Tuesday 19 June 2012

10 Theories On Kate Nash's Under-Estimate The Girl

When former Brit Award winner Kate Nash started a hashtag on twitter last week called #katessurprise it was inevitable it would end with some new music.

What nobody predicted was that having once recorded a tune called Shit Song, she was about to take that title to heart and release a real life stinker. Here’s some theories on the track that got Nash’s name trending on Twitter over the weekend and beyond for (possibly) all the wrong reasons. Thanks to the various bloggers, bands and music types that helped via twitter / via email / text / in conversation yesterday in forming some of these theories and arguments.

Theory #1 This is actually a very clever (but risky) PR stunt.

Let’s face it Kate Nash’s profile is not what it used to be. Foundations may have only been kept off number 1 by Rihanna, but her last 2 singles Kiss That Grrl and Later On failed to chart. Rather than put out ‘just another Kate Nash track’ that would be ignored by an audience that has moved on, utilising the power of social media and releasing a song that sounds like whacking a knitting needle in your ear with a hammer, Nash has got her name back in people’s minds. This is a massive risk though. Seeking attention for something that has been described by more than one commentator as the worst song of the year could go horribly wrong in the PR stakes. Nash could end up being buried deep into pop music’s rubbish skip - never to climb out again.

Theory #2 This is not a PR stunt at all but a relatively spontaneous action by Nash that hasn’t been given proper thought.

In principle this is a great concept. There’s a thrilling excitement in the idea that an artist can record a song in 24 hours (as Nash said it was) and throw it up on the internet for public consumption without any record company interference. You’re hearing the song just as the artist wanted you to hear it - in its full rawness, warts and all. But theories don’t always turn into great realties. With Under-Estimate The Girl we actually wish there had been somebody around to say “Hey Kate, maybe putting this out to the public isn’t such a great idea.” Or at least persuade her to release it under a different name / image to protect the ‘Kate Nash brand’.

Theory #3 Kate Nash is being punk

When punk was born Johnny Rotten said that it was about destroying everything that had gone before – it was an attitude as well as a musical style. If this was the punk ideology then Under Estimate The Girl is not punk. It doesn’t destroy what has gone before. It sounds a lot like what has gone before (Hole, Riot Grrrl Movement etc), the only thing that has gone before it that it may destroy is Nash’s career.

Theory #4 It isn’t authentic – she’s a posh girl shouting “Look at me I’m a rebel.”

Lacking authenticity in music is an argument only used by those that don’t understand pop. Every performance by an artist is faked to a greater or lesser degree. Some of the greatest forms of music from disco to rockabilly to electronica have been chastised as being inauthentic. If all music was truly authentic we would strip away much of what makes music great; things like glamour, drama and most importantly influence and inspiration from outside sources. We really don’t care if Nash is authentic or not (although the fact that she has been quoting her love of Bikini Kill for a number of years, played in punk side project The Receeders in 2009 and has worked with the indie bubblegum teenage pop band, Supercute!, producing their first album suggests her authenticity is genuine) All we care about is this; do we like the music (for like read ‘is it good music’). Sadly it isn’t.

Theory #5 Kate Nash is just doing pop music in reverse.

The normal route for pop musicians through history has been to start by making underground non-commercial records before making a transition to radio-friendly songs that the masses love but the original audience hate, claiming their beloved artist has ‘sold out.’ Maybe having made her money with her debut album and moderately selling second album Kate Nash is doing things in reverse.

Theory #6 Every artist deserves the right to be able to create the art they want now matter how self indulgent.

As an artist the ultimate success is not pleasing others but ensuring that you please yourself. The question that must be asked though is was it necessary for Nash to unleash this song on the public at large? Just because you’ve had a satisfying dump in the toilet doesn’t mean that the rest of the world will be interested.

Theory #7 Kate Nash is just showing how conservative our listening has become.

In the last decade the way we listen to music has become more conservative, with nearly all so called new music taking references from the past. Innovation fades away as new ideas become scarcer. So many underground artists make music that sounds like the music the bands parents (or even grandparents) used to listen to. So if Nash has shocked her fans with her bolt of noise (which admittedly is also taking masses of influence from the past) at least there’s a possibility that she’s helped create a debate about the music we listen to and the way that we listen to it. As we’ve suggested time and time again on this blog, rock music has just reached middle age and there’s nothing that can stop the ageing process. Rock music is now just a tradition in the same way folk music has become a tradition. Nash is just continuing a tradition.

Theory #8 Before every album Kate Nash puts out a deliberately peculiar song.

Remember Caroline’s A Victim? That preceded Foundations and the Made of Bricks album. In fact Caroline’s A Victim was very sneaky. It was Foundations in disguise. Don’t believe us? Listen to the chords on the acoustic version of the song here, then compare with Foundations here. So with Under-Estimate The Girl maybe she’s doing the same again ?

Theory #9 Kate Nash’s change of style is good / bad.

The history of pop shows that many of the best bands undergo change both musically and stylistically in order to survive or they die a death of ever decreasing returns creatively and commercially; change in pop music is therefore an inherently a good thing. So Nash deserves to be applauded for doing something different. It’s just not very good.

Theory #10 Theories are a waste of time, because we don’t actually know the reality.

So essentially everything we've written here was pointless, except to maybe entertain and promote discussion. 

As identified in Theory #2, theories don’t always turn into realities and everything we’ve written here could be way off the mark from what Nash or you think. In fact even our belief that this song is a crime against music is just a belief, not fact. The evidence of numbers of You Tube likes and dislikes for the song currently matching each other suggests the track is certainly divisive, so we’ll leave it at that. If you haven’t seen or heard the song yet, here it is. Prepare yourself.

Breaking More Waves will be attending a Kate Nash gig next week. We're hoping to find something that we can engage with. To see if we did, follow us on twitter.

Kate Nash - Under-Estimate The Girl (Video)

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