Mainly because I’m a bitter and unlovable cynic, I’ve always found the phenomena of the ‘hate song’ much more interesting than the traditional love song. The more vitriolic spittle collected by the vocalist’s microphone during the recording session the better, if you ask me. When it comes to hate songs, they can be even more enjoyable when camouflaged by a veneer of jollity, and as such the true meaning often goes undetected for many listeners. Notable example: Twisting by They Might Be Giants, a song about a girl wishing her ex-boyfriend was dangling from a noose, subsequently used as the backing to a Pizza Hut campaign.
Ex-Moldy Peach Adam Green, in the standout track from 2003’s Friends Of Mine, takes things in a slightly different direction. Without paying attention to the lyrics, Jessica comes over as a meltingly heartfelt ode to singer, actress and MTV reality show star Jessica Simpson. Green croons like he has seldom crooned since, the gentle strum of his guitar mingles politely amongst his words as the strings begin to swell in the background, yet all this is at odds with the true meaning of the song. From the very first line (“Jessica Simpson, where has your love gone, it’s not in your music, no”), it’s quite clear that Green is sneering at the lack of artistry displayed by the target of his song.
As the song goes on, the mellifluous contempt continues, pointing out the subject’s “fraudulent smile” and pondering on how she’ll have little more to look forward to than waitressing jobs and a vain struggle against the ravages of time once her fifteen minutes of Viacom-sanctioned fame are up. Alongside all this, the backing strings glide around elegantly, and it’s kind of hard not to feel a little moved by the overall juxtaposition.
Adam Green has pointed out in interviews since the song became (fleetingly) popular that the target of the song is more the generic interchangeable US pop starlet circa the early noughties, and that Jessica Simpson was chosen as the specific subject simply because she was as good an example as any. Now, this doesn’t detract from the majesty of the song at all, but I can’t help but feel the whole thing would have an extra little dash of magic had it turned out it was all part of some calculated vengeance after Jessica Simpson had driven over Adam Green’s cat.
Yeah, as I’d said, I’m a bitter and unlovable cynic.
[Album: Friends Of Mine]