Jim Carroll

Music, Life and everything else

Guest post – 500 Words of Summer – Ailbhe Malone

Welcome to On The Record’s 500 Words of Summer series. All this week, we’re running guest posts from a bunch of people on a variety of topics. You will definitely recognise some of the writers and you will probably not …

Mon, Aug 9, 2010, 09:30


Welcome to On The Record’s 500 Words of Summer series.

All this week, we’re running guest posts from a bunch of people on a variety of topics. You will definitely recognise some of the writers and you will probably not know others but, trust me, all the posts are well worth reading. The writers were given a simple brief: write about whatever you want to write up to and including 500 words. We’ve got posts to come on the golden ages of Irish music, running a label, music documentaries, the joy of the slow-tech life, seven-inch singles and much more besides.

We kick off the series with Ailbhe Malone who goes in search of some young voices in pop.

America’s a strange place. Not least if you’re a teenager. It’s a place where the number one teen movie endorses abstinence before marriage- because sex will kill you. The top four teen artists all work for Mickey Mouse (Jonas Brothers, Demi, Selena, Miley). The only artist who currently addresses any real ‘teen’ emotions does so retrospectively- as a 25 year old who is about to marry.

Conversely, there’s been a trend for what I’ll term – for want of a better phrase – ladette pop. Acts like Millionaires are nothing new- they’ve been on the LA scene for the past three years- peddling WKD-fuelled electro-rap (think Uffie with a filthier mouth)- as indeed has Ke$ha (try and spot her in Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” video).

And that’s just the girls. Equally, male role models are split into the shouty-dry-humping 3OH!3 and pants-wetting metrosexual rappers such as Drake and B.o.B.

There’s definitely a point to be made about polarizing teen sexuality into promiscuous and pure, but 500 words is not the word count in which to do so. Rather than condemn acts such as the above – or fall into the common trap of Comparing Female Singers- because that’s totally not the object of this exercise. Instead, let’s see if there are any alternatives.

In the UK, the glut of plain-speaking teenage girl singers have dwindled significantly from Lily Allen’s departure from music to Kate Nash’s new riot grrrl record. New teen on the scene Eliza Doelittle may have the pre-requisite estuary accent, but lyrically her songs don’t match up to those of Allen or Nash. For all their faults, Allen and Nash represented something that’s currently chronically lacking in teen music days: detail. Which line better signifies a relatable teenage experience? “The first time that you introduced me to your friends/And you could tell that I was nervous, so you held my hand” (Lily Allen’s “The Littlest Things”) or “I go through guys like money flyin’ out they hands/They try to change me but they realize they can’t” (Miley Cyrus’ “Can’t Be Tamed”).

Again, to compare and contrast female singers is not the mission. Rather, I’m interested in finding a voice that represents the true teenage existence. Not one of sex in alleyways and being the hottest chick in the club. Nor one of abstinence and parental dominance. One of boredom, broken hearts and longing.

Recently, however, that voice has released her debut album. Despite being aged 23, many of the songs on the album were written when she was 16, and never have lines such as “I lost my job, I miss my mom, I wish my cat could talk” rung truer. I’m obviously talking about Bethany Cosentino- aka Best Coast. And so it is, that a 23 year old, heavily tattooed, medicinal marijuana aficionado from LA who occasionally works in a soap shop is the real voice of the young population. Like I said, America’s a strange place.

The credits: Ailbhe Malone is a columnist and journalist for The Irish Times, NME, The Irish Independent and others, as well as a blogger. She is also a dinosaur enthusiast.

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