Courtesy of Laist.com
Jenny Owen Youngs’ Myspace
On a first, casual listen of Jenny Owen Youngs’ “Drinking Song,” you might dismiss her as another in a long line of guitar-wielding female singer-songwriters. The steady melodic verse of the song hums along into a strikingly catchy and cheery chorus, splashed with some “ooohs” and “ahhhs.” But Jenny is no Vanessa Carlton. After a closer listen to “Drinking Song,” you find a song rife with pithy lyrics and carefully constructed harmony. This ode to drowning your sorrows in alcohol opens with the lines, “Everything I touch turns to s–t / Everyone I try to love won’t hear of it.” Her boldly defiant lyrics continue into the chorus when she declares, “It’s silence at the bottom of the bottle.” Yet these dour lyrics ring over the gaily sung harmony of “ba da da’s,” creating a confusing effect. Juxtaposing morose lyrics with a chipper melody, “Drinking Song” has a unique and subtle humor about it. It’s this humor that is so evident in her music and her persona that differentiates her from the melodramatic masses.
“F–k Was I,” the single off her debut album, Batten the Hatches, is a glaring example of her audacious and witty songwriting. In the opening line, she sings, “I’m developing my sense of humor / Till I can laugh at my heart between your teeth / Till I can laugh at my face beneath your feet.” Her lyrics act as a contemplation on the futility of engaging in a relationship with someone you suspect will break your heart. “Skillet on the stove / It’s such a temptation / Maybe I’ll be the lucky one that doesn’t get burned,” she hesitantly suggests, aware of her obvious self-delusion. But in the next line she gives it up and repeatedly asks, “What the f–k was I thinking?” The song — and the whole album — burns with a genuine nervous energy that pierces your eardrums and bounces around your brain.“Love is so embarrassing,” she confesses, “I’m this awkward and uncomfortable thing / I’m running out of places to hide it.” She suggests that we’re all awkward and embarrassing, but that there’s really nothing wrong with that. On the whole, the song demands your empathy as it explores emotions from fearful self-delusion to bitter cynicism and hopeless angst. Yet the sardonic wit throughout the song conveys a quality of contentment that is ultimately comforting.The rest of Batten the Hatches plays out like a series of un-love songs describing dysfunctional relationships that swell with nervous energy and sparkle with sarcasm. On “Bricks,” the violent strumming of violins cues in a bitter description of conflicted feelings toward a broken home. “Why can’t we be a normal family?” Youngs implores.
On “P.S.,” she reveals her discontent with her life in the face of media representation when she reveals, “I can’t make real life as good as television.” In an unabashed example of bitter wit Youngs quips, “You have the answers / But I have the car keys.” Her music is great because she is unafraid to genuinely express exactly what she is feeling, whether by honest revelation, clever wisecrack, or just by emphatically dropping the F-bomb in “F–k Was I.”
—By Entertainment Blog Editor Alex Blum