16 February 2008

"boy" || book of love || 1985

I love songs that deal with gender issues.

This Book Of Love tune was the group's first single, released one year before their amazing self-titled debut LP. They're known in the synthpop community for their signature sound that revolved around heavy drum machines, churchy-sounding bells, and a chick lead singer with a deep voice. As far as I can tell it was a decent hit in the clubs, which makes sense as socially relevant dance music was huge in this era.

The song's lyrics, sung by the unusually baritone Susan Ottaviano, explain that "It's not my fault, that I'm not a boy." They proclaim this fact several times before the end of the song. The lyrics express a desire, though, to be amassed with this group of "boys" in the "boys' bar," but evidently to no avail.

I've always had the same interpretation of this song's lyrics, but as I've discussed it with friends there appears to be a more popular opinion than mine, so I'll present both and leave the decision up to you:

Most people seem to think that the song is a simple ode to penis envy. The lady wants to hang with the boys, but she can't, and it's not her fault that she's a girl. Not exactly a step forward for women's lib, if you ask me.

For me, the opening lyrics say it all: "I want to be where the boys are, but I'm not allowed." The song was written by Ted Ottaviano, the only male in the group. This song seems to me like Ted's personal lament for feeling left out when surrounded by groups of manly men.

"It's not my fault, that I'm not a boy." But does "boy" mean "male" in this text? I don't think so at all. I think Ottaviano's definition of a "boy" is the kind of male who likes sports, enjoys jock talk, scratches his balls, and objectifies women with his friends when they're out in groups. Sure, this kind of male is annoying, but speaking as a guy who is most certainly not a "boy," it can make you feel left out sometimes in social situations to not be a "boy."

I understand where you're coming from, Ted. I'm not a "boy," and yes, on rare occasions it sucks, but in the end I still don't want to be one.

Listen to it here.