Two days after being posted to YouTube, singer-songwriter Catey Shaw’s “Brooklyn Girls” music video has started to go viral. Unfortunately for her, its virality so far seems limited to music critics who are hate-watching it in order to write mean things about it on Twitter.
The song itself is solidly crafted and deeply irritating, the kind that’ll get wedged on a loop in your head even though you don’t want it to. Its foundation is bouncy, anthemic synth-pop with some of the punky spark of Icona Pop’s “I Love It”–and like “I Love It,” it seems specifically designed to target groups of tipsy girls on dance floors. Shaw piles on indie folk signifiers like a highly affected, old-timey vocal inflection and an en masse “whoa whoa” backing vocal in the chorus. It’s an inspired combination in that both of those styles are very popular right now, and there’s definitely some overlap between their audiences. But for anyone who’s at all averse to indie folk, it’s like taking a serviceable but not particularly great sandwich and topping it with a blast of pepper spray to the eyes.
It’s not the music that’s driving the hate-fest online as much as the song’s lyrics and video, which manage to capture every bothersome quirk Brooklyn (or at least the more gentrified parts of it) has to offer. There’s a line about how “gritty” Brooklyn girls are, exemplified by the fact that they wear combat boots during the summer and ride the subway. There’s PBR and street art and bad skateboarding. There’s a guy with a beard and a septum piercing drinking a bottle of kombucha. (To the credit of Shaw and the director, there are also people of color, which is a small relief.)
Shaw herself is, predictably, a newcomer to the borough, having moved there from Virginia Beach. She’s also the type of recent emigre who will say something like, “The whole thing about a Brooklyn girl is that you don’t have to be from Brooklyn.” And she will say it with a ukulele sitting nearby and a bird sitting on her shoulder.
Noisey, who was unsurprisingly one of the first outlets on the story (no one calls out hipster Brooklyn like hipsters in Brooklyn), deemed Shaw “The Rebecca Black of Brooklyn Gentrification,” which is both a sick burn and a fairly accurate assessment of the arc of her popularity so far. But unlike “Friday,” it’s not hard to imagine “Brooklyn Girls” riding the momentum from all the snarky online commentary it’s generating and actually breaking with an audience, one that’s not made up of music critics or people who live in Brooklyn. (Although it’s almost guaranteed to be ironically played at a Bushwick DJ night by the weekend.) Shaw may represent everything that Brooklynites dislike about the idiosyncratic identity their city’s acquired over the past decade, but those are the exact things that people who don’t live in the city, but would like to, are attracted to. There are probably plenty of pop fans out there who live with mom and dad and dream about being a gritty Brooklyn resident who wears combat boots and plays the ukulele and dyes their tips—and “Brooklyn Girls” will probably become their anthem.
Shaw’s playing a record release party tomorrow night. It’s in Williamsburg, naturally.
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