Episode 101: Jenny Humphrey Died For Your Sins

When Matt and Ryan decided to focus on The Pretty Reckless’s “Going to Hell” for this episode, they thought they were playing an April Fools Joke. What happens next will astound you.

TFT Logo 2013When Matt and Ryan decided to focus on The Pretty Reckless’s Going to Hell for this episode, they thought they were playing an April Fools Joke. What happens next will astound you.


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15 Comments on “Episode 101: Jenny Humphrey Died For Your Sins”

  1. RichieGadz #

    LOVED this ep, you guys. How convenient to be able to spiral back on a bit of the old TFT. Looks like Little J turned out to be the Antichrist after all! In all honesty, really like how y’all pulled out Hollywood and the mainstream entertainment industry as the evil patriarchy against which she sees herself rebelling. For someone who’s been in the biz since birth, it probably is, in many ways, like a religion.

    P.S. Am I the only one who thought “why’d you bring a shotgun to the party?” was a vague critique of conservative pro-gun policies? The lyrics are confusing (as on basically all the other songs) but that was the first thing that came to my mind, anyway.


    • sheely OTI Staff #

      Thanks, RichieGadz! It was a fun episode to record, and was definitely one where we discovered our argument/interpretation through the process of discussing the album. That was a fun moment, and I’m glad you enjoyed it and that the idea resonated with your own experiences in the biz. This coming week, we’ll actually look at this from another angle, as we’re discussing Frankie Cosmos, which is the musical project of Greta Kline (who is the daughter of Kevin Kline and Phoebe Cates).

      That interpretation of “Shotgun” hadn’t occurred to me. I’ll give it another spin along with the lyric sheet and will report back.


    • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

      The idea of “Showbiz as Religion” is very, very interesting. Viewed from the inside, there are gods and priests, there are ritual practices, there is an elaborate system of taboo.


  2. phizzled #

    Officially regretting not buying this album the week this came out. I really need to anticipate the homework better.


    • sheely OTI Staff #

      Do you still buy physical albums? Or do you buy digitally? I kind of assume that everyone uses a paid or free streaming service or buys digital albums on iTunes and Amazon, and thus can do the “homework” within 30 minutes to 24 hours of the episode going live. I use Spotify Premium and heartily recommend it if you buy more than an average of one album per month. I think Matt uses Rhapsody, so I guess you can choose whichever one of us you like better.

      If it helps, the homework for today’s episode is Zentropy by Frankie Cosmos, which can be streamed/downloaded on her bandcamp page: http://ingridsuperstar.bandcamp.com/


      • Mark Lee OTI Staff #

        I finally bit the bullet and ponied up for Spotify premium last month and heartily recommend it now. I was one of those holdouts who really cared about his carefully curated iTunes collection and recoiled at the thought of paying for a music service without owning the tracks. The convenience of the service and the freedom of listening it allows totally outweigh those concerns, though.

        In related news, The Pretty Reckless is way way better than what I thought it was going to be.


        • sheely OTI Staff #

          Yeah, I definitely thought of you a lot when listening to this album, Mark. Any more overthoughts on it as our resident hard rock expert?


        • Mark Lee OTI Staff #

          One other thing re: Spotify – I kind of regret that it allows for music to be treated as effectively “disposable,” i.e. something you stream a few times and never revisit rather than something that you add to your permanent collection.

          That being said, The Pretty Reckless is effectively “disposable,” for better and for worse.

          I dunno, does anyone else think of music in those terms?


      • phizzled #

        I still buy physical media, or at least digital downloads. Amazon had pretty reckless for 8 dollars the week it debuted, and now it’s ten dollars. Not that big a deal, but prudent planning would have saved me a few bucks.
        I work somewhere where bandwidth is regulated and cell signal is weak, so I can’t really stream most days, and I spend more time on podcasts anyway.


  3. fenzel OTI Staff #

    Loved this episode! I really enjoy you guys.

    I actually downloaded this album off Spotify (yes, downloaded, so I could listen when I don’t have reception) and listened to it a bunch of times before I listened to the podcast. In this process, I:

    a) Had no idea that the singer was from Gossip Girl. I never watched Gossip Girl, and only got the album because of the podcast.

    b) Had no idea the album was supposed to be bad. I really enjoyed it. I generally enjoy glam rock. I mean, about half the tracks are not the kind of thing you listen to by choice, but that’s true of almost all albums.

    c) Assumed this was a burlesquey femme glam rock act that put on rock-themed sex carnival type shows — like Lady Gaga meets the Suicide Girls by way of Poison. This explained how fetish-clubby all the “I’m evil and need to be punished” stuff felt.

    d) Assumed she was essentially doing what we talked about Ke$ha doing in “Tik Tok Blues” – singing about content that were fairly common for men, and swapping the gender to be more transgressive – in particular because she’s pretty and blonde, not just because she’s a woman.

    e) Thought the whole thing felt really really gendered. Like the album is 95% virgin/whore complex.

    f) Took the album’s many references to Christianity more at face value and not as metaphors for celebrity or show business. As in, you’re playing in this space, then you’re playing with Christian iconography, because it’s really important to hard rock and metal. And then a lot of the stuff about heaven, hell and evil — a lot of that was about Christian prohibitions against sex and getting pleasure out of feeling punished for getting pleasure from violating them (and being violated).

    Obviously I was way wrong about this since I didn’t know about the Gossip Girl thing. But it was interesting.

    Some additional close reading notes on “Heaven Knows” —

    Not sure if you noted this and I just missed it, but the title itself is a play on words. “Heaven Knows” as an expression meaning “I don’t know, and it’s kind of dumb to even suggest I should know” — as in, “Where’s your husband, grandma?” “Heaven knows! I’ve been here at my rummikub all day!”

    But the expression can also be inflected to indicate certainty. “Where’s your husband, grandma?” “I don’t know, but heaven knows when I find him he’s a dead man for skipping rummikub!”

    And then in this song cosmologically it is literally about a divine authority that has made a judgement against the singer, and the title and chorus are both invoking what we know about that authority and repeating and convincing ourselves how we feel about it.

    On Sheely’s take that it was more about what they were doing was good — I think the key words there are “we belong.” If you Stanley Fish it up and do a temporal reading, it’s a whipsaw — “heaven knows we belong” and “heaven knows we belong way down below” are a sharp reversal.

    That’s the main fulcrum on which the song turns, I think – the reversal in that line. The first part is an affirmation (thus the chorus of children and such in the background vocals, which I think is pretty important), and the second part is damnation. And of course it means both at the same time.

    I’m kind of bummed you skipped Gina — the first line doesn’t repeat exactly, there’s a big difference. In the first stanzas, Jimmy has a bag of drugs and is crying.

    Then in the next bunch of stanzas, there’s a girl whose family is on food stamps, so she prostitutes herself (I think the line that she’s “sitting on her feet” indicates that the reason she’s in the front seat of the car is she’s straddling someone and having sex there.). But yeah, the “picking up trash” to me also spoke of chain gangs — there’s an element of punishment to all of it.

    Then, when you come back, it’s a _girl_ who has a bag of drugs.


    See, what I think is happening here is that Jimmy gave Gina his bag of drugs in exchange for sex — either sex with him, or sex with someone else.

    “Livin’ on the dole, gotta make that cash” could refer to prostitutes whose pimps regularly supply them with drugs, so they have to keep working, or they get cut off from the drugs.

    This arrangement has various relationships to the corporate management of celebrity.

    Also, it’s notable that when Jimmy has the drugs, you can hear “him” cry. Whereas when Gina has the drugs, you can hear “the crying.” I think the crying is still Jimmy, not Gina — and that he is crying with guilt because of what he’s doing with the prostitute. Though of course it’s ambiguous and Gina could also be crying — or there could also be somebody, Gina or Gina’s John, crying in the sense of making yelling sex noises.

    So the “Lord, tell us so” could also recall a pimp ordering the prostitutes around, which speaks to how the song is problematizing moral authority.

    The “I know better ways” might be about better ways to organize how work and flesh and drugs are all exchanged. Sort of like “I can get us out of this messed up power relationship and go independent” — while of course not denying the general putridity of what is happening.

    As in, the singer in the bridge doesn’t want to stop being a whore, the singer wants to stop being a whore _who works for a pimp_. And that this situation while at the same time love/hating hedonistic exploitation is what everybody “belongs” to. Though the chorus isn’t singing along with the rebel. The chorus is singing along with the person who wants to be bossed around.

    “Down below” of course, meaning genitals, and also subservience. Love hath pitched its palace in the place of excrement, and all that.


    • fenzel OTI Staff #

      I should clarify — I knew Matt and Ryan _thought_ the album was going to be bad. But I didn’t think _I_ was necessarily going to think it was bad after I listened to it.

      I have generally lower-brow musical tastes than Matt and Ryan, which is something I’m thinking a lot more about as I listen to these podcasts — and in particular about what I’m beginning to understand as a more-narrow-than-I-thought artistic mission of “indie music” — particularly around this question of “realness” that drives this podcast. Maybe my continued semantic objection to any comfortable definition of the real is also rooted in the fact that I don’t particularly care if my music is “real” or not for certain popular subsets of the many definitions of “real,” and I kind of resent when I feel stuff I loved is judged harshly because it doesn’t rise to these other standards.

      The other side is that almost all of my music consumption outside of Ryan is through karaoke or exercise. So it is stilted toward big songs with big sounds and big beats.


      • fenzel OTI Staff #

        Also, in the video, one of the books that is burning is called “God’s Fool.” I was really curious what book this was. But the Mark Twain quote I kept coming across was interesting in this context:


        By the way, the _God’s Fool_ in the video is probably a novel from the 1890s about a man who went deaf and blind when he was 9, so he is mentally always a boy and never connects with anyone. He inherits a business, and the rest of the book is about his siblings tearing each other apart over this grown child’s inheritance.

        That situation has some pretty intense resonances with the experiences of child actors.



        • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

          “We are fools for Christ’s sake, but ye are wise in Christ; we are weak, but ye are strong; ye are honourable, but we are despised.” —1 Cor 4:10 (KJV)

          This is part of a larger passage considering the possible utility of the spectacle of the Apostles’ persecution. Paul suggests that celebrity and notoriety are useful in winning followers for the cause.


      • Matthew Wrather OTI Staff #

        With the TFT, a longitudinal, multidisciplinary research project connecting teen soap operas and popular music to social science and poetics, we make positive claims, not normative claims. (Though once you listen to Frankie Cosmos, which I heartily recommend you do during CrossFit, and our thoughts on Zentropy, our occult revolutionary project becomes clear.)

        So I don’t want to give the impression that we endorse—or that we endorse completely wholeheartedly—the politically charged and otherizing discourse of “realness” that pervades a lot of indie music. There’s a douchey holier-than-thou quality to a lot of the claims made in furtherance of this discourse that remind me of the kind of one-upsmanship I find so dispiriting in progressive political discourse. It makes life neither more beautiful nor more just; it’s a poor substitute for actually making things that are good.

        That’s why Mr. Goats’ cover of “Boxcar” is so pertinent to our project.

        But that discourse exists, and it operates in a lot of ways both manifest and insidious on the practitioners of artistically ambitious music. We use it as an entry point into interesting questions—and as such it’s been very successful for us—rather than a bar every song must clear, or a bludgeon to beat those who don’t clear it…


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