Father John Misty’s consistent success proves two things. The songwriter is talented and versatile. And the public loves a good joke, even if they’re the butt of it.
Father John Misty, brilliant songwriter, character of Josh Tillman, grammy laureate. When FJM won the prestigious Grammy award, he accepted it while having a dramatic, albeit calculated meltdown. Many would have thanked the committee, management and their parents. Not Tillman.
“Uh, well, thanks. I don’t have a whole lot of time, but, God, f**k, I just wanna say f**k society. I wanna say that this government is a criminal organisation… FlatEarth.com, please go check that out.”
“And, you know, when I was growing up everyone told me, you know – whether it’s like Mommy, Daddy, the church, schoolteachers, whoever – you know, everybody was always saying that, like, it’s what’s on the inside that matters, you know, and I think that this is really evidence of the fact that it’s what’s outside that matters,” Tillman told the audience while making sure he stayed in character.
Tillman produces great music under the Father John Misty moniker. He has also attracted a large internet following through a character that largely parodies Tilman himself. By doing so, he is also allowed to tell the world just how ridiculous it looks.
The public has loved this attitude so far, whether they’ve been in on the joke or not. Tillman is, of course, not the first jester of popular music. The others enjoyed a (mostly) love and hate relationship with the press and public. While the press hates being ridiculed, they do love a good quote. Waiting for the witty quotes of the newest manufactured pop sensation would surely run them out of business after all. The world needs singers that will jokingly tell us that we’re all doomed so that we can accept it.
Bob Dylan was one of the first to do it. Reporters were used to their pop stars cooperating, being well-mannered pleasant. Instead, reporters got an anti-hero. However, one with great wit and highly confrontational. Fans would feel left behind when Dylan abandoned folk music and got told off. They would feel left behind when Dylan purposely made bad albums to shake of the reputation of spokesperson for a generation. But their relationship was quickly repaired each time and has resisted until today.
Lou Reed felt he owed reporters very little. And he was probably right. While active, Velvet Underground, Reed’s original band, was been all but ignored by the music press. A few years and one David Bowie produced album later, Lou was playing sold-out gigs across the world. Reed routinely answers reporters with very little interest for their questioning. Without missing a beat he tells them about wanting his audience to take drugs, not knowing about his popularity and considering himself average an average person.
Kurt Cobain and Nirvana seemed to approach almost every interview as if the world had not yet realized they were being put on. Cobain may not have had a lot of fun being in the public eye and certainly did not hide it. Destroying stage sets and interview opportunities were part of the course. Alternative rock had become a commodity. Nobody found this funnier than the members of the alternative rock bands themselves. Of course, their attitude contrasted with that of 80’s corporate rockers. The press and public lovedthe change.
Imagine being the desk clerk in FJM’s most recent single “Mr. Tillman”. Unhip and panicked at having to explain hotel rules. The hotel employee made to feel out of place for being so common. Tillman though is smart, cool and always ironic about his intentions. FJM coasts by, letting all concerned parties “Don’t be alarmed, this is just my vibe.”
The music world needs to be made fun of. The industry continues to be filled to the brim with artists concerned primarily with not offending their audience and calculating the effect of everyone of their actions. Humor and dissent are needed. In the music industry, as much as anywhere else, the world needs to be told just how silly it can get when it takes itself seriously.