How to Write About Female Musicians

Writing about female musicians is obviously very important. We’re incredibly under-represented in the media, as we’re constantly reminded by all the media coverage of how not-present we are. Therefore, it’s important to know, once you’ve decided to take the plunge and attempt to represent the minority, what language to use to talk about those enigmatic females that are, bless them, trying to make their way in the man’s world.

 

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nme.com

First of all, be sure to state as often as possible the fact that they are ‘female’. When discussing a male singer, one might simply describe him as the ‘lead singer’. However, if you’re lead is female it is important to qualify this phrase with as many gender-signifiers as you can squeeze into your word count. For example, ‘frontwoman’ or ‘female vocalist’, or maybe even ‘female frontwoman’ are all good. This is especially helpful to the reader if you’re dealing with, god forbid, a female guitarist or, shock horror, drummer. Make sure to be clear to the reader that they needn’t worry, the female drummer managed to keep up and yeah, she was actually quite fit and even added a touch of sex appeal to the gig.

When reviewing a female artist’s album or single release, be sure to comment on the adjoining video also, as it is important to have as many avenues as possible with which to explore her ever-so-important physical appearance. Say that you think the video director is AWFUL for insisting that she wears that extreme outfit, that it’s horribly sexist, that women should be able to wear what they like the same as men etc. etc.… (in the same review, you should also bring the reader’s attention back to that awards night two years ago that the artist in question turned up to in jeans and a jumper- couldn’t they have at least been a little smarter? Didn’t they care that people voted for them to win the very prestigious and important award?! Honesty.)

Once you’ve made a brief judgement on the superficial appearance of the woman you’re reviewing, the comparisons can begin. Everyone knows that the only way to write about female musicians effectively and in a way that the reader will understand is to compare them to every and any other female musician that has previously been successful or caused some controversy. Whether they are alike or not, this comparison is an important part of letting your reader know what kind of character the woman is. Madonna and Bjork are two easily relatable favourites to use as part of your argument. If you believe the female musician you’re reviewing really IS just like one of these artists, however, you MUST call them out on it, naming them a fraud and accusing them of having no originality (something that must NEVER occur, in the pop industry especially).

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rollingstone.com

If you feel that there are already enough women just like the one you’re reviewing you can state this by calling her old news, because despite the fact that there are literally hundreds of male musicians that churn out the same old pop-rock dribble every year, it’s important that women stick to their quota of ‘one per genre’ at all times, no excuses.

After you’ve written your review you may be able to follow up with an interview (they’re probably not busy, let’s be honest). When interviewing a female musician remember to act completely differently, with an entirely different set of questions, than when interviewing men. Be aware that women ALWAYS want to talk about what they’re wearing, the colour they’ve died their hair or why they do/don’t want to get their boobs out. They’re also good at having a unique and in-depth response to the question as old as the music industry itself so be sure to ask: how have you managed to make it as a musician when you’re also a girl? Lean forward in your seat at this point, in order to give the impression of intent listening, but also make it clear that you don’t really care that they’re a woman, you’re just asking for the readers, who are just concerned about the whole situation and are totally on your side.

When asking a woman what instrument she plays, either in or out of an interview, be sure to react appropriately when she doesn’t tell you she’s a vocalist, pianist or cellist. If she plays an instrument that you personally find attractive, be sure to tell her, on behalf of the patriarchy, that she just got so much sexier, and that she must get loads of gigs because ‘she’s a girl who plays the sax’. Oh, on that note, it’s also probably necessary at that point in the conversation to point out how the word ‘sax’ sounds remarkably like the word ‘sex’, which is interesting because incidentally women aren’t often portrayed to be taking part in that, either. In fact, maybe that should be the theme of the piece you’re writing? I’m sure your boss will love it.

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Bon Iver- 22, A Million

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Image courtesy of pitchfork.com

Jagjaguwar

5 years after the success of Justin Vernon’s debut record Bon Iver, Bon Iver, the indie folk musician that we thought we knew and loved is back, with a whole new sound that he calls ‘folktronica’- a genre he’s brought back to our attention and into the mainstream through his previous success, but which of course is no new innovation to subculture folk history.

It is, however, a definite shift in Bon Iver’s creative output: there are no more lulling acoustic guitar strums and calming goat-y vocals: Bon Iver is a different, more serious man. The record opens with confused glitching- it’s not until Justin’s beautiful vocal harmonies come in that we’re sure our MP3 file isn’t corrupt, and then we’re drawn into the album, like angels have descended and pulled us up into the disturbing depths of Vernon’s mind. The soft lullaby of the saxophone draws us in further, and suddenly we’re lost in the experimental dream that 22, A Million surely is.

There is no standard song form: the record slowly walks us through the beauty of Bon Iver’s uncertainty about life, his existential insecurity and his clear boredom with just playing his acoustic guitar and singing over the top. Nothing is safe about this record, and nobody can escape the innovative folk world that Vernon’s created.

‘29 #Strafford APTS’ is probably the most recognisable track- still streaked with Bon Iver’s electronic vocal harmonies, but built around a string section, it is more what we might have expected. Neatly slotted almost exactly halfway through the record, it acts as a nice grounding for the listener to grasp a hold of some sense of reality, before lurching straight back into the album.

I don’t think it’s possible to review this album without mentioning the title tracks, which themselves are enough to confuse our already disoriented folk-loving brains- ‘00000 Million’, ’33 “GOD”’… It’s almost enough to make us want to snap straight back to 2011 and forget any of this ever happened. Almost.