Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Women Of Indie - the forward momentum of the genre

When thinking about women of the indie genre you’re often left thinking of successful artists such as Hayley Williams, Billie Eilish, Hayley Kiyoko, or Halsey of the indie-pop genre; those that have defied the trials and tribulations of womanhood to make, and sell good - non-formulaic - music.

The key is in the fact their songs are not entirely “pop”, and therefore can be considered real art, or at least closer to it. Whilst men can dominate the pop scene to little a grumble, women have to constantly struggle in an uphill battle to justify their creativity, working twice as hard to gain half the opportunities, respect, support, and recognition.

In 2020, where the world of “pop” music is slowly merging with more “indie” genres, women in indie music are even more at risk of being undervalued. And it lies in the fact we now associate “pop” with “mediocre, talentless” music - is it a coincidence that the people who love real music want to go back to the 60’s and 70’s where The Beatles and co ruled the charts, rather than now when pop music is a predominantly female genre?

Women in music are often viewed as a mysterious phenomenon, and it’s an ingrained narrative that is all the more harmful for its subtle but assiduous nature. Now that women are fighting for equity in and around the music scene, it is by far harder to ignore them, or palm them off as a lucky talent; Black Honey has been labeled “one to watch” by The Guardian, Phoebe Green’s Reinvent is a smash-hit whilst Abbie Ozard’s dynamic Crocodile Tears video (complete with the new must-have onesie) is an immediate fan favourite. Their commercial success however does not negate the fact that the way these women are viewed is fundamentally as a sideshow, or successful only as a result of - really - anything or anyone but their own musical talent. 

For example, Hayley Williams is beloved for her Paramore days (with the masculine-dominated Nashville rock band), and whilst Petals For Armour, Williams's solo debut, was a musically ambitious and vulnerable record, it largely went unnoticed. Women of indie can be the frontwoman; something to look at - a token, pretty voice - even a lyricist, perhaps. But they can’t also occupy the business side of music or the intelligent, artistic side. They can only be there to look at rather than to converse with, and that’s when music is at it’s best: as a dialogue of an issue, experience or time that evokes nostalgia, making you feel less alone.

When you throw in the “indie” factor, which is now generally associated as an appendage to other genres, and add this to the women in music conversation, there’s even more fierce competition to be completely brand new, different and shiny; it is the women in the indie movement that are having to keep the forward momentum of the genre, partially out of necessity. We say we want something new, and when we have it, we don’t want it anymore. And that’s a problem with the entire music industry, not just for female indie artists. Ultimately, perhaps we should be focusing less on picking apart those artists' personal lives who have made a great success of their career, and instead lift up those whose musical talent is not getting enough recognition because, with women of indie, there’s a whole lot of them.

- Chloe Johnson

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