Song of the Week: “Bad Girls” by Tennis

This track is off Tennis’s third studio album, Ritual in Repeat, which was just released in September of this year. What first caught my attention with this song is the sort of ’50s teen dream vibe. I feel the longing and the repressed urges in every note. There’s an earnest pulse in the six-twelve time signature—the kind that makes you hug yourself and sway. There’s a sweet, harmonic chorus that repeats the phrase “bad girls” in staccato behind a gut-wrenchingly sweet guitar line. Then above it all, the vocals stretch just past the point of comfort. They dip and waver, and finally they are released with a wistful breath. All of this creates a nostalgic yearning in the pit of my stomach. Makes me want to turn the song way up in my headphones, close my eyes, and escape inside myself.

The lyrics go perfectly with this feeling. The first line lets you know exactly what Alaina Moore, the vocalist, is singing about. “Even bad girls can do good things. Even bad girls have holy dreams.”

Girls get labeled “bad” for all sorts of things. Smoking cigarettes. Drinking too much. Using so-called offensive language. Wearing the wrong types of clothing. Sleeping with the wrong person. Or hell, with too many people in general. Having the gall to speak up and speak up aggressively. Breaking someone’s heart. Marrying for the wrong reasons. Falling out of love. Having bodily confidence. All sorts of things.

I love these lyrics because instead of refuting the label, Moore gives us a different way of thinking about “bad girls.” It’s almost as if she’s saying, “You see these behaviors, which you deem bad, but behind them is a person with feelings, a person with shame and hope and longing all jumbled up together. Bad girls try to make sense of the world and the role they’ve been given, just like everybody else.” So maybe their redemption doesn’t come from a change in their behaviors. Maybe their redemption comes from a change in everyone else’s perception of them. It’s a melancholy but heartfelt defense that I think most of us can relate to in one way or another.

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