It seems as though Josh Tillman, aka Father John Misty, a non-subtle hypercritic of modern American culture, has found himself in the mainstream news. Earlier this week, Tillman one-upped Ryan Adam’s cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989 by releasing his own covers of…well, covers. He posted renditions of “Blank Space” and “Welcome to New York” to Soundcloud with the caption “My reinterpretation of the classic Ryan Adams album 1989.” And by “classic,” he probably meant futile in the realm of meaningful art. He promptly removed the tracks later that day, perhaps because he realized that his provocative jab was comparable to any other form of online “war” — think Swift’s Twitter history with fellow female artists.
In a Stereogum article, Chris DeVille offers commentary on Tillman and Swift’s Internet tactics:
Father John Misty’s sonic spitballs rubbed me the wrong way, his social media antagonism even more so, but if the alternative is the ultra-polite, saccharine posi vibes that turned the Adams-covers-Swift operation into a sticky, gooey mess, what are we left with?
DeVille says it himself. Tillman and Swift are not on the same page when it comes to delivering messages. He goes on to extrapolate upon his earlier observation by comparing the two artists’ live shows. He comes to the conclusion that they aren’t as different as we may think:
Like Swift, he employed a cast of ace sidemen who made his songs feel like masterpieces, shifting gears from juke-joint country to exquisite chamber-pop to take-no-prisoners rock ‘n’ roll. And like Swift, his stage show felt like an extension of his songs…
I have never chosen to attend a Taylor Swift and probably never will. However, I did witness Tillman perform just last night in Royal Oak. DeVille forgets to factor in the appeal of an artist’s message and the considerable role it plays in how we as listeners judge that artist. Any good performer makes his stage feel like an “extension of his songs,” but that doesn’t make all good performers equal in the field of talent and meaning.