This is, of course, nothing new. Back in 2010, when writing about the White Stripes’ “Under Great White Northern Lights” film, I compared White to “a woodblock printer, a missionary, a wheelwright [and] a buckskin-clad frontiersman” (among other things), all of which are thoroughly awesome in their own way. Shoot, before that, I praised White for phoning a Chicago radio station — from Spain, nonetheless — to accuse them of cowardice (always awesome) after they played a leaked copy of the Stripes’ Icky Thump album.
(White subsequently rationalized the call to me thusly : “Jack White the singer and songwriter isn’t reacting to you; it’s the president of Third Man Records calling you and asking for an explanation.” And referring to yourself in the third person is most definitely awesome.)
In reality, there is no end to White’s inherent awesomeness. He makes his entire road crew dress in matching suits and bowler hats. He haggled like a pro (and wore an excellent fedora) on “American Pickers.” He runs his entire Third Man empire out of a record shop/ warehouse located next to some train tracks in a less-than-desirable section of Nashville. He’s recorded with auctioneers and the Insane Clown Posse (and just about everyone else). He made the “Treat Me Like Your Mother” video. And the sentiments he expressed when announcing the end of the White Stripes — namely, “The White Stripes belong to you now and you can do with it whatever you want” — well, they were certainly incredibly awesome too.
Anyway, here’s the point: As you are probably aware, next month, White will release his first solo album, Blunderbuss. And this weekend on “Saturday Night Live,” while Lohan flailed, he performed a pair of songs from that album: sublime first single “Love Interruption” and the spastic, space-truckin’ stomper “Sixteen Saltines.” They were notable for several reasons, the least of which being that, unlike the recent spate of “SNL” musical, uh, efforts — I’m looking at you, Lana Del Rey and Karmin — they were actually really good. And the pair of songs probably served as a reminder to some about White’s power and prowess. But that’s not what made them so distracting.
Rather, it was the fact that, for reasons apparent only to him, White decided to bring two backing bands to the show: one all female, the other entirely male. And sure, you could probably argue that the lithe “Love Interruption” could only be played by females, while the more muscular “Sixteen Saltines” benefited from male musicians (Noel Gallagher certainly believes both of these things to be true ). In fact, that might actually be why White did it, though I’d prefer to think that he had another reason: Because he is awesome.
From his earliest days, White has excelled at turning the most minute of details into the most important of points: everything from the Stripes’ unflagging color scheme to the “official tartans” the band had made for their “aluminum anniversary” (that’s 10 years, FYI). It’s sort of what makes him stand out from his rock-star contemporaries — he genuinely seems to care about stuff like connecting the dots and cultivating a mystique. And his “SNL” stunt is just the latest example of this; not only were his backing bands uniform in their sex, they wore color-coordinated, outfits too. Is there anyone else who would go to these lengths, for no particular reason? Of course not.
And yet, the best thing about White is the fact that, even though we’ve come to expect the unexpected from him, we’re always surprised by what he does. Or how effortlessly he seems to do it. Blowing the likes of Lana Del Rey off the “SNL” stage isn’t difficult, but doing it with style to spare — well, that’s something else entirely. It’s awesome. And it’s inherently Jack White. He’s back and badder than ever, with two new bands at his disposal. For his next trick, perhaps he’ll try to revive Lohan’s career — and who knows? He might even succeed.
What do you think of White’s latest incarnation? Let us know in the comments!