When I woke up this morning before my alarm the first thing I did was check my phone to see if the MUCH anticipated Amanda Palmer video had dropped yet. It hadn’t. Two nights earlier I had a dream about the video. One day earlier I had been pretty much beside myself with anticipation. Palmer had been dropping hints about the new video for the past few weeks and some of her posts inferred that the video might be considered controversial by some.
I’ll admit, I was nervous. Was Amanda about to unleash something that would bring her a world of backlash? But then I remembered, this is Amanda Fucking Palmer we’re talking about. If she has something to say she’s going to say it and she’s going to say it intelligently and then she’ll willingly engage in public debate about it. She will not back down but she’ll also hear all sides of something and will participate in a back and forth. And in the end, not everyone loves everything she does and says. I am not one of those people. I think she’s brilliant and has a heart as big, bold, messy, complicated, compassionate, artistic, bloody and authentic as anyone I’ve ever been a fan of. This is in fact one of the things that I’ve long admired about her. Amanda Palmer, like her or not, is as real as they come.
Which brings us to today.
A few hours ago I got the notification that the video was now out in the world. So I put my headphones on and took the deepest breath quite possibly of 2017 and hit play.
Within ONE NOTE I was spellbound. Because Amanda Palmer and Jherek Bischoff, with a cast of several musicians including cellist Zoe Keating had just released their take on Pink Floyd’s “Mother,” identifiable from the very first note. The first thing on the screen is a close-up of Palmer looking on the verge of tears as she sings the lines “Mother do you think they’ll drop the bomb?/Mother do you think they’ll like this song?/Mother do you think they’ll try to break my balls?/Mother, should I build the wall?”
Holy shit. I sat there stunned and felt a hurricane of emotions whirling inside my ribcage. The hints Palmer dropped in the days leading up to the sharing of “Mother” told us that it had something to do with her disdain for the current administration. But I could have never predicted that she would have chosen such a PERFECT song with which to express it. And let me be perfectly clear, Amanda Palmer is a spectacular songwriter and she could have written an original and it would have likely been epic. But she didn’t need to. The perfect song was already out in the world. She and musician/composer Jherek Bischoff did something incredible with it.
The imagery in the video is startling and tear-inducing and evoked so many things at once. In it you’ll see children building a wall. You’ll see Melissa auf der Maur. You’ll see Zoe Keating playing her cello. You’ll see Jherek Bischoff conducting a string quartet. You’ll see dancers and actors , including one portraying our current President, creating a piece of work that is difficult to take in with one viewing. I’ve now watched it four times and I’m still discovering new things.
I am not going to tell you how the video ends. You’ll see that in a moment. Some people’s feathers might get ruffled. Not mine. I think it was one of the boldest, bravest things Palmer could have done. My interpretation is that it’s meant as a moment of honest-to-God compassion. A moment of “I know everything is really fucked up right now but I am determined to not let my heart turn black.” It’s edgy. It’s going to make some people uncomfortable. I get that. But I hope people also appreciate the artistic message of it.
I am not going to say this is Amanda Palmer’s finest hour because I know with every drop of blood in my veins there are many more to come. But this is the most extraordinary videos she and her team have ever done. And believe me, between her solo and Dresden Dolls material there is some insanely great videos out there.
By the time I got to the end of my first viewing of “Mother,” I was trembling. TREMBLING. I felt like crying and yet I also felt hopeful. Isn’t that what art is all about?
OK then. Here’s “Mother.” With endless depths of appreciation to Amanda and Jherek.