Thursday, March 28th, 2019

Jenny Lewis – Wasted Youth

Candy Crush do do do do do do do…


Alfred Soto: If hep cats (okay, me) sneered at Sheryl Crow during her peak for the size of her El Lay Rolodex, wait till Jenny Lewis releases the liner notes to On the Line. Benmont Tench! Ryan Adams and Beck productions! Ringo Starr and Jim Keltner! The strength of her hooks commensurate with her vocal command, she do-do-dos through another day in paradise in which her mother’s heroin addiction and other candy crushes don’t quash her commitment to a distance that deepens with age. She hasn’t made a bad record yet. With these connections, though, it’s a matter of time. Consider the grade a warning.

Katherine St Asaph: As someone whose youth wasn’t wasted so much as spat on, crumpled up, and nuked from orbit, I can relate. The warm, chipper poppiness, doot-doo’s and all, is the musical translation of a coping strategy that I can’t relate to, but can certainly acknowledge. (Though the framing device, “do you remember when [Dad] used to sing us that little song?” is silly — sillier than the “candy crush” bit, which is non-literal and was good enough for Kehlani.) I just think I’d rather hear the song (“Listerine,” maybe) that isn’t the facade.

Juana Giaimo: Jenny Lewis is an expert in irony, not just when she uses it in the lyrics but also in the way she sings. “Wasted Youth” is a clear example: the “doo doo doo” of the chorus, rather than sounding cheering, us exactly the opposite — like a fake smile, too conscious that life is sometimes too hard

Anthony Easton: Everyone thinks Lewis is Neko Case, but she’s really Tom T. Hall, a great story teller, an underrated wit, and someone who knows how to swing. This is burnt-out ’70s California, recast as Nashville, and its genial shrug towards addiction takes some aesthetic bravery. 

Stephen Eisermann: A weak attempt at modernizing Stevie Nicks-era Fleetwood Mac, this has an interesting enough melody but the lyrics leave something to be desired. I’ve never seen Jenny as a master lyricist, but mentioning Candy Crush is a pretty embarrassing attempt at pandering. Jenny can, and should, do better.

Jacob Sujin Kuppermann: I’ve been on vacation for the past week, and I’ve spent most of it reading Inherent Vice. It’s an interesting piece of faux-hippie fiction, willfully obtuse and circular in its plotting and dense and obvious in its drugged out decadence. It’s the kind of book that will at once bowl you over with a moment of deep pathos that emerges from the morass and make you roll your eyes at a too obvious joke about weed or something harder. “Wasted Youth” doesn’t quite ascend/descend to the level that Vice does, but it hits a similar balance between hamfisted drug writing and sincere emotion, all wrapped into a convincingly nostalgic pastiche. Jenny Lewis is a deft enough songwriter and arranger that “Wasted Youth” stays charming and not hackneyed in its early-70s vibes, and her ear for a hook wins out with the endless, “Baby Shark”-esque “Doo-Doo”s of the chorus, which lull you into submission by the track’s end.

Vikram Joseph: Few songs sound truly timeless, but this genuinely sounds like it could have been released in any decade since the 1960s. Whether this is a good thing depends on your tolerance for plush, classic-sounding piano pop; I’m totally fine with it when it’s done as well as this. Jenny Lewis’s vocals on Rilo Kiley songs always had a frisson of anxiety underlying them, but now, in her 40s, she sounds so at ease here – even while singing wryly affecting lyrics about her mum’s drug addiction, or when stretching skywards into falsetto. The melodies are achingly familiar; “Wasted Youth” feels like a comfortable sweatshirt you’d pull on when you’re not trying to impress anyone.

Josh Love: This is the sort of song Lewis writes in her sleep — wry Gen X musings on unstable childhoods and drugs both real and virtual, superimposed over a Baby Boomer backdrop (in this instance, it sounds to me closest to Tom Petty). Lewis can pull this off for entire albums because her lyrics are frank and mostly stay on the good side of pretentious while her command of classic pop forms remains sturdy. Plucked out of its surroundings, though, “Wasted Youth” isn’t likely to turn many heads.

Iris Xie: I find it unfortunate that my first understanding of this type of music is the word “twee,”  Zooey Deschanel, Wes Anderson, Modcloth, birds’ nest earrings sold on Etsy, and all other attempts at a “quirky,” (what a fucked up word, now) retro feminine aesthetic with vintage dresses with swing heels. But, I also haven’t listened to this type of pop-folk/country music since 2008, so I own that I’m a frozen dinosaur. But I don’t know, “Wasted Youth” and its brand of wistful sentimentality, that slight ‘doo doo doo,’ and cliched sayings such as “the cookie crumbles,” only reinforces my initial understandings. When I was 16, I would listen to these type of songs, look at vintage-style fashion blogs, and dream about dressing up in the aesthetics of older, twee, melancholy white girls in perfect pinafores. It was all aspirational, inaccessible, and not-representative to this Asian American highschooler, but it was an escape from going to school every day in a hoodie and jeans and grinding hard in AP classes. Now, I’m more secure in my identities and look, and listening to “Wasted Youth” with its mild rock overtones and how Jenny Lewis sings “I wasted my youth on a poppy,” I understand more. The charm is in the nihilistic chipperness, with the helium of Lewis’ voice catching and carving on her sentiments. It’s a surprisingly dark song, repressing its emotions and leaving me with the feeling of my throat being blocked because the little feathery notes sound like they’re covering up the sadness. Maybe the quirkiness and affectations are to cover up the despair, and that’s Jenny Lewis’ unique coping mechanism. Ultimately, it gives an impression that the song is laying waste to itself. I never really got around to doing that full vintage makeover, but in the end, we all have to find our own, true-to-us aesthetic.

Joshua Minsoo Kim: It’s so tightly written that its aching lyrics about addiction find poignancy in the accompanying glossy production and whimsical “do-do-doo”s. There’s small, near-hidden catharsis, too: the loping guitar melody that closes the song is a small, private unburdening. It leads into strings as if to celebrate the occasion — onlookers won’t see it as anything remarkable, but to you, it’s something you’ve needed for a long time.

Reader average: [3.71] (7 votes)

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One Response to “Jenny Lewis – Wasted Youth”

  1. Jim Keltner was in the Traveling Wilburys so I won’t hear a bad word about that connection.