The title is the entryway to any work. In the case of “Always a Godmother, Never a God,” it is a portal with complexity worthy of Chartres. Kelso’s title opens this EP up to comparison with season six episode four of Gilmore Girls, but that would take several thousand words (I know, I wrote a draft of it), and I’m not supposed to write novellas. We will evaluate this EP as an isolated work. What is the subject of this title, this sentence fragment? It may be the implicit and ethereal “I,” Kelso, Kelly-Dawn Hellmrich, the reader or listener, anyone who is capable of saying or thinking “I.”
This grammatical maneuver opens the work up to all kinds of listeners. If the title can be applied to everyone, then this work is for everyone. Part of the beauty of this EP is in its sentimental utilitarianism. The accessibility of the work is clear right from the beginning — before a single note is played. This accessibility is underscored by melancholy, anxiety, and an earnest attempt at making things better. The parallelism between the first and second clauses juxtaposes the words “always” and “never” forging a dichotomy between the two states of absolutism and imposing the presence of one and absence of the other. This contrast further serves to emphasise a desire or preference, a yearning for that which cannot be obtained. It is better, the title seems to argue, to be a god rather than a godmother.
The syntax of the title places God above Godmother, hinting at the tremendous reach of patriarchal power structures. The idea that the presence of femininity is something to lean away from, that the feminine is detrimental or inferior. It also creates a system in which the presence of femininity prevents power and authority. That’s a system to be melancholic about. That’s a system to be anxious about. That’s a system we should earnestly be trying to make better.
The title is not promoting these ideas, but, whether consciously or not, it is exposing their prevalence. Even though the title seems to relegate the position of godmother to one of inferiority, it is worth noting the clout that the title brings. The extra-familial godmother is both a symbolic a practical title. It is a title which is bestowed as a vote of confidence and testament to the receiver’s good qualities. A godmother is hopefully never called on to fulfill their duties, but is fully entrusted to do so. To be given the title of godmother is to be given the ultimate compliment and endorsement of character.
The fairy godmother is the ultimate granter of wishes, sculptor of dreams into reality. The fairy godmother, much like the paternal god figure, shares a close intimate relationship with their subject. The fairy godmother is a consistent force of good throughout culture, one who creates deeply personal connections with the person they watch over. Rarely, if ever, does a fairy godmother burn down a city or turn someone’s spouse into a pillar of salt. In many ways, the fairy godmother is superior to the god figure, whether biblically canonical or from a different polytheistic source. Shiva will dance on all of our graves, Odin’s quest for knowledge will trigger Ragnarok, and Shamash condones severe capital punishment.
The title of this work, when imposed with the lineage of extra-familial designations and secular fairy tales, takes on an entirely new meaning: To be the godmother is the best case scenario, and one should never desire comparison to a god. The immediate dissonance created by the title creates ambivalence, a feeling the rest of the EP beautifully plays with and explores.
As the title suggests, this work deals in large part with the dynamics of relationships. The EP creates a remarkable amount of space for personal interpretation through ambiguity about the speaker’s subject. The speaker never directly addresses the gender identity of their speaker, nor is the speaker’s own gender identity specifically revealed. This is to say that the comments the EP makes are not particularly coded to a single reading, heteronormative or otherwise. Accessibility is not only achieved through this ambiguity, but also in the works formal simplicity. The lyrics are free of sesquipedalian attempts to affect intelligence or sophistication. The overall structure of the lyrics are mostly free verse following the current trend in alternative and soft rock and largely ditches the repetition of a formal chorus in favor of a flowing, sometimes stream of consciousness outpouring.
That’s the end of the first installment of this review. The next article will cover the first two songs.