How Women Are Re-Claiming Rock’n’Roll

Neil Young told us "Rock and Roll will never die", now the women are showing us why...
Neil Young told us “Rock and Roll will never die”, now the women are showing us why…

With the music industry being dominated by men, and having been so since we can recall, it can be a struggle and a strain for a woman to stand up and be noticed over the rest. However, every now and again we welcome in a wave, a rush of inexplicable talent, guts and gumption to remind the ever growing complacency of men that they are not the only ones with soul and blues charging through their veins, keeping their hearts a-pumping…And they are most certainly not the only ones who know how to take hold of an instrument and rock it.

Over the past decade, we have watched as femininity has taken a form which has contradicted everything that Emily Davison heroically stepped out in front of that horse for a century ago. It has become a trend among artists such as Rihanna, Katy Perry and Nicki Minaj to promote their music and boost their persona using their physicality and sexuality. In turn, this encourages voyeurism and exploitation of their bodies, as well as setting a negative example to younger and more naive females about how to be successful. This ascendancy of “pop star” has temporarily diminished the stance of females in the industry and their capabilities as respected musicians. However, over the past twelve months an explosion of passionate, head strong women with the spirit of Joplin herself have returned to re-claim what is rightfully theirs.

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Haim are a trio of sisters from LA with an adept musical ability. After starting out in a family covers band with their parents, the girls can now boast between them a degree in Ethnomusicology and a resume of support to critically acclaimed artists of all genres including Julian Casablancas and Cee-Lo Green. It was in 2006 when the girls decided to make their musical aptitude together their priority. However it was not until last year, 2012, when Haim finally made their mark. In the past year, their revitalisation of classic West Coast rock has caught the ears and captured the hearts of a colony of music lovers awaiting a revolution. Boy, have they done it in style! What with a kitsch keyboard element from Alana (as well as rhythm guitar), Este’s hard-hitting bass and Danielle’s strong bluesy vocals, along with smooth harmonies and an accumulative hippy-esque look, Haim are injecting the vibes of Fleetwood Mac and Melanie Safka back into contemporary culture. By resurrecting Rock’n’Roll riffs and fusing them intelligently with R’n’B beats and catchy chorus lines, the girls are rising effortlessly to the top of their game, and indeed the top of the charts (Zane Lowe of Radio 1 tipped anthemic “Don’t Save Me” as his ‘Hottest Record’ back on 16/10/12). It is fair to say Haim are sitting on the most eagerly anticipated debut album for years, and you had better hold on to your straw hat when they hit release.

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On the other side of the pond, the city that vaunts more rock stars per capita than any other city in the world – Manchester – has lived up to its name of trend setting by producing another feisty and fresh lady to keep an eye on, otherwise known as Findlay. In true “enigma of rock” style, very little is known about the elusive Findlay. But one thing is for sure; once she’s ripped and roared her way into your head she’ll be going nowhere. Supported by an equally ardent band, Findlay’s live performances are electrifying…mesmerising. She has the ability to hypnotise her audience with a voice of soul, a voice that within the deliverance of a single note you know she’s the one in command; she’s the one who’s been through the same turbulence as you and is going to kick you into getting through it. In tracks such as “Off and On” and “Your Sister” Findlay demonstrates how she is not going to cower in the corner; she has got something to say and she’s going to say it in the strongest way she can – an attitude that would make the Queen of Hearts Stevie Nicks herself stand up and applaud. Once Findlay breaks on to the scene, she’ll break your heart with her blues…and isn’t that the way it should be?

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Last but by no means least are a duo who have been likened to Led Zeppelin and The White Stripes, and rightly so. Deap Vally are another California based band whose killer, unapologetic riffs and raw, Robert Plant style vocals are enough to stop dead that repetitive ringing of all those pop warblers that have clogged up the 21st Century. With lyrics such as;

“You say marry a rich man, Find a rich one if you can, Daddy, don’t you understand? I’m gonna make my own money, gonna buy my own land”

Deap Vally are re-enforcing the importance of being a woman, being independent and being free, and they’re doing it in the boldest and most brazen way they can find. It is this dominate and care free soul which accompanies smart and skillful musicianship and classically wholesome song writing that will re-earn women the respect they deserve, a respect that was once possessed by the likes of Patti Smith and Debbie Harry.

Taking into account the evidence collected of the female force which is tactfully sculpting an innovative pathway through the meandering whirlwind that is the music scene, it must be concluded that there is only one way for women to re-claim rock and roll. That is, to grow your hair out long, pick up your guitar and bare your blues to the world with your cleverest rhymes and your down right dirtiest rhythms and beats; stamping out those who told you what to do and asserting that “saving” is not what you need…And the world had better watch its back when they all stand up and do just that.

What do you think? Leave a comment.

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Hi there, I am Charlotte! A film and media student from MMU with a passion and a flare for the arts and of course, writing!

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13 Comments

  1. Austin Bender

    Interesting article. I’m saddened by the apparent lack of good rock music nowadays. Looking back, the 1990’s were the best time for female rock, and rock music as a whole. With Veruca Salt, Garbage and a whole lot more, female rock bands kicked ass. Also, back then, the artist’s attitude felt real, now it just seems like they’re just looking for publicity, and this is both male and female musicians. Anyways, I could babble for hours and hours about how great 90’s rock was, but that won’t change anything. I’m glad to see that all-women, or even woman fronted, bands are coming back.

    As of right now, the only “current” legend of rock is Dave Grohl. While Grohl is great, it would be great to see a lot of diverse rockstars.

    • Charlotte Reck

      Ah I could not agree more with everything you say! The 90’s, in my opinion, were an electric time for so much! There was such a great vibe of revolution, almost reminiscent of the 60’s, surrounding music and cinema etc..

      And yes, of course, Dave Grohl is God.

      Keep rockin’!

  2. Amanda Gostomski

    I read something interesting a few weeks back about how there is a huge lack of women in music festivals this year. like only bjork is headlining a major one.

  3. Dominique Kollie

    I like the trend of upcoming female rock groups. I think a huge step for the women of rock this year was Halestorm winning the Grammy for Best Hard Rock Performance. Female fronted bands have been picking up steam recently and I thing all-girl bands will catch on soon

  4. Niamh O'Ryan

    A nice look at some female groups emerging on the scene but lets not forget the hard work of scuzzy females in mixed gender bands like Karen O of the yeah yeah yeahs who came about around the same time as the strokes and are still making amazing alternative/rock music. But if you want an example of an all girl group to make room for on your playlist that Warpaint are painfully cool and have made some pretty good music too.

    • Charlotte Reck

      Yes, you are so right, people like Karen O, Alison Mosshart, Beth Ditto are powerhouses of women! I am a big fan of these women and regard them as massive inspirations! There is a stirring of incredible female artists that we must not ignore and fight for..they’re doing wonderful things for music!

  5. I agree with your comment about artists such as Rihanna and Nicki Minaj. They negatively influence young adolescent females and have no self-respect, so therefore cannot be respected by others as musicians. Great article.

  6. Jon Lisi
    Jon Lisi
    0

    Great article highlighting some talented bands. I especially love Haim. However, I don’t think there is anything wrong with what Rihanna and Katy Perry do either. They’re role models in their own way. Rihanna, especially, is an example of independence and confidence. But you are right to say that they aren’t necessarily respected as musicians. Madonna is a prime example of a talented musician whose overt sexual image turns many people off to the point where they don’t listen to the music. The question remains: Can a female musician promote a sexual image and be taken seriously as an artist?

    • Charlotte Reck

      I most certainly appreciate what you are saying! These women are talented, I simply feel that they do not necessarily need to use the ways they do to acquire attention. That definitely has something to do with my own personal bohemian beliefs.

      That is a great question, one that I’m sure we could discuss for hours. It always comes all the way back to the battle of the sexes and how as a whole, we regard males and females.

      Thank-you for the comment!

  7. Taylor Ramsey

    Rock music in general appears to be in its death throws. One of the few women in music today that really interesets me is Amanda Palmer. Her last album reminded me why I like rock music.
    Interesting article.

  8. Francesca Turauskis

    Thank you for introducing me to some new music. Too often I just revert back to the old favourites!

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