Thursday, June 28, 2007

Feist and Canadianness

I'm just thinking about a few things for the paper on Feist that I'm presently writing. It deals with her label as a Canadian musician, and how her position problematizes such a categorization. Part of what I want to discuss has to do with Feist's "maturity" (if that's a good word) and with her "jhai" style (if that can still be applied to her singing). This "maturity" is brought about by her damaging her voice, and is accompanied by a perceived authenticity (I've talked about this before ad nauseum). So, this "maturity" might align her to certain Eurpoean (and specifically French) styles of singing. It's another possible link to her being a chanteuse (did I spell that right? is that even a french word?).

There is another angle that I would like to take, but I'm not sure how to go about it. Feist presents herself as a singer that is opposed to a certain national image of singers. There are women who are known for their voices, usually in terms of loud and flashy singing, like Céline Dion and even Alanis Morrisette (loud, brash), Avril Lavigne, Nelly Furtado (although she seems overshadowed by her producer, not unlike Shania Twain). Feist, on the other hand, has a soft voice, almost a whisper (and she is not overshadowed by her producers, as she is one of the team that produces her music). Furthermore, her happy-go-lucky style might not fit in with "Canadian" musics like Barenaked Ladies or Tragically Hip, where certain hardships of Canadian life are expressed with humour (less so with the Hip, but certainly the case with BNL). In my mind, Canadian music does not evoke weakness, but rather strength in the face of adversity, a "grin-and-bear-it" kind of attitude. Feist turns this on its head by singing:

I'm sorry, two words
I always think after you're gone
When I realize I was acting all wrong
So selfish, two words that could describe
Old actions of mine when patience is in short supply

Of course, this is in the context of a love song, and it probably isn't a unique case in Canadian music, where a narrator in a song apologizes for something. But the fact that these are the first words on a much-anticipated recording make them that much more powerful. Feist is sorry, soft, weak, damaged.

These are preliminary thoughts, so I might be wrong on them all. Any comments you might have are welcome.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Not much to say...

Boy, it's hot here in Montreal.

For those who might be interested, Morrissey will be on the Late Show with David Letterman on Friday, June 29. Set those VCRs!

Thursday, June 21, 2007

The abstract for the article (for those interested)

Leslie Feist is a Canadian songstress, consistently referred to with her nation of origin as a prominent identifier. This “Canadian-ness,” though, is put into question through a number of complexities arising from her artistic output as well as the cultural context in which he finds herself placed.

Feist finds her “Canadian” status problematised in a number of ways. Her inclusion into the milieu of French chanson places into question her inherent “Canadian-ness.” Feist moved to France in 2003, and though she has been featured singing in the French language, she claims that she does not speak it. In late 2004, Feist was asked to sing with the famous French singer Juliette Gréco, performing a new rendition of Gréco’s famous song, “La Javanaise,” written by Serge Gainsbourg. Feist exclaims that the live televised performance was “kind of like the old guard passing the torch to the new guard.”1 Thus, Feist suggests that she is in fact part of the cultural milieu of French chanson, a peculiar position to be in considering her uncertainty in the French language, as well as her Canadian nationality.

Another way that the “Canadian” identity of Feist is problematised is through her covering of songs like “When I was a Young Girl,” a cover of Texas Gladden’s “One Morning in May,” recorded by Alan Lomax, the compiler of the Smithsonian Folkways recordings, Anthology of American Folk Music. In doing so, Feist evokes what Richard Middleton would call “other voices”: “the singer’s . . . and that of an imaginary object which [s]he strives to imitate . . . [and] that of the object itself.” (Richard Middleton, “O Brother, Let’s Go Down Home: Loss, Nostalgia and the Blues,” Popular Music 26:1 (2007), 49) To use Middleton’s phraseology, then, in Feist’s performance of “When I was a Young Girl,” the listener experiences “desire, and lack, coursing through the gaps between the voice we acturally hear,” that is, Feist’s voice, “the voice [Feist] wants us to imagine,” perhaps that of Texas Gladden or the folk singers from Lomax’s recordings, “and the voice blotted out but which we know is there, somewhere, could we but find it,” the voice of the culture and time from which the song comes. (Ibid.)

Finally, Feist is a figure placed within a context of successful Canadian female singers, most of whom required recognition from outside of the country for their success. Feist as a commercially successful singer seems to conform to this type of Canadian, female, white, solo performer, such as Avril Lavigne, Alanis Morrisette, Shania Twain and Céline Dion. Like many of these singer, Feist left Canada in order to attain success, while maintaining precarious ties to the Canadian independent music scene by remaining a member of the band Broken Social Scene, a move which enables her to maintain a kind of credibility or “authenticity” while experiencing commercial success.

While other Canadian performers might display some or many of these complexities which in turn problematise their national labels, the case of Leslie Feist is unique in that these complexities work together to create a rich star image, imbued with a sense of history and perceived authenticity.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Organizing articles, and a To-Do list

I just got a book in the mail: Finding Serenity: Anti-heroes, Lost Shepherds and Space Hookers in Joss Whedon's _Firefly_, (edited by Jane Espenson). It looks very interesting, and I like it since I am a Firefly/Serenity fan.

I would love to pick up a pair of these and I think that I am officially going to start saving up for them:

I'm working on that article on Feist for possible publication, and I have a somewhat short time to get it done. I'm putting together a to-do list. I need to:

1) research some context regarding Leslie Feist's life details
2) research more context regarding Feist's performance with Juliette Greco on Canal Plus in 2004 (I think)
3) Integrate some details from an article by Sarah Hill on the Welsh singing voice (in Radical Musicology)
4) research some articles surrounding Canadianness and popularity, including artists Alanis Morrisette, Shania Twain, and even Celine Dion.

So, if anyone has some information that might help, or articles that might be interesting, let me know. I'll try to post the abstract of this paper in a further post.

Friday, June 15, 2007

It's been a bit

I thought I would chime in after a week not showing my face here on my blog. I'm still working away on various things. I've recently begun looking again at writing a more substantial chapter on Feist and her particular placement within Canadian popular music. I've been asked to develop a proposal I submitted previously for possible publication, so that's on the horizon.

The fan on this mac mini is SO spinning. I guess it's because I'm blogging, downloading something, converting 2 videos and listening to John Legend, all at the same time. Talk about power computing, all on a lowly G4 mini.

I think I might put the major post-dissertation revisions of chapter 3 (my chapter on music video) on a bit of a back-burner (as if these revisions weren't there already). I think I would thrive in an environment with a little bit of a structure. I'm lazy, and a structured environment would help me to get to work. So, if anyone has an academic "structured environment" that pays, feel free to contact me (preferably at a university in the area of communications, popular music studies, or musicology).

Thursday, June 07, 2007

I need to write this somewhere, so why not here?

I was reading about something called "Structured Procrastination," where you put off doing something important, but you do something else instead. Eventually something will come along that will be more important than that thing that you didn't want to do, so you will put off doing that really important thing and then do what you originally put off. I'm not sure I buy that, since I'm really good at just putting everything off.

Anyway, here's what I need to write, so why not get it on here. If anyone has any comments whatsoever, please feel free to add them. Back to my doctoral dissertation material:

It is true that the underlying issues that are made clear through Morrissey's presentation of his star image--his ambiguity in terms of gender presentation, his performance of masculinity, his expression of an enigmatic persona (in other words, his music, lyrics, media presentation and so forth)--are caused by a hegemonic value system, which prompts those in charge of said hegemonic system to classify Morrissey as problematic or enigmatic, and thus oblige Morrissey to present himself according to these norms (what I think might be considered a "meta-identity").

That was a long sentence, but it gets to one of the ways that I can rethink some of my doctoral work to perhaps make it more attractive and, in fact, more effective. Now I need to flesh out what I mean with this and perhaps try to taylor some of my chapters with this in mind. It shifts the focus away from Morrissey and onto what makes Morrissey what he is. Instead of presenting Morrissey as an enigmatic genius (although I think he is this, to a point), it makes Morrissey into a more "passive" figure (no pun intended - but I don't want to use passive/active in any gender sense here) affected by the "norms" of society, or the hegemonic forces elsewhere.

Congratulations to the Anaheim Ducks

It's too bad about Ottawa's breakdown, but that's hockey. Last night's game was a sad way to end the season. I used to own a piece of this team (with my one share of Disney stock). In the past, I would have shared in the victory, but not now.

Congratulations to all Ducks fans out there.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Quick and simple review of the Feist concert.

In my opinion, Feist is the most compelling performer on the planet.

Friday, June 01, 2007

We're off to see Feist!

Tonight's the night that we see Leslie Feist in concert. I'm looking forward to it, although I'm not sure what to expect, with the concert being sold out and all. I'm not in the mood right now for a rowdy crowd (or to fight for a spot, either). It should be a highlight though. I'll try to come back with a review as soon as possible.