Father John Misty stepped towards the mic as the Saturday Night Live crowd applauded. A red spotlight lit up the stage and his hands swept up the neck of an acoustic guitar. His pencil-thin mustache moved with the syllables of the first lyric…
“Bedding Taylor Swift / Every night inside the Oculus Rift.”
Father John Misty loves controversy. And he has a knack for orchestrating it to evolve into humorous headlines.
“He’s got no filter,” said a friend who’d seen him live years ago. “He’s the kind of guy who will intro a song by telling you about how he was jerking off that morning.”
To promote his upcoming album, Pure Comedy, Josh Tillman (Father John Misty) released three songs on Soundcloud (Generic Pop Song #4, #29, #30). Each track was a satire of a familiar pop trope. There was a drop that would make the Chainsmokers green with envy. A love song. And a lamentation of how hard it is to be famous.
It was as if FJM was leeching himself of his pop tendencies – letting the sappy verses and pro tools seep out before settling in for the real deal. But the true irony was that these satirical pop songs were good. The satire felt like celebration. The comment section was confused: “wait, I like this.”
And apparently this isn’t the first time Tillman has pulled music. In 2015 he yanked a Ryan Adams cover because Lou Reed visited him in a dream, saying, “Delete those tracks, don’t summon the dead, I am not your plaything. The collections of souls is an expensive pastime.
So at least he’s consistent. Although predicting what Father John Misty will do next is impossible. Will the Generic Pop Songs ever resurface? Is this a sign that Pure Comedy is a satirical album? But a good satire, so not really a satire? Talking about Father John Misty means talking loops around yourself, until you’re unsure what to believe.
Which is how two unsuspecting British anchors looked this weekend after Father John Misty told them what had inspired his new album. “A lot of the answers to sophisticated, modern questions are really simple and oftentimes ironic.” said Misty. His legs were crossed and he wore skin-tight jeans. “Like for instance, the first shall be last, and the last shall be first.”
Both anchors cocked their heads to one side like dogs waiting for a treat, realizing that Tillman’s earlier comment, “Does someone who calls himself Father John Misty have a good reason for doing anything?” was ringing true.