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The Greylock Echo

The Student News Site of Mount Greylock Regional High School

The Greylock Echo

The Student News Site of Mount Greylock Regional High School

The Greylock Echo

boygenuis and “Sad Girl Music” in the Recording Industry

boygenuis Band in 2018—Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus (from left to right) – Photo Courtesy of WFUV Public Radio

“Sad Girl Music” these days is typically a white queer woman singing something depressing: “I feel no need to forgive/but I might as well” from Lucy Dacus, “I haven’t been taking my meds/so lock up my cabinets and send me to bed” from Julien Baker, and “If you were a waiting room I would never see a doctor/I would sit there with my first aid kit and bleed” from Phoebe Bridgers are all excellent examples of the sad girl archetype. 

So, when all of these women came together in 2018 to create the band boygenius; it was considered a peak moment for “sad girl music” everywhere. And with lyrics like “I want to be emaciated/I want to hear one song without thinking of you” and “Here’s the best part/distilled for you/but what you want I can’t give to you,” on their debut EP, the label almost makes sense. 

But then, boygenius left for five years. Until March 31, 2023, when they dropped their debut album The Record. In the weeks leading up to the album’s release, most of Twitter was aflame with excitement over the idea of getting eleven new, absolutely heart wrenching songs. 

And then the album dropped, and some of the songs were certainly sad. Take for example “Cool About It,” which has such heartwrenching lyrics as “once, I took your medication to know what it’s like/And now I have to act like I can’t read your mind/I ask you how you’re doing and I let you lie” or “I’m trying to be cool about it/Feelin’ like an absolute fool about it/Wishin’ you were kind enough to be cruel about it/Tellin’ myself I can always do without it/Knowing that it probably isn’t true.” “Revolution 0,” a song about falling in love online led by Bridgers, is also relatively sad, but I don’t think it is necessarily as overtly relatable as “Cool About It” is.

Most songs, however, were not very sad. The Lucy Dacus led songs “We’re in Love,” “Without You Without Them” and “Leonard Cohen” are all some of the most sweet songs from indie rock lately, with lyrics like “If you rewrite your life/may I still play a part” and “I want to hear your story/and be a part of it.” These songs are all laments to Dacus’ friendship with her fellow boygenius members, which only adds to the album’s overly sweet tone. 

Other songs on the album are also based around the boygenius friendship; “Satanist” is about asking a friend to hang around for a long time: “Will you be a satanist with me/mortgage off your soul to buy a dream vacation home in Florida?” 

The songs that are not the artists lamenting over their friendship are focused on growth. “I’m 27 and I don’t know who I am/but I know what I want” sings Bridgers on “Emily, I’m Sorry.” 

“I can’t feel [happiness] yet/but I am waiting” is the final line on the record. 

Some of the album set Twitter aflame. Many took issue with the simplistic lyrics that seem to be taunting Leonard Cohen; it seems that a one-off line calling him an old man having an existential crisis has written off a critically acclaimed album. 

However, something tells me that it also has something to do with the joy present in this album. Mitski had a similar experience in winter 2022 when she wrote Laurel Hell. This album was not even happier in terms of its lyrics; it just instead drew from high energy bands like ABBA in its production. The lyrics of Laurel Hell were still heart wrenching. Take, for instance, “I’ll be the loser in this game/I’ll be the bad guy in the play” in “The Only Heartbreaker,” a song about being the only one doing wrong in a relationship. And yet, the song was lambasted when it was released, with the common claim being that it was too chipper when compared to Mitski’s previous albums. 

Hell, this even happened when boygenius member Phoebe Bridgers released “Sidelines,” a song with very sad production, but happy lyrics. “Watched the world from the sidelines/had nothing to prove/til you came into my life/gave me something to lose” was deemed not lyrically complex, from the same woman whose sad songs have lyrics like “Jesus Christ, I’m so blue all the time/that’s just how I feel.” Melancholy, dragging lyrics are integral to Bridgers’ style. It is just only deemed “bad” songwriting when the songs are happy.

This problem is, in many ways, the plight of women in indie rock. For their music to be deemed complex, it must be depressing. Some of the best—and most depressing—songs from all of boygenius are not as lyrically complex as The Record. And yet, The Record is viewed as “lesser than” because it is happy.

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About the Contributor
Kiersten Simpson
Kiersten Simpson, Staff Writer
Kiersten Simpson is a senior. When not writing for the Echo, Simpson can be found onstage or derailing JCL meetings. Simpson has never been stung by a bee, but they are still seeking vengeance on a wasp that stung them. If anyone knows the whereabouts of a wasp that claims to have been on Pontoosuc Lake on May 27th, 2020, please alert Kiersten so justice may finally be properly served.

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