Jack White continues his Black Keys feud, complains about the ‘sound bite’ age

Jack White

Last week, I covered the first excerpts from Jack White’s bitchy Rolling Stone interview. Jack complained that Meg White never reciprocated his excitement over breaking ground with White Stripes’ music. My take was that Meg has always had an understated personality. She doesn’t get overly excited about stuff, and she suffers from social anxiety. Jack seemed offended that Meg didn’t bounce off the walls when confronted with his genius. It also sounded like Jack missed Meg.

The rest of the RS interview has surfaced, and Jack is in fine snarky form. He whines about the Black Keys again. I’m always fascinated when rock gods get into fights with other rock gods. That statement would probably upset Jack White, blues god, who is behaving like he’s the only blues god that ever existed.

Jack’s been feuding with the Keys for years. He was upset with ex-wife Karen Elson for letting their children be in the same school classes with Dan Auerbach’s kids. Jack has a real problem with the Keys. That school-kid spat happened over a year ago, but Jack is elaborating on the issue with Rolling Stone. He basically thinks the Black Keys copied the White Stripes. Here is Jack’s explanation:

“There are kids at school who dress like everybody else, because they don’t know what to do, and there are musicians like that, too. I’ll hear TV commercials where the music’s ripping off sounds of mine, to the point I think it’s me. Half the time, it’s the Black Keys. The other half, it’s a sound-alike song because they couldn’t license one of mine. There’s a whole world that’s totally fine with the watered-down version of the original.

“Some people will hear that and say ‘Oh, Jack White thinks he’s the first person to play the blues.’ But certain acts open up a market for a certain style. Amy Winehouse: Did she invent white soul? Wearing a beehive? No. But she did something brand new and fresh, altogether as a package, and you see who’s in her wake, from the Duffys to the Lana Del Reys. Adele selling 20 million records? That would not have happened if Amy Winehouse was alive. The White Stripes did the same thing, and in our absence, you’re gonna find someone to fill that. And you get a band like the Black Keys, who said they never heard of the White Stripes? Sure.”

[From Rolling Stone]

I don’t know why Jack is picking upon Adele, and I don’t know if anyone remembers Duffy. She was big for a year or so, and I agree that Duffy followed in the lead of Amy Winehouse. Adele is different. She is one of a kind. Not every retro-based act copies from other retro-based acts. I don’t think the Keys are Stripes copycats. Jack doesn’t consider that his bluesy influences might also be the same artists who influenced the Keys. I also think the Keys borrow a lot more from funk-rock artists like Jimi Hendrix than they take from the blues. Then again, I’m not an expert on musical genres. Feel free to educate me.

The Black Keys seem pretty perplexed about Jack White’s problem with them. Patrick Carney admits that White, “obviously sounds like an a–hole,” but he and Dan Auerbach both “actually feel embarrased for him.” The Keys are referencing Jack’s non-amicable divorce and custody battle with Karen Elson in relation to outlets like TMZ, who leaked Jack’s private emails with Karen.

I think Jack has a problem with the Keys because he truly DOES think they copied the Stripes. Jack let his belief seep into his divorce battle, and the band-fight continues long after the custody fight ended. Rolling Stone won’t let it go, and both Jack and the Keys keep talking. Jack decided that things went far enough, and he posted an “apology and explanation” on his website:

Why Jack said all that crap: “I felt in a way forced into talking about very private opinions of mine that are very much in the realm of ‘behind the curtain’ show business conversations. Remarks I’ve made about the state of the music business and about how certain acts create new markets in the minds of music lovers are also very difficult to clarify without exacerbating the issue. In an attempt to not give the music magazine Rolling Stone a ‘no comment,’ because I thought they would use that to convey some sort of pettiness on my part, I decided to try to explain a tiny portion of what they were asking. I should’ve been smarter to know that it would be pointless to use comparisons like I did to readers who most likely don’t understand the scenario and that my words would seem very negative in nature. That’s not me trying to sound like I’m above anyone, it was just ‘shop talk’ and it sounded a lot more negative than it was meant to.”

He loves Adele: “I wish no slight to the talents of Winehouse, Duffy, Lana del Rey, and Adele. All of whom are wonderful performers with amazing voices. I have their records and I hope for more success for them all as the years go on. They deserve all they’ve gotten. And, I also would love to state that I personally find it inspiring to have powerful, positive female voices speaking out and creating at all times in the mainstream.”

On Meg White: “She is a strong female presence in rock and roll, and I was not intending to slight her either, only to explain how hard it was for us to communicate with our very different personalities. This got blown out of proportion and made into headlines, and somehow I looked like I was picking on her. I would never publicly do that to someone I love so dearly.”

Jack blames the tabs & blogs: “We live in a sound bite, sensationalized age. The ‘non apology’ has become a lawyer’s dodge for celebrities themselves, given to a public that usually doesn’t want to hear it as it disrupts the tabloid ‘dirt’ that we all want to occur. Because the conversations I’ve had that have been made public and recontextualized are difficult to clarify without making it seem even more petty and strange, this is an apology to anyone I’ve offended with my comments about my creativity, their creativity, and the music business in general. I wish for a long, fruitful, healthy family of creative people to continue to grow around me and the musicians I work with, the city of Nashville, America and the world of listeners that this music can reach.”

[From JackWhiteiii.com]

I do give Jack credit for not saying, “I’m sorry IF you were offended.” He realizes that he said some douchebaggy things. But he still blames the “sound bite, sensationalized age” when he doesn’t realize that sound bites have always existed. He also argues that what he said has been “recontextualized,” which sounds a bit Goopy. Here’s the thing — the White Stripes became huge right before blogs became huge. Jack has no idea how to deal with bloggers. He’s only used to select outlets publishing quotes with no reaction from the void.

Jack is fine with getting quoted by Rolling Stone, and he’s alway spouted off to the trade pubs. What Jack can’t deal with bloggers reading his quotes and interpreting them. Jack doesn’t like the internet because he’s getting called on his sh-t. He wants to have his bluesey cake and to eat it too. Another example? He complained to Rolling Stone about how fans bring iPhones to shows, but Jack forgets that he designed a custom iPhone case a few years ago.

Jack? If you’re reading … the internet is here to stay. Don’t fight it. Adapt. The internet will love you right back.

Jack White

Photos courtesy of Rolling Stone & WENN

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81 Responses to “Jack White continues his Black Keys feud, complains about the ‘sound bite’ age”

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  1. Rhiley says:

    The Black Keys suck. There is absolutely nothing original or interesting about their music, and I love that JW calls them out for basically being a boring band. Bands like the Black Keys and Kings of Leon really are just a bunch of Justin Biebers.

    • mom2two says:

      Thank you for saying this. I often I think The Black Keys are overrated and honestly, Patrick Carney is always going off about something as well. I’ll take Jack White any day, I think he is ridiculously talented.

      • Polkasox says:

        I’m not a huge fan of the Keys’ newest stuff but have you listened to their first few albums? They were really raw & stripped down then. I don’t see how anyone could listen to 10AM Automatic & call them “Beibers”

    • GIRLFACE says:

      Yeah the Black Keys totally ripped him off. Sorry. He did it first and the Black Keys came right after him, like within a couple years of the Stripes and took those same fuzzy blues riffs and stripped down drums and changed the vocals then touted themselves as original. I love/hate the internet too. I think it is ruining a certain element of being human that is irretrievable. It is totally destroying the way fans and artists relate to each other as well. I can understand his frustration. But uh, the Black Keys suck. He can say what he wants.

      • Polkasox says:

        I don’t disagree that they sound a lot alike. But I’m from Ohio (BK are from Akron) & they were playing a lot of small clubs around Columbus long before the Stripes came out. They didn’t 100% copy them.

      • mercy says:

        The White Stripes formed in 1997. I think The Keys started in 2001 – the year the Stripes broke through with their third album, White Blood Cells.

        Jack White would probably be the first to tell us he’s not original, but he has frequently honoured and showed respect for his influences. Not just the great old bluesmen like Charlie Patton and Son House and country pioneers like Loretta Lynn and Wanda Jackson , but more recent bands like The Flat Duo Jets.

        I doubt he expects anything from the Keys. It just sounds like he’d rather they stop shadowing his every move. There are too many coincidences for comfort. ;)

    • Smoochie says:

      Can’t really listen to either one. Both are way overrated in my personal musical opinion.

    • Diana says:

      Jack White is an idiot sometimes, but completely agree about everything else. KOL and the Black keys are pretty bad IMHO

    • Mrs. Lecter says:

      Agreed 1000%, the black keys are terrible and produce a cheap imitation of Jack’s work.

    • FLORC says:

      Agree with all. And yea. The black keys are just terrible. And hasn’t everone heard of the white stripes? Even if you didn’t listen to the music we’ve ALL heard about that short lived duo.

      I like the names… Black Keys. White Stripes. *snickers*

      And I need to agree with the Adele bit. She had albums and was out there for a long time. 1 song took her to the top even though she had great songs in previous years. The market was flooded and her great songs were pushed to the side until there was a void she could fill.

      Anyone else remember the MAD tv skit with all these bands creed, nirvana, lighthouse, pearl jam rowing in on boats singing their song sound and clothing was original and then another would row in singing they had it first. Classic.

      • mercy says:

        “I like the names… Black Keys. White Stripes. *snickers*”

        Lol yeah… And that’s only the tip of the iceberg. ;) Carney can feign ignorance, but he comes off disingenuous when you look at the evidence. And he really isn’t in a position to be embarrassed for Jack, especially after all the obnoxious things he’s said over the years.

        Agree about Adele. I didn’t see his comments as a slam on Adele at all. More like a tribute to Amy Whitehouse and an accurate accounting of how one helped pave the way for the other. Musicians and longtime music fans know there’s a lot of truth to his observations.

    • littlestar says:

      Wow, I can’t believe there are others out there who think the Black Keys are overrated :O. I always thought I was the only one lol. My complaint is that they take that 60s, 70s sound and try to pass it off as groundbreaking. No. You’re just another Led Zeppelin wannabe band.

      Jack White should just not say anything. Think it privately but don’t say anything to the public that will make you seem like a sore loser.

      • Scarlet Vixen says:

        Thank goodness! I’ve been secretly afraid for years that I was somehow the only person who thought the Black Keys were extremely overrated. I’ve been baffled for ages at people who rave about how amazeballs and ORIGINAL they are.

    • Annemarie says:

      I don’t understand people who criticize musicians for lack of originality. No one in the business right now is original. Everyone takes elements from artists before them and tbh I don’t see any similarities between Jack White and The Black Keys.

      • kri says:

        @Annemarie-you are right of course, no artist is ever really totally original. We have all heard Elvis, Robert Johnson, Nina Simone. I always think of (music) artforms as a community of people expressing the same emotions in a different way. Or something. Art explains humanity to itself. No art is completely original-it’s bulit upon something started by others and influenced by it’s environment. A real artist puts a fresh spin on an old ideas. I think the White Stripes tried to that and I think it’s what Jack White continues to try to do.

    • Gia says:

      The Black Keys first album is amazing. Their subsequent ones were purposely watered down for commercial and radio use. They wanted to make money. That said, I’m not going to hate on Jack White for having an opinion. The same way I defend Gwenyth Paltrow. Sure, people may think he’s an a$$hole and she’s pretentious but who cares? They’re entitled to their opinion. They can think a band sucks or certain fashions are passé if they want to. They have their reasons and what the masses think shouldn’t really matter. It’s like we’re all supposed to think the same or something. It really grinds my gears.

    • mercy says:

      Replied to the wrong comment.

    • mercy says:

      I wouldn’t go so far as to compare the Keys to Biebs on any level. The Keys are a solid band. Not very charismatic, interesting or special, imo, but good at the straightforward blues rock they churn out. But for the them to deny the obvious — that the Stripes had some influence on them (if not musically, at the very least stylistically), and helped the way for their music to be heard — only makes them look self conscious, like they have something to hide.

    • Franklymydear1 says:

      Yup, my dislike of the Black Keys was solidified by this piece by Auerbach’s ex-wife http://www.salon.com/2011/03/03/grollmus_divorce_from_black_keys/

      • Ange says:

        I dunno, they both sound kind of as bad as each other in that piece. At the very least they both had major problems with alcohol and infidelity.

  2. jess says:

    At first glance I thought he was katy perry.

  3. Sullivan says:

    I like Jack White. He’s talented and odd.

  4. bettyrose says:

    Has he always been this hot? His music does nothing for me but migawd these pics…

  5. K37744 says:

    I had the pleasure of going on tour with the White Stripes about ten years ago. Meg was quiet, but extremely sweet and hung in his shadow purposely. Jack was kind, gracious and an all around cool guy. Never would I have thought he’d give me a second glance (I was with the opening band), but he spoke to me like a human being, called me by name and hung out with everyone….then he’d go out and perform to thousands of screaming fans. I’ll always have a soft spot for the man. He’s incredibly talented and always seems to be misunderstood. He’s passionate about his music, and If the guy hates the Keys…I suppose it’s his prerogative. *shrugs*

    • Kiddo says:

      Nice story. I do like their music.

    • Ruth Dunbar says:

      The impression I’ve always gotten — and obviously, I really have no idea — is that he is basically a shy man himself, and maybe even a little awkward. So the persona — the Willy Wonka look and everything — is something he hides behind.

    • Blannie says:

      I only know Jack White from his appearances on The Colbert Report. His Catholic Throwdown with Stephen is a forever favorite of mine. And I’m not even religious. I just love their passion and profanity. :)

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c9zeYyOdBU0

      • SpookySpooks says:

        I loved the Catholic Throwdown so much. One of my all time favourite Colbert moments.

    • mercy says:

      Thanks for sharing. He comes off rather cold and very blunt spoken in some print interviews, but in my experience he’s very warm and engaging with a quirky sense of humour in person.

      Lol he absolutely must do Colbert again before it ends.

    • Claire says:

      I know someone who filmed him while he was in NZ and they rated him as probably one of the nicest people they had had to work with. Bryan Adams not so much. He is so sexy – I like tall, dark and pale – maybe thats why I love Loki too!

  6. ML says:

    I like the White stripes but they always relied on their style gimmicks and his pageantry persona, and although they released a lot of albums, each one only had few decent songs, the rest were just poorly written and executed filler. He always reaches higher then what his talent allows him.

    Unlike the black keys, who have never tried to be more then just a straight up hard touring live music rock n roll band, and I find their albums all flow from start to finish, because they just focus on writing a good catchy rock song and not trying to reinvent the wheel, like Jack does. I think the main reason why they’ve always been compared is because they’re both 2 pieces and have kinda similar names, but that’s it, they sound nothing alike IMO.

  7. Ag-UK says:

    Love the Black Keys and their new album/record is great that’s all I needed to say.

    • Tx says:

      +1. Also- it is possible for two bands to have a similar sound without one copying the other. Jacks beef with the Keys is so bizzar to me.. He seems very petty.

      • mercy says:

        For the Keys to go out of their way to disavow Jack and the Stripes contributions to the music scene they both inhabit seems really petty. I think that’s what he’s responding to, along with some other petty behaviour on their part. It’s not like he has a problem with other successful blues rock bands.

    • Ange says:

      I like their early stuff, it’s a lot more gritty than what they release today. I had the pleasure of seeing them at a small venue many years ago before they got huge and they were amazing. I can’t hate on them.

    • TheOneandOnlyOnly says:

      Yes, BK’s new album is great; I like both bands, they are all talented musicians, and in a pop world of glorified karaoke, I’ll take either band in a heartbeat, ALso,saw BK’s live before they made it big at a free concert, played the crap out of their instruments.

  8. Ruth Dunbar says:

    I just got back to DC from Tulsa, where I saw Jack kick off his tour at Cain’s Ballroom. It was incredible — I nearly burst into tears a few times. It was an interesting, charismatic, exciting, and I daresay, epic, show. Light years beyond any performance I’ve seen by The Black Keys, and I say that as a fan of the Keys. Well worth the trip out west. So, as far as I’m concerned, Jack can talk as much smack as he wants.

    • Kaylen says:

      Anyone who doubts that Jack has BUCKETS more talent than the Black Keys ever will… Well, they haven’t watched enough on Jack on stage, obviously.

  9. jen says:

    Both groups have The Velvet Underground to thank.

    • InvaderTak says:

      Yeah really. Get over it Jack.

    • mercy says:

      Jack would probably be the first to thank them and give them credit. The Keys might too, unless they were a contemporaries. Then they might be like ‘Velvet who?’ ;)

  10. Smoochie says:

    It’s “sound byte”, not “sound bite”.

    • Annah says:

      Actually it is sound bite or soundbite. Look it up in Lilleker’s Key Concept in Political Communication.

  11. Nick says:

    I’ve never listened to his music (or even knew who he was) but I agree with what he said about Adele. She’s talented and from the beginning was successful but she WAS overshadowed by Amy. Also in my own personal opinion even though I’m aware she’s talented, I find bland and unexciting, especially when compared to a singer like Whinehouse.

    I don’t think Jack was saying Adele, or the other singers named, owe Amy anything. However, he correctly pointed out how one artist can open the door/set a path for others. Since Amy is no longer here, it does make me question could that be one of the reasons 21 was such a huge success.

    • GIRLFACE says:

      Not to mention when I think of Black Keys fans, I think of people with bird-themed iPad sleeves and Starbucks credit cards.

  12. claire says:

    Jack is going to have to do a lot more than rip on The Black Keys to make me ever choose sides against him.

  13. Mrs. Lecter says:

    I love Jack White. I agree that the Black Keys ripped him off. It’s extremely obvious to anyone that listens to the genre at all. As to his other comments, I don’t really care… he’s amazingly talented.

  14. Marty says:

    I really like liked TWS when they first hit it big, and the first time I heard a Black Keys song was in ’05/’06. I really didn’t think they sonded anything a like.

    Although I will say, I do think Jack has grown more as an artist. Keys songs tend to sound the same after a while. Not bad songs, just really similar.

  15. DL says:

    I agree with what he says about the Black Keys. I always thought they sounded just like other blues rock acts like Stevie Ray Vaughn and the John Spencer blues Explosion. I think that Jack White is much more original.

  16. InvaderTak says:

    Well now he’s backtracking apparently. He issued a formal apology. Wonder why. He has never seemed the type to do that.

    • MarBear says:

      I wouldn’t say he is backtracking or apologizing….seems to me like he is just clarifying his comments. A year or two ago he had made a comment about Lady Gaga..can’t remember the specifics but a few days after he did issue some kind of apology or explanation for his comments.

  17. Sofia says:

    I agree with you, Adele is one of a kind. But I also think that without Amy Winehouse she wouldn’t have had the same opportunity with her label/studio. It sounds as if Jack was referring to companies exploiting the market, all seeking for the same kind of sound knowing they are profitable, not slamming Adele, Duffy and Lana but using them as examples. Even though Lana doesn’t really sound as them.

    • mercy says:

      I think you nailed it.

    • jujoki says:

      +1
      My thoughts exactly. I’m sorry but Adele is in the position she is right now partially because of Amy’s death.

    • poppy says:

      i also think this was what he was trying to say but you did it in a more clear, less b!tchy way.

      as an aside, i am always fascinated with the differences between UK and US music, especially female singers. the UK tends to appreciate the voice and care less about the the looks -while in the US we are force fed mediocrity if the package looks right.
      we seem to miss out on true talent just because the performer has image “issues” :roll:

  18. Suckmyfarts says:

    I am from Akron, Ohio! Home of The Black Keys & they sound nothing like the white strips to my ears! The Black Keys were playing locally for yearsssss before making it big. I think once you have big money producers, your music changes a bit to sell singles. As someone mentioned above the black keys albums flow from start to finish! I’m a fan of the stripes as well but they are two different bands in my eyes.

  19. Lucy2 says:

    Eh, I like both. Funny he mentions commercials- I just read an article in EW where the BK were talking about suing companies for using sound alikes of their songs too.
    Adele’s 21 was released and successful before Amy passed away, so I don’t know if it’s fair of him to say what he did there. Amy may have led the way for that crowd, but Adele didn’t only have success because Amy unfortunately is no longer here.

  20. Ginger says:

    I think Jack White is a genius on his own. The White Stripes are overrated. The Black Keys are not. And Adele? Really? She was destined to be famous with that fantastic voice even if Amy Winehouse never existed. Jack really has a skewed view of the world. He needs to stop talking so much and just make more music. I think he’d be much happier if he didn’t seemingly over think everything. But maybe he want’s everyone to believe he’s a tortured genius.

  21. mercy says:

    The phone case comment perplexes me. I have an iPhone case, and I have friends who’ve even designed their own cases (I’m not that ambitious lol), but I don’t know anyone who appreciates all the people who insist on holding their phones up throughout a concert. You’re not allowed to do it in a movie, and a live show shouldn’t be any different.

  22. DavidBowie says:

    Jack White is overrated AND he’s a whiny b*tch.

  23. Trillion says:

    I don’t see the conflict in designing an iPhone case while
    not wanting to be onstage performing to a sea of glowing iPhones obscuring fans’ faces.

  24. ViktoryGin says:

    Okay. I’m going to disagree with most on this thread.

    Any resemblance that the two bands have to each other is superficial, and unfortunately it sounds alike to people who don’t have any experience critically listening to and analysing music. Both bands have garage rock and blues as their sonoric influences. Combine that with the minimalist instrumentation of just a guitar and drum kit duo and blues chord progessions, you get a sound that it’s similar….not necessarily derivative.

    This issue is that ‘originality’ is an aesthetic value that is pervasive with commercial music, and 90 percent of what is produced, even in niche independent areas, is not original.

    And that’s actually okay. If the band is skilled at playing within their genre, which the Black Keys are. They are a rather conservative band that relies on traditional rock instrumentation and typical strophic song forms. This doesn’t make them bad. Just modest. And to be honest, I don’t think that they are trying to create anything new or create some sort of paradigm shift in blues-infused rock. They are not the Animal Collective.

    I like Jack White, but this diatribe is lacking in depth in my opinion and just smacks of insecurity.

    I do agree about Amy Winehouse and Duffy (terribly overrated singer competely ill-suited to the soul genre. That’s why no one even knows her.)

  25. Bridget says:

    Can we get real for a moment? The White Stripes were great, but its not like they invented rock and roll. They’re not even the first to do a stripped down, blues-y sound. Yes its tacky of the Black Keys to not acknowledge possibly liking the White Stripes, but it *is* possible for two blues-y, garage-y bands to create music without one directly ripping off the other.

  26. Chris says:

    Jack White, as always, comes across as a smug elitist.

  27. Caroline says:

    I don’t think the Black Keys GAF about whether the minivan majority (or Jack White) likes their music or not. And for that I’m glad.

  28. Mrs. Darcy says:

    I’ve never been a particular Jack or White Stripes fan, but they were trailblazing for their era, if derivative, but at least as others have said White honours and respects his influences. White is a charismatic performer, I’ve seen the Black Keys on a couple of things (they’re not that big in the U.K.) they were on Jools Holland the other week and I had heard only good things…and I gotta say snoozeville. Like I will watch Jack White play his blues riffs even if they’re not my cuppa because he is undeniably a genius. I much preferred him with Meg and can see why he misses her in his own complicated way.

    He sounds like a typical narcissistic musician but he is thoughtful and not dismissive of his peers carelessly, I don’t think he meant to slag off anyone in Rolling Stone. He was just trying to honestly discuss things instead of gloss over like most people do. Amy Winehouse undeniably opened up a new wave for women to be be interesting and powerful again. Personally I find Adele bombastic and tedious singing wise but that’s just me, I know 99.99% of the earth loves her sobby singing. I do like Lana Del Rey though, I know she is a sort of artificial creation but her music is mysterious and fun all at once. And Adele was not always a retro torch singer, her image is as crafted as any, the beehive, the makeup, she came out of the Brits school at just the right time to sell those kinds of records the way Duffy did, but for whatever reason Adele gets all the kudos.

    I tend to agree that were Amy still alive Adele would not be the dominant, unchallenged force she is at the top of the U.K. female singer heap. Amy had sass as well as depth, Adele is just not in the same league imho. Jack went a bit overboard defending her and Duffy, I so can’t picture him listening to either of their records. As for The Black Keys feud they seem to be winning if only by refusing to take the bait, even if people familiar w/the genre think they are fake. Authenticism is something Black obviously takes very seriously, he needs to lighten up though in the current climate, it’s making him seem like a grumpy old man. He’s still hot though.

  29. Kaylen says:

    “Jack seemed offended that Meg didn’t bounce off the walls when confronted with his genius.”

    I disagree. I think it sounded like he was hurt by her lack on excitement and support in a band they were supposed to share together.