Barely Legal

Album: Is This It (2001)
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Songfacts®:

  • This angry, snarling track finds Strokes frontman Julian Casablancas getting friendly with a naïve girl who's just reached the legal age to engage in sex. Although the song is popular among fans, the novelty has worn off for Casablancas. He explained in a 2018 interview with The Creative Independent: "The things that I like are not the fan favorites, really. 'Barely Legal' kind of makes me cringe a little bit. I get it. It's sassy and youthful and I don't judge it or think about it, but these days I make what I feel like I want to hear. I make things that don't register as high on my own personal cringe meter, but what that means to other people I can't say. I can only gauge it by the way it makes me feel or according to my own personal standards."
  • Casablancas opens the track with, "I didn't take no shortcuts, I spent the money that I saved up." The lyrics possibly reflect the band's frustration of not being taken seriously because of their privileged background. Casablancas, whose father founded Elite Modeling Agency, met bandmate Albert Hammond Jr., the son of songwriter Albert Hammond, at a private boarding school in Switzerland. Early critics conceded The Strokes sounded good, but they weren't interested in what the "scions of wealth" had to say about social and political issues. "New York City Cops," their anthem against police brutality, was dismissed by Pop Matters, which asked, "What's a rich kid doing complaining about New York City cops? Retitle the song 'New York City Art Brats' and I'll buy.'"

    When asked if The Strokes were just rich kids slumming it, Casablancas told The Face in 2001: "It's not like we're posh kids who drove fancy cars or anything. You've got to have money to live in Manhattan, but we all still hung out on the street and drank 40s."
  • This first appeared on the band's 2001 EP The Modern Age.
  • In 2013, Azealia Banks released a dance cover produced by Lindbergh Palace.
  • Indie-rock band Real Estate recorded this for the 2011 tribute album Stereogum Presents… Stroked: A Tribute To Is This It. Martin Courtney, the band's frontman, explained Real Estate's history with The Strokes: "Matt [Kallman], Alex [Bleeker] and I - as well as all of our friends - were pretty much obsessed with this band when we were 15. We formed a Strokes cover band and played at Cassie (Ramone)'s sweet 16. When Alex got his first electric guitar, he opted for the white Stratocaster like Albert Hammond Jr. He even had the red lightning bolt strap. The approach to doing this cover was to not make it sound like the original, pretty simple. However, these songs are all arranged so well already that it's pretty hard to come up with something new. We did a half-time drum beat thing, and then the rest of it just kind of fell into place."

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