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  • Writer's pictureRachel Sellick

Behind the Lyrics: Tamara Stewart - Mean Girl

In this new series of ‘Behind the lyrics’ I’ll be taking a closer look at what makes certain songs have the ability to take us deeper than just enjoying the bop! I’ll be looking at top 10 hit country artists, but also other artists where I feel the lyrics are something special, or doing something unique and generally making me say “I wish I’d written that!”.



I’m continuing the theme this month of an artist who began singing and writing at an early age. According to her Grandmother she was singing since she was 2 years old, and at the age of 10 she was writing her own music. Not surprising then that she already has 5 acclaimed albums behind her and a new one set to launch in 2023.


She was less well known in the UK until her song Haunted House got the attention of a wider audience. She is originally from Australia, and now lives as an ‘adopted American’.


Tamara Stewart excels at storytelling through vulnerability, and after listening to some of her back catalogue it would have been easy to pick any number of her songs to explore some very cool songwriting. She references Mary Chapin Carpenter as a big influence, I can feel that, but she has certainly made her own up to date version.


I’m digging into her latest song, just released ‘Mean Girl’. Already in the title she is playing with the double meaning, this is not where you think this story is going. Tamara has the ability to be both conversational and poetic as Verse 1 opens up like she’s right there in the room with her long lost friend. Clearly a close bond that was broken as unfortunately so often can happen when one person jumps totally into a relationship, and all the friends wonder where they went!


After some superb alliteration and rhyming with:


Laughing on the ledge at the edge..” which is repeated again in verse 2 with “..sense of a senseless.. shameblame


The two words of “champagne frames” jump out of the lyric as a super observational and succinct critique of social media where we share only the best moments of our lives. But there is trouble brewing, because she’s with a guy this friend warned her about, and fortunately this friend sees right through things in a second. We all need a person like that in our lives.


I love how she uses the word “Girl” almost like punctuation at the beginning of each section.


The Pre-Chorus is now straight talking, gone is the poetry of images, but it's replaced by lovely word play of opposites (a favourite method of mine):


And tell me thats its nothing

I can tell that it aint nothing


No punches pulled here. It’s all getting us ready for a kick-ass chorus.


In the Chorus the word “girl” is now at the end of the lines and it’s emphasised each time with a subtle pause before it each time. As I read it, the chorus is speaking of abuse, but it’s delicately described. You hear the excuses offered that maybe it is all her fault. Then the killer line delivered with vocals rocket fuelled by pure emotion:


Only a coward will gaslight a woman, strike a match just to watch her scream


Goosebumps, shivers, you name it. That line is OMG, someone needs to nominate her for an Ivor right now!


Verse 2 returns to the poetry and alliteration again, but the lines remain full of wisdom;


You don’t have to tell me [the details], just tell me what you needing


The lyrics remain so tough and to the point but contain all this broken beauty. It’s so poignant and perfect for the topic.


Pre-Chorus 2 delivers the escape plan, in that The truth is gonna set you free”.


After the second chorus there is a slight break, and I feel we need it. It’s been a roller coaster of emotion. But we are soon right back into a single line reprise of the pre-chorus before hearing the chorus like an anthem now.


The song ends with the simple affirmations “You ain’t crazy” and musically it ends on a slightly unresolved chord. There is unfinished business here.


How do I follow this song for next month? I’m not sure!


Hugh Webber


Bio

Hugh has over 20 years experience as a songwriter and creative collaborator. Personally mentored by Kinks frontman Ray Davies, and a year at the London Songwriting Academy. Find out more here.



——


Girl, it's good to see

It sure has been a minute

I got some young gun memories with us all us up in them

Laughing on the ledge at the edge of the world

We were sure were brave and crazy


Girl, since you fell in love I ain't’ hardly seen ya

Except for some some champagne frames up on social media

Smiling with that boy that I warned you ‘bout

There’s something ain’t right looking at ya, now___


Pre

So don’t you lie to me

And tell me thats its nothing

I can tell that it aint nothing

And can’t you see

I ain’t buying what you telling me


Chorus

So what do you mean, girl

Staring in the mirror

At the proof he couldn’t face himself

You bargain and scheme, girl

Convincing yourself if you didn’t then he wouldn't raise hell

Only a coward will gaslight a woman, strike a match just to watch her scream

You ain’t crazy, baby

He’s just mean, girl


Verse2

You don’t have to tell me

Just tell me what you needing

I can’t just stand by denying while your heart is bleeding

Trying to make sense of a senseless thing

The shame and the blame all belong to, him__


Don’t tell me that he's sorry, cos sorry’s ain’t enough

His lies don’t disguise what he’s calling love

He‘s breaking your spirit like a songbirds wings

Remember you can fly, remember you can, sing___


Pre2

So don’t you lie to me

And tell me thats its nothing

I can tell that it aint nothing

And can’t you see

The truth is gonna set you free



Ending of chorus2:


He’s just mean____


Break


Pre

So don’t you lie to me, no


Chorus


You ain’t crazy, baby

You ain’t crazy, baby

He’s just mean, girl


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