. I enjoy songs with a mention of pussy: I indicated as such one time to Iggy Azalea via Twitter and she responded by following me. Do I like this song because it’s a momentary diversion away from the grey early morning reality of post-pandemic school runs, eyes barely open? This music soothes me, relaxes me. Makes me happy, makes me think that maybe I have some link – however tenuous – to the TikTok generation, to my past, to the TikTok generation. Doubtless I like it because it keeps reminding me of other stuff and its drowsy torpor means that I don’t give a crap about finding out what. I believe I’d have liked this in 2016, 2011, 2006, 2001… is this good or bad, that my taste seems so consistent? And it remains inch-perfect, stiletto-perfect pop music for 2021, not that I am qualified to comment on that.
This is quite the most brilliant thing I have heard in a real long time.
Many years back, during the 1990s. the term ‘Outsider Music’ came into popular usage. I first encountered it via those great series of books Re/Search released but others may have stumbled across it differently. For some, it became synonymous with mental illness or out-of-tunefulness (certainly the folk writing its Wikipedia page view it that way) but I never heard it like that. For me, it was more about a certain near childlike quality, the ability to follow your own path, create your own music, heedless or unable to take notice of what others think. Indeed, I find myself in violent objection to the claim mental illness should be associated with the term; that is both patronising and WRONG.
So Moondogg, Jandek, Jad Fair. The Langley Schools Music Project. Perhaps Daniel Johnston, but Daniel’s music follows very conventional structures and patterns if you bother listening to it. This Wiki description is a little more on the money.
The term “outsider music” is traced to the definitions of “outsider art” and “naïve art“. “Outsider art” is rooted in the 1920s French concept of “L’Art Brut” (“raw art”). In 1972, academic Roger Cardinal introduced “outsider art” as the American counterpart of “L’Art Brut”, which originally referred to work created exclusively by children or the mentally ill. The word “outsider” began to be applied to music cultures as early as 1959, with respect to jazz, and to rock as early as 1979. In the 1970s, “outsider music” was also a “favorite epithet” in music criticism in Europe. By the 1980s and 1990s, “outsider” was common in the cultural lexicon and was synonymous with “self-taught”, “untrained”, and “primitive”.
It is in the nature of Outsider Music that it attracts a great deal of derision and scorn from those who’d much rather their dull grey conventional rock to be dull and grey and conventional, and their boring dullard formula pop to be boring and dullard and formulaic with their reinforcement of the heteronormative hegemony and so forth. Fuck, did my colleagues at Melody Maker make fun of Daniel Johnston in the early 1990s… didn’t everyone, until I passed that T-shirt along to a more famous friend and then all of sudden everyone understood him.
Listen. I chanced across this, just prior to going to bed, via a random link from a random person on Facebook and… man. This is great. Seriously great. Captures pathos and heartbreak, rebellion and desire, outsider status and lust better than 30,000 conventional ‘tuneful’ singers could ever dream of doing. Neat video too. Think of it as “jazz”, as Joni Mitchell or Annette Peacock or someone if it helps you understand a little better. But seriously great. Throws the listener off-balance, disorientates them, forces them to listen closer. As John Peel once put it, “There is no such thing as good or bad music, just good and bad listeners”. You would not believe the amount of scorn and derision this simple charming song has attracted on YouTube though… or perhaps you would.
Sigh. Every single one of them missing the point.
Has anyone told you that you might be tone deaf? You should stick to directing. That was good. Is anybody gonna tell her she can’t sing This is what happens when daddy has a fuck ton of money and his baby girl “can be what ever she wanted to be”. All the while ignoring that fact that his baby girl lacks… talent. I can’t tell if she wants to be singer or a stripper?
And so forth.
Ignore them, Sarah. This is brilliant.
RESPONSE FROM ARTIST
Thank you so much! I really appreciate your take on it, very interesting. Insider-outsider paradigms within a religious context prompted “Red Dress.” My inspiration stems from witnessing church organisations preaching inclusivity while practicing exclusivity. “Red Dress” chronicles this story, but also envisions a future where everyone drops their prejudices and comes together. I am passionate about this message of inclusivity and prompting reflection.
The more refined among you may remember I started this series back in April, with the very noble intention of creating a birthday present for myself – 60 musical recommendations from online friends to mark the fact I had just turned 60 years of age. It come as no surprise to me that I find myself unable to stick to the brief – me, who used to turn around four album reviews in an hour for Melody Maker, and who once ran a series called “the one-minute review” on my Brisbane-based website Collapse Board, asking “Why spend longer writing than someone will spend reading your words?” Why indeed? (That series lost me at least one good friend. She objected to my dismissive language.)
So now we are several months on and not even halfway through. My 16-year-old son Isaac has a pro Spotify subscription; through it, he listens to the music of his choice (strange dark East European gothwave that to folk my age sounds uncannily like suburban UK music from the early 80s, and a smattering of Riot Grrrl) and music that is recommended to him by the algorithms. This is not weird to him; indeed, it is part of what he pays (or rather, I pay) his subscription for – recommendations. This was a function previously filled by music critics, of course – but when the gates are automated, there is no need for gatekeepers. When I was younger, a sure fire way to make me dislike a song was to recommend it with the following words, “I think you’ll really like this…” so heaven forbid I should go with those fucking algorithms but the past is a foreign country (as LP Hartley once wrote), they do things differently there.
So this morning, trying to force myself to engage with the outside world and not just listen to a solid day of me singing at the piano (which is my standard musical fare), I finally succumbed. Every time I switch to YouTube to research another potential cover version or discover what Neil Kulkarni has been listening to, the video for Wet Leg’s ‘Chaise Lounge’ shows up at the top of my feed. I know nothing, NOTHING about Wet Leg except that the same fucking video keeps showing up in my repetitive Facebook feed… you know the one, the one where, no matter how many times you refresh the screen, the same impassioned diatribe from David Stubbs about some right-wing journalist you’ve never heard of shows up at the top of your feed. Yep, ‘Chaise Lounge’.
Not interested. Fuck off, corporate slave-bots.
But I succumbed. I thought I’d give it a 10-second listen. Bugger it. Fuck it all to hell. I’ve played it three times already before breakfast, and want to discover more. No (he says, wrestling fiercely with his own sense of self-worth) I DO NOT WANT TO HEAR MORE. Bugger it all to hell. This is great. Deadpan and repetitive and obscure and smart and ticks all the boxes I love to have ticked in music: it builds and fades, it makes a big deal out of insignificant details, it reminds me of late 70s Ze Records, it has poise and fuck-you grace… goddamn it all.
Heaven forbid I should fall for this.
*Oh wait. I just did some 10-second research and have discovered that far from being some corporate-funded suck-ass rick kid duo from the Midwest of America, Wet Leg are from the Isle of Wight and are signed to Domino and this is their first and only video so far. Ah…. well, fucking cool! Great. I love the Isle of Wight – want to go there this summer with my kids again, see our great friend Bianca Kiddo Wheeler; and I have a real soft spot for Domino Recordings because of past shared history. They, the good guys.