As the internet has recently discovered, Jill Stein is more than just a politician. She is also a lead singer. Now it all makes sense. Before she stood for the Green Party, Stein and Ken Selcer led the alt-folk-rock band Somebody's Sister, which was active during the 1990s. Though the band drew on many different influences, most of the tracks on their albums—1999's Circuits to the Sun and 1996's self-titled (both available on Bandcamp)—sound like a barefoot Christian rock group striving to capture a Sheryl Crow vibe.
I know our very own Dan Savage has been giving the Green Party candidate a rough time lately, and that a flyby negative review of her musical efforts in the '90s might seem cheap or beside the point. But music reflects the complexity of our inner selves, and now that all the candidates have made their party platforms public, what else is left to ward off paranoia but speculation about their inner selves?
Bill Clinton's inner self, for instance, is a sleepy-sleazy saxophone player. Donald Trump's interior is a temperamental laser harpist whose self-aggrandizing gestures serve to mask a feeble mind. A few cursory listens to Somebody's Sister suggest that inside Jill Stein there is an earnest protest busker at the county fair, haranguing patrons who are waiting for the demolition derby to begin.
No matter the stage, Stein's message has been nothing if not consistent since the 1990s. The lyrics in the band's two available albums are about as sophisticated as the arguments she makes in this Democracy Now debate. Hillary's going to bring on World War III, so is Donald Trump. "You don't defeat neofascism through neoliberalism," etc. Therefore, vote for me.
"Hey revolution/ take back your vote" she sings on "American Dream," adding, "'Cause the kings of the corporation/ takin' over the nation/ of money from your pocket/ feedin' corporate profit/ when they got something at stake/ they find a candidate/ you can buy [not sure what]/ president and a senator/ when you got cash on hand/ you can buy the laws of the land... gotta take your vote back from the corporation."
While I am attracted to the idea of limiting corporate influence on politicians, when I hear a dorm room rhyme like "corporation/nation" rattling around in an uptempo California pop-folk package, all I can think of are free market solutions.
And if she believes in the "revolution you call democracy," as she sings later in the song, then she should look at her position in the polls (3.2 percent), compare it to Clinton's position, realize there are 98 days left until election day, remember that Nader spoiled Gore's chances in 2000, and do the responsible thing.
The serious challenge Bernie Sanders represented to Hillary Clinton was built gradually and determinedly over a primary contest that lasted a full year and some change. The idea that Stein can swoop in for the last three months and scoop up all the votes Bernie's campaign worked so hard to earn is nakedly opportunistic and as unlikely as her dream to create 20 million jobs by transitioning to 100% renewable energy in 15 years.
Stein's lyrics are cliche, sure, but sometimes they just don't make any sense. As Jonathan Chait points out in New York Magazine, this is also true of some of Stein's arguments.
On "Sing a Little Song," she instructs listeners to "give a little dance," but fails to describe what the fuck it could possibly mean to "give a dance." People give fucks/no fucks, give love, give attention, give a little bit, give a little bit of my life for you, but nobody gives a dance. That is not a thing. Neither, for that matter, is holding a lover "skin tight," as she says she wants to do in the song called "Dangerous Woman." You know who holds people "skin tight?" Skin-stealing mass murders who wear their victims flesh like a t-shirt. NOT A GOOD LOOK.
Many other strange sadnesses and joys await you on the two Somebody's Sisters studio albums. There is dad rap on the song "My Place." There is imitation Dylan on "Circuits to the Sun," which is about a sober woman who carries crystals and "points them at the sun." There is plenty, plenty more. And it's all about as good as her chance to win the presidency.
On the bright side, after she helps Trump get elected, maybe her band can do a reunion tour.