Steely Dan

Hey Nineteen

Composed by Donald Fagen / Walter Becker

Song Review by

In a career filled with casually cruel songs, "Hey Nineteen" is probably Steely Dan's most overtly mean lyric, since it takes careful aim at the biggest neurosis of the duo's primary audience and pulls the trigger: "Hey Nineteen" was the song that finally came right out and told the baby boomers that not only were they not kids anymore, but that the kids of 1980 thought they were a bunch of boring old farts. The song's narrator is with a nubile young lass of the titular age, putting on the same moves that had worked on the sorority girls "way back when in '67" and getting nowhere at all. (The final insult is that the girl in question doesn't even recognize an Aretha Franklin song!) The song's ending is a typically ambiguous lyrical effort for the Dan: we're (quite deliberately) left unclear as to whether the singer's been left alone with "the Cuervo Gold/the fine Colombian" to which the ironically smooth L.A.-style backing vocalists led by King of Mellow Michael McDonald chant praise, or whether he's just resorted to getting the girl drunk and stoned enough to stop resisting. It's a wonder Randy Newman didn't write this song, but Newman probably wouldn't have thought of the possibly unconscious self-satire of the song's arrangement -- which is so hermetically airtight and studiedly slick that it verges upon the mechanical -- or the lackadaisical ultra-mellow drift of the lazy melody. We can hope that they were kidding, anyway.

Appears On

Year Artist/Album Label Time AllMusic Rating
Gaucho 1980 MCA 5:09
Gold 1982 Geffen 5:06
No Image 1983 MCA
A Decade of Steely Dan 1985 Geffen / MCA / UMC (Universal Catalogue) 5:08
Do It Again 1992 Falcon Home Ent. 5:05
Citizen Steely Dan 1993 Geffen / MCA 5:07
Remastered: The Best of Steely Dan - Then and Now 1993 Universal Distribution / MCA 5:04
No Image 1994 Home Entertainment
Showbiz Kids: The Steely Dan Story 1972-1980 2000 MCA 5:07
Gaucho/Aja/Countdown to Ecstacy 2003 Universal International 5:07
The Definitive Collection 2006 Universal / Universal Music 5:05
The Very Best of Steely Dan 2009 Universal Distribution 5:07
Collected 2009 Universal B.V. / Universal Distribution 5:01
Green Flower Street: Radio Broadcast 1993 2015 Laser Media / Music Video Distribution 6:30
Can't Buy a Thrill/Gaucho MCA / Universal Music
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