This video is #RelationshipGoals. Father John Misty (aka Joshua Tillman) is an intensely charismatic performer and songwriter of rare wit and verbosity. One of the most striking features of his writing is its intimacy; it is, beneath the handy scrim of a somewhat theatrical persona, very deeply personal. Fear Fun, the first Father John Misty album reveals a man finding his voice and artistic vision after years of being an obscure folk singer of not that much originality (according to his own perspective on his progress.) The second album begins with the title I Love You, Honeybear, and includes tracks with names like The Ideal Husband, True Affection and When You’re Smiling and Astride Me. As you might have surmised, Josh Tillman got married, and his songs have turned to mapping the path of his relationship with his wife. She is the woman in the video. She’s gone from being the stranger in the liqueur store, to the dominatrix in the hotel, to the Honeybear bride who inspired a concept album. That the record is at once a truly affecting wedding album and a sarcastic rebuke to ” the entire franchise of privileged white men making their spiritual void the dark center of the universe” is a small miracle, and a reminder of the fruitfulness and importance of the relationship between an artist and his muse. We don’t talk about muses very much anymore. It feels, in today’s society, slightly retrograde, if not inherently sexist, in that in both elevates and diminishes the woman’s role in a creative relationship. It’s no longer true (and it never really was true) that a woman’s only path to creative greatness is through being an inspiration to a male artist, but it feels as if that power imbalance is always implied when we discuss the role of the muse. We still idolize the great muses – Elizabeth Siddal, Dora Maar, Marianne Faithfull – but we feel uncomfortable applying the title in a modern-day context. It bears reminding that the women who are remembered as muses were very often artists in their own right, whose work has sometimes grown to overshadow their former muse status, and of course, there have been many women throughout history (from what we know of Sappho; through to Gertrude Stein, Anna Akhmatova, Virginia Woolf; to young artists like Sam Taylor-Johnson today) who created freely and leaned upon their own muses (of whatever gender) for inspiration. In short, the muse remains important, and the relationship of artist and muse is necessarily a complicated one, and cannot exist if the flow of inspiration is not mutual and empowering to both parties. To celebrate and elevate a partner as a muse should not be embarrassing, nor should it be seen as a diminishment of that person’s creative status. The most affecting art stems from the most intimate places.