THIS IS MY JAM: Liz Phair-”6’1″”

by on October 14, 2013

Posted in: Uncategorized

What is Liz Phair to a girl like me? Phair was making manic-pixie claims of being your “average everyday sane psycho supergoddess” when I was 10 years old and struggling to get my mom to let me buy my first training bra. At that point, she’d already run around the feminist block and come out the other side. I probably first heard her as shopping mall muzak or on the “13 Going On 30” Soundtrack- you decide which is better. Considering the reverence I hold for young adult fiction and mid-2000s fashions, it probably means a lot that my view of Liz Phair started through the eyes of me as a capital-G “Girl” who had 2 sleepovers every weekend and worshiped at the alter of “Teen Vogue.”

Of course I’d heard of “Exile in Guyville” but, by the time I had, I was already over it. In high school I liked listening to guys who sounded mad and sad or drunk and sad ( <3 <3 <3 Isaac Brock <3 <3 <3.) I was jaded about gurrrrrrl power and riot girrrrls and really especially jaded about  Lilith Fair (which I read about at age 9 in the music booklet that accompanied my Daisy Rock guitar so the joke is really on me.) Feminism was a dirty word for man-hating, out of touch womyn who couldn’t get out of the 70s. I read the lyrics of “Flower” and cringed while rolling my eyes. I was woefully misinformed.

The alienation I felt as a young girl who though I shouldn’t like other women sharing their feelings- that fear of the weakness associated with feminine narratives and emotions- is what I overcame to appreciate Phair. Now I can’t imagine shying away from the label “feminist” -OBVIOUSLY I am a feminist and OBVIOUSLY “Girl Rock” is a dumb patriarchal concept because rock is rock and OBVIOUSLY LIZ PHAIR IS AWESOME. I grew up on India Arie and Fiona Apple- I even had a love affair with “Jagged Little Pill” in 6th grade- so I don’t know who I thought I was kidding but it was dumb to think I could fool them. In rejecting Liz Phair, I may have been trying to reject all of the hyper-embarrassing younger version of myself: the vapid tween, the emotional gurl etc. I didn’t  realize I could have it all- the marshmallow fluff of a Meg Cabot book and a Taylor Swift song, the no-bullshit-scream-alongs in the car to “Trucker’s Atlas”, and a grungy alto-soaked flannel female solidarity – and not have to feel embarrassed; that I could like all of these versions of femininity (which, to be honest, is still a slim selection) and not have to feel bad about it. That I could be a girl who liked “Why Can’t I” AND “Divorce Song.” It bums me out that Phair seemed to have gotten backlash herself for trying to make those two types of music.

But that’s jumping the gun. This summer I read a think piece on the ten-year anniversary of “Exile” and I finally gave it a spin. Immediately I wanted to slap myself- I fell for it long and hard . It’s fantastic; it really sounds like it could have hit shelves today.  And while this post is more about the album as a whole rather than one song, the opening riff in “6’1”  always hits just the right button. It sounds like a classic, older and topical at the same time. It’s straight to the point and relatable: “And I loved my life, and I hated you.” Locked and loaded, a line so simple it’s almost dumb. A perfect line.”6′ 1″ “made me consider taking my electric guitar down off the wall for the first time in years. I gave my acoustic Daisy Rock to my ten year old brother and made him a mixtape with lots of Fiona Apple on it in hopes that he won’t be so scared of “GIRL MUSIC”-whatever that even means-  And I think I owe some of that to Liz.  I’m trying to make up for lost time; it’s gotta count for something.