Intergeneration Love Jams
In my first year of college, I joined a friend, Aimee Doll, in celebrating her nineteenth birthday. Given that her new maturity entitled her to little more than the right to drink in some parts of Canada, Aimee greeted this milestone with an enthusiasm that puzzled me. When queried, Aimee said nothing, but played Steely Dan’s “Hey Nineteen” over and over, joining in on the parts of the refrain that promised Cuervo Gold and fine Colombian. She double-checked that I knew they meant cocaine. I knew.*
As a summering adult with a semi-purloined Sirius XM subscription, I’ve spent the last few weeks listening to the Yacht Rock station, which plays “Hey Nineteen” with almost as much regularity as “Summer Breeze.”** I have come to hate “Hey Nineteen.”
First, some context. “Hey Nineteen” belongs in the mini-genre of Intergeneration Love Jams (ILJ), typified by Winger’s 1988 ode to underage amour, “Seventeen” (“Daddy says she’s too young / but she’s old enough for me”). Predating and postdating Winger’s hit is the ne plus grosstra of ILJ, Benny Mardones’ “If I Could Fly,” which charted in 1980 and again in 1989, perhaps because of its timeless message, that those who might keep Benny from romancing a sixteen year-old girl are “Fools who don’t know what love is.” I hope not.
I will not argue that “Hey Nineteen” is as bad as “If I could Fly,” because nothing is as bad “If I Could Fly.” Still, I struggle with “Hey Nineteen.” If Walter (rest in power) and Donald are so bummed that their companion is unfamiliar with Aretha Franklin, why can’t they just date someone their own age? And this nineteen year-old, though she is never described except by her ignorance, I still think that she can do better. Behold, Steely Dan in their prime:
It isn't until Maroon 5's "Moves Like Jagger," over thirty years later, that someone actually presents the other side of the ILJ in a way that shows that they have learned from "Hey Nineteen."
In "Moves Like Jagger," Adam Levine attempts to seduce an older woman. First he makes himself vulnerable, requesting, child-like that she, "take me away / Make it okay / I swear I'll behave."
In order to seal the deal (it's clear at the beginning of the song that they haven't yet gotten physical), Levine assures his partner that he understands her generational touchstones by telling her about his "moves like Jagger." It's an inspired response to Steely Dan, because it anticipates the ambivalence of "Hey Nineteen" and addresses it before the "older woman" (in fact, Christina Aguilera, who is a year younger than Levine) can complain that they lack common cultural references, and can thus allow him to "own me just for the night." I also love that this song is definitely about Levine trying to seduce someone around the same age as Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, because, seriously, no one Christina's age is looking for a man to remind her of a Rolling Stone.
So yes, "Moves Like Jagger" is better than "Hey Nineteen," and obviously "If I Could Fly" is the worst. But please shout out any truly delicious or dreadful ILJ in the comments, I want to start a collection.
*According to Genius, “Fine Colombian” refers to pot, because in the seventies cocaine came from Peru. The more you know!
**It’s channel 70, and if you try it and it’s not playing right now, just wait, it’s less than four songs away. Smooth sailing, my friends.