Song of the Week: It’s Different for Girls, Joe Jackson

Click Here to Listen to “It’s Different for Girls,” by Joe Jackson

Right before I moved away from my hometown, I switched barbers. This is not something a man does lightly, and I do not think it is possible to do it gracefully, either. I essentially dumped my reliable, traditional barber for a cooler, more expensive one. I felt bad about this.

But if I hadn’t done it, I never would have heard this song. Because, you see, this new barber, in addition to having a very esthetically pleasing barbershop and a fridge full of beer (I always declined—nothing worse than hair in your beer), sent you home with a mix CD. “It’s Different for Girls” was on the first CD the barber gave me, and I’ve loved the song since.

You know Joe Jackson’s stuff, even if you didn’t know it was him—he was the man behind the omnipresent “Is She Really Going Out With Him?” He occupies a musical space somewhere between the snotty angst of The Clash and the sharp New Wave sounds of Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Sonically, it’s in the same family with the treble-heavy but warm production on the first Dire Straits album as well.

I like this song for how herky-jerky it is. The rhythmic shift between the verses and the chorus is refreshing each time it occurs, capitalizing on the space in between beats to surprise listeners. And for a song that doesn’t sound particularly complex, the chords fit together very cleverly. Musically, Jackson is a clear-headed and thoughtful songwriter. Lyrically, he’s at least thinking outside of the box, attempting to make a statement about gender roles by flipping pronouns throughout his song’s plot (the girl is the one just looking for sex; the boy, romance). But he never really capitalizes on his lyrics’ potential—you get the point after the first chorus.

That’s nowhere near enough to ruin the song for me, though. Spitting out the first lines of the chorus when you’re along to in the car is far too satisfying, and the whole song is too redolent with late-70’s Britishness to resist. And on top of that, I got a story and a haircut to go along with it.