Rilo Kiley remains an all-time favorite band. But their latest album, Under the Blacklight, broke my spirit. Where was the bittersweet loneliness? Where were the trademark prickly-yet-vulnerable lyrics? All the essential elements of Rilo Kiley were absent. In my initial stages of grief, I just drove around listening to their first two albums, wallowing in the past. But then I got to thinking, what’s behind this woeful nosedive in quality? Could it have been the switch to a major label? Lack of creative focus? Finally I landed on an answer: pants. More specifically, the length of Jenny Lewis’s pants and skirts.
There may have been other factors involved, but I concluded that pants were indeed the major underlying cause. As a long-time fan I’ve witnessed several fashion phases of the band, the most prominent of which has been Jenny’s gravitation towards hot pants. At first this was badass: sexually confident, stylish in an ugly kind of way. As long as the music was good, I’d have accepted bright green leotards, leopard print halters, anything at all.
But as soon as Under the Blacklight soured their charm for me, I became suspicious of the hot pants. Logic tells me that if something bad happens at the same time change occurs, then this change is directly to blame. Therefore what defeated Rilo Kiley was not “stylistic evolution,” but rather an article of clothing. The following graph illustrates my point:
Keep in mind that this is a very general representation of the decline. In reality, 2002 to 2003 would be on level with, if not above 2001, but that’s a different post entirely. To further illustrate my point, here are samples of their music from each progression:
“Pictures of Success” from Take-Offs and Landings (2001):
“Capturing Moods” from The Execution of All Things (2002):
Side note: this is a great fan vid!
“Does He Love You?” from More Adventurous (2004):
“The Moneymaker” from Under the Blacklight (2007):
Clearly something has gone wrong. Whether pants are truly to blame is debatable. But you have to admit, the correlation is eerie.