A lack of respect for women and their autonomy over their bodies is deeply ingrained in many cultures. “Sixteen,” a new single from Nashville singer-songwriter, educator and activist Ariel Bui, looks at how deeply entrenched this issue is in American culture and what we might do about it. 

Bui looks back on her newfound independence as an adolescent — taking trips to the beach, finding her voice as a punk rocker. With a flip of the script on The Beatles’ “I Saw Her Standing There,” whose opening line sexualizes a girl, she discusses making a place for herself in a male-dominated cultural space and industry. While the surf-rock-kissed minor-key tune unfolds, Bui reveals additional layers of trauma that she’s processing.

“The Beatles weren’t the only ones normalizing the sexualization of teenage girls,” Bui says in a release. “It’s such a common theme in music and media, it doesn’t even need to be explicitly stated. As a young female, I had experienced sexual abuse many times by the time I was 16. And unfortunately, that experience is not unique to me.”

In the refrain of “Sixteen,” Bui makes it clear she’s not willing to be belittled and stay silent. As she sings over and over: “I may be just a little girl / I have something to say.”

Today, we’re very pleased to premiere the music video for the track. Working with camera operator Michael Mallicote, costume designer Cybelle Elena and hair and makeup artist Misti Blu Day — and with some help from the folks at Sebastian Inlet Surf & Sport — Bui filmed the piece in Florida, near where she grew up in Cocoa Beach. She’d gone down ahead of the filming to participate in an all-woman surf camp called Chica Weekend, which led to surfing being a central theme in the video, which also features surfing instructor Sofia Pickett. Bui notes that the camp and filming coincided with the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, the legal decision that had protected a woman’s right to an abortion since 1973.

“It felt really important to be working and surfing with other women, lifting each other up, honoring the earth and the ocean, our Mother Earth,” she says. “We will not be silenced. You may think we’re just little girls, but we have something to say. We are strong, we are powerful, and our bodies are ours.”

Check out the video above and find the single on your favorite streaming services. The track is a little taste of Real & Fantasy, Bui’s first new album since 2016. She worked on the 10-track set with stellar producer Andrija Tokic at his studio The Bomb Shelter, with contributions from great players like Ellen Angelico, Megan Coleman, Jo Schornikow and “Little Jack” Lawrence.

You can preorder the LP via Bandcamp, and you have two upcoming chances to catch Bui and her crew in person. First up, she’ll perform at the Celebrate Nashville Cultural Festival in Centennial Park on Saturday, Oct. 1. The album is out on Friday, Oct. 14, and you can get a copy at Bui’s release party, set for that night at The East Room; Jo Schornikow, Jessica Breanne and the Scene’s own contributing editor Jack Silverman open the show. Keep an eye on Bui’s website for updates.

Like what you read?

Click here to make a contribution to the Scene and support local journalism!