I’ve been lapping up songs about pretty girls my whole life, churning my personality into some amalgamation of fictional women.
Working to be someone else for so long has done little to no good for my psyche, and at 23, I usually feel tediously constructed. Through the phases of my life, I’ve fabricated a series of selves. I’ve been hauling my personality through a spin cycle of quirks and vices for too long, and every facet of me’s been created, analyzed, scrapped, and rehashed. Ad infinitum. (Ad nauseam.)
Scrolling through my music collection, and mentally noting each song that mentions a woman, I began to notice trends in the way men describe women, and specifically women’s makeup.
Most of the time when a woman’s makeup is mentioned, it’s just to say that this man wishes she wouldn’t wear it. (Read: Every John Mayer song, probably.) The sadder the girl is, the darker her eye makeup. And for some reason, most men don’t seem to know eyeshadow exists in shades of non-blue. Red lipstick indicates to us a woman’s sexual abandon. Makeup is either tactlessly caked on, or nowhere to be found, and it’s always a way to judge a woman’s character or mood.
(I’d like to go on record stating Bruce Springsteen is the exception to this rule and also he is everything. Back to business.)
So what exactly do these muses look like? Let’s try and recreate some of their looks, based solely on the information provided to us via the men of my iTunes. And my feverish imagination. Let’s work in order of my fractured psyche’s progress.
Look #1: “Lua” by Bright Eyes, or Middle School
In this song, voice of a generation Conor Oberst croons about a few of his favorite things: club drugs and sad girls, aka the perfect recipe for my pitifully affected 13-year-old emo kid cocktail of a personality.
I would never blame songs, movies or video games for any of my poor decisions (that’s what my parents are for!), but Bright Eyes totally made drugs seem really cool, right? I was really dumb back then. This song is messed up and its total romantic-ization of drug use and depression is a bit less than artful, but I was a tween in the suburbs desperate for an identity.
Anyway, here’s what we get as far as beauty advice in this song.
- This chick is skinny. “Like a model.” Fun fact: I was a model! But only because I was 5 foot 8 by age 11 and hated sports and my mom wasn’t gonna let that height “go to waste” because that’s how life works. I’m a commodity, sup.
- She is cold. This is maybe because drugs or skinny. Or winter.
- She has a heavy heart. Some dudes try to lift it but they throw their backs out. Emo dudes are weak as hell, and I’m into that.
- Her eyes are painted black. By this point in my life, I am aware dark eye makeup is for cools.
So to start this look, I wanted a paler canvas than usual so I grabbed some CoverGirl Clean Whipped Crème in a shade lighter than my actual skin and smeared it all over my sad, sad face.
I wanted to emphasize my cheekbones so as to look more model-y, so I lined my cheeks with Maybelline’s Dream Lumi Touch and the white highlighter from NYC’s Individual Eyes Palette in Smoky Charcoals.
To “paint my eyes black,” I used Maybelline Color Tattoo in “Black Mystery” all over my lids. I then used the charcoal shade in NYC’s palette all the way up to brows. I used my fingers to smudge everything up a bit. Then I took e.l.f.’s Cream Eyeliner in black and painted it thick across my lids, in more of a “crescent” shape than a line really.
I took some of the cream eyeliner on my finger and rubbed it lightly on my lips, so I looked like a zombie, and then layered the #11 shade from Kate Moss’s Rimmel Lasting Finish lipstick line on top of that for a dark, brooding look.
Finally, I used some HAIR CHALK to paint some streaks in my hair, both to break up the black monotony and to remind you how cool I am.
Look #2: “Where Do You Go to My Lovely” by Peter Sarstedt, aka High School
When I was 17, The Darjeeling Limited came out, along with the corresponding short film, “Hotel Chevalier.” Like any self-proclaimed artsy teen, I adored Wes Anderson. The obsession seems fitting considering the sense of stunted adolescence the director and I share.
“Hotel Chevalier” features a gorgeous and mysterious Natalie Portman, as well as the 1969 ballad-ish song, “Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)?” by the mustached and starry-eyed Peter Sarstedt.
In the song, a man warbles on about this woman (who is lovely) he knows from their impoverished childhood on the backstreets of Naples (EUROPE! COOL!) and criticizes her current jetsetting, posh lifestyle. She wears Balmain, listens to the Rolling Stones, and the Aga Khan gave her a racehorse. Just for fun! I had braces for seven years.
My parents sent me to an all-girls Catholic school, where I rubbed my zitty shoulders against rich chicks’ Coach bags and Burberry peacoats and fostered my inferiority complex. This song’s effortless luxury, and sweeping string sections, captured in me a sense of envy and strife.
So for this look, I wanted to look expensive and European and not like the seedy floor of the thrift store changing room I was born in. JK, I was born at a hospital. But not a cool one, ok. JK again! Frank O’Hara was also born there. Different years, though.
I coated my face in Laura Mercier’s Radiance Primer like it was sunscreen or something.
I then used a blender brush to apply a healthy amount of Yves Saint Laurent Le Teint Touche Éclat Luminating Foundation.
Then I applied Tarte’s Cheek Stain in “Natural Beauty” because I am one of those. I basically just blot it on my face like a (sexy) clown, and then proceed onward with blending.
Then I used a couple of shades from Tarte’s NeutralEYES eyeshadow palette volume II to create a relaxed brown smoky-ish eye. The colors are soft and shimmery. I used the light brown, taupe color on my lids and the darker brown in my crease. I have sort of deep set eyes and large eyelids (relatively), so when I say “crease” I typically mean the top 1/3 of my eyelid as well.
I pushed a small amount of Urban Decay’s 24/7 Glide On Eye Pencil in “Bourbon” into my lashline and applied Rimmel’s Lash Accelerator generously. This mascara claims to boost eyelash growth, so I’ll let you all know how it goes for me. Years of compulsive picking at my eyelashes and passing out in mascara means I need all the help I can get.
For my lips, I wanted to look glossy, kissable, and like I’d been drinking red wine all day like a freaking lush. I filled my lips with a light layer of L’Oreal’s Colour Riche Aqua Laquer in Endless Red. It really is a beautiful, glossy stain with magic staying powers. Over that, I smudged some Rimmel Lasting Finish in shade #10 into the insides of my lips, for a look that’s a little bit ombre, a little bit I-just-ate-a-plum-let’s-make-out!
Now, I don’t have “diamonds” or “pearls” to wear in my hair, but I threw on this headband and pulled the hair in front of it back into some bobby pins. Then I poured myself a glass of wine, threw on a sequin blazer (totally Balmain yea), grabbed my Rolling Stones record and hopped a jet to Morocco.
Look 3: “Bluish” by Animal Collective, or College
OK, this song is actually quite sad, but so was I for 75% of college. Not because of divorce or anything. Mostly because of a dumb chemical imbalance in my brain and getting bullied and failing trig thrice.
In this song, the singer repeatedly mentions getting lost in this girl’s curls, and also her blue eyeshadow. Well, her bluish eyeshadow. So I decided to create a bluish look, but it was about 4am and I actually went totally insane which happens sometimes.
I covered my face with a thin layer of Marcelle’s CC Cream, which is infused with GOLD, y’all. It goes on smooth and sheer, while still providing lovely coverage and hiding redness or blemishes. I have 2 mosquito bites on my face right now. Living the dream.
And then I blue myself.
Smashbox’s eyeshadow trio in "Electro" comes with a beautiful bright cerulean blue, a darker cobalt and a shocking lime green. I started with the lighter blue on my lids, and then worked the cobalt into the crease and blended the two. Ocean vibes.
Then I took Maybelline’s Master Drama Cream Pencil in “Sapphire Strength” and drew a line from the inside of my upper lid all the way out into a very dramatic cat eye. I wanted it to look almost like a super hero’s mask. Then I took Maybelline’s Color Tattoo in “Never Fade Jade” (also the name of my new YA novel) and filled in the space between my lid and the end of the line I drew. I wasn’t worried about perfect, clean lines because I have other stuff to think about. Also, blending was imminent.
OK, so that’s pretty crazy. I’m already in “can’t-hang-out-with-bf’s-mom-right-now” territory. But something about listening to Animal Collective or thinking about college made me feel like I should just really go wild. I wanted to look bluish like the song, but I also wanted to look like someone who might attend an Animal Collective show.
So I grabbed some OCC Lip Tar in, you guessed it, blue.
It’s fun to exaggerate the descriptions of women in songs to illustrate the silly ways men sometimes describe women and their makeup. I don’t think men shouldn’t sing about women. I still love all these songs. But, I’d like to hear just one song where a man recognizes a woman is wearing makeup because she wants to, and she likes it, and it might not reflect her mood at all. Is that a song?
Men would do well to listen to the way women sing about their makeup. It’s all empowerment, I’m going out, I’m getting a man, I’m getting over a man, I don’t care about men, I freaking love lipstick, OK? Do your musician dude friends a favor and buy them a Nikki Minaj album.
Would you try any of these looks? Have you ever tried to be the kind of woman men write songs about? What’s your favorite song? Does anybody wanna sing karaoke with me? It’s all happening!