Illustration: Iris Gottlieb
Growing up is never easy, but you wouldn’t always know it from pop music. Songs about adolescence too often obscure the complicated moments. The ‘teenage dream’ archetype is a pop culture fantasy – and no one really wants to be 17 forever.
Lucy Dacus remembers the uncomfortable times. On his new album Home video, she talks about the growing pains of youth. “A lot of childhood is in crisis mode”, she explains in the last episode of Pop lit, which you can hear below. “You are pushed by the world and the rules imposed on you. His songs examine the unequal power relations between parents, friends and lovers.
On the lighter side, the album opens with “Hot and Heavy”, which brings us back to the scene of a romantic first encounter on a sofa in the basement, the face red and awkward. But in the next song, “Christine”, the romantic feelings fade: “He can be nice sometimes / Other nights you admit he’s not what you had in mind.” Bad fathers, bible camp indoctrination, and perpetual peer pressure all take center stage in Dacus’ coming-of-age album.
Dacus says writing about those years is “a process of exercising control over things that I had no control over at the time.” With unattached teenage dreams behind her, Dacus can now reclaim the sense of youth: “I am the narrator of my own life, so I can say what it means.”