Proving that hindsight is 20/20, Rolling Stone writer Jonathan Bernstein has penned an article positing that singer-songwriter Ryan Adams—the subject of a recent New York Times piece in which several women accuse him of being manipulative and abusive—left clues about his true nature in his lyrics throughout his entire career.
According to Bernstein:
Much like with Louis CK, R. Kelly and Woody Allen, it’s now easy to see how Adams used his art as a sort of staging ground for the power-wielding abuses and transgressions in his personal life. The singer’s finely-tuned performance of emotional neediness was part and parcel with the pattern of manipulation and alleged emotional abuse he had been engaging in for the better part of his adulthood.
Bernstein, who once described Adams as a “master chronicler of the endless shapes and colors of romantic pain”, cites the 2001 song "Nobody Girl" as "an almost boastful portrayal of gaslighting, with the narrator spending much of the song trying to convince a woman to second-guess her tough decision to leave".
“Say you follow your heart/Well, honey you’re just being lost,” Adams sings, “You could follow your gut/But how much would it cost?” In the chorus, Adams renders her powerless while offering his version of an abuser’s catchphrase: “they don’t know you anyway.”
“You’re nobody girl. You’re nobody girl,” he tells her, before stripping the woman of her very personhood, : “You’re a nobody girl.”
The article has a Vancouver angle, as Bernstein cites the New Pornographers' Carl Newman, who revealed via Twitter that he had become a character in one of Adams's songs, "Harder Now That It's Over". Newman said that he's "that guy" mentioned in the song's lyrics: "When I threw that drink in that guy's face/It was just to piss you off/'Cause honey, it's over now."
Newman added that Adams did not actually throw a drink in his face, although that was evidently his intent.
Has Adams ever made it into one of Newman's songs? Probably not, but this New Pornographers video does feature a belligerent drinker, so close enough: