There are those who love each and every thing Amanda Palmer does, and every word that flows from her mouth and/or fingertips, and there are enough such people to have allowed her to smash all sorts of internet records when she raised a gazillion dollars on Kickstarter recently. And then there are people like me, who are inclined to be standoffish in the face of such extroverted theatrics. There’s only one minor problem with this formula. Amanda Palmer knows how to write music, and how to deliver it. I’d be dumb to ignore her just because I’m an introvert and/or social media skeptic. She is an undeniable talent, and still exploring her limits.
This actually has a lot to do with why her model of mega-fan-engagement and digital self-exposure may not in fact be transferable or even helpful to others. Few indie artists have her multifaceted chops. Case in point: “Want It Back,” with its electro-orchestral intro, its bigass beat, its simple, unstoppable melody, and its casual but carefully built soundscape. At the center of it all is Palmer’s stagy presentation, rooted in her commanding voice and adroit way with words, especially in terms of how they sound and scan in a song. Yes, she’s got all that “punk cabaret” cred but the real power, I feel, comes from how well she draws from the showy end of the new wave era (think Lene Lovich, or Adam Ant) and funnels it into keenly crafted anthemic 21st-century rock’n’roll. I may never feel that comfortable in the midst of the crowd-sourced, share-a-thon currently passing for normal in the digital world, but a good song is a good song, and I’m delighted to listen and, um, share.
“Want It Back” is one of two songs Palmer has released early from an album due out in September (the other, also worth hearing, is available for an email address via her web site). The album, entitled Theater is Evil, is part of a large-scale release strategy, including a companion art book and a multi-faceted tour, that was made possible in part by her million-dollar crowd-funding effort (about which more here). Palmer has been previously featured on Fingertips in 2008, and also in 2004 as part of the Dresden Dolls.
photo credit: Kyle Cassidy