Last night while flipping channels I stopped for a few minutes on an Austin City Limits performance by someone named Kat Edmonson. I’d never heard of this woman before, and I was primed to dislike her. The guide description referred to her as a “jazz singer.” She had an upturned pixie nose, which is usually a slight turnoff for my deservedly high standards (because lord knows I’ve got God’s ideal nose and deserve only the best noses). She wore a cute red dress and stood, cutely, at the mic stand in front of a large band of musicians playing quietly and tastefully. She had a cute squeaky voice. Her music wasn’t bad, though, even for that kind of music. And she was cute in a pixie cute way, a bit of a cross between Naomi Watts and Kirsten Dunst in a pixie ‘do. Her songs were kind of cute, too, but stopped short of cloying.
The more I watched the more I actually appreciated her music—as much as I can appreciate that stuff—and just how cute I found her, in an attainable musician way. Isn’t that the point of rock ‘n roll (or related genres), according to my close personal friend E. Pluribus Gergely, to project youthful beauty while carrying a good tune? I was confused. I thought of my man BigSteve‘s Listen But Don’t Look Principle, which cautions against making musical judgments based on an artist’s visual presentation. I was caught in a possible reverse-Listen But Don’t Look conundrum: I may have been lured into liking this woman’s music because I dug how girly her overall vibe was. Yeah, that’s right: I dig girly girl stuff now and then!
I value my exquisite taste in music above almost all other qualities. Rarely do I find my powers of observation and cool-headed analysis swayed by something so primitive as a stirring in my loins, but last night I had to wonder if I was experiencing one of those only human moments I’ve tried to counsel many of you through.
I would not have had quite this hang-up if my first exposure to Edmonson had been this “official” video for her song “I Don’t Know,” a song I liked a lot when she performed it on Austin City Limits, minus the tongue-in-cheek (I think) bad Meg Ryan movie-style dancing.
This video falls squarely into our understanding of the Listen But Don’t Look Principle. Watching it is a severe detriment to enjoying the music, I guess unless you’re some kind of 20-year-old aspiring suburban drama queen. But what about performances featuring drop-the-cat moments, in which some smokin’ imagery may trick us into liking the music more than we normally would? For instance, would I have liked the music of Kat Edmonson if confronted by the visage of Pink or Courtney Love? Highly doubtful. They may top my list of Women I’d Choose Men Over, and if I were flipping channels late on a Sunday night and found them singing some kind of “pixie jazz” music I’d keep flipping as fast as my thumb would take me. (For the record, actor Paul Dano tops my list of Guys I’d Choose Pink and Maybe Even Courtney Love Over.)
Here’s the deal: after a good night’s sleep I’m still thinking I actually liked the music of Kat Edmonson. I’m going to buy one of her records. Is that wrong? Is that consistent with the high musical standards I’ve displayed in public through the years? Is this going to bring the same hammer down on me that my wife gave me when I declared that Naomi Watts was “great” in We Don’t Live Here Anymore?
“That’s easy for you to say,” she said, “considering she was nude through half the movie!”
Have you ever felt conflicted about liking an artist whose music is outside your comfort zone at the possibility that you were listening with your groin?