“I’m just a fucking teenager,” hisses George Alice with an acidic tongue. Her new song “Teenager,” co-written with Maribelle Anes, oozes a lyrical venom that seems to capture collective uncertainty, angst, and inner turmoil currently experienced by her generation. Written more than a year ago, the thorny pop track feels even more “timeless” than originally anticipated.
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“Everywhere from the production to the lyrics, they all hold something really magical,” Alice tells American Songwriter over email. A year out of high school, she most certainly can still relate to the song’s themes as she makes that awkward transition into adulthood.
“I need some guidance / But all your giving me are terrible solutions,” she aches on the second verse. “Even more confusion / Like I’m barely human / Treat me like I’m human.”
Such raw honesty, wrapped around gentle percussion, feels as if we are witnessing the birth of greatness. Alice’s willingness to be so vulnerable directly stems from highlighting “all of the phases of growth,” she observes. As a result, the songwriting feels natural, soul-crushing, and earnest. “Especially growing up in an industry like this, people want to see where you started and where you end up. It’s important to me to keep writing and putting out music that feels right in the moment.”
Alice’s journey really began after attending the Tamworth Country Music Festival when she was 12. Since then, she has approached her songwriting with intensity and never hides behind thick, unnecessary layers of production, a style she learned from adoring country music. She has also long admired the work of Adele “for her lyrics and melodies,” she says. “She’s an amazing artist who I feel taught me all I know by growing up listening to her. Maggie Rogers stems from the country music scene in my mind. [She is] real and raw.”
Looking back, she admits now high school was never “a place of comfort and individuality. I was really on edge and scared. I wasn’t myself, and I didn’t feel like I could be a musician and be respected for that decision,” she says, quite bluntly. When she turned 15, a monumental marker in her life so far, she bravely “shed a lot of hurt and decided to just be myself. I dyed my hair and pierced my nose and locked myself away in studios for the next year until I won” Australian radio station Triple J’s Unearthed High competition.
Alice keeps her gaze forward, always determined and focused on what’s next, and despite the industry’s good ole boys club, she continues proving her worth. “I’ve learned that being a young woman in the industry is actually a very challenging thing at times. Being young is difficult enough. I’m double-trouble. I’ve learned to speak up and stand up for others, using my platform for change.”
Generation Z has had it tough, especially when critics seem to equate high levels of screen usage to lethargy. As we’ve seen in 2020, however, the rising generation are thoughtful, creative, and speak truth to power in innumerable ways. “I think growing up in a digital age most adults assume teenagers and kids are using technology to waste time and play games ─ when they’re actually creating, learning, changing the world,” Alice muses. “It’s disappointing. I really don’t know the answer, but change is in order. And I hope I have taken the first step.”
Activists such as Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, who has been on the front lines in urging political leaders to take action to alleviate climate change, are the tip of the iceberg. “[She] is a great example; she is changing the world one step at a time and slowly gaining more attention whilst she does it. There’s a lot of hope for the future, if it’s left in the hands of my generation.”
Photo by Imogen Wilson