The Critical 'I'

Read. React. Repeat.

Monday, June 16, 2003

whip smart
I was listening to Liz Phair's "Supernova" on the way back from work today, and it reminded me of the news that the former poster grrrl of indie rock is making a comeback. Says the fair Phair:

"I didn't want to be some '90s act that was great in my 20s and never did anything else," the 36-year-old musician told Entertainment Weekly for its May 30 issue.

Well, that's the way it's looking so far. Becoming a featured VH1 performer probably doesn't help, either. Far as I'm concerned, "Supernova" was her only real hit. I also liked her high-energy cover of "Turning Japanese", but I don't think that qualifies as a hit.

"Supernova" remains a song that I like a lot. It's also the only song that I can remember making me noticably uncomfortable. How? Phair's lyrics are the first I can remember that forcefully delivered a woman's raw assessment of sexual desire. What's more, they successfully objectified a man as a mere sexual creature, in a deconstructive way:

You walk in clouds of glitter
And the sun reflects your eyes
And every time the wind blows
I can smell you in the sky
Your kisses are as wicked as an F-16
And you fuck like a volcano
And you're everything to me

(Christ, I'm posting song lyrics here now! What am I, 14 years old??)

Hearing these lyrics, for the first time I understood how women felt when they complained of being reduced to a set of body parts: Nice legs, great tits, good hair, etc. I always understood what all that meant, on a rational level, but the squirming feeling those lyrics, set to a beat, gave me really made it hit home. Phair does this with the guy she's singing about, and it's supposed to be a positive; yet I get a clear sense that she's turning the table on guys in general, letting them know how it feels to be objectified. I'm sure this flew over most people's heads, but that's the experience I had.