November 13, 2006

VALID CRITICAL POINTS

I waited until I finished writing my essay/review about this record (see next week's Reader) before I read what other people wrote, and I found what Pitchfork posted about it to be complete and utter bullshit. Just to be frank.

To wit:
"Hyv÷nen is complicit, if not culpable, in being taken either as a cute pop songbird or a feminist newcomer: She sings about cocks against thighs, homoerotic encounters, and one-night stands with candor and ease. She's just writing songs. But remember: She's a (European) (female) (piano-playing) songwriter who mentions Djuna Barnes, and this must be construed as statement of an ideologue unafraid to be naughty. Indeed, perhaps a female songwriter talking about the male anatomy and controlling her own sexuality would still be a valid critical point if, say, the last 60 years of recorded music-- from Mabel Scott's "Baseball Boogie" of 1950 ("Get your bat ready, baby/ If you can hit that ball, you can make a home run") to Missy Elliott (You fill in the blanks)-- didn't exist." (italics mine)

Firstly, Hyvonen is not the one to blame for the fact the American critical public/potential fanbase has such a narrow view of female artistry--that she could only be one of two things given her art (neither of which, as dismissively defined by the critic above, allow for much). It is not Hyvonen's responsibility for to strategize better positioning in order to manipulate of how she might be percieved; in order to not be pigeonholed for doing something played-out as a fluid and shameless portrayl of what it is like to be a woman enjoying her life. P.S. Whats wrong with being a feminist newby or a cute pop "songbird"? Since when are they mutually exclusive?

Vis a vis the rest of said bullshit: if perhaps the critic had listened harder, or at all, or read the lyric sheet what he might have noticed is that what Hyvonen is doing is not on the same track as the American pop music idiom/gendered pop-dialectic of "empowered" female sexuality--with it's allusions that staledated with Ma Rainey 78s c. 1926, but running in direct contrast to it.

Secondly, it is a "valid" critical point because every day, Frida Hyvonen and I and my sister and my grandma and Liz Phair and Amy Lee from Evanescence et billions wake up in a patriarchy, the fact of which is generally invisible to those who are empowered by and benefit from it; ignorance is your privilege right.

Thirdly, on the song where Hyvonen sings about a "cock against my thigh" she is singing about her unease with discovering her sexual power as a teenager, thrust upon her (no pun intended) by an older guy--assigned--and how she is thrilled by the approval , disgusted by him and ultimately isolated and made lonely by it (see also: basic tenet of life for women growing up under patriarchy, one which is generally kept secret). Perhaps it's worth listening to the song past it's second line in order to gain the context of both the "cock" and the "thigh" on that one; it's not a come on and the "control" is hardly hers.

Fourthly, within American pop music idiom/gendered pop-dialectic of "empowered" female sexuality -- sexual power/onus/etc is gained by cultivation or rejection of male desire (desire also expressed financially). In these portrayls female desire often does not exist on it's own, but is a subsidy male desire. The male gaze works as the mirror, reflecting the women's worth back to them--making the woman a static object rather than a living thing. Hyvonen's portrayls of a female sexuality (that in the review is assumed to be her own)--is variable, boundless, shifting, human -- as are the men in the songs (more than a wallet, a daddy, a cock, a saviour). The stories bisect male desire rather than spin on an axis of it; the stories detour through relationships (romantic and social) with men, but ultimately the story is HERS--full of sure self-possession and distinctly European feminism(s). Now, as a feminist critic who listens really really closely to every single song I hear--that narrative and the other ones Hyvonen lays out throughout the record are rare to the point of being a total effing anamoly, actually.

5thly: Not all songs of seemingly liberated female sexuality are the same; most of them are false fronts of fuck me feminism because it's the most accepted way to get approval, hold attention and sell products. Duh.

Sixthly (yes really, sixthly), to play like this feminist narrative is some been-there-one-that shit, you should really try listening to all of recorded history, or maybe if you don't have the time--start with Rolling Stones Hot Rocks and work yr way up to Hawthorne Heights' latest--and then, maybe, we can have a talk about "valid" critiques of played-out narratives about fucking.


Frida Hyvonen Tour Dates
11-14 Baton Rouge, LA - Red Star Bar
11-15 Dallas, TX - The Cavern
11-16 Houston, TX - Proletariat +
11-17 Austin, TX - Emo's ~
11-19 Chicago, IL - Beat Kitchen $
12-06 London, England - 93 Feet East !
12-09 Amsterdam, The Netherlands - Paradiso
12-10 Berlin, Germany - Privatclub
12-11 Cologne, Germany - Studio 672
12-12 Paris, France - Le Divan du Monde @

Posted by Jessica at November 13, 2006 02:54 AM | TrackBack