Do you know what the most horrible thing in the world is? You might think that it is death, or disease, or war. You might think that it is crushing existential despair. You might think it is madness and fear and trembling, the sickness unto death.
Or maybe, for you, it’s Canada, that socialist hell in whose grim specter we find a dark shadow of America’s possible future, should the brave knights of teabaggery not prevail. Imagine a clean, healthy America, where people’s basic needs are met! Where the wealthy have to pay slightly more taxes in exchange for safer, happier communities! This is not free. This is not moral. What’s moral and free is for people to act as much like a pack of animals as possible. If a member of the pack is injured, they should be left behind–or maybe eaten. (Social Darwinism, as opposed to actual Darwinism, is totally X-tian.)
Anyway, death and war and disease and crushing existential despair and madness and Kirkegaardiana and Canada are all terrible problems facing America today. We should try to solve them!
One way we could maybe fix all this stuff is to destroy the most horrible thing in the world. It is not one of the above-named menaces–it involves neither the snuffing out of your personal essence FOREVER nor bits of your bod falling off nor the pretense that “Quebecois” is a word. Instead, it combines all of these things into an insidious whole, and soundtracks it to one of the greatest evils the world has ever known:
Mid-to-Late ’90s-Era Mainstream Female Singer-Songwriters!!!!
Now, let me note here that I am not trying to be a misogynistic prat. I am not against female singer-songwriters as such; in fact, I like many of them a lot. What I am against is the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad faux “alternative” marketing of the ’90s, when everywhere you looked there were overworked ersatz “graffiti” fonts superimposed upon blurry-grained photos of people being schlumpy and thereby Representing Youth Culture. As a youth, I felt really left out of Youth Culture, since I seldom did things like steal bags of potato chips from convenience stores with my waggish pals and then zoom off on my skateboard, or stomp my Doc Marten down into weird camera angles. Perhaps my alienation was due to this marketing being aimed mostly at boys. But this was soon to change! No doubt sensing an untapped demographic, a bunch of corporate geniuses repackaged Riot Grrl into the Dolorous Female Singer-Songwriter Revolution. They drained Riot Grrl of any interesting, vital, political, or intellectual qualities and instead gave us a bunch of John William Waterhouse zombies.
These women were not cultural revolutionaries. They were attractive, dubiously “spiritual” victims of inattentive boyfriends and free-floating (one might say, vacuous) angst. (For an excellent discussion of a similar phenomenon afflicting The Oughts, see here.)
There was a certain Dolorous Female Singer-Songwriter who was a little more dolorous and a little more female than the rest. She really sung her songs, man, and she really wrote the crap out them, too. She founded Lilith Fair, she pioneered the practice of naming songs and albums after totally ineffable candle fragrances, and her lyrics were so abstract that they could be applied to ANYTHING SAD, making her the Queen of All Sad Ladies, Ever.
I’m speaking, of course, of Sarah McLachlan:
Sarah McLachlan is not a good person. She has a daughter named India. Shania Twain, that other singing Canadian “sex” symbol (if by “sex,” you mean “eating groats”) has a son named Asia.
Let’s look at this again: Sarah McLachlan has a daughter named India and Shania Twain has a son named Asia (yes, she recently changed the spelling to “Eja,” but it is still pronounced “Asia,” and she isn’t fooling anybody.)
Don’t you think this is a little weird? Don’t you feel that they could have gotten their point across better by not naming the kids at all, instead merely Sharpie-ing the word “trash” onto their foreheads each morning? Don’t you think that this would have been the less embarrassing option for all involved (and take into account, the continents of India and Asia probably contain the bulk of the world’s population)?
But McLachlan has committed other war crimes. For instance, what are her songs about? Can anybody tell me? I started making a chart for you but then I got too mad:
|Song Title||My Best Guess at its Meaning|
|“Adia”||Getting mad at a 15-year-old lesbian for making out with you.|
|“Sweet Surrender”||Tricking an alien into starting a business with you where you make deliveries and sleep with professors and hide out in “Wyoming” and watch the History Channel in other people’s hotel rooms in a cold season.|
|“Hold On”||The crappy film version of “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues”|
|“Building A Mystery”||It is not an exaggeration to say that this song has been making me angry for 12 years. It makes so angry that it probably deserves its own post, and/or book. There is no worse phrase than “You strut your rasta wear/and your suicide poem.” Everything that has ever been gross, or will be gross, or could be gross, is contained in that phrase. My best guess is that it is about Sarah’s ideal Deity/slam piece (for her these are the same.) Perhaps if I could “look out the window/without [my] shadow getting in the way,” I would FINALLY UNDERSTAND.|
As frustrating as the above ballads are, they’re nowhere near as annoying as her two rilly, rilly big hits, “I Will Remember You,” and “Angel.” Around 1998, it became illegal for anybody to graduate high school without “I Will Remember You” being solemnly played (even home-schoolers were forced, at gunpoint, to tunelessly hum this song while Principal Mom and Vice Principal Aunt Melba finished puppeting the Beanie Babies through their valedictorian speeches.) “Angel,” of course, is the go-to song for any great national tragedy, from Columbine to 9/11. It’s been a long ride from “Guernica” and “Strange Fruit” and “We Shall Overcome,” hasn’t it? Is the best we can do?
Recently, that masterpiece “Angel” has been used to call attention to a new tragedy. This tragedy combines all of humanities’ worst problems–from death to Canada–into a seamless whole:
Yes, it’s the problem of animal cruelty! Now, I hate to see pets mistreated as much as the next person. However, this commercial makes me want to actively go out and be cruel to pets. I’m pretty sure that this is because this commercial is so obnoxious that it makes me want to die. It treats animal cruelty with a solemnity that should be reserved for the Holocaust, and it bombards you with a thousand pounds of the phony emotional gravitas of Sarah McLachlan. Not only do you have to listen to Sarah guilting you about how come why for you don’t run out and become an “angel” to one of these beleaguered beasts, you also have to listen to her moaning about some heroin addict in the background. It’s an insult to the sensibilities, especially since CTV likes to run this multiple times during the commercial breaks for a single program. That means that, in order to watch just one episode of “Avonlea,” I have to listen to “Angel” at least six to twelve times. This shall not stand. Nobody should have to listen to “Angel,” least of all people who are just trying to see what mischief some nice Victorian Canadian school girls are getting up to. The worst part is that this commercial has single-handedly raised over $30 million for the ASPCA. This means that CTV will never stop running it.
My fellow citizens, we must rise up. We must go out at night, when the vampires roam (for that is when the energy comes.) We must strut our rasta wear, and our suicide poems. Wearing sandals in the snow, we must sneak across the Canadian border (you can say a prayer to your secret god, if you wake up screaming.) We must find her. We must set up a razor-wire shrine. We must hold her in our arms. But this time, we won’t be careful–we’ll just “build a mystery,” if you know what I mean. We’ll choose carefully, this time.