Americana Highways brings you this video premiere of Zoe FitzGerald Carter’s song “I Wanna Be A Teenage Boy” from her forthcoming album Waterlines, due out in March. Waterlines was produced by Jeffrey Wood; engineered and mixied by Alberto Hernandez; and mastered by Ken Lee. Album cover photo credit goes to Irene Young.
“I Wanna be A Teenage Boy” is Zoe FitzGerald Carter (songwriter, guitars, vocals); Zoe FitzGerald Carter (songwriter, guitar and vocals), Hindy Bare (co-songwriter); Dawn Richardson (drums, percussion); Paul Olguin (electric bass); Julie Wolf (keyboard, organ, accordion); and Brian Bloom (acoustic guitar).
Joshua McClain was the videographer for the project. “I Wanna Be A Teenage Boy.” Boy, what a sentiment. We all envy the confidence and abandon with which at least most teenage boys “do their thing.” But there’s so much more behind the song’s story; more that is less admirable. Listen and contemplate.
“Teenage Boy” was written during the Brett Kavanaugh hearings. The hearings happened to coincide with a weeklong songwriting blitz with my musician pal, Hindy Bare. The two of us were holed up in a cabin in Colorado, taking breaks to watch snatches of the hearings. Brett Kavanaugh was, to us, the quintessential entitled man-boy. Taking what he wanted from the world and from the women unfortunate enough to be caught in his sphere, then literally sobbing when he was called out for attacking the then-16-year-old Christine Blasey Ford. And the kicker, of course, was that he was rewarded with the highest judgeship in the land!
It made us think about the messaging boys like Kavanaugh get growing up — all that indulgence and encouragement, even when they act like entitled jerks. And, by contrast, the self-limiting messages girls receive growing up. Like be thin, be pretty, don’t talk too loud or have too many opinions. And, sadly, even as grown up women, we STILL get these messages from the culture — work for less pay, stay youthful at any cost, and don’t admit you’re afraid to get out of your car alone at night. Oh, and don’t expect to be listened to, which is really the worst insult of all for someone like me who lives by words, both on the page and in conversation. (And, in fact, the song ends on an angry expletive.)
So, yeah, there is a little bit of anger in this song. But there is also some snap and humor, because there is something funny about a grown woman looking over at a bunch of half-naked carefree, burger-and-fries-eating teenage boys with their physical swagger and confidence and wishing she could have some of that. Plus, that bass line is just so damn catchy!
To underscore the message of the song, the videographer, Josh MacClain, and I looked for exaggerated images of retro femininity to play alongside the parts of the song that talk about the “girls messages” (“the secret is Brazilian waxing/Don’t you worry girl, it’s relaxing”). During the chorus and bridge —which are the “boy parts” — we found images of uber masculinity, like a shot of King Kong. And throughout we used all these sun-saturated shots of boys surfing and riding skateboards to create a fun Beach Boys vibe. Shooting it was a blast. To get into character, I put on a leather jacket, drank some beer, played a friend’s acid green electric guitar and channeled my inner teenage boy!
One funny thing about this song is how many men have said to me — you’re crazy to want be a teenage boy! It sucked! And I hear that. But the song is about a kind of platonic ideal of teenage boyhood (confident, athletic, freewheeling, privileged) and how appealing that was for me as a self-conscious teenage girl. If only I had been able to rip around on a skateboard without my shirt on, or eat a damn hamburger without feeling guilty. And frankly, even if a boy wasn’t athletic or popular, he was usually still encouraged to “rule the world, stay on top” while girls like Christine Blasey Ford were told things like “don’t be so emotional” and “you’re confused it wasn’t him.”
Until we start changing the messaging and tearing apart the current cultural programming, we will continue to live in a misogynist world where men like Kavanaugh are lauded and rewarded and women like Ford are ignored and dismissed. In the meantime, we plan to keep the music coming. — Zoe Fitzgerald Carter
The album is available for pre-order on Bandcamp and will be available via Spotify on March 26th. Bandcamp — and to download Teenage Boy for free, https://zoefcarter.bandcamp.com/album/waterlines
Spotify Pre Save – smarturl.it/Waterlinespresave
Spotify Artist Page – https://open.spotify.com/artist/0mr5NEf7fLXfvfemenA06e