thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Replay: Jack White, “Love Interruption”

In misogyny, music videos, Replay, violence on May 17, 2012 at 8:22 am

Sarah S.

Head vs. Heart. Brain vs. Body. These are the battles that consume Jack White’s newest single “Love Interruption” off his first fully solo album, Blunderbuss.

White and his co-vocalist, Ruby Amanfu, toy with the lyrics of romance as they repeatedly purr, “I want love to…,” leading listeners  down the path of passion. But they’re not the kinds whose passion fits nicely into socially-acceptable boxes as they “want love to /roll me over slowly / stick a knife inside me, / and twist it all around” or “split my mouth right open and / cover up my ears / and never let me hear a sound.” They want a love that consumes everything, violently. People often compare love and passion to fire but users of that metaphor conveniently forget that fire, while beautiful, burns and destroys.

Conversely, the chorus resists this destructive passion as they declare, “I won’t let love disrupt, corrupt, or interrupt me.” They repeat this phrase three times, insisting over and over again that they’re done with love interrupting their lives, exploding their sense of self. Here the repetition of “I won’t let love…” echoes with the other repetition of “I want love to…”; the subtle distinction between “I won’t” and “I want” highlights the intimacy of the battle. The video also emphasizes the intimacy as White and Amanfu draw close to share the microphone but often veer away as soon as the magnetic lyric ends.

The duet format makes it appear to speak to a specific relationship, two people entranced by their mutually destructive passion for each other. By the end of the video, they have seemingly severed their connection, her fading into the background, each of them alone with a guitar and turning  away from each other. But in the meantime they’ve uncovered the attractiveness of consuming love.

If I wanted to be obvious, I could condemn this song for glorifying domestic violence. Instead, I think it speaks to competing desires, one to remain intact and in control, the other to give in and dissolve. Such a dissolution of self must always be violent yet can also seem achingly attractive. In “Love Interruption,” White, with the aid of Amanfu, creates a song that wrestles with these competing desires. And through the use of their gravelly singing, the shocking lyrics, and the rising-falling tempo, the song re-creates that feeling of attraction and repulsion, desire and loathing, an ache that hurts—perfectly.

A note about the video itself. Visually, I like the styling with its 1960s vibe although it feels somewhat awkward to have Jack White surrounded by this cadre of demure, supportive female musicians. Furthering this feeling of White as musical puppet-master, Amanfu had to tweet to her followers that she was the singer when the video came out since she was not mentioned; in the album she’s listed as “backing vocals,” which seems odd given the clear duet arrangement of the song. On one hand, it’s cool that White (unlike many rock stars) works with so many female musicians on albums and videos alike. On the other, in this case it’s unfortunate that he felt inclined to downplay Amanfu’s impressive contribution to his song.

  1. […] New post at Girls Like Giants, and my first “Replay.” Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. […]

  2. I love this song, and I think you do a great close reading of it here. Relatedly, The Atlantic has a post on how White’s songs (though not this one) portray women. The verdict: Not so greatly!

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