Friday, September 20, 2013

Alice Cooper, "I'm Eighteen"

There are two reasons why more music is written about adolescence than any other period in a human's life.
  1. Being a teenager sucks, and like many horrendous things, it can inspire great art.
  2. In general, teens have awful judgment. More than any other age group, they are likely to spend money on something targeted at them.
Therefore, an abundance of teen music exists, and the majority of it is garbage. Just when you're feeling less relatable than you ever have before again, the music, movie, tv, clothing and cigarette industries (and who knows what else, these days) are all lining up to relate to you. How does anyone ever find their Teenage Wasteland or Teenage Riot without gagging on all the Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul being marketed at them?

Eternal teen Alice Cooper is one of the only artists to ever make being a teenager sound cool without romanticizing it. Bridging his early psychedelic era to his first success as a hard rock, glam, punk and metal pioneer, Alice sounds razor-pointed yet just as lost as the character he brings to life. "I'm eighteen and I don't know what I want," bad enough to say it twice in a row. It makes songs like "You're Sixteen" and "Ballad of a Teenage Queen" sound pretty silly.

A self-made antihero who once claimed he wanted to be Captain Hook to the Beatles' Peter Pan, Cooper was inspired to write "I'm Eighteen" by the US Government's policy of drafting kids who were still too young to vote (I like to think that "I'm Eighteen" played a part in passing the 26th Amendment, lowering voting age.) But Alice also knew, long before Tony Soprano, that an antihero is most relatable when he's vulnerable. "Eighteen/I get confused every day, Eighteen/I just don't know what to say Eighteen/I gotta get away...I'm eighteen and I like it," Cooper shouts to no one who believes him.

Alice didn't pretend that being eighteen was a blast, even in a delinquent way. Nor did he have any pretenses about knowing how all the kids felt. Instead, he gave us an honest, unsympathetic depiction of one of the worst years in anyone's life, something to enjoy and revisit long after the year itself.

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