Anna Wang spends a lot of time shrugging off the silly things that concern other people.
"I can remember being in high school," she says, "and all my girlfriends were crying because their boobs weren't as big as other girls', and I would always be like, 'Can you stop talking now so I can go back to writing songs?'"
Wang, 21, was born in China. She is the only child of two Madison physicians who Wang says want her to be a doctor, too.
But that's another idea Wang shrugs off. She's got different plans.
"Ever since I was 6 or 7, I always wanted to be a pop star," she says.
That wasn't the musical path her parents envisioned when they put her through years of classical piano training. Pop was only offered up as an occasional dessert. "They'd buy me 'Greatest Pop Hits of the '90s' arranged for piano as a treat," says Wang.
Today, Wang is a songwriter, guitarist, keyboardist and singer who fronts the Madison band Anna Wang & the Oh Boys. Like Liz Phair, Wang writes accessible songs that bluntly explore the intensity of her own quest for love, sex, power and pop stardom.
"Who's a girl gotta blow to get on the radio?" she asks on the title track of her forthcoming debut album, Radio.
Wang moved a lot growing up. Her parents left China for the United States when she was 4. They arrived in Florida and later relocated to Boston.
"The first summer we were in Boston I didn't have any friends," recalls Wang. "I didn't have a piano because our furniture hadn't arrived from Florida yet. All I had was this shitty old guitar that I had gotten when I was 11. I started playing it and started trying to write songs."
Wang's family settled in Madison when she was 16. She completed high school at Madison Memorial and enrolled at UW in the fall of 2007.
"I love writing music," she says. "I used to write poetry, but nothing is as good as writing a song. I used to cry about not being able to write a good song."
Wang spent much of 2009 writing songs and recording Radio at Madison's Paradyme Productions. She also briefly formed an all-girl band in 2009. Wang says the project suffered from "too much estrogen."
Four months ago, she complained to a friend of her boyfriend that "it sucked" she didn't have a band. The friend was Madison guitarist Noah Greene, 22. Greene's younger brother, Ross, plays drums. Last November, they joined with bassist Ein McManus to complete the Oh Boys lineup. The band performs at the High Noon Saloon on Monday, Feb. 22.
Like Wang herself, the Oh Boys resist conventions. Their songs aren't standard 2010 fare, like synth-heavy dance music or pastoral folk-rock. Live, the Oh Boys emphasize organic and accessible guitar pop.
Wang's lyrics are consistently direct about her hopes, desires and nightmares. She reviles the thought of becoming a suburban wife and mother in "Blink of an Eye." "Now I've got a picket fence, and he's got his stupid friends here every weekend," she sings. "I'm picking up the kids, and he's sleeping with his mistress in his office."
She isn't coy about her sexuality on "Rocky Road." "Could you resist the temptation of a sweet sensation and just disregard my powers of persuasion?" she sings.
Her parents, says Wang, have "come to terms" with her artistic expression.
"They have tried to steer me toward medicine or law because they think it's a secure thing," says Wang.
"But I'm stubborn."