Penelope Scott: Capturing the Anger of a Generation

Left%2C+the+album+cover+for+Scott%27s+first+album%2C+%22The+Junkyard+2%2C%22+and+right+is+the+cover+for+her+second+album+%22Public+Void.%22

Designed by Charlotte McManus

Left, the album cover for Scott’s first album, “The Junkyard 2,” and right is the cover for her second album “Public Void.”

Charlotte McManus, Writer

Penelope Scott’s discography is short, though impressive. Only 20 years old, Scott rose to fame on the popular social media app TikTok, posting short clips of her original songs, and her first two albums—both released this year—generated millions of streams across platforms. 

Scott’s music has been described as “techno,” “folk punk” and “punk ragtime.” While she eludes genre, most can agree she falls into at least one category: Penelope Scott is angry.

In “Sweet Hibiscus Tea,” the hit from her first album, The Junkyard 2, Scott expresses the frustration that accompanies youth and all its confusion: “I’m not your protagonist / I’m not even my own / I don’t know anything / I don’t even know what I don’t know.” Both choruses culminate in a heart-wrenching lyric, the piano dropping out: “I don’t know what I need.” 

And in “Mommy Fwiend,” Scott expresses anger with the way women are treated as emotional dumpsters: “I’m not your therapist / I’m not trained for this / And I don’t wanna be forced to listen.” She argues that “This isn’t feminism / This is straight up normal etiquette.” 

Her anger carries over to “Lavender,” the third song on The Junkyard 2, where Scott  addresses confining gender roles in the context of a romantic relationship: “Am I really gonna be just someone’s girl?”

In Public Void, her second and most recent album, Scott trades monaural sound and echoing piano for stereophonic audio and techno beats but retains her first record’s angry attitude. 

“Lotta True Crime,” the second song on Public Void, responds to our culture’s fascination with true-crime shows, which, Scott implies, can put murderers and serial killers on pedestals and dismisses their (often female) victims as foolish and weak: “She could’ve killed you / She had every right / You just caught her off guard tonight.” 

And in her song “American Healthcare,” Scott plays the role of a medical doctor to express outrage with our profit-focused healthcare system, singing “How could they ever feel okay / When things are more and more this way / Sometimes it’s like they’d rather die!”

 In “Rät,” the last song on Public Void, she again articulates her anger with our capitalist society: “But I don’t want to see the stars if they’re just one more piece of land / For us to colonize, for us to turn to sand.” 

Her most recent single, Born2Run, directly addresses those in power who choose to criticize Generation Z: “Life and liberty, sometimes property, the right to try to feel good / Her heart is pure the math checks out so what’s the move / And how could you do this when I learned my rights from you?”  

Scott’s music is made by a Gen Z-er, for Gen Z-ers. When America’s finest young adults blast it from their bedrooms, relishing in their teenage angst, it might get a shake of the head and a Is this what you kids listen to nowadays? It’s littered with dark humor and bursting with rage, but that’s what Generation Z is known for: the dark humor that recognizes the inefficiencies of our societies, and the rage to fix it.

The teenage girls that make up the majority of Scott’s audience aren’t looking for a way to express their boy-craziness or the excitement of youth. They’re busy thinking about climate change, healthcare systems ravaged by a pandemic and their predetermined place in society. America’s teenage girls are angry. 

And Scott understands that.