In Defense Of Catey Shaw’s “Brooklyn Girls”

It was probably during my seventh watching of "Brooklyn Girls," the captivating, cloying, post-Lana Del Rey meme of a song by Catey Shaw that has taken the Internet by (relative) storm this week, that I realized it. The party scene, with that fence, that kitschy strings of Christmas lights, that ornate, iron door—it all looks exactly like the backyard of Luckydog, a bar that I pretty much lived at during the summer of 2012. Hell, I'm 95.7% sure it is Luckydog.

Whether or not they shot the most controversial music video ever about white girls in Brooklyn in the backyard of a bar I used to hang out at is immaterial, honestly. It's almost better if it wasn't shot there and I just thought it was. It illustrates the video's point better, that everything in it is kinda-sorta applicable to something in the lives of pretty much everyone who has lived in Brooklyn over the course of the past five years.

The thing about "Brooklyn Girls," and pretty much all pop songs of its ilk, is that it's actually really fucking good. It's catchy, and it sounds like the producer decided to use two-thirds of all known musical instruments when composing the music for it, which is always fun to listen to. If the lyrics were in Simlish, we wouldn't even be having this conversation right now. People are upset with "Brooklyn Girls" because Catey Shaw is Deschanellianly singing about waiting for the L Train and listening to Jay Z in headphones and other thinkpiece-baiting nonsense, while a Disneyfied version of the Brooklyn Experience™ flashes before us. Skaters skate. Stylish people waste their parents money loitering on stoops. Dudes with septum piercings who are probably weed delivery dudes drink Kombucha. These are things we have done a million times, something I will do as soon as I finish writing this. Shaw has taken these normal things we do every day and romanticized them, blown them up to appeal to as many humans as possible. People are mad because Catey Shaw has held a mirror up to Brooklyn and we've finally realized how ridiculous we look.

It's a song that invokes the principle of the uncanny valley, where the closer you get to the genuine article the more unnerving it becomes.

What upsets people about "Brooklyn Girls" is not the affected Nets cap resting just so atop Shaw's head, the Instagram-filtered whimsy or the overdone synth-farts. No, it's the knowledge that this person is making us—the Brooklyn Hipsterati, the uncomfortably white appropriators, the chosen ones from our hometowns who made it out of Nowheresville, USA—look like complete fucking idiots. This must be how rednecks feel when they watch some random Toby Keith video about trucks, or how dudes who actually sell drugs feel when they listen to Rick Ross, assuming, of course, that both the aforementioned demographics possess any modicum of self-awareness.

Catey Shaw wrote a song that could hypothetically apply to as many people living in the "cool" parts of Brooklyn as possible, which meant that she got approximately zero percent of it right. For those who cannot divorce their own lived experience from pop songs, this must be maddening. It's a song that invokes the principle of the uncanny valley, where the closer you get to the genuine article the more unnerving it becomes. Yes, this is gentrification in music video form, but the people who are getting mad about this are the ones doing the actual gentrifying, but I suppose the irony was lost amidst the scramble for the moral high ground. (For the record, Noisey, the site where I hold down my day job, ran a takedown of "Brooklyn Girls" that was written by a third-generation Brooklyn resident, so eh.)

Of course, all of this only matters if you actually give a shit about whether people are going to think "Brooklyn Girls" represents you. If you're getting truly upset over a pop song, then maybe there's a nugget of truth in what you see, and you don't like it. But you shouldn't be because this shit slaps. End of story.

Drew Millard wrote this while gone off human blood. You can read more of his work on Noisey and follow him on Twitter here.

  • bluntashes

    Blah.

  • HAHNNN!

    DREW, you’re not even from New York.

  • Ringi

    Hi! Friend of a friend of Catey here. Thanks for the fair article. I felt the same way when I saw her finished product. Gentrification is a problem, which the music video does not address. My opinion is though, that this is her lived experience. Should she have the right to call herself a Brooklyn girl? Maybe not. But everything the video portrays is really her.

    The backyard scene is her OWN apartment’s backyard, for the record. She is a super talented girl who was struggling to make ends meet and was playing music in the subway when she was discovered. Living somewhere like manhattan is simply not an option, as it is not for many non-native New Yorkers who are struggling artists. What does she do? Move to bushwick, where she finds a community that she loves and writes a song about it.