Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meg White's Solo Album

Uh, just in case you found this post by Googling "Meg White solo album," this isn't about any breaking news.  This is merely a theoretical discussion of what a Meg White record would entail, since it's kind of a fascinating subject.

Fascinating, if predictable.  Imagine a Meg solo project was actually announced.  There would be quite a bit of speculation, some snark ("How will she be able to perform without Jack pulling the strings?"), then a backlash against the snark ("Meg is a solid artist in her own right!") and then the record would actually come out to…mixed reviews.  It would almost surely have to sound something like the White Stripes, right?  Maybe leaning towards the more blues-tinged torch songs than their usual rockers, probably bearing more resemblance to "Get Behind Me Satan" or (ironically) to Jack's solo record than it would most of the Stripes' discography. 

Maybe it would surprise us all and be a complete departure from the Stripes' sound, which would be very cool.  Meg is, after all, somewhat of a blank slate musically.  She's been criticized for everything from her minimalist (haters would say 'simple') drumming style to the fact that she seemed to basically just be an adjunct to Jack within the White Stripes given that he wrote and produced all the music.  I'm not sure I agree with this angle, mostly based on the fact that Jack's solo stuff and collaborations with other bands has never been as inspired as it was with Meg.  She clearly brought *something* to the table, even if we're not sure what that was.  In any case, coming out in a bold musical direction of her own would both bring Meg newfound respect and also lead us to look upon the Stripes' material with fresh ears.

The larger questions about a Meg White album, of course, would be "why" or "how" more than "what."  Meg, of course, has all but disappeared from the public eye since the White Stripes broke up and it's been rumoured that her issues with anxiety (which caused some tour dates to be canceled in 2007) were one of the reasons the band broke up.  Releasing an album would indicate that she's well, which would be great.  Releasing an album, however, would also perhaps on level indicate that Meg cares about making her own musical statement, which would run counter with virtually everything we know about the woman.  Fewer people in music seemingly give fewer fucks than Meg White; the opinions of her critics may simply not be worth a cold damn to her.  If she did make an album, my guess is that she'd be doing it because she thought it'd be fun, not out of some quixotic attempt to change the opinions of jaded music writers.

I posed the question of a Meg White solo disc to my pal Misha, a man so in love with the Stripes that he indirectly named his son after Jack White.  Misha is, naturally, a big Meg fan ("I always thought she was great.  On stage you couldn't take your eyes off her both times I saw them play live.") yet he added the caveat that he'd only buy the album if Jack was involved in some way, as a producer or writer of some of the songs.  Even a Meg-lover like Misha can't quite separate her from Jack's long shadow.

A completely solo Meg album or a Meg album involving Jack are two different things, each intriguing in its own way.  I've already talked about how an only-Meg joint would be perceived, but a Jack-involved Meg album would carry a different set of expectations and pressures.  Frankly, I think such a disc would be even more harshly reviewed --- it couldn't help but be seen as a de factor reunion, and thus held up to the standard of the Stripes' discography.  Worse, it could be reviewed under the "why is this happening?" lens, as critics would wonder why the two would bother making "a White Stripes record with Meg on vocals" rather than just give us a proper new White Stripes album, if the two are willing to collaborate again.

These types of criticisms could be avoided (or at least side-stepped) if Meg were to release her album out of the blue, with no publicity, a la Beyonce's latest release.  Not even a bit of leadup --- just bam, one Twitter announcement that the record is now available for download.  It'd subvert everyone's expectations since then the music is just The Music and all of the expectations and pre-conceived notions that I've described in this post wouldn't even be allowed to take root. 

I'd argue that Meg White is the type of musician who benefits most from the modern surprise album release.  In Beyonce's case, while the sudden release caught everyone off-guard, at the end of the day it was still a Beyonce album.  In Meg's case, you'd not only have the shock that her disc was suddenly available, you'd also have the double shock that it was in the works at all.  Imagine the excitement of clicking that first track and having absolutely no idea what you'd be in for.  Meg White's solo career, even as a symbol if not as an actual possibility, represents hope.

No comments: