Playlist: Creepsteen

For reasons that I can neither justify nor articulate, I am embarrassingly fond of late 1970s to mid-1980s-era Bruce Springsteen.*

Despite this I really hate Bruce’s original version of “I’m On Fire.” It’s gross. It’s icky and skeevy and the way he mutters about Little Girls and Daddies is upsetting and weird. It’s the muttering of an obsessed stalker and sounds like the inner monologue of every man who thinks he’s owed something that women shouldn’t deny him.***

However, I could listen endlessly to women singing “I’m On Fire.” When women sing “I’m On Fire,” it messes with the power dynamics and one of two things happens:

  • It becomes morphs into a self-referential meta-creepy commentary on the creepiness of the original, or
  • It becomes genuinely and satisfyingly horny.


As a public service, I have carefully listened to**** a representative sample***** of many of these versions and I have rated them according to whether they are creepy (specifically in the meta-creepy sense), horny, or somewhere in between.

First, the two that set the bar:

  • Electrelane – The best, the greatest, the gold standard creepfest. This one sails straight past creepy and lands right in the middle of menacing. It sounds like rage at being propositioned when you don’t want to be. The bad singing is a feature, not a bug: it spits back objectifying words with a bloody snarl. I love it forever; it’s the sound of revenge.
  • Bat for Lashes – Horny vibes of a witchy siren who lures dumb boys to a poetic and bloody end, but always has her way with them before throwing them in the sea. Perfect.

And some more:

  • Amy Macdonald – Creepy
  • Cassandra Violet – I know this is from a movie and is supposed to be Nicholas Cage’s dead wife singing to him, but when I listen to it out of that context it sounds both horny and joyously queer.
  • Chromatics – Muffled voices with ethereal electronics and overly cheerful arpeggios a la Twin Peaks soundtrack = 100% creepy.
  • The Delorean Sisters – The way this one cheerfully moves along at a very matter-of-fact clip makes a lyric like “someone took a knife, baby, edgy and dull, and cut a six-inch valley through the middle of my skull” sound completely ridiculous. Creepy. Creepy!
  • Heather Nova – Horny Lilith Fair vibes!!! We love it we really really do.
  • Lindi Ortega – Horny.
  • Soccer Mommy – Boring, actually? And therefore creepy.
  • The Staves – Either creepy ghost voices or horny ghost voices, could go either way on this one.

BONUS: mixed-gender duets

Not as good as the above, and I haven’t quite figured out how they fit into the Creepsteen matrix.

  • Twitty & Lynn – Wow I hate this a lot!!!!!!!!! Creepy but not in a self-referential way; creepy like your parents saying sexy things to each other when you’re barely out of earshot; no thank you!
  • Whitehorse – Both creepy and exhausting, makes me hate the original anew!

The end, that’s all, I will not be taking any questions.

[Earlier half-baked takes on this topic are here and here; hopefully now I’ve gotten this out of my system and we can never speak of it again.]


*The reason is that young Bruce was very hot.**

** “Wrap your legs round these velvet rims, strap your hands cross my engines,” I mean honestly, please shut up.

***Also there is something to be said about how the music video has the same story line as the most annoying arc in Twin Peaks: Bruce/James Hurley lusts for lonely, rich, frequently-abandoned woman with mean husband; there are cars; everyone is upset; it is boring. Somehow this narrative brings out the worst both my boyfriend Bruce AND my boyfriend David Lynch!!!!

**** i.e.: put on in the background while I did laundry.

***** i.e.: whatever came up in the first page of Spotify search results.