In 2001, Karaoke Superstars is released. I am twelve years old. Karaoke Superstars is Superchick’s debut album, probably my favorite, a CD that I played on repeat, that I have listened to more times than any other piece of music before or since. Karaoke Superstars’ most well-known song is likely “Barlow Girls,” about some counter-cultural sisters who decided not to date (or at least wanted to wait until they “grew up” to do so). While so much of my evangelical upbringing involved the purity culture, I did not feel like “Barlow Girls” adhered to the same ideology. While other Christian songs, artists, and books upheld that “waiting” (ie waiting to have any kind of sex until marriage) was the only right, good, and ultimately rewarding way to do sex, Superchick held up the Barlow girls as an option, not the de facto way to live. Superchick didn’t say, “This is the way WE live.” Rather, they said, “This is the way THESE THREE GIRLS live. It’s different, and it’s cool.” The first couple verses do indeed focus on the sisters in particular and the decisions they’ve made, to not date, to not flaunt their bodies, to not hook up. In the third and fourth verses, though, Superchick explores what it means to be a girl in general, the desire for love and the understanding that a woman can use her body to get what she wants. As they say, “You can get noticed with your body/ Sexual hypnosis by being hottie/ You might feel like public property/ You might you might you shouldn't be.” Superchick isn’t saying that to be a good, pure woman, you must not allow your body to be touched. Instead, they’re saying that no woman should feel pressured to have her body touched. No woman should feel like the only way to get attention is through showing skin. The final verse starts with this, “No girl should feel she has to trade/ Her body for love or be an old maid.”
Superchick experienced popularity (mild though it was, and mostly only in Christian circles) during the same era that Britney Spears ruled American pop culture. But while Britney was known for provocative dance moves and sexy schoolgirl outfits, Superchick was selling another idea, that you don’t have to do that to be loved. There are other ways to get attention. Your body doesn’t exist to get men off. Which isn’t to say that Britney was doing anything wrong, or that being sexy and doing pelvic thrusts is a demeaning way to use one’s body. But when you are twelve years old, in braces and pimply skin, wondering if you will ever get boobs, it’s nice to know that there are other options besides Britney. Because you have an inkling, even then, that a Britney body will never be attainable for you.
Additionally, Britney sings about love. Predominantly, Superchick sings about how life is hard but we’re gonna get through it. This also was more relevant to a girl who wouldn’t have a boyfriend for another four years. I certainly would have loved if Britney’s songs were relevant, but frankly, they weren’t. I was ugly and lonely and more likely to kill myself than to have anyone “hit me one more time.” I needed songs like “Not Done Yet” and “Get Up,” which was hopeful and beautiful and simple, “I’m not afraid to fall/ It means I climbed up high/ To fall is not to fail/ You fail when you don’t try.” The perseverance that Superchick inspires was an anthem I needed as a depressed pre-teen, but it’s one that I still need today.
Superchick is a Christian band in that their songs were clean, they were produced by a Christian label, and in interviews, they reported to be Christians, the kind who have “relationships with Jesus.” But they were never worship music. Their songs didn’t seem to exist to glorify God in any direct way. Most of their songs didn’t even mention God, and the ones that did were pretty tame in their theology. Most I can even stand behind today, like “Help Me Out God,” which asks, “Help me out, God/ I need a little something/ Turn the brights on/ I can’t see where we’re going cause I don’t know when/ Things’ll work out just fine.” This song doesn’t necessitate a belief in Jesus Christ as the Son of God, who saves you from your sins so you can have eternal life. This song asks a greater power for help; this song admits confusion and worry and a desire for more certainty. These were words I could say with earnestness even today, more so than “How great is our God” or “Blessed be your name.” That’s part of what I loved about Superchick, the inclusivity. Their lyrics didn’t demand that you believe a certain doctrine or even live your life in a certain way. They preached self-acceptance, perseverance, vulnerability.
In 2020, I am 31 years old, and though Superchick has not toured in seven years, I still listen to them on occasion, when I’m exercising or driving around with my sister, who knows the words as well as I do, who jumped around with me in mosh pits at Christian music festivals in our youth. Though the melodies comfort me with nostalgia, that is not all they do. Even as a grown woman, I am heartened by the proclamation of pressing on. The message of overcoming adversity is one I still need. In a few months, I will have a child, I will be a mother. I do not know what it means to be a Christian, or what exactly I will raise my children to believe. I know how I will raise them to act, however, and how I’ll raise them to see themselves. And it is my hope that they will connect with Superchick, as they sang in “Real”; “But I want to be real/ I want to find out who I am/ And I will find my way to heal/ And I will find my voice my stand.” I do not want to raise children who believe their bodies are presents to be unwrapped by their spouse on their wedding day; I want to raise children who yearn to be genuine, who want to change the world.