Return to Amanda Palmer


Abortion, rape, God and video; Palmer really writes about dealing with human experince
February 6, 9:20 PM
by Jyn Radakovits, Chicago Indie Music Examiner

Becoming the “you won’t believe what they’ve done to her now” poster girl for the industry, no one shows more strength than Amanda Palmer in the last few months. Coming off of a controversy surrounding the ill promotion and support from Roadrunner Records for her solo release Who Killed Amanda Palmer and the subsequent “rebellyon” that followed, the artist is back in the ring defending artist freedom of expression after several UK networks hesitation to give air play to the “Oasis” video.

“First the belly thing now this,” Palmer quips in her blog posted entitled “Abortion, Rape, Art and Humor.”

Roadrunner gearing up to promote the song for the European market emailed the artist claiming the “release had been met with fierce opposition” and had “refused to play it because it had made light of rape, religion, and abortion.”

Despite many of the networks liking the song, Roadrunner went on to say according to the artist’s blog, they were bound by strict European broadcasting rules when it came to airing the tune either form, although Europe is a generally one of the most liberal markets.

Among the networks concerned NME TV, Scuzz, Kerrang, MTV, Q, and The Box were named.

The issue resolves around a tongue-in-cheek tune written in 2002 about a date rape that ends in abortion but none of these things matter because that girl in the song has just received an autographed photo of her favorite band, which happens to be Oasis, and a friend jealous of the keepsake.

As where the tune filled with irony was meant to be a sarcastic and black humor tale filled with funny, sad, poignant, and happy-peppy chorus recorded by Ben Folds, the singer blogs in no way was the video or lyrics meant in any way to be a political statement, a lecture, or pro choice propaganda.

“It is a song, a reflection, a character sketch,” Palmer writes.

The song was never meant to be taken seriously just in the same way that Stephanie Meyers fans shouldn’t take the verbiage literally on the nature pertaining to vampires if there be any real ones among us, or every child watching cartoons shouldn’t fret whether off screen the coyote devours the roadrunner finally behind the cactus.

Palmer went on to make the argument that is the song was slowed down and saddened to the tune of a weeper over lilting piano does it make the song more acceptable and of value to the listener?

Compare that to Tori Amos and her Little Earthquakes album with a good chunk of the subject matter nodding towards an event that happened to her after one of her shows when she was attacked and raped by an unknown male. As where just about every song on there is a plea for help and sometimes a middle finger to God, MTV and other affiliated back in the day had no problem with playing “Crucify”. Maybe it’s because the album proceeds went to RAINN.

Does showing regret and humility about such topics make it acceptable with in a safe harbor context that can be written off if that narrator wasn’t so damned happy about that autographed picture and more regretful about that unborn child of her attacker? Women’s issues aside, this really isn’t a matter of pro choice must versus what we makes people squirm if they hear it.

The real issue in all this is an artist’s freedom of expression in their writing.

“The song isn’t even so much about these topics, it’s about denial. It’s about a girl who can’t find it in herself to take her situation seriously,” say Palmer in the infamous blog.

“Our collective freedom to approach situations with humor, irony, with anger, with sadness, with darkness, with an edge, from a different perspective, from within the situation…its essential.”

How is any of this different than an actor playing a part in a movie? A novelist taking on a new tone in a novel?

Art allows for you to try on new identities and experiment with perspective and themes within the work.

As where no one will ever have every experience there is to write about there is no harm in expressing feelings or opinions about it, is there?

That’s why lyrics after all, are mostly works of fiction.

If it helps the critics, pretend you are reading them as stanza in a text book rather than hearing them aloud.

The artist argues how by having these experiences, putting forward her own experiences saying “Yes, I have been victim to rape and abortion”, but it isn’t need to lend creditability in ones ability to write or to have a feeling about said subjects.

There should be no reason that an artist should have to defend their right to execute any tactics when it comes to writing a song or having to explain how they found retribution and exorcise their demons by using a real or made up troubled teen to fuel the creation.

As where we are all I’m sure thankful this young woman in the song is character sketch, she is also all of us and that knowledge is what seems to be scaring off the networks as they cling to broadcast standards. No one wants to think that such things happen, but they do, and where is the point of peering at them through locked doors and closed blinds and not facing them head on. Confrontation is the most productive way to counteract fear.

Palmer asks fans and supporters to please write the outlets refusing to play the video or song and nicely ask for it to be aired, and express your own feelings on the issue. She also thanks BBC 6 for playing the video and has listed their contact information as well for those interested in showing gratitude to the station.