The White Stripes were an Alternative Rock duo consisting of Jack and Meg White, who initially formed in Oak Park, Michigan (one of Detroit's smaller northern suburbs) in 1997. Jack was the lead singer and played guitar, piano, and bass while Meg covered drums and percussion while also occasionally contributing vocals.
The duo first rose to prominence with their third and fourth albums, White Blood Cells and Elephant, which propelled them to the forefront of the garage rock revival movement in the early 2000s. The height of their popularity would likely be in 2007-08, around the release of the single "Icky Thump" (their only US Top 40 hit, something they achieved without bothering with pop radio airplay), though the 2003 release of the single "Seven Nation Army" (which reached #1 on the Billboard Modern Rock chart without crossing over) was a previous peak.
The duo's music featured a mix of Garage Rock and Blues influences, and Jack and Meg themselves were also noted for their distinctive fashion and design aesthetic, revolving around a simple red-white-black color scheme as well as recurring use of the number 3.
The duo went on hiatus in late 2007, releasing a concert film titled Under Great White Northern Lights in the meantime that documented a summer 2007 tour they embarked on in support of Icky Thump. Jack publicly hinted on several occasions about the duo recording new music or planning an official reunion, but this ultimately would not come to pass. In a statement released on the band's website in February 2011, it was announced that the band had disbanded after 14 years of existence. The statement denied any Creative Differences or health issues, but instead cited "a myriad of reasons ... mostly to preserve what is beautiful and special about the band".
Jack has gone on to a successful career in his own right, opening Third Man Studios in Nashville, TN, releasing a solo album in 2012 and running two other bands in the process.
Jack and Meg were married before founding the band, and now consider each other Like Brother and Sister. Both have since married and divorced other people.
- The White Stripes (1999)
- De Stijl (2000)
- White Blood Cells (2001)
- Elephant (2003)
- Get Behind Me Satan (2005)
- Icky Thump (2007)
Tropes found in their stage personas:
- Heroes Want Redheads: Jack sang about redheads on at least one song on every album after De Stijl.
- I Am the Band: Many people tend to assume that the White Stripes were Jack White, since he was the sole composer of almost all of their original material, sang lead on most songs, and played all the instruments aside from drums. According to White, however, the band is actually an aversion, as he claims that Meg's drumming was the foundation of their sound and a major source of creative inspiration to him.
- Lead Singer Plays Lead Guitar: Frontman Jack White is a multi-instrumentalist who played rhythm and lead guitar on all their songs.
- Kayfabe Music: Jack insisted that his and Meg's relationship was that of being the two youngest siblings of ten (note that Jack actually is the youngest of ten kids), and that the idea for the band forming came when Meg began playing on Jack's drumkit in 1997. Jack and Meg maintained that they were brother and sister long after it was public knowledge that they were actually exes. Jack said that it originally started so that people wouldn't constantly focus on their relationship over the music, and presumably they just maintained it as part of the band's identity.
- Long-Runner Line-up: It was just Jack and Meg from formation to split.
- Prefers Going Barefoot: Meg White, who often performed and posed for photos barefoot.
- Unrelated Brothers: Jack and Meg claimed to be brother and sister when the band first became famous, when they were actually ex-spouses.
Tropes present in The White Stripes' music:
- Age-Gap Romance: "A Martyr for My Love For You" is about an adult who falls in love with a 16-year-old. They have a relationship for a little while, but ultimately the narrator feels weird about it and makes a number of excuses to end the relationship.
- Animated Music Video: "Fell in Love with a Girl": stop-motion LEGO animation.
- Anti-Love Song: A few of them. Examples include "I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman", "Fell In Love With a Girl", and "Effect and Cause".
- Arc Number: The number 3 is a big part of the band's mythology, especially in their image (the red white and black combination) and music (which adheres to three basic elements: melody, rhythm, storytelling).
- Audience Participation Song: "Seven Nation Army".
- Author Appeal: As mentioned below, Jack seems to have a thing for redheads, and several of the band's songs make reference to (or are just plain about) sexy red-headed women ("Fell In Love With a Girl", "Take, Take, Take", "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues", etc.).
- Badass Boast: These occur in a few of their songs, but "Ball and Biscuit", which is basically 7+ minutes of continual Badass Boasting, particularly stands out:"Right now you could care less about me / but soon enough you will care by the time I'm done."
- Boy Meets Ghoul: "Little Ghost":I fell in love with a little ghost and that was all
- The Birds And The Bees: Referenced in "Instinct Blues", and used as a Sexual Euphemism:Every bird and bug in jungle tooAnd everything in the ocean blueJust happen to know exactly what to doSo why don't you?
- Break-Up Song: Many ("I'm Bound to Pack It Up", "There's No Home for You Here", "Red Rain", "You've Got Her in Your Pocket", "The Denial Twist", "I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman", etc.) covering the topic from every conceivable emotional angle. Kind of funny when you consider that they were once a couple themselves.
- Celeb Crush: "Take, Take, Take" is about an overly excited, FanBoyish encounter with Rita Hayworth. Incidentally, she died nearly 20 years before the song was written.
- Chained to a Bed: The music video for "Icky Thump", and described in the song itself.Woke up handcuffed to a bunk robbed blind
- Color Motif: White, black, and red are used exclusively in any imagery related to the band. According to Jack White:But the White Stripes' colors were always red, white and black. It came from peppermint candy. I also think they are the most powerful color combination of all time, from a Coca-Cola can to a Nazi banner. Those colors strike chords with people.
- A Dog Named "Dog": The lyrics in "The Hardest Button to Button" mention the birth of a baby boy that is named "Baby".
- Duel of Seduction: "Conquest", about two people both trying to seduce each other.
- Droste Image: The video for "Seven Nation Army".
- Epic Rocking: "Ball and Biscuit," clocking in at over seven minutes.
- "Death Letter" could get quite long, too, when played live.
- Garage Rock: Along with The Hives, they were one of the bands key to its revival in the early 2000s.
- Gratuitous Panning: The lead guitar in "Hello Operator" stays in the right channel for much of the song. The vocal track in "Take, Take, Take" will occasionally fly between channels at random.
- Heavy Meta: "Rag and Bone" is about taking and reusing old stuff no one else wants, a transparent metaphor for the duo's approach to making music.
- "I Am Becoming" Song: "I'm Slowly Turning Into You".
- Intercourse with You: A few songs take this approach, with "In the Cold, Cold Night" being perhaps the most prominent example.
- Let's Duet: "This Protector", "Rag and Bone"; "It's True That We Love One Another" is a three-way Call-and-Response Song among Jack, Meg, and English singer Holly Golightly.
- Letters 2 Numbers: Subtly done with the back cover of Elephant - the E's in the title are actually rendered as backwards 3's.
- Love Hurts: A major theme at times; Jack described Elephant as "a concept album about the death of the sweetheart".
- Love-Obstructing Parents: The subject of "I Want to Be the Boy to Warm Your Mother's Heart", which is about the narrator desperately trying to win over his girlfriend's disapproving mother.
- Mind Screw: "St. Andrew (This Battle Is In the Air)", the lyrics of which appear to be some kind of psychedelic religious invocation.
- Meet Cute: In "A Martyr for My Love for You" the POV character and his love interest meet when she is about to fall over, but the POV character swoops in, catches her, and drops a One-Liner.
- Miniscule Rocking: "Little Room" and "Passive Manipulation" both clock in at under one minute.
- New Sound Album: Whilst still strictly minimalist in terms of song structure, Get Behind Me Satan incorporates more exotic styles and instrumentation such as marimbas than their previous efforts.
- Non-Appearing Title: "Black Math", "The Air Near My Fingers", "Passive Manipulation", "Instinct Blues", etc. More frequently averted however. On the other hand, all but one of the band's albums (Icky Thump) had a Non-Appearing Title.
- Ode to Youth: "We're Going To Be Friends", a song about the joys of childhood friendship.
- Off the Table: The White Stripes made a music video entirely out of LEGO and stop-motion. Jack White consulted with the LEGO company about having LEGO figures of Meg and himself packaged with the release of the single. LEGO refused, claiming they wouldn't cater to a market other than children. When the video was a hit, LEGO changed their minds, only for Jack to turn around in a fit of anger and refuse.
- Once per Episode: The word "Little" was used in at least one song in every one of their albums - Specifically, each album has one song title fitting the format "Little [Noun]", such as "Little Room" or "Little Cream Soda".
- One-Word Title: "Expecting", "Aluminum", "Hypnotize", "Screwdriver", etc.
- The Oner: The video for "The Denial Twist".
- Protest Song: The Stripes had two of these: the first being "The Big Three Killed My Baby" about how much Jack hates the Big Three for killing Detroit. The second is Icky Thump, which focuses on illegal immigration (he thinks it's kind of ridiculous for white Americans to be complaining about it).
- Puddle-Covering Chivalry: Referenced, then subverted in the last verse of "I'm Finding It Harder to Be a Gentleman":I never said I wouldn't
Throw my jacket in the mud for you
But my father gave it to me so
Maybe I should carry you
Then you said
"You almost dropped me"
So then I did
And I got mud on my shoes.
- Retraux: the band's imagery and music incorporates everything from The '30s (Robert Johnson, De Stijl), The '50s (portions of Get Behind Me Satan) to The '60s. There is also the Victorian-style video for "Blue Orchid".
- Rhyming with Itself: From "The Hardest Button to Button":I had a backyard with nothing in it
Except a stick, a dog, and a box with something in it.
- Self-Backing Vocalist: "There's No Home For You Here", which features a chorus of backing vocals, all by Jack White.
- Self-Titled Album: "The White Stripes", their debut.
- Sexual Euphemism: A number of sexual references are hidden throughout their music, but are rarely explicit. For example, "Instinct Blues" is about something that all the animals and plants of the world understand, but the POV character's love interest doesn't. What could that be...
- Shout-Out: "The Union Forever", from White Blood Cells, is about Citizen Kane. Most of the lyrics are lines from the movie.
- Siamese Twin Songs: "Prickly Thorn, But Sweetly Worn" and "St. Andrew (This Battle Is In the Air)" from Icky Thump.
- Single Stanza Song: "Passive Manipulation" and "Little Room".
- Something Blues: "Instinct Blues", "Catch Hell Blues", "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues", etc.
- Song Style Shift: Jack has commented that "300 M.P.H. Torrential Outpour Blues" was an attempt to write a song that incorporated as many different styles of blues playing as possible; hence its abrupt shifts from gentle, country-style acoustic blues to screeching, up-tempo electric blues and back again.
- Spoken Word in Music: The beginning of "Little Acorns", the end of "Your Southern Can Is Mine".
- Surprisingly Gentle Song: "We're Going To Be Friends", a nostalgic acoustic number about an innocent childhood friendship between a boy and a girl on an album (White Blood Cells) full of passionate, often bitter and angry hard rockers about messy adult relationships between men and women.
- Step Up to the Microphone: Meg sings "In The Cold, Cold Night", "Passive Manipulation", and "St. Andrew". She also sang a duet of "We Are Going To Be Friends" with Jack where both played guitar as their last ever performance.
- Studio Chatter: The end of "It's True That We Love One Another".
- Telephone Song: The band has a number of songs involving calling people, which is Lampshaded in the liner notes to their final album where they include the word "telephone" in a list of all the people that have helped them out.
- "Wasting My Time" begins with a frustrating phone call where the narrator tries to get a straight answer from his lover on whether she's interested in him.
- The first verse "Screwdriver" involves calling up a friend and trying to come up with something to do.
- "Hello Operator":Hello Operator, can you give me number nineCan I see you later, can you give me back my dime?
- The central conflict of "Effect And Cause", a break-up song of sorts about playing the Blame Game seems to be about the couple not returning each others calls.
- "A Martyr for My Love For You" is told from the perspective of someone breaking up with their lover over the phone, recounting the story of their relationship and explaining why it won't work out.
- Textless Album Cover: White Blood Cells, Elephant, and Get Behind Me Satan.
- Three Chords and the Truth: Their entire philosophy, especially prior to Get Behind Me Satan.