I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book. - Groucho Marx

Peaches: Bravery While Nude

by Candace McDuffie
July 21, 2011

Her fearlessness regarding art is admirable—her execution of it is flawless. For years, Merill Nisker, more infamously known as Peaches, has been kicking dirt all over preconceived notions the music industry has been concocting of what a woman should be. To sum Peaches up efficiently, through, words would be an insult to the barriers her art has broken down—especially since any true Peaches fan knows that her art is the kind that needs to be experienced. I had the fortune of seeing her live right after she released 2009’s I Feel Cream. The show left me as hungry for more as the album did—she managed to thematically embody her catalogue through costumes and props that clearly hinged on unconventional forms of self-expression, consisting of androgyny and vices. When she wasn’t pouring shots of Patron down the throats of audience members, she was shamelessly ordering everyone in the audience to take off their shirts in order to either 1) express our disgust with the austere nature of concert conventions or 2) get us kicked out of the venue. And since the latter didn’t happen, the former (which happened to be Peaches’ true goal) was reached. But when your career’s main objective is to get people to reassess their cultural belief system—a system that has been dictated by a biased and daunting society—your work is never really finished.

Starting with The Teaches of Peaches, it was clear that Peaches knew the potency of language and her lyrics were not only treacherous, but thought-provoking. One of her best known singles, “Fuck The Pain Away,” juxtaposes a lascivious sexual act with the notion of objectification—all while being one of the catchiest songs you’ll ever hear [and, given the context in which many people probably heard it for the first time, the film Lost in Translation, it's also one of the most disorienting songs you'll ever hear -ed]. Followup albums like Fatherfucker and Impeach My Bush still have lyrical sexual clout, but grow in complexity as they touch upon politics and further the exploration of gender identity. And after these records were released, we understood that Peaches wasn’t afraid to be a little lewd to gain our attention—what it stood for was the reason she kept it. I Feel Cream finally gave us a glimpse into her more sensual side, with the title track displaying her ability to vocally seduce us. “Serpentine” is Peaches’ heart-pumping declaration of her unapologetic attitude regarding naysayers, followers and the like. Her last album asserts that despite the ever-changing climate of the music industry, she still has it.

Always one to break ground, a year later Peaches embarked on the journey of creating Peaches Christ Superstar, in which she single-handedly told the story of Jesus Christ solely through song. For this creative endeavor, she forwent her trademark over the top personas in favor of something more modest. When I had the chance to catch up with her to talk about it, she was completely and utterly focused on conveying what this musical meant to her: the world. “It’s a very emotional story, and I want [the audience] to have a real emotional experience,” she explained. “ It’s not trying to be over the top at all. [My fans] expect me to branch out, and I want to keep them interested the same way I keep myself interested.” And fans were way more than interested. Peaches Christ Superstar had sold out shows all over the United States, had quite the following in Europe, and even the show's creator Tim Rice found the time to see her production. Unfortunately, I missed the epic show, but found solace in our interview—the passion for her artistry had really shone through.

It is clear that whatever venture Peaches chooses to pursue next will be an illustrious one—the woman simply doesn’t believe in middle ground. Not only does she throw herself wholeheartedly into all of her projects, but she goes the extra mile to make them as individualistic as possible. With every album, she reinvents herself while systematically staying the same—a feat not all artists, especially female artists, can accomplish successfully. One minute she’s a domineering sex goddess, the next she’s a vulnerable casualty trying to view herself through the society’s elusive, and often unfair, lens. That is what I consider Peaches’ greatest asset—her awareness of the complexity regarding the human experience, regardless of gender. Not only does she tap into it, but she does so in an evocative and genuine manner. She explores controversial themes and conventions in order to deepen our understanding of them, not to cash in on them. In short, Peaches is a true artist devoted to  pushing boundaries and creating discourse concerning them that otherwise might have been omitted. That’s more than I can say for Lady Gaga.

Candace McDuffie is a freelance journalist currently residing in Boston. She holds a Master's Degree in Education, and works as a full-time preschool teacher. She is a regular contributor to Boston's Weekly Dig and Performer Magazine, and has written for other publications like Stereo Subversion and Skratch Magazine. She can be reached at cmcduffie1@hotmail.com