Sleater-Kinney "Modern Girl" SOTD Header

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney

There is a method to this week’s Song Of The Day’s song selections. A strategy I didn’t plan, but that seems to be working in a way I’m enjoying. On May 1, we started with Mazzy Star’s “Halah”, which while I was listening to it/writing about it I clicked on the “start a radio station”, using “Halah”. First song (after “Halah”) was “Malibu” by Hole, which was Sunday’s Song Of The Day. I decided to do it again, and requested a radio station launching from “Malibu”, which gave me yesterday’s “Fuck and Run” by Liz Phair.

I’m having so much luck (and fun) with this, that I decided to continue the music-madness-method for the week – so today’s Song Of The Day came from yesterday’s song turned in to a radio station – “Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney.

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney
Song Of The Day – May 4, 2021

“Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney – from the album, The Woods (2005)

“My baby loves me,
I’m so happy.
Happy makes me a modern girl.
Took my money,
and bought a TV.
TV brings me closer to the world.”

At first listen, everything about this song feels happy. Second line of the lyrics even declares it – “I’m so happy.” Dig deeper though, into the lyrics, into the layers of the song, and it is actually wistful, and heartbreaking. This afternoon, I read an essay on how the song could work as an elegy, and how it is a parable to life in your twenties. (source: Noisey by Vice)

For me, that opening line reminds me of my first apartment, shared with my boyfriend at the time. We didn’t have a TV, not for awhile. I actually think we were happy without it – not that we felt that at the time. We were so excited when we brought home a thrift shop TV – with the bunny-ear antenna. The reception was fuzzy, and mostly we watched reruns of 70’s sitcoms and this documentary (not sure what else to call it, though “documentary” makes it sound too legit) speculating that Elvis was still alive.

At first, that TV connected us. We’d laugh at the old shows we remembered from childhood, and at Elvis’ supposed sighting at a donut shop, and how supposedly his middle name is spelled wrong on his headstone which apparently means “not dead.” Eventually though, it became a distraction to our relationship, and an excuse to not talk about some big issues that were happening.

The next apartment we had, shared with our baby daughter, had a TV and cable. A VCR, too. We never had to talk at all. I’m not saying it was the TV, but perhaps it was the TV-modeling we saw growing up. Latch key kids disassociating with the screen, leaning in on that coping skill because really, what did we know about being grown-up, in a relationship, as a family, at twenty-three?

“My baby loves me.
I’m so hungry.
Hunger makes me a modern girl.
I took my money,
and bought a donut –
the hole’s the size of this entire world.”

Near that first apartment was a drive-thru donut shop. Open 24-hours. You could buy cigarettes there, too. Sometimes I’d offer to go for us, two old fashions, two packs of smokes – Marlboro Lights and Camels. It gave me something to do.

My paychecks became the only paychecks. He spent money on weed and art supplies. I spent money on cheap food and rent, utilities. I forgot about things like toilet paper and scouring powder, toothpaste, an a broom when I put together my “I can afford to live on my own budget.” I didn’t factor paying all of it for both of us. There was never a manual for this.

“My baby loves me.
I’m so angry.
Anger makes me a modern girl.
Took my money,
I couldn’t buy nothin’ –
I’m sick of this brave new world.”

To hear more Sleater-Kinney, and to support their music, go here.


Feel free to follow along in playlist form, for all the Song of the Day’s in May, on Spotify and YouTube.

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