May 02, 2006


Drew Daniel wrote a letter, I think to the Voice, and emailed me a copy as well about my comments about Stephin Merritt on this blog. Here is his letter, along with a clarification.

To Whom It May Concern-

I am writing to set the record straight with regards to Jessica Hopper's account of Stephin Merritt's comments at the EMP Pop Conference this year. I was also a panelist at the keynote in question and I take issue with Jessica Hopper's interpretation of what was a fun, witty, thoughtful, and at no times "racist" conversation. I have to say that in the past I have liked Jessica's writings on punk rock, emo and feminism, and I like her as a person too, so I was disappointed by her weird selective quotation / distortion of the evening on her blog. Here's the deal: we were asked about "happy songs" and Stephin brought up "Zipadeedoodah" as the only good song from "Song of the South", I countered with a claim that I preferred "Everybody's Got A Laughin' Place", we both said that it was nonetheless a horribly racist film, and the coversation moved on. Apparently, Jessica Hopper stuck around to hear Stephin praise "Zipadeedoodah"but "left for a smoke" just before the film itself was criticised, a disappearance whose timing I find pretty, uh, convenient given the polemical character of her response. That said, Stephin and co-panelist LD Beghtol weren't always speaking clearly into the mic, as we were all turning our heads to speak to each other, so it's also possible that some comments were muffled. But I heard every word that Stephin uttered, and at no point did he make a racist remark, and at no point did he endorse the racism of "Song of the South".

Later in the conversation, Stephin did make a point about performers of different races being treated differently by their audiences in terms of genre-based expectations about "authenticity". His gaffe at this point was that as an example of a black R+B singer he cited Celine Dion, which was (duhhhh) a factual error that people in the audience quickly corrected. Stephin shifted ground to Mariah Carey and the conversation continued. He balanced his dislike of the modern R+B singing style with plenty of praise of gospel singing and Aretha Franklin's gospel recordings in particular. Merritt is guilty of one thing: not liking Celine Dion. Given the "poptimist" position of some in the audience, and the general hipper-than-thou vibe of a gathering of professional music critics, Merritt's reference to Dion's singing was a red flag (lots of people at this event fall all over themselves to reclaim various pop stars who are widely critically reviled, etc.) I think it was just an honest mistake that popped in while talking about a kind of singing that he loathes, but at no point did Stephin make a racist remark. I hope that this helps to clarify things, and I hope that Hopper will either apologize or consider retracting her statements, as they defame Mr. Merritt without justification.


Drew Daniel

So here is my thought, which I meant to put in the original post, as the theme was touched upon during EMP enough, but didn't---What I thought about the digression about Song of The South, and yes, it is entirely possible that things were said that I was missing as people were talking to each other often instead of into the microphones, was to just plop out an "I love it all" re: Song of the South, and leave that, unexamined, to me is questionable, especially in the face of the eternal debate of Does liking a racist thing make you racist, or by liking it, are you complicit, post facto?. I tend to blv, in most cases, "yes". That was my read on it. I understand, it's not most people's reads of it, and no, when I was there, for the parts I saw, and I bailed about 60 seconds after he said he loved it all, that was enough for me... Merritt never said anything bad about black people, (though he did say some bad things about Celine Dion). He lbespoke his love of Song of The South.

Also very worth reading: comments on alla this from Jane Dark's Sugarhigh! about the playlist meme y otro.

Posted by Jessica at May 2, 2006 01:04 PM | TrackBack