Album: Who Killed Amanda Palmer? (2008)


  • Palmer, who is known for being part of the duo The Dresden Dolls, explained this song in a posting on her blog when she learned that various media outlets refused to play it because of the subject matter. Wrote Palmer:

    I sat down one day in or around 2002 and wrote a tongue-in-cheek, ironic, up-tempo pop song about a girl who got drunk, date raped, and had an abortion. She sings about these things lightly and happily and says that she doesn't care that these things have happened to her because Oasis, her favorite band, have just sent her an autographed photo in the mail. If you cannot sense the irony in this song, you're about two intelligence points above a kumquat. I recorded this song with Ben Folds (who is way more intelligent than a kumquat) for my record. He produced the song to sound fantastically happy - a Beach Boys-style number complete with ba ba ba back-up vocals. Then I made a video with Michael Pope that portrayed a very literal play-by-play of what was being related in the song. This all made perfect sense to me and wasn't in any way calculated to offend. It was created to be funny and dark.

    Now people in the UK are telling me that the song "makes light of rape, religion and abortion."

    Can I simply state: When you cannot joke about the darkness of life, that's when the darkness takes over.

    The song is not a lecture... it's a reflection, a character sketch. As I was walking over to the BBC the other day and my rep mentioned that they might not let me play "Oasis" on the air, I suggested that I might be allowed to play it if I just slowed it down and played it in a minor key. Think about it: if they heard the same lyrics against the backdrop of a very sad and lilting piano, maybe with some tear-jerking strings thrown in for good measure, would they take issue?

    Imagine these lyrics to the tune of "Strange Fruit" or "Yesterday":

    "When I got my abortion / I brought along my boyfriend / we got there an hour before the appointment / and outside the building / were all these annoying fundamentalist Christians / we tried to ignore them"...

    Would this make radio happy? Maybe. It would be within a context they could rely on, feel safe in, write off. "Of course she's sad! She had an abortion! Abortion is sad!"

    I think it makes people uncomfortable to hear the truth about a very real and sick situation. If you don't know, or have never encountered, a teenager who is going through intense heavy experiences (like rape, abortion, eating disorders, abuse, you-name-it) and is laughing these things off like they don't matter, then you are not alive and awake and living on this planet.

    This song is about denial; it's about a girl who can't find it in herself to take her situation seriously. That girl exists everywhere. You probably know her. You've probably met her. You might be her.

    So, you ask, should we joke about cancer? Dead babies? The Holocaust?

    Have you seen Life is Beautiful? That movie is not a joke. It does not "make light" of the Holocaust, the same way that my song does not "make light" of abortion. It shows how humor exists in darkness. How it must.

    Humor saves us. Humor is one of the strongest weapons that human beings have against suffering, death and fear.

    I could try to win points by talking about how I've been date raped (I have been, when I was 20) or how I have every right to joke about this if I want to because I've had an abortion myself (I have, when I was 17, complete with fundamentalist Christian protesters shouting at me), but I actually don't believe those experiences should lend me any credibility, any more so than I believe the director of Life is Beautiful had to have been at Auschwitz in order to direct that film.

    In the US in 1996, about 1.3 million women had an abortion, half of them under the age of 25. And I can assure you, there were approximately 1.3 million different reactions, experiences and stories behind those abortions. Countless girls have been raped or date-raped. Are we allowed to talk about it, joke about it, turn it over from every side and try to figure out our own confused reaction to it? Or is that just too icky, uncomfortable... and shameful?

    Or should we just cry about it demurely and hope that the proper reaction, the one that society deems appropriate, will make things go away? Come on.
  • In our interview with Amanda Palmer, she explained: "I wrote that song very jokingly kind of to myself, and didn't ever take it very seriously, and didn't ever push to get it on any of the records. I wrote it pretty early on in the world of the Dresden Dolls, but I didn't push to get it on the second Dresden Dolls record. It was always this joke-aside song that I had in the pile, and I produced this funny little video. But when Ben Folds heard it, he loved it and knew exactly how he wanted to produce it. And it actually wound up being sort of his own record.

    The idea came to me in a very pure and simple way. Sometimes I get ideas for lyrics and melodies first, but in the case of this song, it was more of a concept of a really happy, poppy, jaunty song about to not know, in a very specific teenage way, when the s--t is really hitting the fan, but you're bouncing along going, 'Oh, no! It's fine! Everything's great!' I wanted the song to be a happy little three-chord jam where I could make the lyrics as disturbingly sticky-sweet as possible. That song was written in one sitting, and probably in 20 minutes. I definitely didn't give it the kind of care and feeding that I would give one of my great, long, deep-felt, personal ballads or something. I wrote it because I was like, 'Oh, isn't this a great, silly idea?' which is really the same way I wrote 'Coin Operated Boy,' which was, 'I've got this funny little concept, and this funny little hook, and I'm just gonna sit here and bang it out, and not expect that anything's ever gonna come of it.' In fact, Brian (Viglione, her Dresden Dolls partner) and I almost didn't work on that song, because we thought it was too silly. But we did. And interestingly, I think those songs are sometimes the ones that take root, because if you have the balls to take an idea like that and then actually see it through, orchestrate it, and then bring it in front of people… not everyone goes through all the steps that it takes to take some ironic little joke and then turn it into a full production."
  • Palmer has been date-raped, which brings up an interesting question: Is it OK to make light of rape if you've been through it? Here's what Amanda told us when we asked: "I actually don't agree with that. Even though emotionally that makes sense, I found myself thinking, who can criticize me? I've been through these things, I'm allowed to joke about it. It's like, well, no, really, anyone is allowed to joke about anything. It's not like you get more cred because you've been through a specific trauma, and you then have the golden password to reflect on and process information having to with that. If that were the case, Steven Spielberg wouldn't have been able to make The Color Purple, he'd have been laughed out of town. But it's a big f--king movie, right? I mean, art is art. Everything's fair game. The whole point of being an imaginative, creative artist is that you are allowed to think and create outside of your own specific realm of experience. And if every artist was limited to the palate of their own experiences, art would be incredibly boring."


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