- By Owen Murray -
Folk singer-songwriter Josh Tillman is better known by his stage name Father John Misty. He released his most self involved, but also self-critical work to date, God’s Favorite Customer.
Tillman displayed his massive ego in a self aware way
through his condescending and comedic criticism of conventional love on I Love You, Honey Bear in 2015. This was before widening the scope and criticizing religion, politics, society, and humanity on his last album Pure Comedy. On God’s Favorite Customer, Tillman continues to critique love and religion. But, he places his ego front and center. The album is a character portrait of a man who has made a career out of ironically talking down to just about everybody struggling to get his life together.
In terms of songwriting and style, there isn’t much here that we haven’t seen on previous Father John Misty albums. “Mr. Tillman” is similar to upbeat tracks like “Chateau Lobby #4 (In C for Two Virgins)” and “Total Entertainment Forever,” while “The Palace” and “The Songwriter” are comparable to piano ballads “Bored in the USA” and “When the God of Love Returns There’ll be Hell to Pay.” While there are a few minor aesthetic shifts such as the psychedelic “Date Night,” the overall sound and feel of the album has very few surprises.
The album’s strongest points are in its lyrics.
The tenderness of I Love You, Honeybear that was absent from Pure Comedy has made a return. But, through a different lens. Tillman often sings about love throughout God’s Favorite Customer, but only when it directly links to the egotistical character portrait he paints. This is clearest on “The Songwriter” where he has the gall to sing “What would it sound like of you were the songwriter/and loving me was your unsung masterpiece.”
On “The Palace,” which serves as the crux of the album, Tillman sings about trying to become independent and responsible while being holed up in a hotel. He's living housekeeping and room service. While the song is simple, the lyrics are undeniably beautiful. It’s clear that the hotel room which he calls “the palace” is as much a headspace as it is a room. It’s not nearly as relaxing or elegant as it sounds.
God’s Favorite Customer shows Father John Misty at his most human.
He doesn’t quite admit his faults but he makes them abundantly clear. “Speak to me sweet angel, don’t you remember me?/I was God’s favorite customer/But now I’m in trouble,” he sings on the title track. For a man who sang about how he would be condescendingly critiquing the world while on his deathbed just a year ago, it’s surprising to see him openly human and imperfect on his latest work.