Akie and I discussed the state of the female musician in this week’s Perpetual Post.
There’s something missing from the women of mainstream American music today. I don’t want to generalize and say ALL of American music, because I know that’s not true. But among those females whom fate or luck or talent has elevated to the heights of fame and fortune, I feel that there is a distinct lack of a certain je ne se quoi that for simplicity’s sake I’m going to refer to as SWAGGER.
Where are you, crazy rock goddesses? Where is your cheerful destructiveness, your wild and devil may care ‘go fuck yourself’ attitude? Your MOXIE?! Why, when I want to live vicariously through a rough and ready rock musician, does it STILL always have to be a man—and one who is usually over fifty, to boot? Who is going to step up and take the torch of the ass-kicking, take-no-prisoners rock star away from Keith Richards, before he smokes it down to nothing? And why can’t it that person be a woman?
I’ve endured so many disappointments during my search for a smart, self-assured female musician with flinty eyes, awesome hair and staggering talent who doesn’t take shit from anybody. In the beginning I had high hopes for Amy Winehouse, but then she started losing weight and doing drugs and that went nowhere fast. Pink piqued my interest for a little while, but there’s still something kind of manufactured and by-the-numbers about her. Britney Spears is a puppet; Christina Aguilera is a ghoul. Lady Gaga is a pretentious twit. Katy Perry is like the Hello Kitty of pop music. Fergie can be kind of a bad-ass in her own right, and there’s something a little crazy and half-baked about her; she might be the closest thing I can find to what I’m looking for, but I’m still unsatisfied. She’s no Pat Benatar.
And don’t come at me talking about Beyonce or Miley Cyrus. I’m not looking for a diva, or a child. Rihanna either; the kind of icon I crave would have eaten Chris Brown for breakfast. Bjork is borderline; she’s half out of this world, although she doesn’t seem to give a shit what anyone things of her, which I appreciate. Modern female pop stars on the whole, though, lack the charisma and charm of Cyndi Lauper; the poise of Stevie Nicks—not to mention the steely, hungry ambition that has made Madonna a force to reckon with for going on thirty years.
So-called ‘girl groups’ are also a whole lot of nothing. You could replace each member of the Pussycat Dolls or Danity Kane with a different person, and I’d bet you 75% of their fans wouldn’t notice right away. Each member of those bands is carefully crafted and coiffed and insultingly counterfeit. At least bands like the Spice Girls knew they were a fluffy, manufactured joke—and they were in on it.
Hugely successful all-female bands didn’t used to be cotton-candy assemblages. The Go-Go’s, the Bangles—these were bands whose members played their own instruments and even wrote some of their own songs. Instead of being cobbled together from soul-shriveling auditions filled with aspiring models and actresses, they sprang organically from hard-working and talented female singers and musicians. Somehow we managed to go from, “Hi, I’m Kathy Valentine, and I’m out of my fucking mind and having the best time ever.” to “Hi, I’m the Blond Pussycat Doll, and these are my tits.” Is the genre de-evolving?!
Maybe it’s the times we live in. Maybe it’s difficult for celebrities of any kind to be reckless and raw and learn lessons the hard way anymore. Maybe by the time you attain a certain level of fame in the music business these days, you’ve already got publicists and stylists and handlers and an image to uphold. Or maybe I’m wrong! Am I forgetting someone? I’m throwing down a gauntlet here, but I’d be ever so pleased to be schooled in the world of female musicians who are actually inspiring to either females or musicians. Please, PLEASE, give me some hope. Hit me with your best shot.