How Are We Still Having the “Is Meg White a Bad Drummer?” Argument in 2023?

Questlove and other high-profile musicians tweeted in defense of the White Stripes drummer recently

Meg White of The White Stripes during Bonnaroo 2007.
Meg White of The White Stripes during Bonnaroo 2007.
FilmMagic for Superfly Presents

The White Stripes are celebrating the 20th anniversary of their classic album Elephant this year, and yet somehow, two decades and a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nomination later, there are still internet trolls eager to complain about Meg White’s drumming skills.

Perhaps we have made a tiny bit of progress, however, because this time around the response was swift and overwhelmingly in support of the White Stripes drummer, with fellow musicians like Questlove, Karen Elson and Steve Albini rushing to her defense.

It all started when conservative writer Lachlan Markay tweeted a response to a National Review article that called “Seven Nation Army” “the greatest song of this century so far.” “The tragedy of the White Stripes is how great they would’ve been with a half decent drummer,” Markay wrote in his since-deleted tweet. “Yeah yeah I’ve heard all the ‘but it’s a carefully crafted sound mannnn!’ takes. I’m sorry Meg White was terrible and no band is better for having shitty percussion.”

It’s a shitty, sexist take — as one person pointed out in response, White’s drumming is “a Rorschach test for how you feel about women musicians. Unless you also hate all punk music, which was also basic on a technical level and that was the point and it slapped.”

“I try to leave ‘troll views’ alone but this right here is out of line af,” Questlove. who knows a thing or two about drumming, tweeted. “Actually what is wrong w music is people choking the life out of music like an Instagram filter — trying to reach a high of music perfection that doesn’t even serve the song (or music).”

Musician Karen Elson, who also happens to be Jack White’s ex-wife, wrote, “Not only is Meg White a fantastic drummer, Jack also said that the White Stripes would be nothing without her. To the journalist who dissed her, keep my ex husband’s ex wife name out of your f*cking mouth. (Please and Thank You)”. Meanwhile, singer-songwriter Ron Sexsmith pointed out that “Keith Moon was the right drummer for The Who but would’ve been wrong for The Beatles. Meg White was the right drummer for White Stripes but would’ve been wrong for Yes. She’s being inducted into RHOF for being the drummer an iconic band & that’s all that matters.” (He jumped the gun on that last point. The White Stripes are nominated for the Hall of Fame, but the inductees for the Class of 2023 have yet to be announced.)

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The backlash was so strong and one-sided that Markay eventually switched his Twitter account to private to escape the thousands of people in his mentions telling him how wrong he was. Eventually, he re-emerged and posted a mea culpa.

“By now you’ve probably seen an ill-advised (and since-deleted) tweet I sent out yesterday about the White Stripes and Meg White,” he wrote. “It was an over-the-top take on TWS and White as a drummer, and was, let’s face it, just truly awful in every way. Petty, obnoxious, just plain wrong. And not just b/c of the completely justified backlash, but b/c I actually don’t really believe it! I love TWS, percussion included. I don’t know if Meg White herself saw that tweet. I hope not, because I imagine it wouldn’t feel great to see a stranger dumping on you like that.

“To Meg White: I am sorry. Really,” he continued. “And to women in the music business generally, who I think are disproportionately subject to this sort of shit, I am sorry to have fed that as well. I’m really going to try to be more thoughtful in the future, both on here and off. I’ve been thinking to myself as all this—again, completely justified—hate comes in over the last 24 hours: why did I actually write that? It’s not what I really think, and I like to think I’m not the asshole it made me out to be, or at least I try not to be. I think the answer, in part, is that sort of vicious sniping is something that we—us online folks—tend to reward with eyes and clicks. And I think I got caught up in that implicit incentive structure with a needlessly inflammatory, downright mean, and most importantly false Take.”

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