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Yes, Meg White Is And Always Has Been An Awesome Drummer!

By Petr Navovy | Miscellaneous | July 24, 2023 |

By Petr Navovy | Miscellaneous | July 24, 2023 |


One of the most tiresome and ignorant arguments in popular music over the past two decades has been: ‘Was/is Meg White a good drummer?’ I’ve been hearing this put rhetorically, often accompanied by a dismissive scoff, ever since The White Stripes started to break through with their third album ‘White Blood Cells’ in 2001, and then with massively increasing frequency once they became superstars with 2003’s ‘Elephant’ and its lead single, the uniquely anthemic and (several) era-defining ‘Seven Nation Army’.

There’s a poisonous idea in music that refuses to be fully exorcised, which links displays of raw technique with musicality. In this framing, the more visibly complex an instrumental, the ‘better’ it is. It’s an adolescent, macho reduction at its core. That’s not to say that skill or prowess shouldn’t be celebrated of course, but too often there is a flattening of concepts and an approach to art that is fundamentally amusical, and this can lead to people confusing flashy displays for great musicality, or clever, tasteful, and restrained choices for ‘bad’ playing.

As a guitarist, the illuminating example in my world has always been Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour. What he could evoke in three or four notes—the level of emotion and thematic resonance he could draw out of the ether—far outweighed what many speed-obsessed shredders did over their entire careers. A million scattershot notes, blind-fired around a corner, raining down and hitting nothing, compared to Gilmour John Wicking you straight through the heart. No one ever tried to claim that Gilmour was a ‘bad’ guitarist, but I have over the years heard a number of confused young men assert that there are much ‘better’ guitarists out there.

And, hey, I was young once, I get it!

But also: No. Daft. Wrong, wrong way to look at music, man.

The best guitarist is the one that serves the song. There’s a thousand—million!—best guitarists out there. They’re the ones that recognise the one true god and bow to no one but it: The Almighty Song. The tune. The feel.

And speaking of which, Meg White! Tellingly, this idea that Meg White was a subpar drummer was never put forward by any people I knew who were actually drummers themselves. That’s because they knew. Meg’s choices, her restraint, her bone-deep, intuitive appreciation of what The White Stripe were trying to do, is exactly what allowed the band to reach the heights that it did. The White Stripes were a band whose compositions breathed. They grooved. The band painted on their canvas compositions in which the—hint, hint!—white spaces were just as much an integral part as the paint itself. Anyone who conflated these choices with signs of skill deficiency was—and is—entirely missing the point.

Now the crew over at Drumeo have made a lovely little video highlighting exactly this, paying tribute to Meg White’s drumming prowess, and it’s a delight:

Damn right.