Tomorrow, singer/songwriter and former Fleet Foxes drummer Josh Tillman will release his third solo album under the name Father John Misty. I’m sure that I’ll like it. Like, it’s almost certain that I’ll really, really enjoy the album, which is called Pure Comedy. This kind of sucks. Why? Because Josh Tillman is the worst.
Seriously. The absolute worst.
He’s a pretentious blowhard who, every time he opens his mouth, finds a way to insult:
- People who don’t like his music (“People who want to see things in… stark dualities are not going go get much out of my music,” he recently told a Guardian reporter).
- People who do like his music (He lectured a recent audience for not being sad enough that they legitimately enjoyed mainstream entertainment, including, apparently his own music. Their enjoyment of things meant for their enjoyment is, apparently, a bridge too far).
- Himself, but not in the kind of self-deprecating way that can make famous people seem endearing (from that same Guardian interview: “I’m not bamboozled by the fact that people are disgusted by me. I’m not my biggest fan either.” Also, “I get sick pleasure out of going on the internet and reading about how much people hate me. That’s the very dark underbelly of what people see as my fanciful social media presence.”).
And yes, other entertainers have made a living by creating incredible art and simultaneously being total douche canoes (Kanye West is maybe the best recent example), but I don’t think I’ve ever loathed an artist’s public personality (which, by the way, he swears is the same as his actual personality) and loved their work more than Josh Tillman. Because here’s the thing: his music is great. It’s smart and cutting and inventively arranged and stylishly produced. It’s lyrically dense and challenging and really, really funny.
It would be so much better if Tillman made crappy music that I could dismiss along with his self-important ramblings, but here we are.
Now, I could always refuse to listen to any more of Father John Misty’s music on principal. After all, isn’t listening to Father John Misty just reinforcing Tillman’s bad behavior (it’s telling that this makes him sound like a disobedient child)? Couldn’t I just take the approach that there’s plenty of great music in the world made by people who don’t take every opportunity to bemoan the stupidity of the very audience who makes their careers possible and don’t paint themselves as artistic martyrs who live in a world incapable of grasping their brilliance? Couldn’t I just listen to that instead?
I could, yes. But.
If I do that, aren’t I just denying myself something enjoyable for the sake of a person whom I’ll never meet and who will not be affected in any real way by my choice to stop listening to his music?
(If anyone ever tells you that you overthink things, remember the last few paragraphs and ignore that person.)
If you’ve made it this far, it’s likely that you either (A) also find Josh Tillman exhausting or (B) think he’s just too real for a feeble-minded idiot like me and just have to know how stupid my criticisms are going to get before I call it a day. It’s possible, however, that you’re simply waiting for me to explain exactly why it’s such a big deal that this guy is a jerk. Perhaps the words “who cares?” have come to mind at some point in the last few minutes.
Not to be too obvious, but I care. I do. Call me crazy, but I want to actually like, or at least not actively hate, people who make art that resonates with me. Because if the art resonates with me, and the person who made is someone who I wouldn’t even want to have a conversation with, what does that say about me?
It’s easy to say that the two things have nothing in common, and maybe they don’t, but I think that question has something to do with the level of conflict I feel regarding Father John Misty. I read his dismissive, self-important comments to reporters, and I want to punch him in the face. Then I listen to his records and hope he keeps making music forever. Sigh.
But tomorrow? Tomorrow, I’ll probably listen to Pure Comedy. Here’s hoping it’s terrible.
(It’s not going to be terrible. Damn it.)