After a tweet by former political reporter Lachlan Markay in which he dissed The White Stripes‘ Meg White for being a “terrible” drummer, Twitter users quickly came down hard on him in defense of White. The support for White and the derision of Markay even resulted in the ex-journalist switching his profile settings to protect his tweets, making them visible only to approved followers.
What started all this drama?
On Feb. 17, The White Stripes’ smash hit “Seven Nation Army” turned 20 years old and, in protracted celebration, National Review (@NRO) shared an article titled The Song of the Century Turns 20, asserting a self-described “bold claim” about the significance of the track.
Obviously, something like this is going to invite criticism and difference of opinion, which is completely natural when discussing and analyzing music. Debating these things is just something music fans and critics love to do and that’s fine — just be ready to defend whatever stance you take and realize that, especially on Twitter, this may have some unintended consequences.
Enter Lachlan Markay, former political news reporter for Axios, The Daily Beast and others, who quote tweeted the National Review post, offering up his own thoughts.
“The tragedy of the White Stripes is how great they would’ve been with a half decent drummer. Yeah, yeah I’ve heard all the ‘but it’s a carefully crafted sound mannnn!’ takes. I’m sorry Meg White was terrible and no band is better for having shitty percussion.”
That tweet is now protected and not visible to most Twitter users, however his response to the National Review can been seen in full directly below in another post in which someone cheers, “Twitter coming together to drag this dude for talking shit about Meg White is everything.”
How did Twitter respond to Lachlan’s diss?
In short, it was a lot of oh no, here we go again as a two-plus-decade-old debate has been thrust back into the forefront. Lachlan is hardly the first person to negatively comment on White’s drumming, but fans seem pretty sick of this discussion.
One Twitter user appears to think that Lachlan’s comments hold misogynistic undertones, stating, “Meg White’s drumming is a rorschach test for for how you feel about women musicians. Unless you also hate all punk music, which was also basic on a technical level and that was the point and it slapped.”
Meanwhile, author Annie Zaleski champions White’s ability to anchor the band’s live show:
“Onstage with the White Stripes, Meg White looked terminally nonchalant and chill while maintaining a steady backbeat and ensuring that the band’s songs never got off track, Calling what she did simple undermines the whole approach of her technique and execution,” she writes.
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Against Me!‘s Laura Jane Grace weighs in on the matter as well, also preaching the art of simplicity over technical skill.
“Simplicity with soul will always be more impressive to me than technical virtuosity. People like to criticize drummers like Meg or Penny from Crass but literally no one can recreate their feel,” she says, noting, “And it’s always men who have this bad take.”
She also points to her own band and their early drummer Kevin Mahon, whom she calls the best the band ever had. “And he didn’t even have cymbals,” Grace remarks.
When someone asked if she was successful in defeating the Meg White hater, she let’s Lachlan’s actions do the talking. “Really shows a lot of character when someone takes a shot at Meg White and then literally hides,” mocking Lachlan’s now protected tweets.
Another person harbors the same sentiment as Grace, lampooning Lachlan’s tweets no longer being visible to everyone.
Adopting the “Well, what have you done in music” mentality, someone else writes, “Meg White plays the beat on the biggest sports anthem since ‘We Will Rock You.’ Lol. Fucking dorks.”
And there are two individuals who seem pretty tired of this age-old debate and are not thrilled to see it resurface. One points toward a Chris Rock joke and another tweets what basically amounts to an eye roll that for the 20th anniversary of The White Stripes’ Elephant album, we’re back to this same old discourse.
And that’s just a small sampling that represents a lot of like-minded arguments.
Do Experts Think Meg White Is a Bad Drummer?
There’s plenty of people on the internet who have reasoned why White is indeed a good drummer and one of the best summaries comes from Junkdrummer TV, a reaction YouTube channel hosted by “professional drum teacher and gigging musician” Steve.
Three years ago, he reacted to The White Stripes’ “Hardest Button to Button” and addressed the divisive opinions surrounding White and her drumming, rhetorically wondering out loud if she can play all this wildly technical music.
“No, she can’t and that shit doesn’t matter because you know what she can do? She can rock the fuck out,” Steve urges, “Look, let’s all be honest here — in the drummer community, she is one of the most, if not the most, derided drummers and most of the time it’s by obnoxious, pretentious drum-heads who don’t get laid enough bitching about her lack of skill.”
He continues, “They also say she’s only famous because she’s with one of the all-time great musical geniuses of our time — and she is, because Jack White is a genius — but Jack White also chose her to be in his band and if you watch any of his interviews pertaining to her, he says that she is the catalyst for everything that The White Stripes does.”
Again directing his attention at thumb-nosing aficionados, he adds, “So, trigger warning to all you far-out and exciting prog/jazz snobs who think that she doesn’t rule because we’re going to find out that she does today.”
Watch the full video below.
Drum Teacher Reacts to Meg White’s Drumming on The White Stripes’ “Hardest Button to Button”
Some Loose Thoughts
As stated above by Steve from Junkdrummer TV, it’s less about technical proficiency when it comes to assessing drumming and more about examining the bigger picture.
To make an easy comparison, look at how Metallica‘s Lars Ulrich and The Beatles‘ Ringo Starr are treated by music fans.
Both are constantly criticized for their abilities (or perceived lack of them), but at the end of the day, it’s about suiting the music. Even if neither will ever reach the level of a prog legend such as Mike Portnoy or Rush‘s Neil Peart, they are inarguably the ideal drummers for their respective bands. No matter what you say about Ulrich, Metallica is not Metallica without his inimitable style and could you imagine those Beatles songs with anyone but Starr? Case closed.
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