Little Room

The final offering from the White Stripes’ ‘little’ series (although not chronologically). Also, at 50 seconds, the shortest. Despite being so short and radically minimalist, it’s one of the best commentaries on the conundrum of fame that I’ve ever heard. Fame, creativity, success and resources are all intertwined but don’t necessarily fuel one another in constructive ways. Which is to say; great creativity demands greater resources, great creativity leads to fame and success, fame and success attract increased resources, increased resources are supposed to fuel more creativity but sometimes end up doing just the opposite. It’s a frustrating fact of life than many a creative person has bumped up against on their rise to the top. It’s bloody hard to hold on to the ideas that drive you when your entire life is turned inside out and you’re suddenly thrust into the malevolent wonderland of celebrity-hood. It’s not just the danger of losing your street cred or authenticity. Many new-fangled stars find themselves losing their most basic sense of identity. Even for those who don’t immediately spin out in a whirl of substance abuse and assorted other bad behavior, it can be difficult to continue finding things to say – to care about, even – when their resources and situation are altered beyond their wildest dreams. That’s exactly the point Jack White makes so concisely, and he would have reason  to dwell on those things. White Blood Cells was the White Stripes’ first real commercial success, the record that finally brought them serious fame, and all the upsides and downsides that come with it. For a band so passionately concerned with the authenticity of their own idiosyncratic sound and image, which they had heretofore nourished in relative isolation, the pressures of public scrutiny and the  increased expectations put upon them would naturally be cause for a bit of an existential crisis. Fortunately for all, The White Stripes never did suffer the identity diffusion and loss of focus that this song worries about. They managed to carry on knowing exactly what they wanted to do, and making the best possible use of the bigger creative space they were afforded. As Jack White has continued doing with a variety of projects since their breakup, and no doubt will go on doing so until the wolves come home.

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