It's not beyond Neko Case to write her songs in the voice of a variety of characters, and a male's narrative hasn't been one she's shied from. In "Man" featuring M. Ward -- the first full song to arrive from the songwriter's new album -- there's something explicit in the way in which she writes about gender identity as central to its message.
In the song stream below, you'll actually see Case dressed as a man with a mustache and button-up, leading the reins of a horse in one hand and holding a lit lighter in another. It's a classic, if antiquated, take on a "man."
"I'm a man, that's what you raised me to be / I'm not your identity crisis, this was planned," she sings. "If I'm dipsh*t drunk on pink perfume* then I am the man in the f*cking moon, because you didn't know what a man was until I showed you."
Lined with Ward's heavy, fun ballsy riffs and a big tempo, Case's song is about grand gestures, exaggerated swagger and turning what a "man" is into a singular notion. "That's the kind of animal I am / it's that simple."
And that's why I think "Man" is another shining example of Case's wit: the things she's doing with her definition of a "man" are precisely what writers insist on doing with the definition of "woman." It takes normativity to the extreme, lines like "the woman's heart is the watermark by which I measure," a truism with which many men would disagree, but yet it persists. "I'm the man's man, always been," sings the woman with harpsichord delicately plunking in the background.
While I don't know if it was an influencer on Case, "Man" reminds me of the song "I'm a Woman," which was written by famous (male) team Leiber & Stoller. It was made famous by Peggy Lee, then covered by, say, Bette Midler, and (even more interestingly) Raquel Welch and Miss Piggy. It backed a perfume commercial in the '70s. It defines the woman by her ability to fill a man with good eats, to be a child-bearer and care-taker, to iron and clean and pay the bills. Or "get back to business," in Beyonce parlance, a multifaceted yet still limiting image on the definition of "woman."