“I can’t get it out/ it’s kinda rough”

This morning, I was having an email conversation about Amy Ray and I realized that while I took the trouble to purchase Stag from iTunes months ago, I have listened to it perhaps two times since then. My love affair with Prom has been well-documented (and here), but I must have gotten distracted before I could fall head-over-heels for Stag. You people have to remember that my Indigo Girls consciousness is still pretty new. Granted, I jumped in with both feet, but that was less than a year ago.

So I found Stag on my iPod and made it the background to my office hours. Don’t worry, I have headphones. Can you imagine if a student walked in and Amy was all “Lucystoners don’t need boners” over and over again? Hehe.

My email compatriot referred to the Indigo Girls as “tame” in comparison to Amy Ray’s solo stuff and she isn’t wrong. I immediately reacted to the edginess in Prom. “Rural Faggot” would not fit in on an Indigo Girls album. That is not a criticism. It’s just a recognition of style. I can see how Amy would be more comfortable taking these risks with her solo work because it belongs just to her; she isn’t taking anyone else down with her—not that she is going down because both Stag and Prom are successful acts of lyrical and musical rebellion, in my humble opinion.

I love that Stag is downright subversive. Amy is playing with gender in ways that impress and delight me. She talks about herself using male nouns. There’s “I’m gonna miss being the boy/ I’m gonna miss being the man” in “Mtns of Glory.” (Why, by the way, do we have to abbreviate “mountains”?) It is “Hey Castrator” that really gets me, though. She is asking for the “strong” to be removed from her. It is causing her problems because “all the girls who make the cut/ avoided me/ all the ones who aren’t enough/ just make me mean.” The undercurrent of (homo)sexuality is present in all the songs, but the gender constructions she unpacks really speak to her skill as a lyricist.

I can’t envision these albums as separate from the Indigo Girls canon. Rather, Stag feels like a companion to the Indigo Girls’ body of work, especially Come On Now Social. I tried to leave that album behind, but it is following me around. First, a couple seconds after “Cold Beer and Remote Control” ends, there is a snippit of “Johnny Rottentail.” (By the way, I wonder if Amy Ray has a brother because…um…I’m glad I’m not him.) Then, on Stag‘s “Measure Me,” the chorus starts with “come on now social/ I want you to be.” Remember when I was looking for a song to explain the title of the album to me? Hello, I found one. It just happens to be on another album by ostensibly another artist.

What does it mean, Amy? This will definitely be something we talk about when we run away together.

This reminds me, in a roundabout way, that I realized yesterday that for all my posturing about running away with her, I could never date Amy Ray. On Ellen, one of the Jonas Brothers (don’t ask me which one, for all I know they’re all the same person) said that he would date a fan. I looked at all those girls screaming and crying and clawing the air around the Jonas Brothers, and I thought, Really, one of THOSE fans? Folks, when it comes to Amy Ray, I am that kind of fan, and let’s face it, when it is directed at Amy Ray instead at the Jonas Brothers, it makes more sense. But why on Earth would she want to date me? What could I offer her? Our relationship would never be equal, and besides, I’ve already professed that she is too awesome and too intense for more than a two-week running-away-together sort of thing.