the internets were afire yesterday about a supposed war between my friend jill sobule and katy perry. katy perry who is so famous right now that i am not sure where the person is underneath the gloss and hype.
the way the internet works, you probably already know the story: jill made a joke in an interview recently. she was fake mad at katy perry for stealing the song title, "I Kissed a Girl"- jill's 1995 hit. and maybe jill was a little fake mad for katy perry's sneaky relationship with queers. you can spin katy either way- does she support queers? er maybe. does she make queers the butt of the joke? er maybe. it's a little disconcerting to say the least.
speaking of dis-concert-ing. i have been to a katy perry show. i saw her in may at irving plaza in NYC. a friend of a friend works for her. an old college friend is in her band. so i went to the show and felt old (i'm fucking 31) and like this had nothing to do with the job i've had for the last 12 years. it was something entirely else.
but i was struck by how good some of katy's songs were. they pushed all my pleasure buttons with their hooks and highly singable choruses. and i am a sucker for a too small room. watching from the VIP balcony, i thought that katy perry was a good musician, and more than that i thought she knows exactly what's going on. she knows her songs are manufactured to be hits. and she knows there is a script written for her and if she sticks to it, she's gonna be famous now and make a lot of money. that's just the way it works.
but look into her eyes and i think she knows the difference between being real and not. and i'd be surprised if she hit back at a proven writer like jill. i think she looks at jill, sees her future, and hopes that she is as lucky as jill to still be doing it, and doing it better than ever, 15 years after a big-time hit.
at katy perry's level the music business is more business than music. but the other part of the story is that it will never stay that way. katy perry as we know her now will fade. she has to. there are too many others waiting in the wings with tighter asses and more pliant wills.
only time will tell what katy perry wants to do with her real self. when her notoriety fades, will she keep writing songs? will she still want that joy of too many people in a too small room, even if its 100 people in a room meant for 50?
i heard another friend of mine, ani difranco, get asked this question about her career: " do you ever wish you had a hit song?" and ani responded by pointing out the term "hit song" was pretty violent. we're being struck with a blunt object called katy perry and told to like it. who wants that out of music?
as for jill, you'll have to ask her how she feels about having her joke turned into fighting words. and you'll have plenty of opportunity because jill sobule is a real artist: articulate, accesible, creative and working every day in too small rooms with me this fall.