[This Is My Jam] – Best Coast’s “Boyfriend”

Song: Best Coast’s “Boyfriend” (preferably the iTunes Session)
We’ve all been there.

Despite the pleasant and carefree California beach bum vibe that Best Coast embody on their “Crazy For You” LP, there is a pain that comes through in Bethany Cosentino’s voice. Their sound is light–like, She & Him light; like, never seen the local news light–and that makes their songs fun, fast, and easily digestible, so perhaps that’s why a song of longing packs a little more punch than it otherwise would.

“Boyfriend” isn’t a typical song about desire. It’s surprisingly passive, and my heart breaks for the woman in the story. She bemoans and sings, “I wish he was my boyfriend,” repeating the line as if wishing just long enough will make it become try. Because she isn’t chasing after the boy; she isn’t strutting her stuff to woo him. She isn’t nearly confident enough to do something like that, comparing herself to the boy’s current girlfriend, who is more beautiful, skinnier, and more learned than she is, at least according to her. But we can’t even trust that about her because she spends her time wishing and imagining, in some Ally McBeal-style fantasy, that the boy she longs for is sitting at home by the phone, waiting for a call. Effectively, she wants him to pine for her in the same way she pines for him.

And if this were a romcom or a coming-of-age teen movie or even a dolled-up primetime soap, that girl would reach a tipping point and make some grand gesture to this unaware Prince Charming that an amazing woman had been in front of him the whole time. But this isn’t that kind of story. It starts passive and ends passive, and, at least for me, that rings pretty true. Maybe it’s a lack of confidence, or a feeling that you’ve put yourself out there too many times and it’s someone else’s turn to come to you, but sometimes it’s just easier and safer to stay on the sidelines.

A part of me loves this song because it’s the anti-“Jessie’s Girl.” In his ’80s rock opus, Rick Springfield experiences the same kind of longing, and in a similarly passive way, but there is a decidely unspecial quality to this yearning. The woman is referred to as “Jessie’s Girl” more often than she’s addressed directly, and Springfield even goes as far as to wonder where he can “find a woman like that” (recalling the revolving door of tuxedoed men in the Jerry Seinfeld joke about the “Do you take this man” line in wedding ceremonies). He doesn’t seem to want this girl in particular, and in fact it almost seems like he is only after her because of some sadistic urge to fuck over Jessie. He says that he wants to tell her that he loves her, but one has to wonder if that’s only to get her to sleep with him. She is, after all, the object of his sexual desire: He becomes enraged and even sickened when she looks at Jessie “with those eyes” and loves him “with that body.” For this character, it’s not a lack of confidence; it’s overconfidence. He looks in the mirror and marvels at how funny and cool he is and is dumbfounded by the fact that this girl still wants Jessie instead.

In “Boyfriend,” the inevitable comparison between you and the other woman is more real, more evidence of broken hearts and hurt feelings. It’s a true sadness that I can’t help but want to cure. I would gladly be this girl’s boyfriend.


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