Juliana Hatfield: There’s Always Another Girl
The timing of the music industry’s collapse just didn’t match with Hatfield’s evolution as a singer and songwriter. While Hatfield created melodically complex and cutely quirky pop gems in the nineties, garnering her impressive album advances from big label records and a devoted fan base, her music revealed little about the singer’s own demons. As the limelight slipped away, this began to change, most noticeably on 2009’s How to Walk Away featuring more complex, honest lyrics that conveyed some of the artist’s personal struggles. Hatfield also released at the same time a tell-all memoir, illuminating the trials and tribulations of a musician on the road. Unfortunately, the music industry is not what it was in the nineties and There’s Always Another Girl was funded entirely though a Pledge Music campaign in which fans pledged money for the album to be produced.
The change in tone in Hatfield’s lyrics can also be reflected in her voice, which still retains its little girl sweetness, now has an edge of grit, making her sound a bit more menacing. (Hatfield once took up chain smoking simply to make her voice less high, but apparently all it took was the passage of time.) In “Candy Wrappers” Hatfield compares the immediate relief of meaningless sex to that of eating candy, singing: “In the arms of another you always have trouble sleeping/ Never feels like heaven, never seems like a sweet thing/ And the night is long, you want to jump into the heart of the song/ Candy wrappers all over the hotel room floor.” (Candy wrappers seem perhaps to reference condom wrappers?). Aurally speaking, the album is most pleasing on the more tightly executed “Batteries,” which seems to ruminate on the fact that all our means of communicating and experiencing are tied to electronics. At one point the song’s protagonist loses out on love simply because their cell phone batteries died. “The batteries are dead/completely dead,” sings the refrain alongside some electric buzzes.
On the album’s title track Hatfield explores the sexism in the entertainment industries lamenting on the disposability of women who are treated badly because there is always another girl to come along and replace them. She sings, “Boy geniuses can be ugly and fat/but they don’t cut their girls any slack/girls are advised not to think about their future or past/it matters not where they came from or if they endure.” “Sex and Drugs” is also a catchy refrain, heavy number, replete with evocative guitar riffs and a chorus primarily consisting of the title.
There’s Always Another Girl doesn’t pack the same emotional punch that How to Walk Away did but it’s a gem nonetheless, showing Hatfield excavating the darker parts of herself that she kept hidden for so long. It’s a shame that the record industry and media aren’t embracing this compelling, gifted artist.