If young women suspect that feminism itself might be a trap, they're feeling no safer on the other side of it. Courage in the face of risk, and an overwhelming vulnerability, vie with hopefulness and sass in the music of these teens and ingenues.
It's the same blend that's made "Twilight" such a powerful franchise. Bella Swan's erotically charged chastity recalls the sexiness Sparks embodies, pulling back from Brown in the video for "No Air." Her belief in a stupidly risky love is as pitiful as the crack in Swift's voice as she mourns her own Prince Charming in "White Horse" or the sob in Sullivan's as she begs her man to take her back in "Need U Bad."
These are perennial adolescent emotions. "When you're 15, and somebody tells you they love you, you're gonna believe them," Swift sings, distilling the riskiest and most beautiful aspect of adolescence into one blunt truth.
In "Twilight," Kristen Stewart's Bella is tongue-tied and passive, but she bursts through her own walls once: when her vampire lover tries to break up with her. "You can't ever say that to me!" she sputters, with the desperate surety of a child who knows that both monsters and the knights who slay them are real.
Adolescence is the time when a person's convictions wage their first and fiercest battles with reality. For girls, the struggle is often heightened by the risks their own bodies present them. In 2008, when all of us are feeling uncertainty creep up above our necks, the passion and fear of romantic youth is all the more powerful. Young women's voices, like their fetching forms, attract us all the more now; let's hope we can take the warnings they offer seriously, along with the promise they still contain.