Bon Iver made me feel like a jerk

I have no idea when I first head the song “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, but it was almost certainly my introduction to his music. It’s a classic! The falsetto, the feels it hits you with…

With that voice, I basically imagined he looked just like Hozier or the yoga instructor who becomes a love interest to the protagonist’s girlfriend in so many movies and tv shows lately. I also sort of assumed “Bon Iver” was a real person and not the name of a musical project led by Justin Vernon.

Then two things happened:

  1. I was introduced to the music of Francis and the Lights
  2. I remembered how much I liked another Bon Iver song, “Heavenly Father”

Francis and the Lights is a musical project by Francis Farewell Starlite (yep that’s his name), a producer who has worked with Bon Iver, Chance the Rapper, Kanye, etc.

Because he’s worked with such amazing acts, he created some of his own music that they are featured on. One such song is “Friends” which features both Justin Vernon and Kanye West. The music video is fantastic, super minimal, and the song is a banger.

It ends with this dance with Francis (left) and Justin Vernon:

Wait, that’s Bon Iver?

I was surprised – not quite the Russell Brand look I was expecting.

Then I found this live, acapella performance of “Heavenly Father” from the Sydney Opera House.

I love this song. And the only place I can find the recorded version of this song (which was created for Zach Braff’s move, “Wish I Was Here”) is on YouTube.

But hearing this live version the first time, I was again surprised to see Justin Vernon wearing a Hawaiian shirt and trucker hat and then disappointed that his voice didn’t match the pitch most of his recorded music.

Actually, disappointed is the wrong word. I was actually pissed off.

Then I asked myself, “Why am I angry about this?”

Justin Vernon isn’t trying to pull a trick on me. He’s not trying to deceive me and he never told me what I should imagine he looks like. He just created great music and put it out in the world that I get to access mostly for free.

I was mad because I was wrong – my assumptions were indisputably wrong, and that pissed me off. I hate being wrong. It’s this guy’s fault that I’m wrong – I’m going to blame him!

In Alan Jacobs’s book, How To Think, he addresses our immediate instinct to go into “refutation mode” when we are faced with something we disagree with. At that point, we are no longer open to conversation – we are just waiting to refute the point and defend our own position.

But that doesn’t get us anywhere. Especially once we realize we’ve made a mistake or even once we realize that we are harboring anger against someone who has not attempted to harm or take advantage of us.

That doesn’t mean we don’t have to work at taming our instinct to enter “refutation mode” and respond in more appropriate and constructive ways, but at least by being aware we can better control our response and create positive outcomes.

I just watched the live performance of Heavenly Father a half dozen times. I love it.


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