Liz Phair Overview
Elizabeth Clark "Liz" Phair (born April 17, 1967) is an American singer, songwriter and guitarist.
Phair began her career in the early 1990s by self-releasing audio cassettes under the moniker Girly Sound, before signing with the independent independent label record label Matador Records. Her 1993 debut studio album Exile in Guyville was released to acclaim: by the turn of the twenty-first century, it had been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. Ten years after the release of her debut, Phair's fourth album, Liz Phair Liz Phair (album) , was released on Capitol Records and her music began to move in a more pop rock-oriented approach which resulted in a fan and media backlash.
1967-1992: Early life and career beginnings
Phair was born in New Haven, Connecticut, but was raised in Winnetka, Illinois, by wealthy adoptive parents. She attended Oberlin College in Oberlin Oberlin, Ohio , Ohio, and majored in art history. The album received uniformly excellent reviews. The album received significant critical acclaim for its very blunt, honest lyrics and for the music itself, a hybrid of indie rock and pop pop music . The album established Phair's penchant for exploring ***ually explicit lyrics such as in the song "Flower Flower (Liz Phair song) ": "I want to be your blow job Fellatio queen/...I'll *** you and your minions too." By contrast, her trademark low, vibrato-less voice gave many of her songs a slightly detached, almost deadpan character. The combination of these factors won Phair many dedicated fans. Most notable among her detractors, producer Steve Albini was involved in a public flamewar printed in Chicago's free art and culture weekly, the Chicago Reader. Albini wrote an angry response to an article by Billy Wyman (Hitsville), entitled "Not From the Underground: 1993 in Review", stating his belief that Phair and several other artists had shown an "explicit rejection of much of the insularity that increasingly characterizes underground music". Albini identified the aforementioned artists as "pandering sluts" and said Phair was the modern Rickie Lee Jones, "more talked about than heard, a persona completely unrooted in substance, and a *** chore to listen to".
Hoping to capitalize on the acclaim for her debut album, the release of Phair's second album received substantial media attention and an advertising blitz. Whip-Smart debuted at #27 in 1994 and "Supernova", the first single, became a Top Ten modern rock hit, and the video was frequently featured on MTV. Phair also landed the cover of Rolling Stone Magazine with the headline "A Rock Star is Born." Nonetheless, the album received mixed reviews, and although it was certified Gold gold record (shipments of at least 500,000 units), it ultimately did not sell as well as expected, as it was hoped the album would introduce Phair to a wider, more mainstream audience. Following Whip-Smart, Phair released Juvenilia Juvenilia (album) , a collection of some early Girly Sound tracks and several B-sides, including her cover of the 1980s classic by The Vapors, "Turning Japanese".
In 1995, Phair married Jim Staskauskas, a film editor who had worked on her videos. They had one child, James Nicholas Staskauskas, on December 21, 1996. The album displayed a more mature Phair, and reflected some of the ways marriage and motherhood affected her. The single "Polyester Bride" received some airplay, but the album was no more successful than her previous records. To promote the record Phair joined the now legendary Lilith Fair. Phair performed on the main stage along with acts like Alanis Morissette, Sarah McLachlan, Emmylou Harris, Sheryl Crow and Missy Elliott.
She portrayed the role of Brynn Allen, opposite her good friend Robin Tunney, in the film Cherish Cherish (film) .
2003-2008: Capitol Records
In 2003, her self-titled fourth album Liz Phair (album) was released on her new label, Capitol Records. Phair had not released an album in several years; she had been working on her record, as well as making guest appearances on other tracks (she lent backing vocals to the Sheryl Crow hit "Soak Up the Sun").
Initially, Phair worked on several album tracks with songwriter Michael Penn as the producer. When she submitted the finished Penn-produced album to Capitol, the label gave it a lukewarm reception. Having already exhausted her recording budget, label president Andy Slater offered Phair more money to record only if Phair agreed to work with the production team known as The Matrix The Matrix (music producer) (best known as songwriters for Britney Spears and Avril Lavigne) to come up with some singles for the album. Phair's collaboration with the Matrix resulted in only four songs, but much of the media attention focused solely on the Matrix-produced tracks, which were a departure from her earlier work. The album received many negative reviews, especially from the independent music press, who accused Phair of "selling out" by making the record very pop-oriented.
Liz Phair provoked a strong backlash from critics and disappointed fans of her earlier work. Many decried her for "selling out", and she became a "piñata for critics." The New York Times' Meghan O'Rourke's review, titled "Liz Phair's Exile in Avril Avril Lavigne -ville", said that Phair "gushes like a teenager" and had "committed an embarrassing form of career suicide."
The debut single "Why Can't I?", co-written by The Matrix, did reach the Top 40 charts in North America, and its follow-up, "Extraordinary," was also somewhat successful: it appeared on the soundtrack to the 2004 movie Raising Helen and was the promotional theme for the 2004 Women's NCAA Basketball Tournament; in March 2007, the song began appearing in Gatorade television advertisements. Phair continued to flirt with ***ually explicit themes, however, as was most evident in a track called "H.W.C.", standing for "Hot White Cum". Phair also offered backing vocals on Jimmy Eat World's "Work" track on their Futures Futures (album) album.
Somebody's Miracle, Phair's fifth album (and final album with Capitol Records), was released on October 4, 2005. The album returned to a more traditional rock sound, mixing the mood of Phair's earlier work with a more mellow sound. The album received mixed reviews and was not a chart success.
2008-Present: Exile in Guyville reissue
Phair signed with ATO Records in early 2008 and re-released Exile in Guyville on June 24, 2008. Exile in Guyville was reissued on CD, vinyl, and in digital format. The special reissue package includes three never-before-released songs from the original recording sessions: "Ant in Alaska," "Say You," and an untitled instrumental. Phair has also completed a new documentary DVD, "Guyville Redux." This DVD features an introduction by Dave Matthews, founder/co-owner of ATO Records, and describes the making of the album, in the male-dominated, Chicago independent music scene of the early 1990’s (which included Urge Overkill, Material Issue, and Smashing Pumpkins), and the Wicker Park Wicker Park, Chicago neighborhood where it happened.
"Exile in Guyville is miles more complex than the ***-star manifesto it was often considered," said Alan Light Alan Light (journalist) (former editor-in-chief of Spin, Vibe, and Tracks) in an essay written for the reissue. "Phair spoke for the uncertainties facing a new generation of women, struggling to find a balance between ***ual confidence and romance, between independence and isolation. . . . Exile in Guyville sat at the center of a culture in transition."
Phair is currently working on an untitled musical project. No release date has been announced.
In May 2009, Phair released a new song "Faith and Tenderness," sold exclusively at Banana Republic.
Career as TV composer
In recent years Phair has broadened her career by serving as a composer for television dramas. She has worked on the CBS show Swingtown, the CW reboot of 90210, for which she won the 2009 ASCAP award for Top Television Composer, and most recently has been hired on as composer for the USA Network show In Plain Sight.
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