Where Women Were Singing

Do men believe in girl music? When music writer Mark Richardson says he likes the new album by Grimes, he means he appreciates and marvels at it. However, he admits to struggling to relate to it.

Later on in the same article, Richardson relates a scene in which a male student in his popular music class observed that “for most of his life he hadn’t listened to music where women were singing”. I can relate to that.

Most of my high school days were spent with machined alt-rock and seventies-era guitar heroes. The songs that mattered most, even during that emotive Dashboard Confessional phase, were from the male perspective and sung by a man. During college, my horizons expanded but my favorite records were all by male groups like Spoon, The National and Radiohead.

The last few years I’ve started to wonder why I only seem to listen to music sung by men. At first, I attributed this to the low quantity of female vocalists working with the guitar-based rock music I prefer most. Clearly that’s a narrow view. So the question is, am I choosing to screen out female voices (if so, why?), or is there some restrictive cultural effect preventing them from reaching me in the first place?

Regardless, the balance is shifting. Female vocalists are making their way into my playlists. The list of women making my best of 2011 list is more extensive by far than years before.

Lissie, Beyoncé, Brandi Carlile, Florence + The Machine, Mavis Staples, Karen O of Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monaé, Adele, Sharon Jones, and Santigold all made a big impression on me last year.

Why now? Is it my maturing taste and preferences? Is it my transition from a closed, physical-based method of discovery and listening to nearly unlimited access? These questions are unanswered for now.

Recommended:
Mark Richardson’s fantastic article You Masculine You.
Listen to Jimmy Eat World’s album Invented. It’s a big rock record from a band with predominately male fans. But singer Jim Adkins says the lyrics are written from a woman’s perspective.

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