Just like many industries, the music industry is not always in-tune with those of the female persuasion, both as listeners and as artists. Did you hear about the scandals involving lyrics from this past year (and yes, you must have at least heard “Blurred Lines)?
As someone who once wanted to be professional musician, as most young ladies do before we realize the extent of patriarchy, I feel that female musicians are for sure a necessity in society’s music culture. Heck, without the voices and talents of ladies like Janis Joplin, Madonna and Beyoncé, who would we have to speak for us in music?
The following is a compilation of women musicians who, I think, are imperative for our understanding of equality and overall awesomeness. While some of them may be slightly unknown, trust me, they are all fantastic. Enjoy!
Juliette Lewis | Solo, Juliette and the Licks | 2004-present
I don’t think I even knew who Juliette Lewis was until I saw her as Kitty in the 2004 Todd Phillips rendition of “Starsky & Hutch.” Although she was fantastic as an actress in the film, I fell for her when I first heard her musical work with her former band, Juliette and the Licks. Their second (and unfortunately, final) full-length album, “Four on the Floor,” was utterly fantastic and bizarre. You cannot listen just once to any of those songs, especially my personal favorite, “Sticky Honey.” While Juliette has been working as a solo artist since 2009, Juliette and the Licks are definitely worthy of your time—check the music out for some music that will get your blood pumping and your feet tapping.
Brie Larsen | Solo, Movie Work | 2004-2010
Remember that adorable high school girl Molly from the 2012 film adaption of “21 Jump Street”? Well, it turns out the actress, Brie Larson, can also sing—in fact, she has been singing even longer than she has been acting. I first was psyched by her voice when I first saw “Scott Pilgrim vs. the World” and heard Brie’s own rendition of Metric’s “Black Sheep.” In all honesty, I thought Brie did the song better—yet, that was Brie’s last public appearance as a singer. Let’s bring her back for more Hollywood—maybe we can make a new biopic about Blondie?
Mathangi Arulpragasam | M.I.A. | 2000-present
M.I.A is pretty top-notch in terms of female musicians, even if she does have a lot of controversy surrounding her music and antics. For example, the NFL filed a lawsuit against the singer in 2013 for $1.5 million, in retaliation against M.I.A. flipping off the cameras during the Super Bowl XLVI Half-time show. She responded by saying that the organization is apparently saying it’s okay for her, as well as other female musicians, to “promote being sexually exploited as a female, than to display empowerment, female empowerment, through being punk rock.” That’s right ladies and gents: “Bad Girls” do it right, and don’t you forget it!
Sharon Jones | Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings | 1996-present
This 57-year-old has got it going on. As the head of Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, Sharon only truly achieved breakout success in middle age, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking on the music world. Sharon is particularly interested in bringing attention to soul and funk music, as well as her fellow-musicians, friends and label mates, such as Charles Bradley and Lee Fields. This past year, the singer was treated and cleared of pancreatic cancer; although she took the majority of 2013 off the road and out of the studio for chemotherapy and recover, she has stated in numerous interviews that she’s excited to get back on stage and teach her audience about her struggle with cancer. To hear about her other causes, listen to songs like “What If We All Stopped Paying Taxes” and “Ain’t No Chimneys in the Projects.”
Karen Orzolek | Karen O, Yeah Yeah Yeahs | 2000-present
Karen O is probably the one musician I thought I could grow up to be when I was an adult—even though I am definitely not as cool as her, nor can I scream in songs. A graduate of the Tisch School of the Arts at NYU, Karen O first made herself known with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, whose first gig was as an opening band for The White Stripes. Since their start in 2000, Karen O has gone on to refuse to do a Playboy cover, was named Spin’s Sex Goddess of the year twice, and worked on numerous soundtracks, including for the American-version of “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Where the Wild Things Are.” To hear her mastery, listen to one of my faves, “Date with the Night” or “Cheated Hearts.”
Ella Maria Lani Yelich-O’Connor | Lorde | 2012-present
Okay, okay, I know: I’m hopping on the bandwagon! Look, I’m selling out! Honestly, I could care less about what people think of this choice. Lorde, who is only 17 years-old, has been the first solo female artist to top the Billboard Alternative Songs chart in the U.S. since 1996, as well as performed at festivals like Decibel and Splendour in the Grass. To get a notion of her angst and awesomeness, listen to “Team” or “Tennis Court,” and get excited for what’s coming out of the next generation in terms of music.