Despite the heavy vibes and dark undertones, the band also had a sense of humor with their overall creative output. From a secretive back-story (no, they aren’t siblings; take a moment to wipe the egg off your face) to an appearance on The Simpsons, The White Stripes knew the power of being aloof, which only made the band all that much more appealing. The black, white, and red clothing was a definitive stance that this was all a show and that theatricality and a slight wink could go hand-in-hand with truly meaningful music. It meant that if things got a little weird, that doesn’t mean people have to react with indifference. Songs like “Dead Leaves and The Dirty Ground”, “300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues”, and countless other cuts from their catalog were nonsensical, yet they spoke to people with their passion, their openness, their dedication to being unique and standing tall despite any eccentricities. They were odd in a time when rock took itself too seriously, continually upping the ante and showing the world that the geeks, dweebs, and underdogs of the world have a place in the sun and that life can still have validity if you just learn to have a little fun. Even as they rose above other acts, cementing their legacy as actual rock stars, they never got any less absurd, turning up the notches of their quirkiness with releases like Get Behind Me Satan. With an album based on the Temptation of Jesus and the pair decked out in ‘40s garb, not to mention a sound that shifted slightly, the album’s initial chart success that other efforts didn’t quite reach made clear the music world’s particular love for the band: being true to yourself is the most rock star thing you could ever do.
It’s safe to say that in recent years, though, the band did ride on their previous successes. From White’s claims that working together again after their last LP would be strange to hints of a reunion in the pages of Vanity Fair, the last few years for The White Stripes had been one where perhaps it was clear that, although an integral part of the lineup as Meg White may be, Jack White had gotten too big for the confines of his most basic and beloved of musical projects. But unlike other bands who rose to fame in the lackluster decade that is the 2000s, The White Stripes are ones that can still be cherished. In a world where artists who rose to fame post-1999 have to continually generate new music or face extinction in the hearts and minds of their fans, The White Stripes are one of the few acts who can ride off into the sunset peacefully, secure in the knowledge that their sounds will continue to entertain fans and keep them constantly satisfied with the endless hours of sonic gold the duo unearthed.
After telling a friend about their break up mere moments after it occurred, their response was that as sad as it was, Jack White will have “12,000 projects to focus on.” As true as it may be, that sentiment, shared by a fairly sizable chunk of popular culture followers, speaks volumes about the segment of the population who would care in any emotional direction regarding their break-up. As a band, they always belonged to us, and while feelings may have changed over time, be it a further intensification or an absolute chilling, there’s no denying that The White Stripes will only happen once.
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