Rockstar popstar at some point it’s too late, you become a social concept with yr spin doctors, yr contrived provocations, and the seductive risk you’ll get real wayward any second like Oprah’s weight or Paris Hilton, capital of the 21st century. The depressing part is that it’s mostly women who’re so watched (hence “celebrity porn”); the compelling part is the thirst for the faintest suggestion culture isn’t a totalitarian spectacle choreographed by fuckwad technocrats with degrees in symbol management. I dreamed that impulse and appetite had survived.
America’s Sweetheart echoes that tabloid star track like digital delay. “Mono” (one of many co-credits for Linda Perry, spin nurse of all ill-behaved divas) opens the disc with callused hand on wheel of the myth: “Is this the part in the book that you wrote where I gotta come and save the day—did you miss me?” That’s not interesting: just what Courtney thinks we think she thinks. Patience—she’s a snarltooth seether headed beyond the valley of the handlers. “But Julian, I’m a Little Bit Older Than You” sets up some kid as the avatar of punk rock sex and sets his room on fire, shrieking “shut up! shut up!” less rhetorical than foaming at the mouth, holding every Casablancan poseur in the world accountable for heritage crimes, twice as angry because she wants to fuck him two times baby. Tender love song follows, produced by intellectual titan behind Matchbox 20, wherein broken-throated Love must proclaim, “I am the center of the universe.” The next dissolves into a two-minute pharmaceutical litany—it gives Pink’s song about pills what for!
This is the middle eight where I point out how all this is just another role in the rube’s game of Fake Real. She’s not really the sexed-up resurrector coming back to save rock; neither is she the all-consuming harridan of infinite narcissism spinning out of control.
No shit. It’s too late for all of that, and this record is about how too late it is. If one must have an opinion on Courtney Love there’re many to choose from, but meanwhile the first four songs are the most total feeling of after the gold rush, after the lights have come on, since forever—decisive, outsized, and transporting as any frontside since Daft Punk’s Discovery. The voice is ruined and semi-sweetened just like it has to be, as the POV collapses through “Courtney” to some generic star in the constellation of L.A. highlife, then past a few just-a-girls and obsessed fans to the interior paramour in full bloom of angry desire.
After the top four, the songs can’t hold the pace: One with Bernie Taupin lyrics compares poorly to “Dream Weaver,” another recycles “Teen Spirit” but nasty, plus there’s an adorable tour d’ambivalence “The Zeplin Song.” But the front songs leave no place for standing around on the outside going yeah that one’s pretty good. In that way the record’s like the star, snarling at you to commit or fuck off. First I liked “Julian” best for how she quotes Prince, “erotic city VIP the pornoriffic girl is me!” and how it’s a thousand asides to a crossed-out monologue about you invested yr entire erotic being in rock and rock turned out to be a bad boyfriend. But “Sunset Strip” is where the whole drama unspools, even before the pill coda; it has this trick telescope where if you dangle your ankles off the HOLLYWOOD sign you can see everything that happens under the sign of Hollywood, the girls hopping off interstate buses morphing into “shredded valentines.” And it’s like hanging out at the end of history, the golden age is rusted, London’s not calling back, Malibu’s trashed, Laurel Canyon’s in ashes, and it’s somewhere between 10 years and a couple hours too late to rescue anything, too late for impulse and appetite, too late to be anything but a social concept. “Rockstar popstar everybody dies,” she concludes against some angelic Kim Breeder Brodie Distiller harmonies, hanging there not a resurrection but an epitaph, “all tomorrow’s parties they have happened tonight.”
Amy Phillips reviews the Commercially Available Version of America’s Sweetheart
Joshua Clover on What Was Lost Between Versions