For over a decade, Andrew W.K. has gone unopposed for the title King of Partying. With songs like “It’s Time To Party”, “Party Hard”, and “Party Til You Puke” adorning the track listing of his 2001 debut I Get Wet, he could easily be mistaken by the layman as the long lost third member of LMFAO. The rocker has done shots with Ke$ha, after all. Andrew W.K., however, is much more than your average Top 40 radio track droning on about getting black out drunk at the club. As the owner of the Manhattan club Santos Party Haus, I’m sure Andrew W.K. is into that sort of party on occasion; the party he advocates, however, is something much bigger.
When Andrew W.K. announced last week that he had been made a U.S. Cultural Ambassador to Bahrain, I was floored. At a glance, I see how this decision could be seen as ridiculous; we’re talking about sending a man who hit himself in the face with a brick to get a nosebleed for an album cover into a nation that has spent the last two years in a state of violent political unrest. What blew me away, however, was not how unexpected the decision was. I was blown away, rather, by how perfect Andrew W.K. was for the job, and amazed that something like this hadn’t been proposed sooner.
For those who are only familiar with Andrew W.K.‘s music, my conclusion may seem a bit odd. He hosts a Cartoon Network show about blowing stuff up, after all. Andrew W.K., however, is a man who deserves your respect, no matter how begrudging it might be. Think of him as the Che Guevara of partying. Even if you don’t agree with Guevara’s vision or his means of attaining it, you’ve got to admire his tireless loyalty to his cause. The same is true of Andrew W.K.; even if you detest partying (and how could you, really? It’s much more pleasant than guerilla warfare), you’ve got to recognize that the man’s relentless love and dedication to it is admirable. Not to mention his idea of partying might not be what you think.
A quick trip to Dictionary.com tells me that the verb “party” means to throw or go to parties or, more specifically, “to enjoy oneself throughly and without restraint; indulge in pleasure.” According to UrbanDictionary.com, when the cool kids say “party” they mean “when everyone gets together at someone’s house, get drunk, consume illegal substances like weed and coke, and trash the place completely.” Given the latter of these definitions, it’s easy to see how plenty of people these days can twist Andrew W.K.‘s message of non-stop partying into a reason to act like morons (read: the YOLO craze Drake triggered this year). The former definition, however, is much more aligned with Andrew W.K.‘s philosophy of positive partying.
If there is an easy way to package Andrew W.K.‘s party plan, it’s simply “to indulge in pleasure.” As a long time fan – not to mention Twitter follower – of the party rocker, I’ve been able to form a pretty solid idea of what Andrew W.K. considers to be party (yes, folks. It’s an adjective now, too!). I’d say having a few beers with your friends after work on Friday night fits his idea of partying just fine. In fact, the UrbanDictionary.com definition can fit too, as long as you realize that there’s much more to Andrew W.K.‘s party than that. According to his classic Party Tips, it’s party to try new food combinations (I owe him one for suggesting the peanut butter and jalapeno combo). It’s also party to do push ups, or to gargle with Mountain Dew. It’s party to be kind to strangers. It’s party to recognize your own self worth. Sure, it’s party to kiss your own arm or to throw a bowl of pasta into the street, but it’s also party to hug someone or to face your fears.
These drops of wisdom are far from rarities in Andrew W.K.’s life. Aside from supplying a nearly constant flow of positivity into the world via Twitter, the musician has also been sharing his message of “positive partying” as a motivational speaker for years at such establishments as Yale and NYU. It’s much easier to see, now, why Andrew W.K. was contacted by the State Department last September to give a motivational speech in Bahrain. What isn’t immediately evident, however, is why the Department pulled the plug on its plans just days before they were to occur.
According to Andrew W.K.s official statement, the State Department and the U.S. Embassy in Bahrain first contacted him (not the other way around) on September 13th, 2011. After more than a year of background checks and logistics, the motivator was slated to fly to Bahrain on December 1st for a string of appearances at schools and universities. On November 26th, however, the State Department contacted him to cancel the entire trip. Later the same day, a spokesperson for the State Department commented on the turn of events during a press conference. According to NPR, State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland had this to say when asked about the cancellation of Andrew W.K.‘s trip: “We had a Bahraini entity that approached the embassy about co-sponsoring a visit by this guy who I take it is pretty popular there in Bahrain. That was initially approved, and then when more senior management at the embassy took a look at this, the conclusion was that this was not an appropriate use of U.S. government funds.”
For the planning process to have gotten so far – a year of planning is no small task – it stands to reason that a budget designated for this sort of outreach does exist. Citing “senior management” as the reasoning behind the cancellation certainly implies that someone higher up the ladder called the trip off. This is supported further by Nuland’s follow up comment, in which she states, “I think the conclusion was when they looked at the body of [Andrew W.K.'s] work that we didn’t need to be part of this invitation. There may have been some preliminary conversations with him, but he will not be going to Bahrain on the U.S. government’s dime.”
The essential fact here is that the State Department has the authority and the resources to send a Cultural Ambassador to Bahrain, but deemed Andrew W.K. an inappropriate representative. Despite Andrew W.K.‘s having been asked to speak at prestigious universities around the country and having passed the State Department’s background checks, someone higher up “looked at his body of work” and decided they wanted nothing to do with him professionally. Personally, I would be willing to bet that this “look at his body of work” did not extend much further than a glance at the cover art from I Get Wet.
There’s no denying that Andrew W.K. is a long haired rocker in a pair of dirty white Levi’s, and there is certainly no way around the fact that he loves to party. His party, however, is one of motivation, one of brotherly love. Andrew W.K. is a philosopher in disguise, perhaps even the bloody-nosed Socrates of our time. His message of positivity is what the world needs, be it in the United States, Bahrain, or any other nation under the sun. After his trip was cancelled, Andrew W.K. stated that, “You can’t judge a book by its cover. I would’ve done a great job and represented our nation with dignity and pride.” I believe him; Andrew W.K.‘s party is one I am proud to attend, and one I support wholeheartedly.
Andrew W.K.‘s full statement regarding the trip’s cancellation can be read on his official website.