Amanda Palmer: Naked, but far from vulnerable

The performance artist has taken on the Daily Mail and music industry of late

Related Topics

Until very recently, I had not been familiar with the oeuvre of the American musician and performance artist, Amanda Palmer. One half of the band Dresden Dolls, her style could best be described as part-punk, part-cabaret, part-agitprop. She's an anti-celebrity celebrity, a musician who's found notoriety by circumventing the music industry, and a commentator on modern mores who wants to be taken seriously.

She's certainly not to everyone's taste: an attention-seeking controversialist who styles herself as “Amanda ****ing Palmer” and who challenges the established order in a combative and full-frontal way. Sometimes literally. During a recent gig at London's Roundhouse, she performed a protest song about the Daily Mail totally naked, and it is her assault on arguably Britain's most powerful newspaper that has brought her to wider notice.

What upset Palmer was the Mail's coverage of her appearance at Glastonbury this year: not the critical appreciation of her work, but the scrutiny paid to the inadvertent exposure of one of her breasts during her performance. The massively popular online version of the Mail focused on what has become known, in that arch phrase, as “a wardrobe malfunction”. It wouldn't have taken much research to discover that Ms Palmer's wardrobe has had questionable functionality for some time.

In 2009, she posted 25 nude pictures of herself on her Twitter page, she's performed naked - save for a ukelele - at a festival, and has often used her unclothed body to make a political statement. So the fact that one of her boobs fell out at Glastonbury was hardly the stuff of breaking news. And her reaction to this coverage was to write a protest song about the Mail which, appropriately enough for someone who is an example of how the Internet can be a liberating and sustaining force for an artist, has become a huge hit on YouTube.

In it, she includes the lines: “But a rag is a rag, and far be it from me/To go censoring anyone - oh, no/It appears that my entire body is currently/Trying to escape this kimono”. At which point, the kimono drops to the floor, and she performs the rest of the song completely starkers. It's a stunt, all right, but it was enough to get her an earnest interview on Newsnight.

Ms Palmer is the poster child for a new paradigm in the music industry: upset by her record company's excision of a shot from her video because they said (according to her) that she looked “too fat”, Ms Palmer has raised more than a million dollars on crowdfunding sites on the Internet, and if groups of fans get together and raise enough money, she'll perform live for them. So she has a reputation for doing things differently.

We don't all have access to a microphone and an audience, but you have to admire Ms Palmer's decision to take to the stage rather go through the courts to battle it out with a newspaper. I must point out, however, that she's not exactly a pioneer in this respect. Radiohead wrote a song about the Daily Mail, and the last word on newspaper hypocrisy must go to the Bard of Salford, John Cooper Clarke: “You'll find all kinds of hideous excess/But you'll never see a nipple in the Daily Express”.

React Now

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teacher, Permanent Role in Ashford

Competitive Salary: Randstad Education Group: Randstad urgently seeks a qualif...


£55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BI CONSULTA...

Infrastructure Manager - Southampton - Up to £45K

£35000 - £45000 per annum + 36 days holiday and more: Deerfoot IT Resources Li...

Drama Teacher

Negotiable: Randstad Education Liverpool: We are looking for someone who can t...

Day In a Page

Read Next

Spy chief speaks on the record: "Thank you, and that's it, really"

John Rentoul

The daily catch-up: fathers looking after children, World Cup questions and Nostradamus

John Rentoul
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

Peace without magnanimity - the summit in a railway siding that ended the fighting
Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

Scottish independence: How the Commonwealth Games could swing the vote

In the final part of our series, Chris Green arrives in Glasgow - a host city struggling to keep the politics out of its celebration of sport
Out in the cold: A writer spends a night on the streets and hears the stories of the homeless

A writer spends a night on the streets

Rough sleepers - the homeless, the destitute and the drunk - exist in every city. Will Nicoll meets those whose luck has run out
Striking new stations, high-speed links and (whisper it) better services - the UK's railways are entering a new golden age

UK's railways are entering a new golden age

New stations are opening across the country and our railways appear to be entering an era not seen in Britain since the early 1950s
Conchita Wurst becomes a 'bride' on the Paris catwalk - and proves there is life after Eurovision

Conchita becomes a 'bride' on Paris catwalk

Alexander Fury salutes the Eurovision Song Contest winner's latest triumph
Pétanque World Championship in Marseilles hit by

Pétanque 'world cup' hit by death threats

This year's most acrimonious sporting event took place in France, not Brazil. How did pétanque get so passionate?
Whelks are healthy, versatile and sustainable - so why did we stop eating them in the UK?

Why did we stop eating whelks?

Whelks were the Victorian equivalent of the donor kebab and our stocks are abundant. So why do we now export them all to the Far East?
10 best women's sunglasses

In the shade: 10 best women's sunglasses

From luxury bespoke eyewear to fun festival sunnies, we round up the shades to be seen in this summer
Germany vs Argentina World Cup 2014: Lionel Messi? Javier Mascherano is key for Argentina...

World Cup final: Messi? Mascherano is key for Argentina...

No 10 is always centre of attention but Barça team-mate is just as crucial to finalists’ hopes
Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer knows she needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

Siobhan-Marie O’Connor: Swimmer needs Glasgow joy on road to Rio

18-year-old says this month’s Commonwealth Games are a key staging post in her career before time slips away
The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

The true Gaza back-story that the Israelis aren’t telling this week

A future Palestine state will have no borders and be an enclave within Israel, surrounded on all sides by Israeli-held territory, says Robert Fisk
A History of the First World War in 100 Moments: The German people demand an end to the fighting

A History of the First World War in 100 Moments

The German people demand an end to the fighting
New play by Oscar Wilde's grandson reveals what the Irish wit said at his trials

New play reveals what Oscar Wilde said at trials

For a century, what Wilde actually said at his trials was a mystery. But the recent discovery of shorthand notes changed that. Now his grandson Merlin Holland has turned them into a play
Can scientists save the world's sea life from

Can scientists save our sea life?

By the end of the century, the only living things left in our oceans could be plankton and jellyfish. Alex Renton meets the scientists who are trying to turn the tide
Richard III, Trafalgar Studios, review: Martin Freeman gives highly intelligent performance

Richard III review

Martin Freeman’s psychotic monarch is big on mockery but wanting in malice