Written By Zoe Kallenekos
The Sunshine State offers a tongue-in-cheek critique of male entitlement, “Pushing 30” off their debut EP.
It’s amazing when a tune can be fun, summery and nostalgic while also having a message that feels important and long overdue. In “Pushing 30,” the final song of The Sunshine State’s new EP In Another Life, Los Angeles singer-songwriter Skyler Stonestreet strikes that balance with three and a half minutes of indie pop goodness.
Although Stonestreet has put out very few of her own releases, she has been an active and successful songwriter for several years. She has writing credits for several prominent artists, such as Justin Bieber, Ariana Grande, Dua Lipa and The Chainsmokers.
However, Stonestreet decided to begin releasing music through a solo project entitled The Sunshine State in 2020. She released singles starting that October and all through 2021, culminating in a collection of those songs and a few new ones, including “Pushing 30,” compiled into her latest EP “In Another Life.”
While the EP is very cohesive in its sound and songwriting, “Pushing 30” sees The Sunshine State at its most pointed, critical and humorous. The song is sung in the second person, directly addressing an unnamed “you.” All we know about the person being sung to is that he is a male musician nearing 30 years old (hence the title) and that he is way creepy, overconfident and just outright pathetic in his approach to women.
Stonestreet’s lyricism as a songwriter is evident as she expertly shows us this through describing various scenarios that are so cringeworthy, they’re funny (ex: “You’ll be the guy who says, ‘What’s so wrong?’/ Walking down the aisle to your own song.”) The subtlety and humorous tone and approach are really what sells “Pushing 30.” A song like this could easily get overly preachy; however, Stonestreet constantly lightens the mood with humor to prompt laughter as well as self-reflection on the part of the listener.
As for how the song sounds, “Pushing 30” is a light and breezy track full of acoustic guitar that, like several other songs on “In Another Life,” would be a perfect addition to a summer road trip playlist– driving on the highway, windows down and all. The drums have just enough of that upbeat pep to sustain a momentum that makes it feel perfect for an open road. While there is no mention of summertime in the lyrics, the instrumentals combined with Stonestreet’s sweet, airy vocals make it a perfect jam to have for these next few warm months for those of us in the Northern hemisphere.
While the lyrics never mention specific months or seasons, time is an essential theme of “Pushing 30.” Just like in the title, ages are constantly mentioned, both of the kinds of men Stonestreet sings about and the young women they pursue. She makes the concept of the song interesting by critiquing the immaturity of men who are aging out of what Western society considers young adulthood, while also detailing visions she has of them continuing their behavior later in life.
From marriage to fatherhood, to senior citizenhood, Stonestreet sees this man stuck in his ways. Stonestreet’s cleverness in describing this passage of time shines best in the bridge when she sings: “It’s been a decade, a couple elections/ You’re still getting laid from the same chord progression.” The imagery of a man who never has to grow as a person to continue to pull his old sleazy tricks perfectly encapsulates what this song is all about.
Lines like that showcase just how subtle and nuanced a topic Stonestreet chose to explore. In “Pushing 30,” Stonestreet critiques behavior that may seem fine or is technically legal, but has come under scrutiny by modern standards for being creepy nonetheless, such as men dating very young women who are just barely of age.
Throughout the decades, this behavior has been normalized for the very kind of men Stonestreet sings to: musicians. From the rockstar groupies of the classic rock era to today, Stonestreet recognizes male artists’ tendencies to use their power in the industry to get their way with women. Stonestreet sings, “The world is unfair to men with guitars” for a reason: As they are being called out more and more, certain male musicians feel threatened at the possibility of being held accountable for their rotten behavior.
Although this subject matter is a serious problem too long overlooked, this song’s lyrical content does not stray too deeply into the territory of emotional abuse that can come with relationships in which one party is significantly older or in some kind of position of power. Instead, “Pushing 30” is perfect at covering its own, slightly funnier subject matter: pathetic, creepy men that may still get some women for a while, but will, when it comes down to it, ultimately end up alone.
Along with Stonestreet’s humorous jabs, there are also gut-wrenching lines about foreseeing this man “going out for milk” and never coming back after abandoning his future kids (“You still think about them every single birthday.”) This juxtaposition of sadness and humor throughout the song makes for an ultimately balanced tone, not too dark or too lighthearted either way.
Overall, “Pushing 30” is not the song for a party, nor is it a song to cry to alone in the dark. As The Sunshine State, Stonestreet packs a punch with “Pushing 30,” the only explicit track on “In Another Life.” Ultimately, this is a fun-sounding song for anyone in the mood for a little indie pop, a little laughter and a little reflection on male entitlement to cap off a summer day.