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December 14-20, 2014

"Teenage Dirtbag"

Cover of Wheatus by Phoebe Bridgers with Charlie Hickey

I was already having kind of an emo-ish week.

Then I was scrolling through Josiah Leming’s Twitter feed (I not only love his music, but I often enjoy the music of others that he recommends on his feed) and came across these two tweets:

So I listened to the song in the video he recommended, “Waiting Room” by Phoebe Bridgers.

Right off the bat, I took notice of the rather interesting lyrics.
“If you were a teacher, I would fail your class
Take it over and over til you noticed me
If you were a waiting room, I would never see a doctor
I would sit there with my first aid kit and bleed”
The song didn’t blow me away. But it’s a pretty one. And I definitely liked Phoebe’s voice and could see that she had all the tools and talent to be successful.

After finishing the “Waiting Room” video, I scrolled down to the comments and saw one that said:
“Hey Phoebe, I met you the other day driving Uber. Great song, even better voice! Also, kinda stoked to watch your cover of teenage dirtbag…wheatus is the shitus.”
This definitely got me curious.

I remember the song “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus.

When it was first released, back in 2000, I recall kind of liking it. And, apparently, many other people liked it even more than I did. It was featured in the movie Loser and became quite popular, reaching #1 on the charts in a number of countries including Australia, #2 in the UK and #7 on Billboard’s Modern Rock Tracks chart in the U.S.

I recall being impressed with how the song communicated the emotions of young love – rather unoriginal subject matter – yet managed to stand out as unique by capturing so well how those emotions filter through the perspective of an angsty, but somewhat loveable, turn-of-the-millennium outcast.

So, out of curiosity, I checked out Phoebe’s video with her cover version of it, which, it turns out, she did along with backing vocals by Charlie Hickey.

To me, everything about this is perfect (right down to the Christmas sweaters).

Their voices fit well together, making their harmonies sound great.

Whereas the original is a quirky rock song, Phoebe - by stripping it down to its bare bones and replacing the strangely-catchy whiny voice of Wheatus’ lead singer with her own sweet voice – has revealed its tender soul.

This version reveals just how poignant and romantic the right artist can make even a song about a dirtbag. I was really surprised how much beauty they were able to draw out of this song and that element of surprise made it even more moving.

I never realized it until hearing Phoebe and Charlie's take on it, but “Teenage Dirtbag” is really a perfect love song for disillusioned, disenchanted outsiders that still maintain that little glimmer of hope. And it shows how the story of a couple of lonely kindred spirits finding each other can be touching in even the most unglamorous context.

I ended up listening to this cover of “Teenage Dirtbag” several times the night that I discovered it. I actually think this version of the song highlights what makes the song special far better than the original version ever did.

One more relevant note:

Months ago, I saw this Apple ad on television.

Just the little snippet of the girl singing piqued my curiosity enough that I looked up what the song was (It’s “Gigantic” by The Pixies.) I liked her voice in the commercial. But I never took the time to find out who she was, only the name of the song.

Last night, as I read a little more about Phoebe Bridgers, I found out that that girl in the commercial was none other than her. Small world!

So once again, not only does Josiah Leming provide great music directly, but he even leads me to it indirectly.

Meanwhile, if you want to hear more of Phoebe, check out her YouTube channel or her Soundcloud page, from which she links to many of her other online channels.

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