I got wind of this Cat Power video after it was on so many best of the year lists. It’s sweet and I like it, but I’m not sure I want to like it. It breathes life back into the shopworn beauty-in-old-people’s-faces aesthetic, but at this late stage, shouldn’t we be sending that genre out to pasture? Taking it out behind the barn for an old yeller moment? The pain in the wrinkles trick isn’t emotion anymore, it’s cheap sentimentalism, a visual shortcut just like to the overuse of strings in weak ballads.
Yes, this time the people in the video are drunks, and that helps, and that guy in the house is William Eggleston. But much of it treads on territory already claimed as far back as Joan Osbourne’s day. Which is not to say there are no formal differences between Lived in Bars and What If God Was One of Us: the man in angel wings plays a trumpet in Cat Power’s video, in Joan Osbourne’s it’s a woman in the angel wings riding a skateboard. But the videos make the messages feel more similar, meaning Cat Power runs a dangerously close line to the pablum generated by the Oprah-American Idol complex. Every lonely life is precious.