Only Heartbroken Women are True Artists

‘women in music are allowed to be singer songwriters singing about their boyfriends . if they change the subject matter to atoms , galaxies , activism , nerdy math beat editing or anything else than being performers singing about their loved ones they get criticized’

Björk recently wrote a powerful Facebook status welcoming the winter solstice and damning the misogynistic music industry. In her post she talks about how her recent DJ set was reviewed compared to how her male peers were reviewed. A large majority of the reviewers said she ‘hid behind the desk’ and was not really ‘performing’, a criticism that, yes you’ve guessed it, her male counterparts did not receive. I don’t think she was surprised by this. No working female artist is surprised by misogyny anymore, it’s kind of a given, and at first I sadly kind of saw it as non-news. But after I read her status, I started to think about it differently. She was saying that women are often not legitimised in their art form until they are heartbroken.  As women, ‘if we dont cut our chest open and bleed about the men and children in our lives we are cheating our audience .’ And I think this is actually a really pertinent issue which we don’t think about enough.

It took me less than two minutes to think of recent examples in theatre. It took me another thirty seconds to think of some examples in art. This is something I haven’t thought about properly until right now and it’s now all I can think about. Because it’s not just about sexist reviewers. It’s about how we (or don’t, in fact) legitimise female performance.

To start – Yerma. I kind of feel like I can’t really pass judgement on this one because I didn’t see it but I read a lot of reviews on it and also I know the play. Billie Piper is one of the hottest picks of 2016 for all the ‘Best Female Performance’ awards. It’s widely agreed she gave a stunning performance as a woman heartbroken for her non-existent child, her lost lover, her neglectful husband. So many of the press photos surrounding the show were of Piper sprawled on the floor, broken and maddened with grief. I have no doubt she gave a wonderful performance, but I think it’s worth asking, as Björk does, whether we gave it more thought, more visibility, because she was so brutally torn apart by love and by men. Or perhaps this was not the reason why we legitimised it more, but it was a certainly a factor in why the performance was so well-received. There was a small backlash about the sexism of the play but widely it was dismissed because it was a good show, right? And that’s what the original story was, so it’s not like someone’s written something new and sexist, they’re just reviving an old sexist thing. Anyway, not the point, the point is we put, are putting, Piper on a pedestal because of her performance of heartbreak. It’s the same problem with the Medea’s, the Ophelia’s, the Blanche DuBois’s – according to our view of the great roles for women, we are only really performing when we’re broken.

It’s not just theatre. It’s in music, art, poetry – nearly every art form has this problem when it comes to legitimising female voices. In art, take Marina Abramović, one of the artworld’s strongest, most controversial figures and yet her most watched Youtube video is when she breaks down in tears in front of her ex-partner – Ulay. It has 14 million views where her other videos, where she talks about her art, have at most 500,000 views. She is one of the artists I respect most and yet that was how I first heard about her. When I was in sixth form I ran a workshop based on her practices in class for about an hour. I would say one of the only times everyone was really moved and engaged was when I talked about that video and her release of emotion. It really saddens me because her art is above everything about control and her most infamous moment is a loss of control.

This obsession with heartbroken women rears it head again in the poetry we read. Sylvia Plath is one of our most celebrated female poets, and one of our most infamous. Again I knew about her relationship with Ted Hughes and the nature of her death and heartbreak before I knew about Tulips, now one of my favourite poems. She is recognised because of her tragedy, not only her illness but the relationship with the men in her life, she was broken hearted because of Ted and because of her father. And, if you think this is exaggerated at all – I googled ‘great female poets’ and one of the first names to appear was Plath, and alongside it were her main ideas and themes – ‘Death, motherhood etc’. Whereas when I googled ‘great (male) poets’ the first to appear was Wordsworth whose main themes couldn’t wait to announce themselves – ‘Nature, the self, the body’. Notice a difference?

I could honestly go on about this for pages and pages, there are countless examples in all the art forms. I do think a lot of people will disagree with this but it’s just what I’ve been thinking about. Do we legitimise the performance of female heartbreak, of the broken and grieving woman, over other kinds of female performance? Do women need to bleeding and crying to be considered worth hearing, watching, or reading?

I want you to prove me wrong, I really do. But just before you jump on this, I think it’s worth asking whether these were just coincidences or whether this is something we need to think about.

Björk certainly thinks we do but she also wants us to move forward into a more positive and inclusive 2017. I want that too.

The opposite of an end of year list

I don’t have anything against end of year lists. I really don’t. I have my top albums of the year and my top ten songs of the year clearly laid out in my head and I might even tweet about them if you’re lucky. But I’m just going to be annoying and share a few albums that I’ve only started listening to this month instead of over the whole year and that I really really like. I think that’s acceptable – right? Maybe not, but I’m doing it anyway.

Please show me your anti-end of year lists too, would love to see what you’ve found recently.

5. Teens of Denial – Car Seat Headrest

These guys are elusive. I feel like I should already know them and simultaneously that no-one should ever know them. They’re the kind of band that will never be famous,.  Not because they’re not good enough, that’s just not their vibe. It’s very chilled out, but really intellectual (love that) and also manages to sustain interest even though the songs are LONG and to the untrained ear, all kind of the same. Anyway, they’re super cool and are a good antidote to the relentless Buble being played.

 

4. Awaken, My Love! – Childish Gambino

In case anyone didn’t realise before, Donald Glover is an actual god amongst us. This album affirms is place amongst the best. It’s new and in true Gambino style it is completely different to what has come before. This album shows off his actually pretty out-of-this world voice and there’s basically no rap. He’s typically unpredictable and intimidatingly multi-faceted. One to watch, to keep watching, to bow down to. Also particularly in love with his Prince-esque Fallon performance. So elusive.

 

3. Varmints – Anna Meridith

Have you ever heard a more drama/theatre/cinematic album? Probably not because this one is spectacular. It’s just that – dramatic, intense, skillfully crafted and poetic. A very very cool album shown to me a by very very cool friend. I listen to it on the train and I feel very powerful. (also a very awesome music video)

 

2. Puberty 2/Bury Me at Makeout Creek – Mitski

Ahhh she’s so cool I really really love these albums and her. She has an entertaining and highly relatable twitter account as well. Would highly recommend. Anyway, the album fulfills all those dreamy American summer fantasies. Her music is hazy and lovely. I have been listening non-stop.

 

My number one is three special mentions.

  • Starboy – The Weekend
  • My Woman – Angel Olsen
  • Don’t You – Wet

BAIO – Brainwash yyrr Face

BAIO takes a refreshing step away from his Columbia-college band roots with the certainly individual, but not definably indie, new electro-chill single. 

Ahead of upcoming solo album ‘The Names’ Chris Baio, bassist of indie-prep band Vampire Weekend, has released the opening track ‘Brainwash yyrr Face’. Make no mistake, this track is not a Vampire Weekend rip-off – far from it. Nowhere in his new album (I imagine) will one find screeching vocals and summer guitar riffs. Instead, subdued bass electronic tracks which shuffle and dance around your headphones are what characterise Chris Baio’s, aka ‘BAIO’, solo music. He shows himself as a competent and interesting DJ; flavourful and yet subtle. The track is a process. It starts very minimal, with a simple keyboard-type beat, then begins to loop and repeat, suddenly soft vocals creep in and it begins to take form. By the chorus, samples are being tossed into the mix and new layers emerge. Things get interesting. It takes a little while to get going but I’d like to think that is on purpose as the minimalism begins to repeat itself when the heavy beat is introduced. It shows a slow building up, layering, a journey. That is what I take from the single anyway.

His track ‘On&On&On&On’ released in September 2014 was also featured on this blog and I thoroughly enjoyed that single. This one, if possible, surpasses it and allows a slightly edgier sound to be sought out by the expert looping and reversed bass lines. This may not be what one expects from an indie band member, but it’s well worth a listen, and I certainly will be pre-ordering the album. It is chilled mellow track, with a likeness to Garden City Movement, Phoria, MK, and James Blake.

Listen Here

Feminists Are Annoying

Article written for controversial school pamphlet:

FEMINISTS ARE ANNOYING

From personal experience I can tell all women it is essential that you do not proudly proclaim yourself a ‘Feminist’. You must remember to never try to assert your authority – this will be only detrimental to your cause. Make sure that, if by some horrible coincidence you are labelled a feminist, everyone knows you don’t hate men.  Most likely you will be outed, stereotyped or disagreed with on most accounts. Of course, if I were in fact to give out instructions on ‘How to be a Feminist’ it would inevitably be completely hypocritical of the point of this article and also would be ‘annoying’.

Yes, I could make this an angry, rampant article about feminism and how women are treated unfairly because it is an extremely relevant issue but I don’t think it’s interesting anymore. I agree that we should shut up about feminism, we’ve heard it all before and it’s boring. Honestly, I’m bored too. I am bored of having to continually assert my right to speak, be heard and be respected. I’m also bored of the fact that mentioning the word will get you nowhere except eye-rolling and heavy sighing. Because feminists are bitchy, and loud, and annoying – right? Someone has got to shut them up.

I’m being satirical, by the way. I’m being funny. Feminism is funny – isn’t it? Irritating feminists is really funny. It’s hilarious that I am still compelled to write an article in a private, liberal boarding school about how women are not treated equally to men. Humanity has walked on the moon but girls are still having to prove their right to equality. I get it – talking about feminism makes us uncomfortable. But actually, it should be uncomfortable, and awkward. I want you to feel a little ashamed, annoyed and bored by this article – I want you to feel something. Get annoyed and get angry. Feminism is now so far removed from its original purpose that it has become a demonised and largely rejected concept for most people. The intended impact of feminism has become lost amongst the ‘white feminists’ and ‘menimist’ movements of Twitter and the media. For those who don’t know, mainstream ‘white feminism’ does not only disregard intersectionality but sometimes even attempts at diversifying their feminism actually contribute to the dilution of intersectional feminism by speaking over the voices which talk about the wage gap and exploitation of WOC. Be proud of standing up for equality and associating yourself with a ‘feminine’ concept.

It’s ironic because most of you have probably stopped reading by this point – the only ones left are the people who want to disagree and the bra-burners. What I’m trying to say is that yes, I agree with you, feminists are annoying. Sometimes you think we need to shut up. The reality is, feminists are annoying because they have to repeat themselves over and over again. Feminists are annoying because they get wound up by stupid little boys (and girls) who believe it is their god given right to be in on an inside joke against women, when in fact they are perpetuating the sexism which has been alive for hundreds of years and ridiculing a cause which women have literally died for. Why did no one teach them to shut up?

This Isn’t What We Expected from The Vaccines

What did we expect from The Vaccines? Probably not this crazy new sound – but we are loving it. The indie-pop band recently released their new single, a UK tour and a multitude of festivals dates. ‘Handsome’ has the familiar pop rock melodies of ‘Norgaard’ and the ironic teenage angst filled lyrics of ‘No Hope’ but it also is a breath of fresh air for the band. Justin has said that he wants the song to sound bad in 10 years, and have it define a generation of music – a bold claim for this self proclaimed pop band. I don’t think pop necessarily has to sound bad in 10 years, it just needs to be so familiar that you know it like it the back of your hand and the tune is so lodged in your brain that it’s pretty impossible to remove it once it gets stuck there.

Since ‘Handsome’, the band have given us a taste of the album with other singles like ‘Dream Lover’ and ’20/20′ (seen live 3rd April 2015). ‘Dream Lover’ is dripping with heavy, electronic riffs and is a spaced out, crazy single. 20/20 is upbeat, guitar-shredding, Vampire Weekend-inspired enjoyment, similar to their older stuff – it’s my favourite so far. However, it does have a close competitor in the form of ‘Minimal Affection’. I must admit when I first heard the opening notes of MA I wasn’t convinced – it wasn’t really up my street, or so I thought. On a second, and then third, and then fourth listen (all back to back you understand) – I was sold. It’s funky, it’s catchy – it’s like The Strokes, Chromeo and early Vaccines B-sides in one big, beautiful melting pot. Solid, groovy tunes and ambiguous lyrics are looking more and more likely to characterise the new album.

Has Sia Gone Too Far?

Sia’s Elastic Heart music video is the latest controversy to hit the music world. Recieving over 5 million views in the first 24 hours, this latest single is classy pop magic, filled with head flicks, passion and electronic key changes. Classic Sia. The music video features Maddie Ziegler, the same extraordinary girl from Chandelier. However, it also has a guest appearance from Shia LaBeouf. Both are clad in nude coloured skin tight leotards and dance around a large cage, similarly to the aforementioned Chandelier. People saw this and they immediately assumed a promotion of pedophilia.

In my opinion, Sia, a world renowned and critically acclaimed pop queen, would not intentionally promote anything of this nature. Her new hidden identity has allowed her to express herself in her music in a far better, and far freer way. You can practically hear her heart pounding out of her chest in every beat, and she clearly carries out her work with the up most passion and conviction, and in turn I would imagine she expects some respect, as an artist if not as a person. As for this music video, it is not about a relationship, not a sexual one anyway. Sia predicted, wisely as always, that there would be a backlash towards the video. She hasn’t been controversial for the sake of controversy, she has employed two extremely talented individuals to express her music. There’s a number of people who have interpreted this video as a presentation of Sia’s relationship with her father, which is valid from an artistic perspective, but she has stated specifically that it is not about her father, and these interpretations do somewhat perpetuate the abuse element of the piece.

The video is about Sia. It is about her mentality and ‘two warring Sia states’. Whether it is a present and past Sia, a disturbed and sane Sia, or an uncontrollable and stable Sia we may never know, she may never reveal this to us, but what she has told should be respected. I just can’t help but feel a little disappointed in these comments. From watching the video you can see that this beautiful piece of dance, theatre, art has a deep rooted emotional centre and the elegant, modern choreography pushes all the right boundaries. Judging this video as sexual and abusive is crude and is a discredit to Sia, Maddie and Shia. They have all worked incredibly hard on this, especially Maddie, a girl of only twelve and the flawless accuracy and passion which seeps through the screen is what people should pay attention to. If you see this video as supporting pedophilia then you need to check yourself and realise that it’s probably you that needs to reassert their view of music, people and society, not Sia.

My Top Albums of 2014

This is All Yours – Alt J

Alt J’s eagerly awaited second album ‘This Is All Yours’ dropped in late September, followed by a national tour and worldwide appearances. The progression from their last album is clear to see, but for me, the singles shone brightest. Hunger of the Pine, Left Hand Free, and my personal favourite, Every Other Freckle are perfectly paced, atmospheric tracks and are a credit to the band. However this is not to dismiss the other tracks. Beautifully delicate melodies, such as in Garden of England and Bloodflood II sparkle wonderfully and the charming duet in Warm Foothills add to the ambiance of the album. ‘This Is All Yours’ should be listened to as one piece of music. The electronic tones melt into each other and the gentle ebb and flow of vocals washes over you. It’s all part of Alt-J’s genius musical talent, and their ability to entice and submerge a listener into their dreamlike, slow motion lives.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Every Other Freckle
  • Bloodflood II
  • Hunger of the Pine

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Wanted on Voyage – George Ezra

Injected with life and spontaneity, Ezra’s debut crackles with a folk pop style which addicts even the most cynical of critics. Influenced by his travels and idols like Ed Sheeran, Tom Odell and Mumford and Sons, ‘Wanted on Voyage’ managed to capture my interest and, somewhat unexpectedly, hold it for a whole year. Ezra exploded in 2014, and what with performing at Glastonbury, bringing out his first album and touring he has managed to stick to his roots and stay down to earth. This humbling LP is joyful and warms the soul.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Blame It On Me
  • Listen to the Man
  • Leaving It Up To You

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St. Vincent – St. Vincent

Quirky lyrics and a bold sound gratify the mind and ears in St. Vincent’s self titled LP. Sweeping an extraordinary number of accolades, nominated for a Grammy and NME awards, and a shower of five star reviews, this LP took over 2014 in a big way. Still seemingly remaining under the radar, Annie Clark’s alternative electronic rock has really made an impact in the critics world and justifiably. She weaves and interconnects synth sounds, harmonies and heavy basslines with the epitome of sophistication and class. In this vein, it seems suitable that she sits on a pink throne on her latest album cover, claiming her place as queen.

Favourite Tracks:

  • Prince Johnny
  • Digital Witness
  • Rattlesnake

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