It’s been a rough few musical days, another time when we have been reminded that painful music is sometimes a product of truly painful lives.
On Wednesday The New York Times ran a story in which several women accused Ryan Adams of abusive behavior. Phoebe Bridgers and Adams’ ex-wife Mandy Moore both went on record about their relationships with Adams and the pain he inflicted upon them. Worst, the article suggested than he engaged in a highly inappropriate, on-line relationship with a musician that began when the girl was only 14.
That was bad. Real bad. Then Thursday came. Natalie Prass, Courtney Jaye, and Liz Phair all confirmed they had been the subject of Adams’ abuse. The FBI opened an investigation into the relationship with the minor. And his record company postponed indefinitely the release of his album Big Colors, which was to be the first of three albums Adams released this year.
These revelations were disgusting and disappointing. I’ve grown to love Adams’ music over the past four or five years. He’s one of the three artists I’ve listened to most over that span. What struck me most about his music was his emotional honesty: the way he laid out his pain so boldly and clearly on his songs. He wasn’t quite as frank as Frightened Rabbit’s Scott Hutchison, but the effect was often similar.
But now we’ve learned that “emotional honesty” was the product of a diseased mind. That pain he was laying out on his songs was often used to guilt women into bending to his will. He forced them into relationships they did not want. He torpedoed their own careers because of his insecurities. There’s no justification for his behavior. It makes me feel sad, and honestly pretty dirty, for liking his music so much.
But mostly I feel for the women who have been the subject of his abuse. And I wonder how many more there are. I’ve played songs by several artists over the years that have worked with him and have not come forward. I don’t want to include them in this playlist, hoping that they avoided his advances. But let this group of songs stand for all the women who had their lives messed up by Adams.
Peace to them all.
“Scott Street” – Phoebe Bridgers
“Short Court Style” – Natalie Prass
“Can’t Behave” – Courtney Jaye
“Distant Shore” – Karen Elson
“Never Said” – Liz Phair
“Invisible Ink (Rebecca’s Demo)” – Mandy Moore