There are two persistent, constant truths in life: everything is terrible when you’re young and death is inevitable. Existing is hard when you’re young and, likely, very stupid as you make the time to profoundly give a shit about every bad, vague, and horrifying thing occurring in your life. Inconvenient, yes, but, important.
Big Mouth is a disgusting, brilliant show that understands this and shows us how awful it was (and still is) to be young, specifically when going through puberty. You’re gross, you feel too much, everything sucks. The crass adult cartoon does a better job of explaining sex, puberty, and people than any one politician or parent could in the present time. That a Hormone Monster could be a better educator than a living breathing adult human really says something! (In the Hall of Fame of television greats, may Hormone Monsters Maury and Connie—as in Nick Kroll and Maya Rudolph—be present). This season, a song popped up from a decade ago that tremendously captured the ache of youth: Ida Maria’s hit “Oh My God.” At the end of this season’s second episode, titled “What Is It About Boobs?,” the emotionally destructive and rebellious Jessi positions herself against her mother, antagonistic and ready for a fight. She yells, screams, and generally just angsts herself through a turbulent, hormone-driven conversation with attitude. When it’s over, Maria’s “Oh My God” plays with no pause in the pacing and Jessi collapses on her bed with a heavy sigh.
It’s the ideal song for a teenage girl to flip the fuck out to. “Oh My God” revs up and doesn’t stop. It’s one anxious thought after another, relatable to anyone who has ever felt the distinct contours of a spiral. It’s honest about flailing and failing and not knowing what one should or could do. “You think I’m control? / Oh my god!” An internal, self-aware dialogue you’re not exactly privy to in the emotional throes of youth but one you’d be glad to have coursing through your earbuds in any case.
“Oh My God” is the single, and first track, off of Maria’s debut Fortress Round My Heart, a record that also captures and embodies the pains of growing up. Released in 2008, the Norwegian singer’s debut is a thrashing, emotionally charged rock record that is, as a Pitchfork review put it in 2008, full of existential anger. Maria’s voice and aesthetic has the imprints of rock ‘n’ roll greats all over it. Maria howls like Janis Joplin; gives us sexual authority à la Chrissie Hynde; and rasps like Courtney Love. Maria is barely contained on this album, like these aforementioned women, but she is singularly, uniquely, her own. Fortress Round My Heart bears some resemblance of past loud, brilliant women, but Maria’s own injection of existential angst, frustration, and vulnerability are what sets both her and the record apart, and why it is worth revisiting 10 years on.
Listening to Fortress Round My Heart is like re-living the spectrum of emotions of being young. A young teenager or a 20-something idiot, it’s all relatable. Being 20-years-old when the record was released, it was almost too perfect to relate to. The darkly raucous “I Like You So Much Better When You’re Naked,” urgent “Drive Away My Heart,” to the tender, devastating “Keep Me Warm.” Maria’s debut is a portrait of a well-worn heart whose extremes only exist in someone so young.
While the song “Oh My God” came out over 10 years ago, some of its sentiments feel plucked from today’s psyche. Anxiety doesn’t go away, feeling small and lost doesn’t either. If anything, those are both exacerbated in our current time. We have no control over anything and the world’s news gets gloomier, our personal turmoils are just as intense, and nothing really seems like it makes sense. While it’s done through the lens of pre-teens, Big Mouth does a good job of explicitly making those anxieties laughable but relatable. Nevertheless, the simple universal truth is this: you'll always need a song to lose it to when life feels unbearable.
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