It’s been years since I’ve watched it, but I remember Juno to be a perfectly pleasant film. More importantly, however, was how Juno and its accompanying soundtrack introduced me to the world of folk music. Now, dozens of Bob Dylan albums later, I can draw the distinction between folk music, folk rock, and Juno’s particular brand, anti-folk.
So, what the fuck is anti-folk? Anything with chords other than G, C, and D? Literally any song with drums?
No. Rather, anti-folk is a subversion of what has come to be known as stereotypical folk music. Despite the fact that folk typically referred to the songs and music that have been passed down through generations (usually with anonymous authors), in the 1960s folk became a socially conscious (and popular) form of protest music. It is this stereotype of the politically charged music which anti-folk seeks to undermine.
And not in some malicious sense, but instead co-opting the melodies and stylings of that generation’s interpretation of folk music and crafting silly little songs like the one above. It is a sweet tune which features such charmingly endearing passages as, “You shook a little turd out of the bottom of your pants.” These are the Moldy Peaches, and they are one of the more well known groups of the sub-sub genre of anti-folk. And there we have the film’s central relationship summed up in one perfectly chosen needle drop.
Another exquisite selection from the Juno soundtrack has come to be regarded as the film’s main theme. “All I Want Is You” is an adorable kids’ song that serves as an early example of non-topical folk songs. Goddammit, there’s just something so charming about a dude playing his guitar like he just can’t control the boogie, drawing in breath like Jason Bourne is shoving his head in a toilet. And there we have the film’s tone summed up in one cute little ditty.
This year’s Sing Street features a line in which love is described as a “happysad” feeling. Happysad is a rudimentary term, but in its rudiment, it unveils a simple and beautiful truth. Much like Juno, a film whose happysad tone has been mistakenly referred to as “adorkable”. And there is no happysadder tune, than Kimya Dawson’s (one half of the earlier mentioned, Moldy Peaches) haunting “Tire Swing”.
Juno and its soundtrack are happysad incarnate.