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 CĂ©line 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.

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