In the Judd Apatow film "This Is 40," there's a scene in which actress Leslie Mann realizes that she's just too young at heart to age any further. "I don't wanna shop at old lady stores. I don't wanna go to J.Jill and Chico's and Ann Taylor Loft," she says, wincing. "I'm not ready yet!"
It's the kind of growing pain most people understand. And while many people learn to quell the disappointment (or maybe forget their birthdays), others hit the town with like-minded friends to party like college kids. Some even make a bouncy pop video called "Girls Night Out (GNO)" to help facilitate the time travel.
"Oh, you've got it. 'This Is 40' is perfect," says Shannon Montsinger, a Midlothian mother of two who wrote the song and starred in its subsequent viral video. "The song wasn't so much influenced by Rebecca Black or Miley Cyrus but more so by movies and SNL parody skits," she says.
In a little more than a week after its release, the video reached 45,000 YouTube views and was featured on numerous local blogs and 103.7 Play radio. At first Montsinger was elated, but then negative comments began to spill out online, with people attacking the song and her personally. Shocked by the cruel comments, Montsinger decided to pull the video from public view over the weekend, switching it to a private setting online.
"It really has not sat well with me as a happy mom and wife to have people misinterpret me and my message and think I am trying to promote or condone something I am totally not," she told Style Weekly in an email about her decision. "This entire video production was done from a very lighthearted, fun place amongst longtime friends (and husbands!) who all got the joke and had a blast being a part of it."
Montsinger says she learned though online analytics that many of the comments were coming from a lewd, male-dominated website called BarstoolSports.com ("By the common man, for the common man," its website says).
"Maybe they have no joy or just need to go out on a date," Montsinger says. "Or maybe it's because the music scene here is more serious. It's not typical to have a pop artist from Richmond. It annoys some people."
While she's described the song as parody, it feels like a straightforward exercise in pop-fantasy fulfillment, even featuring a guest break by 40-something local rapper Big Sty. He was unavailable for the shoot, so that's an actor in the video.
Montsinger, a 1991 graduate of James Madison University — who'll say only that she's in her early 40s — wrote the song in fewer than 10 minutes. (Sample lyric: "Put a bottle in my hand / and oil upon my boot-ey / make the boy that's servin' it / a hot little surfer cutie.")
Montsinger immediately imagined a fun video.
"In your mind, you're always young but your body doesn't cooperate," she says, laughing. "None of my friends can ever get together anymore. So I had to go and make a music video in order to get a girls' night out!"
The song got its slick hooks and instrumentation from her friend, Steve Van Dam, a veteran musician experienced at crafting commercial jingles. Montsinger then called another friend, modeling agent Kim Alley, who'd produced "Virginia's Top Model." They filmed Montsinger and her friends dancing in skimpy bikinis by a home pool and dressing up and dancing in Europa for a wild, auto-tuned night away from the hubbies and kids. "It really didn't cost a lot to make," Montsinger says. "We all came together for the love of it."
Music runs in her family. Montsinger is the daughter of local sax player Buzz Montsinger, and grew up around music, taking guitar lessons at Don Warner Music. After college, she began a modeling career for a Washington agency that took her to major cities around the world before moving back to Richmond at age 30. That's when she began recording demos "mostly for myself and friends," she says. She had two children six years apart, mostly staying home to raise them — but never could quite shake the music bug. "My family and my kids are the love of my life," she says. "But you do lose sight of yourself. For me, that's when the songs started coming."
She acknowledges that the "GNO" video isn't the reality of her normal girls' night out, which likely would involve one or two girlfriends sneaking out to Ruth's Chris Steak House for a quick glass of wine. "At the beginning of the video I sing the Calgon song inside my head," she says, "there's a ripple, and the rest is like a dream sequence."
She wasn't sure last week if the YouTube views had translated to sales of the single on iTunes, Amazon or CD Baby. But it's drawn offers to perform live. And she plans to release a full-length album, more similar in style to Sheryl Crow, in the next few months.
Montsinger says she wishes people would simply laugh and enjoy the song — whether or not it was meant as a parody. "I do believe whatever you think about manifests itself in reality," she says. "If I wanted to get across anything with this video, it's the importance of listening to your inner voice that says, 'I want to do this!' ... Life is short, sometimes you gotta be silly."
And for all those out there calling her and her besties MILFs (a "mother I'd like to [fornicate]," she prefers that they use the acronym WOWWs: "Women of wonder and wisdom," she says. "That's better." S