I’ve promised on Twitter (more like exclaimed) that I would blog about Amanda Palmer’s concert in Kraków. I intend to, but before I do, I feel like I need to share my love for Amanda first. You will not understand how much that concert kicked ass if you do not know how much and why I admire Amanda.
First of all, I realize some of you, despite my heavy obsession, may have not yet been acquainted with Amanda. For most of you, the thing that will, I believe, capture your attention the most is that she’s the wife of one Neil Gaiman. I know most of my readers are my friends and acquaintances, and that particular group of people lives heavily in the literary world, especially about and around fantasy, so invoking Neil’s name is most telling. And although I do believe Neil has had a tremendous impact and influence on Amanda (it’s visible, I swear), he’s not the reason why I am so interested in her. On the contrary: I’ve been Amanda’s fan and Neil’s fan separately some time before they got together, at least officially. (It was kind of a shock, I remember, because they really did seem like two different worlds. I changed my mind about that since.)
Amanda Palmer is a performer. A musician. An artist. She’s very versatile and is bursting with creative energy, so you can find her fingerprints on works of art in various departments, not only music. You might have heard about her when she did the kickstarter to fund her album “Theatre is Evil” and all the controversies around it. That is a kick-ass thing, but it doesn’t matter all that much. There are many facets to Amanda and most of them are awesome, but they don’t matter all that much to me. I love how connected she is to her fans through her blog and Twitter and other social media and I love her TED talk and many other things about her. But what I wanted to talk about is her music.
I am absolutely and irrevocably in love with Amanda Palmer’s music.
Hers is not an easy music. It’s not the kind of simple and melodic tune you can hear on the radio. Her voice is not as clear as the top 40 performers’. Her lyrics are often opaque and quirky. A lot of the time her compositions are discordant and inharmonious and devoid of that tuneful kind of easy melody that bores into your head as an earworm. Her art is often ironic, grotesque and dark, or purposefully over-the-top colorful. In a sense, her style is a lot like Tim Burton’s.
I love Tim Burton.
I have a very diverse taste in music. And I have an obsessive nature, so when I like someone, I really like them. I can listen to the same record ten times and learn all the lyrics by heart and sing along every time. But eventually it all becomes background music. I listen to music the most on my way to places – earphones in, and I can walk to the horizon. But it always is just a background music to my own thoughts, my own musings. It’s not the case with Amanda Palmer. Even though I know pretty much every lyric to most of her songs, she never becomes the background music. She grabs all my attention and keeps it throughout the entire time I’m listening. And she hits me hard every time.
One part of it is her voice. Amanda Palmer’s voice is often cracked or even out of tune. And sometimes it soars sky high or goes down to the bottom registers in a way that makes me shiver with almost sensual pleasure. Whatever she does, she does it with 120% of herself, and that includes the notes she can get out of her throat. But most importantly, her voice is raw emotion. All the cracks, all that she does just makes me trust her and believe her. I can hear the conviction in her voice. All the imperfections make it real, make it true, make it perfect. This may sound cheesy, but in this very sense, she’s perfect in her imperfection. And this, that raw emotions that she serves me with every new song, is what takes my heart out of my chest, twists it and crushes it, only to return it to me bleeding in the best way. (The word “eargasm” comes to mind.)
Secondly, the music. The melody. The harmony. The distorted, sometimes dissonant, nonrhythmic sounds that captivate all my attention and complete and compliment the voice. Amanda takes risks and they always pay off. You can have a song that goes extremely slowly and quietly and peacefully only to explode with the force of a thousand burning suns. You can have something that sounds like a discord only to realize in a few seconds that it’s actual a very rhythmical and harmonious melody, just not in the sense you’re used to. It’s positively mind-boggling.
And thirdly, the lyrics. Amanda’s songs are rarely shorter than three minutes. Often much, much longer. It’s because her songs have lyrics that could serve as poetry. Sometimes they’re sad. Sometimes they’re happy. Sometimes they’re rebellious. Sometimes they’re bitter. And it doesn’t just change with every song – the very same lyric that seemed happy to me yesterday, may induce tears of sadness today. Those lyrics are most often blissfully open to interpretation, like any good art should. (Remember, kids, by the very fact that you are experiencing art, you become co-creators of it. Nothing exists in the void, your own personality and perspective colors your reception. As much as the author puts of themselves into the work of art, you contribute in the same measure. Don’t let nobody ever tell you that your interpretation of a work of art is wrong. There is no such thing.) I don’t like being told straight-forward what I should get from a song or what should I feel, which is a problem of many a song these days. Amanda never does it. Amanda creates something and then she gives it to you and leaves you to do whatever you want with it. If you want, you can go on and think she sings of a coin-operated sex toy. Or you can see it in hundreds different perspectives. I’ve always felt extreme loneliness coming from that particular song. But every interpretation is valid. Amanda will just suggest you things, it’s up to you to pick them up.
Most importantly, Amanda puts her heart and soul in every song. She can tear you down with a song like “Delilah” and then go on and make you laugh out loud like an idiot (remember, I usually listen to music on my commutes, and I walk everywhere or go by public transport), like when you hear “Vegemite”. And then she will lit a fire under your ass and you suddenly feel like you could take the whole world head-on, like with “Map of Tasmania” or “Ukulele Anthem”.
Irony, grotesque, cabaret, burlesque, poetry, orchestra, theatre, philosophy, good old rock and a heart the size of a sun.
And those are only a few reasons off the top of my head why Amanda Palmer kicks ass.
Her music is… it just is. And thank God for that.