Starting today on Awl Music: “Gossip,” a playlist by Emily Gould, that’ll be unrolled throughout the week. (You can follow along on Tumblr and Twitter too for when new videos go up, if you like.)
“The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” said Oscar Wilde, who never had the opportunity to Twitter-search himself. Gossip is an enduring theme of pop music: being talked about, whispering behind someone’s back, admonishing listeners not to believe the rumors, feeling apologetic about having let slip something you shouldn’t have (“sweetness, I was only joking”), or feeling peeved because someone else did (“you had to have the last word, last night!”). It’s easy to see why: before you’re famous (or even “famous”), you think it’ll be great to be talked about, but it happens and it’s actually really frustrating and maddening!
Many lucky musicians have had the opportunity to express their frustration in song. We can sing along with them, at least: “Doesn’t matter what they say/in the jealous games that people play.”
Good luck actually keeping your lips sealed, though, when you find out someone’s been kissing and telling: in one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs, Kathleen Hanna excoriates a dude for telling his “fucking friends” “how punk fucking rock my pussy smells.”
And then there’s another subgenre of gossip song: the song of the wronged lover who wants to know whether the rumors she’s hearing about her partner’s fidelity are true: “you could have told me yourself,” she sings, but instead, “I heard it through the grapevine.” But maybe it’s better not to believe everything you hear: “I don’t want to take advice from fools, I’ll just keep thinking everything is cool/until I hear it from you.”
Emily Gould thinks she’s Brenda Starr.