May 022012

Jack White‘s new solo album, Blunderbuss, has been promoted by performances featuring an all-female backing band. For his appearance on Saturday Night Live, for instance, he performed one song backed by his women and one song backed by his dudes. The discussion I hope to explore in no way is meant to question the qualifications of either of his backing bands. What I’d like to discuss is how these promotional efforts—and based on White’s long career built on exquisite “branding” there can be no denying that his new band of “Jack’s Angels” is not part of his latest promotional campaign—play for you, especially the legion of women who often lurk here in the Halls of Rock.

Townswomen, when you see a Jack White (or a Prince—this seems like something he’s done) backed by an all-women band for the launch of a new album do you feel that more of a sincere support of sisterhood or a Fellini-esque male fantasy is at play? In other words, is there a part of you that wonders whether this a legitimate version of this?


  8 Responses to “Male Artists Consciously Backed by Female Backing Bands: A Sincere Support of Sisterhood or a Fellini-esque Fantasy?”

  1. Clearly the Hall’s women readers are mulling this over. I appreciate your compliments on this thought-provoking topic in advance.

  2. Happiness Stan

    I’m not sure if this comment will count, coming from a male type person, but several things strike me about that performance – firstly that it reminded me of The Sweet doing “Hell Raiser” on Top of the Pops. Secondly, even though I’m not terribly convinced by Jack White’s music, or the White Stripes either come to that, he does seem to do stuff for the right reasons and has my respect for that – plus he and Meg went to John Peel’s funeral, and did so without coming on like pop stars, which was undoubtedly the right way to behave.

    The question you pose put me in mind of Robert Palmer’s videos of the mid-eighties, and Bryan Ferry at his most lounge at about the same time, and I remember thinking at the time that neither really furthered the cause of feminism.

    There are two fine lines which I perceive, the first between support of sisterhood and Fellini-esque fantasy, and a second between Fellini-esque fantasy and the films of Russ Meyer (or the closing scene from every Benny Hill show as he chased scantily-clad ladies through gardens as the credits rolled).

    I think that Jack White gets away with it because he’s just not making a big thing of it. I suspect that, like me (I grew up in a house full of very strong women with very little in the way of a father figure), he probably just likes the company of women more than he enjoys the company of blokes. I’ve no idea if this is the case, I tend not to read interviews, but he doesn’t come over as some rapacious dirty old man.

    Robert Palmer didn’t get away with it in my eyes because from the look of him in those videos he looks like he was expecting to be able to jump into bed with any or all of the ladies in the video as soon as the shoot is over. They deliberately look dehumanised, which the ladies backing Jack White do not. They all look as if they are there through choice, and even though they’re playing what he’s told them to, he is giving them the space to demonstrate that they haven’t signed away their right to self-respect.

    I was sorely tempted to post this one with the Tiny Tim piece

  3. I think they are probably still collecting their thoughts on the bass player’s how-to videos.

  4. FANTASTIC opening comment…even for a bloke! 🙂 I really like how you define that second line, the Benny Hill line. That makes me feel better about how deeply I embrace the Fellini-esque line, best represented by that scene in 8 1/2. Thanks.

  5. ladymisskirroyale

    It’s true: I’m still recalling that bratwurst and those tight jeans.

  6. ladymisskirroyale

    Hmmm. (No tone in particular other than puzzlement)

    Love the Fellini: the sexism, loads of women and womanizing were part of the character and his crisis. So no problem there.

    I loved Robert Palmer: the women are part of his schtick. (BTW, the Robert Palmer Girl costume plays very well at 80’s parties. I still have my inflatable guitar for the purpose. Vapid look is easy.)

    But Jack White’s thing does seem like his next THING. He did the Red/White stripes with his “sister.” He did the Rock Ghoul with his next ex wife. Now he’s returned the sound of the American Vernacular and this is how he tries to sell it? Does he think his music isn’t strong enough on it’s own that he has to use a gimmick?

    Given his history with different looks and sounds, and that he flips a coin each night to decide whether he’s going with the gal or the guy band just screams gimmick.

    I’d have more respect for him if he just picked the best players and musicians who worked well together, regardless of gender.

  7. Good to hear – and refreshing to hear that Robert Palmer was not offensive to you. I’m sure over the years lots of thoughtful guys have tried to score points as Sensitive Men by decrying those videos.

  8. I agree with you. Michael McDonald has a female drummer that rocks very hard.

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