Father John Misty Covers Taylor Swift … Sort of
Jimmy Kemper | Thursday, October 1, 2015
Father John Misty, the musical persona of Josh Tillman, is continually proving he is one of the most bizarre anti-pop stars around. In between releasing one of the best albums of the year, filming music videos where he seduces himself and making The Late Show with David Letterman’s audience laugh uncomfortably, the former Fleet Foxes drummer managed to find time to record and share his own covers of Taylor Swift’s “Blank Space” and “Welcome to New York” from her latest album, “1989,” done in the style of the Velvet Underground.
Except these aren’t really covers of Taylor Swift’s renditions of these tracks. Rather, Father John Misty highlighted in a Twitter post sarcastically announcing these two tracks that they were “his reinterpretation of the classic Ryan Adams album ‘1989’.” Previously, on September 21, Ryan Adams released his own full-length cover album of Taylor Swift’s “1989” done in the style of the Smiths. So, Father John Misty, while pretending he was The Velvet Underground, covered Ryan Adams, who covered Taylor Swift as the Smiths might have. Confusing right?
But the story doesn’t end there. Less than a day after releasing these covers, Tillman removed them entirely from his Soundcloud. He explained this move in a rather absurd Facebook post, in which he explained how he encountered the ghost of Lou Reed, lead singer and guitarist of the aforementioned The Velvet Underground in a dream, among a barrage of other things.
The supposed dream began with Tillman crab-walking in New Orleans and meeting one of his old friends, who reminds Tillman that he owes a tennis shop $7000. Then French psychologist Jacques Lacan harassed Father John Misty about his pride and gave him a Burger King birthday crown while a crowd travelling on treadmills sang to him. As if the dream couldn’t get any weirder, Tillman then panicked about being late for a soundcheck, so President Obama offered him a ride on Air Force One to discuss important policy decisions and play sports in Hawaii. At one point, Tillman recalls that Obama transformed into Tillman’s father, so Tillman leapt out of Air Force One and landed on a pink blob. Inside the blob were thousands of people, chief among them Reed, who told Father John Misty to “delete those tracks, don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything. The collection of souls is an expensive pastime.” As a result, Tillman woke up and deleted his covers.
Altogether, this shaggy dog story of a Facebook post, combined with the covers themselves, comes off as an absolutely insane mockery of pop music and Ryan Adams. This type of behavior is typical for the Father John Misty character that Tillman has created, though. Misty’s most recent album “I Love You, Honeybear” features a number of tracks that mercilessly attack modern pop culture with dripping sarcasm. With this particular assault, Tillman seems to be criticizing the cyclical nature of pop music and the general absurdity of Ryan Adams both dedicating an entire album to someone else’s music and borrowing the sound of someone else entirely to do so.
Whatever the message may be behind this stunt, you should still give Father John Misty’s covers a listen, if you can find them online. Tillman clearly put a lot of the work into the tracks and the results are incredible. The “Welcome to the New York” cover features a full backing band and a very channeled Velvet Undergound style jam session in the middle that stretches the radio-ready pop hit well past the five-minute mark. The “Blank Space” cover, meanwhile, strips the song entirely of its original melody and gives the lyrics a very sardonic tone. Regardless of attitude, Josh Tillman has nailed his Lou Reed impression and should probably cover an entire The Velvet Underground album.