Where do I even begin? First off, I need to catch my breath and get my color back which might take a while. I am freaking right the eff out.
Amanda Palmer and Reb Fountain have just released on YouTube their mashup of two songs I could have never imagined could work together.
I reached out to Palmer a few hours ago with some questions and she graciously responded and I’ll be sharing that interview shortly.
But first. Know this:
In the middle of August, Palmer and the New Zealand musician Reb Fountain sat at a piano together at Stebbing Studios in Auckland, Aotearoa New Zealand. They recorded their collaborative mashup of Robin Thicke’s up-until-now-unbearable 2013 hit “Blurred Lines” with “Rape Me,” a track from Nirvana’s 1993 album “In Utero.”
“Blurred Lines” is a grotesque, rape glorifying song. And it became a
big goddamn hit. You likely already know this. It’s vile. It’s offensive. It’s fucking awful. Also, breaking not-so-fun fact, Robin Thicke has been accused of sexual assault by supermodel Emily Ratajkowski. She says he grabbed her bare breasts on the set of the video for the goddamned song back in 2013. This news broke two days ago. My heart breaks for her for having to endure this. This song sucks tremendous ass. Everything about it.
Until now that is.
Conversely, Nirvana’s “Rape Me,” despite the title, is an anti-rape song penned by Kurt Cobain in the early 90s. The band only performed it live a couple of times, including on Saturday Night Live. “Rape Me” is not an “easy” song. Those are difficult words to hear, let alone sing along with. But it’s also empowering. A song can be many things at once, lest anyone forget.
In a brilliant act of alchemy, Palmer and Fountain recorded a mashup of the two songs and gave birth to something that has made a few of my friends sob uncontrollably while igniting fires under others.
As I write this, I’ve watched the clip about nine times and I’m still sorting out my feelings. Parts of my heart hurt while others are glowing. I’m not just shook. I’m jolted. I’m disturbed. I’m deeply moved and profoundly inspired. I need to invent new emotions. I’m stunned. I’m awestruck.
The “Blurred Lines” + “Rape Me” mashup was inspired by Lizz Winstead who asked Palmer to cover a traditionally sexist song for the fundraiser DoReMeToo. Palmer asked her Patrons for suggestions. We offered up a massive amount of them.
Side bar: I could go on and on with a massive back story about how Amanda Palmer has spent the entire pandemic in New Zealand because the world closed down in a hurry while she was on tour last year. But, honestly, that’s a story for another day and one that she tells the best so consider this your official nudge, if you’re a fan of hers, to hop onto her Patreon and sign up. I’ve been a proud patron for at least three years. I do this because she’s one of my favorite artists because of the way she is fearless with her songwriting. And the way she does a bunch of other stuff, including supporting several important causes..
But that’s not what this particular post is about. This particular post has one purpose:
TO MAKE SURE YOU KNOW ABOUT THIS SONG AND ITS VIDEO.
Yeah yeah yeah, I shared it on Facebook and Twitter and that’s swell and all but this is too important, too mind-blowing and too ground-shaking to not also share here.
I was not prepared for what Fountain and Palmer did with these two songs. Fountain with her gorgeous voice is singing the “Blurred Lines” lyrics knowing full well how gross they are. Palmer sings part of it with Fountain before veering into doing her own thing with “Rape Me.” The songs merge seamlessly. “I”m not the only one” sings Palmer. “Get up, do it like it hurts” responds Fountain.
When it gets towards the end both of them are out of their minds with Palmer screaming “RAPE ME” at the top of her lungs with both of their hands banging on the piano. “You know you want it, I know want it” Fountain quietly proclaims to end the song and both women sit there, staring right at and through the camera for several seconds. I’ve never seen or heard anything quite like it.
I forced myself to listen to one minute of the original “Blurred Lines” to remind myself of how much I hate it and yeah I know, Pharrell Williams sings on it song with Thicke and everyone loves him but whatever. It’s SUCH a bad song.
Amanda and Reb have reclaimed “Blurred Lines” and have re-introduced “Rape Me” into the here and now of #metoo and women taking their lives back. Somehow. They’ve done this.
Every time I watch the clip and listen to them sing, I pick up on different things. A whisper, a facial expression, a look of sarcasm, of sorrow, of rage. They’ve made a diamond. A fucking diamond.
I’ve been slayed by Amanda Palmer several times over. But this. This might be the deepest she’s stuck the sword in. Holy shit. HOLY SHIT.
And now I cant’ wait to dive into the Reb Fountain’s discography because I’m a fan for life.
Here’s my conversation with Amanda. I didn’t leave anything out of her responses.
How did you feel sitting at the piano with Reb recording this?
AP: I’d only hung out with Reb five or six times before this recording session, but we were fast friends when we met. We’ve got a lot in common: indie females in our 40s, both of us have kids, and we are, we figured – no shit – actually distant cousins (we’re both from the clan MacKinnon from the Isle of Skye in Scotland…we haven’t yet figured out if we’re 5th cousins or 8th cousins or whatever, but we are RELATED). I’m a last-minute musician, and love the fast process, and Reb is a seasoned pro, so we agreed to work on the arrangement the night before at her house in Auckland, and keep working on it the next day at the studio before the first take….that was it. By the time we actually sat down to the piano, we did three takes total, and we were spent. And pretty sure we’d nailed it. In the end we decided to use the middle one – take two. But you can see the lyrics on the piano – we had barely done a full rehearsal of the song before recording it, so we had those “am I getting this right” jitters, since the arrangement was so fresh in our heads. Before every take started, I would squeeze Reb’s left hand in my right hand. Then I’d lift my hands to the piano and play the first chord. There was something so powerful about the whole process, and the fact that we were staring down the barrel of a man behind a camera, singing these words. I don’t think I’ve ever felt a performance with another person feel more subtly powerful. Reb’s got a real gravitas to her person. She doesn’t fuck around, and it was infectous. She’s a real revered indie treasure here in New Zealand, I was honored she said yes.
Did you know right then and there how spectacular this was going to be?
AP: Yeah, I think we did. Though you never know, with film. Even if you feel it, doesn’t mean the camera caught it. I’ve filmed a few music videos and really felt the emotional weight of the performance come out of my body, only to see the cut a month later and feel nothing because the lighting was terrible, or the sound was terrible, or there was something really distracting in the frame and nobody fixed it. Film is a real bitch that way. You gotta trust.
When the song ended what did you and Reb do? Cry? Hug? Drink? I can only imagine how intense that must have felt.
AP:Ha! We hugged really hard. And then we took the whole crew out for amazing Korean food down the street. They’d worked a really hard emotional day and it was nice to take the load off with some wine. It’s also important to point out that – like many things in my life lately – we made this video by the skin of our teeth. It was filmed on August 14th, when New Zealand was completely open, maskless and frollicking along, having had no covid for well over a year. Three days later, on August 17th, there was a confirmed case of Delta in the community and the whole country was given a 6-hour warning to completely lock down at home. We are still in that lockdown. I don’t know what it is about me and my cosmic-ass timing in New Zealand (I’m only here because I was touring three cities in mid-march 2020, and have stayed here indefinitely)…but there’s something going on. This could have so easily not happened.
Was there any doubt about using “Rape Me” for your part?
AP: Not really, although I never know with people. The concept was born out of a big social media and patreon post that a made a few months ago asking for people to list the best ironic sexist cover options they could think of, because I’d agreed to do Lizz Winstead’s #DoReMeToo fundraiser for Abortion Access Front. And the list was ENDLESS! THERE ARE SO MANY SEXIST SONGS!!! But I noticed a few people name “Rape Me” and that rubbed me the wrong way. As a songwriter who is often misunderstood and misinterpreted, I think Kurt Cobain would be rolling in his grave if he knew that the song – which came from a deeply feminist place in him – was ending up on a list of sexist songs. So I was a little worried that people would be dumb and literal…because people can be really dumb and literal. But luckily that doesn’t seem to have happened. Just wait a few days though. You’ll probably see a headline saying “10 REASONS AMANDA PALMER IS LITERALLY PROMOTING RAPE IN HER NEW MASH-UP” because people just like to be dumb on the internet, and clickbait is clickbait.
Now, please, stop what you’re doing. Really stop. Don’t be distracted. Steady yourself.
Here’s the “Blurred Lines + Rape Me” mashup by Amanda Palmer and Reb Fountain:
Watch it again. Feel it all. FEEL IT ALL.