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

Ignored            Obscured             Restored

Joe Jackson entered the music scene with the release of Look Sharp!, in 1979. He and fellow Brits Elvis Costello and Graham Parker were lumped together as punk rockers (or maybe new wavers) by the music press.  But all three were more aligned with the pub rock scene (as was Nick Lowe and Rockpile).

Look Sharp! contained the evergreen “Is She Really Going Out with Him?” along with several other songs that were popular on college radio.  Seven months later, still in 1979, Jackson released his second album – I’m the Man.  That disc has one of my favorite Jackson cuts – the beautiful “It’s Different for Girls.”

“It’s Different for Girls” was much more popular in the UK than the US.  It reached #5 in the UK but couldn’t break into the Top 100 here in the US.  I don’t get it.

The verse has a beautiful melody that floats over a simple two-note guitar pattern.  The lyrics are a gender bending take on which of the sexes is more permissive.  Stereotypically the girl (not woman in this song) is “holding out” and the guy is ready to jump into bed at the go.  But not in this one.

What the hell is wrong with you tonight
I can’t seem to say or do the right thing
Wanted to be sure you’re feeling right
Wanted to be sure we want the same thing

She said,
I can’t believe it
You can’t
Possibly mean it
Don’t we,
All want the same thing
Don’t we,
Well who said anything about love

So then, what is “different for girls?”  I think Jackson is twisting the typical male attitude that boys are different because they aren’t emotionally tied to sex.  But it’s the girl in this lyric who says “Who said anything about love?”

Jackson went on to record and release a few, more sophisticated, jazz influenced pop albums that yielded hits such as “Steppin’ Out”, Breaking Us in Two”, and “You Can’t Get What You Want (Til You Know What You Want).”

But by the late ‘90s Jackson had turned away from pop and began to focus more on classical music.  He still performs and released an album, Fool, as recently as 2019.

Enjoy… until next week.