BoyWithUke? Horrible name. Although I will say that it is very accurate: the artist really is a lil boy with a lil guitar on a lil computer in his lil bedroom making lil songs. Not much is known about him—he seems to be around high school/college age?—but his success is so quintessentially contemporary it’s comical: the classic case of a mediocre teenage musician posting some songs on TikTok and becoming an international pop sensation.
“Where do you work on your music?” Billboard’s Bobby Olivier asked BoyWithUke in a recent interview.
“It’s just my bedroom,” BoyWithUke replied. “It’s the same desk that I use to eat and play video games."
When asked if he made the digital mask that he wears when performing, BoyWithUke replied, “Nope. In all honesty, I just thought it looked cool. I got it on Amazon.”
The classic case of a mediocre teenage musician posting some songs on TikTok and becoming an international pop sensation
The uke part? Surely he’s Hawaiian? NOPE. He’s from Massachusetts. He picked up the ukulele simply to impress a girl.
“Around two years ago,” BoyWithUke said, “I was talking to the girl who is now my girlfriend. She showed me a video of her friend playing the ukulele at a talent show, and she said, ‘Oh my God, it’s so cool. She’s so talented.’ Then I knew, like, ‘Oh, my God, I have to learn the ukulele, so I can impress this girl.’”
Oh my god! It’s infuriating the amount of success this kid is enjoying seemingly without trying, and yet, at the same time, I can’t help but find it adorable. There’s something endearing about his unassuming hoodie, and his cute, googly-OO-eyes digital mask, strumming his lil Hawaiian guitar, singing embarrassing confessional songs about how his friends suck, how he’s been betrayed by girls who won’t answer their phones, that he doesn’t enjoy being alone—although he also enjoys being alone, but he’s conflicted about his alternating desires for company and solitude—or that he is on fire, or he’s drowning, or he’s drowning in fire and everyone is a liar. It’s deep stuff. Deep, eye-rolling, teenager stuff that makes you want to slap them and yell, “GROW THE FUCK UP!” It’s endearing, but also annoying.
Teens are a curious mixture of knowledge. They think they know everything, yet they know nothing. I can speak for myself here. When I was a teenager, I was a fucking, A1, certified, card-carrying IDIOT who, like every other teenager, thought he knew everything. I think the only thing I knew at the time was that the lump of undeveloped brain glorp in my skull was being besieged by a blitzkrieg of potent pubescent chemicals. I’m just glad it’s over. I mean, I never recovered from being an IDIOT, but I’m happy to not be a teenager anymore.
I wish I had thought of the mask idea when I was young, though. It would have made that whole period a whole lot less painful and embarrassing to remember because every mistake, every stupid thing I did and said, would have been ANONYMOUS. BoyWithUke is smart because in about 20 years when he hears one of these stupid songs he wrote, where he’s pluckin’ away at his uke and whining about girls, he will hold his face in his hands, shudder with shame, and think, “What was I thinking?” Because that’s what everyone thinks whenever they see a picture of their teenage self or read the drivel they wrote in their “diary.” “Oh my god, I was such a fucking idiot,” we say, reading our teen poetry. Here, for example, is a quick peek into one of my teenage journals:
Cut the blanket with a knife
Statues come to life
Bending, natural bending
Straight, never ending.
I have no idea what that means or what it pertains to, but I do know it’s stupid. (“Statues come to life”?) And it’s not that different from the lyrics that BoyWithUke has written because we were both under the influence of puberty. The difference, however, is that BoyWithUke’s corny teen writings will forever be ANONYMOUS. Smart.
It should also be noted that BoyWithUke’s writing bears a striking resemblance to prison poetry. Maybe because both BoyWithUke and prisoners are consumed with the theme of LOSS? When I worked for Big Brother magazine, we received an enormous amount of mail from prisoners and so I’m very familiar with the genre. Prison poetry is childish, sophomoric, filled with cliches, and riddled with the most basic spelling errors. And LOOOONG. As you can imagine, those dudes have a lot of time on their hands. I have been a fan of prison poetry ever since because it is truly amazing.
To demonstrate, let’s play a game I’m calling, “BoyWithUke Or BoyWithPrisonSentence?” Below are four stanzas of verse, can you tell which ones were written by BoyWithUke and which were written by someone incarcerated? (Answers at end of article.)
I hate myself for letting you go,
Would it have ever worked? I guess we’ll never know
I will never love again the way I loved you,
Because when I broke your heart, mine also broke in two
And you knew I fell for you
but you just broke my heart in two
I was sad, mad, and broken on my bed
Hoping I get rid of all the voices in my head
You said I was your light, I think that's just a white lie
Feelin' so rotten inside, thought I died
I kinda wanna go back, I'm missin' the pain
Of a heartbreak and life just don't hit the same
I fell into your river
That's where you told me lies
You said that I'd feel better
But this is where good guys die
Let me tell you about a game I play
Where I close my eyes and fade away
I float away to a special place
Beyond the stars and moon and space
I will admit that I find BoyWithUke’s story inspiring: lonely boy in his bedroom picks up an itty-bitty lil instrument and starts mumbling lyrics into GarageBand and blows up? That’s pretty cool. It makes me want to try. I mean, I’m old, but no one is going to see my face behind the mask I buy on Amazon. And while BoyWithUke has the ukulele market covered, there are plenty of other diminutive instruments I can pick up—sounds like GarageBand does most of the heavy lifting anyway—the kazoo, for instance, comes to mind? I could start a whole act around my kazoo. Or maybe a kalimba (thumb piano)? A flute? No, Jethro Tull already ruined that instrument. Har—no, I hate harmonicas. I have to admit I’m kinda leaning towards the tambourine. I’ve always made jokes about being a “classically trained tambourinist” (I’m not, but it sounds stupid), so maybe I’ll go with that? The name is perfect:
ManWithTam could open for BoyWithUke on his next tour. We could even ask my wife if her band, LadyWithPuke, would like to join us on tour. Tania doesn’t know about her new band yet, because I just made it up, but the name, LadyWithPuke was inspired by this one time she ate some bad fish in Hawaii (the aforementioned home of the ukulele) and she spent the whole night puking all over the bathroom in our hotel room. I didn’t know anything about this incident until I awoke the next jingle jangle morning and discovered the bathroom was a mess, with towels all over the place, and the garbage cans knocked over. She had also somehow managed to projectile barf over her head as evidenced by the vomit shrapnel near the top of the mirror. Overhead! Can you imagine puking so hard it goes up? I was so proud of her. So impressive. And it’ll be even more impressive if she can recreate it on stage during this epic tour I’m planning:
Featuring special guests, ManWithTam and LadyWithPuke
Answer: Prison poetry = 1, 5. BoyWithUke = 2, 3, 4