Over the past couple of months, Ryan Adams –– yes, THAT Ryan Adams –– has taken the Internet by storm. Adams’ early efforts at producing internet video earned him the predictable scorn from the predictable sources, and in February the sensitive auteur closed his YouTube account. But then, sometime in early March, Ryan Adams discovered Tumblr. His page, titled DR Adams Films and subtitled “TOTALLY BORED the Musical,” seems to have been initially intended as a showcase for Adams’ videos, which he’s now posting on Vimeo.
Though he’s been feverishly micro- (and sometimes macro-) blogging nearly day for the past two weeks, he’s deleted at least as many Tumblr posts as he’s left up, and in a remarkable, only-on-Tumblr phenomena, the archiving of much of Adams’ most interesting drivel has been left to the reblogging of his many Tumblr followers. So far, Adams’ video production has been the most stable aspect of his renewed online presence: though there may have been clips uploaded to Vimeo that have since been taken down that I’m not aware of, as of this writing, Adams has posted four Vimeo videos in the past four days and has shown no sign of either slowing down or deleting the existing clips in regret.
For many of us jaded internet addicts who have been watching this unfold, the mix of enthusiasm and nervous self-preservation with which Adams has taken to Tumblr and Vimeo has been something of a revelation –– reading Ryan Adams’ Tumblr is like taking a time machine back to the week I discovered the Internet. Here is one of the most acclaimed and publicly critiqued songwriters of his generation, manically unleashing himself stream-of-conscious style, sometimes thinking better of it and mass deleting after the fact, but often letting his regurgitations hang there, in all their pretentious/endearing/brilliant mundaneity. I know what Ryan Adams ate for breakfast on March 18 and which Woody Allen movie he watched later that afternoon; I also know how many songs he wrote the night before. Although I’m not exactly sure if this bit of drum machine hip hop posted that same day is going to make it to the album whose progress he’s been feverishly detailing, both via blog posts and, mockingly, in the video Writing the Hits With Stupid.
The videos carry the same mix of winking aesthetic intentionality and out-of-control regurgitation that marks the blog posts. Don’t Comb The Leprechaun (above) is a textbook example of Adams’ tendency to follow a moment of serene, self-serious psychedelia with a blast of immature silliness. F.Y.I., in which Adams informs us the Ronnie James Dio lives “inside your TV,” fuses the two strains.
Is any of this great art? Probably not. It’s not even that remarkable of a car crash, as far as celebrity over-sharing goes. But there’s something fascinating about Adams’ blogging and vlogging: it’s ephemera, but its lack of greatness or deep weight and its frank bipolarity –– all characteristics common to almost all videos produced in an afternoon by lonely kids screwing around in apartments with video cameras –– does something to normalize Adams as a love/hate character. The stars, they are really just like us.