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Music / This Year's Model

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The original British cover, featuring a deliberate printing mistake.

You say you're sorry for the things that you have done
You say you're sorry but you know you don't mean it
I wouldn't worry, I had so much fun
Sometimes I almost feel just like a human being
— "Lipstick Vogue"

This Year's Model is Elvis Costello's second studio album. It is also his first with the Attractions, the crack backing band he'd recruited to tour with his previous album, My Aim Is True. It was originally released in March 1978 on Radar Records in England and Columbia Records in America.

Original Tracklist

Side One

  1. "No Action" (1:58)
  2. "This Year's Girl" (3:17)
  3. "The Beat" (3:45)
  4. "Pump It Up" (3:14)
  5. "Little Triggers" (2:40)
  6. "You Belong to Me" (2:22)

Side Two

  1. "Hand in Hand" (2:33)
  2. "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea" (3:07)
  3. "Lip Service" (2:36)
  4. "Living in Paradise" (3:52)
  5. "Lipstick Vogue" (3:42)
  6. "Night Rally" (2:41)

The original US release dropped "Chelsea" and "Night Rally" because Columbia executives thought their lyrics were "too British". They were replaced by "Radio Radio", a song already (in)famous for getting Costello banned from Saturday Night Live. Most CD releases include both songs, either on the primary disc or a bonus disc.

Trope It Up:

  • Accent Upon The Wrong Syllable: From "The Beat":
    I'd do anything to con-FUSE the enemy.
  • Alternate Album Cover: The British/European, American, and Scandinavian covers all have variations on three of the four cover/inner sleeve photos. The front always has Elvis at the camera, the back always has Elvis and the Attractions posing in a New York City hotel room, and one side of the innersleeve always has a gloved hand holding a mini-TV whose screen shows a shot from the group's Saturday Night Live appearance; however, all three images are slightly different on each release. Only the other innersleeve photo (mannequin body parts in front of a row of washing machines) is the same on each version.
  • Badass Boast: From the Villain Protagonist of "Hand in Hand", who is apparently some sort of crime boss.
    Don't you know I got the bully boys out
    Changing someone's facial design
    Sitting with my toy room lout
    Polishing my precious china
    Don't you know I'm an animal?
    Don't you know I can't stand up steady?
    But you can't show me any kind of hell that I don't know already
  • Biting-the-Hand Humor: Costello's stated intent on "Radio Radio".
    I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
    I wanna bite that hand so badly
    I want to make them wish they'd never seen me
  • Face on the Cover: Costello standing behind a view camera.
  • Green-Eyed Monster: "Living in Paradise"
    I don't like those other guys looking at your curves
    I don't like you walking 'round with physical jerks
    Everything they say and do is getting on my nerves
    Soon they will be lucky to be picking up the perks
  • In the Style of:
    • "You Belong to Me" sounds a great deal like The Rolling Stones around the time of Aftermath (Album). Also, the melody bears more than a passing resemblance to the Stones' "The Last Time".
    • In the liner notes to the 2002 reissue, Elvis states that "This Year's Girl" was meant to be a less venomous rewrite of the Stones' "Stupid Girl", also from Aftermath (Album).
    • "Pump It Up" is influenced by Bob Dylan's "Subterranean Homesick Blues", which in turn is derived from Chuck Berry's "Too Much Monkey Business".
  • Last Note Nightmare: "Night Rally" is ominous throughout — but at the end, Costello starts chanting the title over and over and some sort of weird, high-pitched warbling sound is added the mix. And then the song cuts off suddenly, just like The Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" from Abbey Road. For added nightmarishness, "Night Rally" was the last track on the original vinyl album's British pressing.
  • Lyrical Cold Open: The album opens with Elvis Costello singing by himself at the start of "No Action".
    I don't wanna kiss you, I don't wanna touch...
  • Miniscule Rocking: "No Action" is just under two minutes long.
  • New Sound Album: As noted, this was Costello's first album with the Attractions, whose intense, Garage Rock-like sound was quite a change from the comparatively easy-going pub rock of My Aim Is True.
  • One-Woman Song: "This Year's Girl"
  • Protest Song: "Night Rally" is a condemnation of the fascist rallies that were starting to sweep parts of Britain. Its replacement on the initial US pressing, "Radio Radio", takes on media manipulation.
  • Pun-Based Title: The album was the next album after the one released the previous year, making it that year's model.
  • Radio Song: "Radio Radio":
    Radio is a sound salvation
    Radio is cleaning up the nation
    They say you better listen to the voice of reason
    But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
    So you had better do as you are told
    You better listen to the radio
  • Record Producer: Nick Lowe, Costello's usual producer in the early years.
  • Relationship Upgrade: "No Action" sounds ambivalent about asking for one.
    And I think about the way things used to be,
    Knowing you're with him is driving me crazy
    Sometimes I phone you when I know you're not lonely,
    But I always disconnect it in time
  • Rhyming with Itself: The chorus of "Lip Service":
    Lip service is all you'll ever get from me [3x]
    But if you change your mind, you can send it in a letter to me
  • Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll: "Pump It Up", inspired by what many of the performers got up to during the Stiff Records tour of which Costello and the Attractions were a part.
  • Shout-Out: The album is on both sides of this trope.
  • Stylistic Suck: Early British pressings included a deliberately mispressed cover, in which the cover image is positioned so off-center that the first letters in Costello's name and the album title are out-of-view while the color blocksnote  are in-view. Costello went on the record confirming that audiences were supposed to be curious/confused about this choice, since "it meant they'd pause just that little bit longer in front of our sleeve". Nearly all reissues "corrected" this error; either no one got the memo that it was supposed to look like the printer fucked up, or they feared audiences wouldn't get the joke.
    A few reissues did feature the original cover, misprinting and all, such as Japanese CD editions from 2003, 2006, and 2008, and US LP editions from 2010, 2015, and 2019. Also, the 2007 Hip-O Records CD version presents an odd compromise: it's a digipak featuring the "corrected" version of the UK cover art on the front, while the liner notes booklet combines the printing error with the alternate photo from the American cover art.
  • Title Drop/Title Track: Neither trope is played straight, but you get the album title if you cross the song title "This Year's Girl" with the line "Capital punishment, she's last year's model", from "(I Don't Want to Go to) Chelsea".
  • Titled After the Song: Buffy the Vampire Slayer has a Faith-centric episode called "This Year's Girl".
  • The Unapologetic: Invoked in the opening of "Hand in Hand".
    No, don't ask me to apologize
    I won't ask you to forgive me
    If I'm gonna go down, you're gonna come with me.
  • Visual Pun: The front cover, which has Costello as a photographer and the viewer as, well, this year's model.