C is for Courtney Barnett

“Men are afraid that women will laugh at them, women are afraid men will kill them.”

This single lyric quite aptly describes the satirically sincere musicality of 33-year-old Courtney Barnett. The Australian singer/songwriter’s deadpan singing style and candid lyrics give her music an honest and witty atmosphere. Through her emotionally charged lyrics and conversational singing style, Barnett allows us to address difficult topics in an utterly casual way. 

The sing-talk style of music that Barnett creates is comparable to the sound of artists like Kevin Morby and Bob Dylan; the latter being a major influence in the development of her unique sound. The tottering melodies of The Lemonheads, the lucid storytelling of Leonard Cohen, and the passion of Patti Smith’s emotional vulnerability all acted as a foundation in the creation of Barnett’s personal musical style.

Courtney Barnett’s music has evolved from her early career of garage punk and early 2000’s grunge to her current pop-folk/indie rock sound. Her critically adored 2015 album Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes Just Sit is an assortment of seemingly meaningless lyrics assembled and composed in a beguiling way. Barnett’s perspective of the mundane aspects of life creates a shared experience and acts as a quiet anthem for the everyday person. Songs such as "Nobody Really Cares if you Don't Go to the Party" delves into the shared state of ambivalence that often occurs in trivial situations. This is exemplified through the lyric,

“I'd rather stay in bed with the rain over my head Than have to pick my brain up off of the floor”

Forthright lyrics such as this allow us to feel a sense of commonality with Barnett. The sympathetic indifference portrayed in her early work allowed for the development of her current, more mature style.

Barnett’s recent work has shifted from her jam-packed meandering songs to more of an introspection. The singer’s 2018 album Tell Me How You Really Feel addresses inner turmoil such as anxiety, depression, and, most notably, the fear of death by the patriarchy. Her patient voice has developed to show the range of her vocal ability. While the strength of her defiance is apparent, Barnett conveys it with consistent kindness and compassion that shows the vulnerability of her character. 

The evolution of Courtney Barnett’s casually subtle meanings to her confrontational expressions allows us a silent type of strength. The quiet power that is granted through the feminist icon’s music gives us the courage to authentically voice our truths.


Give It a Listen:

"Avant Gardener" (The Double EP: A Sea of Split Peas) "Nobody Really Cares if you Don't go to the Party" (Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit)

Author's Choice:

"Elevator Operator" (Sometimes I Sit and Think, Sometimes I Just Sit)

C is Also For:

Courtney Love – "Miss Narcissist"  Cardi B – "I Like It" Clairo – "Sofia" The Cranberries – "Linger" Cher – "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves" Carole King – "It's Too Late"  Chloe Moriondo – "Silly Girl"  Cat Power – "The Greatest"

Want More?

Listen to the Author's curated Spotify playlist, C is for Courtney Barnett.