JENNY LEWIS - JUST ONE OF THE GUYS
Hey kids! Bella has a pop career!
Luisa Lopez: Jenny Lewis is a chameleon — a vocalist who speaks in eye rolls as she simultaneously makes wanting and yearning musical, palatable. The Watson Twins made her lonely, “Glendora” made her vengeful. Every laughable fear here is transformed into celebration, ill-advised or not. A song about women that doesn’t crumple. The lyrics being less important than the sound — the sound itself being disaffected, halfway vocoded, the most triumphant verse nearly a throwaway, and the song itself is almost useless until the self-conscious joke of I’m just another lady without a baby, which is expectantly crooned, made to sound almost stupid, but it does cut across the jocular desire to be just one of the guys with a real, hysterical heartache and well, that’s life! (The song also being very significant for the appearance of Kristen Stewart in a tracksuit in the music video, which should not go ignored.)
Alfred Soto: Echo-swathed vocals and metronome of a rhythm section — I recoiled. Substitute the harpsichord for a mandolin, add stronger electric rhythm interjections, and step up the pace and this well-observed account of the front lines of the sex wars would be the bro-country riposte that NPR and Slate have waited for.
Thomas Inskeep: This is proof that “alt-country” need not be a four-letter word: sharp lyrics, good Lanois-does-Emmylou production, and a singer who knows that “feminist” isn’t a four-letter word, either.
Anthony Easton: Jenny Lewis is one of those artists whose history and personae make you want to cheer her on. That she has one of the great voices in indie right now, and has the potential to be one of the legends in country vocals if she ever goes in that direction, is part of that for me. This is what the last Neko song wanted to be, but it’s more complicated than that. I love the jangled intro, or the chorus, which might as well be Fountains of Wayne meets late stage feminism, or that heartbreak hidden in buoyancy. And all of that said, no matter how light the work it is, that feminism, that rigorous, engendered anger is positioned at the forefront. The last few lines, about prayer and what ladies do, is such a refusal of both pop history and institutional misogyny — and it’s clever and musical to boot. Rarely do brilliant politics and brilliant musicianship work so seamlessly together.
Megan Harrington: Lewis is jamming a few concrete ideas onto a flimsy cotton melody that can’t bear their weight. The easiest to untangle from the pack is that, like our favorite aging tabloid queens, Lewis is childless and approaching the end of her fertility. Swaddling this conceit are the the fuzzier afterthoughts that her age and status have alienated her from both men and women (she’s the only sister, she’s rude to a child bride, she’s not one of the guys) and that gender norms have restrained. It’s a personal plight; I don’t relate. What’s strange to me isn’t that she feels this way but that she wants to put all her worries in a song about as solid as a spritz of air freshener. Did she think we wouldn’t notice?
Will Adams: I was with it until the ba-da-da’s, which illuminated the melody’s dull lilt. Lewis challenges gender norms, but the ambling music doesn’t make the commentary as punchy as it could be.
Patrick St. Michel: A catchy song that sounds better and better with each listen…nothing complex, but, hey, that can be a blessing.
Rebecca A. Gowns: A wonderful exploration of gender roles, modern relationships, personal journeys, and the expectations that hang heavy over all of it. The song sparkles as much as it trudges; it’s full of wishes, but also expressing a long exhaustion, like Candy Darling wondering what more the world requires from her and her body. Jenny’s voice is as refreshing as ever, with her songwriting as mature as it’s always been. She has mastered the art of writing the personal towards the universal.
Brad Shoup: Draggy and devastating, a long summer sidewalk trip that ends up with you realizing you made your choices so they’re yours. Lewis’s main vocal provides the caustic humor, all the others provide the poignance. (The counterpoint in the singalong gets me the most gutted of anything I’ve heard this year.) It’s all matched with a fuck-you, reverbed stroll and a jangly arrangement, giving it the feel of something I can love, even belt out, but never truly understand.
Katherine St Asaph: The music is too bleach-soaked, the video too cheerily rebloggable, to resonate with me. If the lyrics lacerated at all it might have resonated anyway, but I can’t tell whether her complaint is not relating to the guys, not relating to the girls, or just not being married. If you want to be cynical, many girls are chafed by guy culture, many girls have found themselves the unmarried daughter, many girls don’t want to be reminded of that while talking to their married high school classmates — why, this part of this song is them! Forer-effect songwriting, then.
Juana Giaimo: Jenny Lewis isn’t the kind of artist whom you can call unpredictable. Writing country-influenced confident and emotional songs has been a strength. “Just One of the Guys” shows her again pretending to be a strong woman who doesn’t need anybody’s help (“I’ve been the only sister to my own sorrow”), but confessin in the chorus that she isn’t like that at all. Maybe it’s because I take her songs too seriously, but when she suddenly gets lonely in the bridge and sings, “When I look at myself all I can see, I’m just another lady without a baby”, it seems that her façadecrumbles down and we can see her real self. Admitting that she isn’t a mother, the role that society wants for her, demonstrates that, although change isn’t what she is looking for in her music, she is always growing up.
[Read and comment on The Singles Jukebox ]
I haven’t written about Jenny Lewis’ latest record, but I think my blurb kind of sums up my opinion. I wasn’t expecting much from it, and the more i listen to it, the more I like it.