In the 90s the Spice Girls introduced us to Girl Power as they reigned supreme over the charts. Their faces were everywhere from posters in young girls’ bedrooms (including mine!) to TV shows to crisp packets. They even had their own film which is so bad it’s good! The music industry has changed quite a bit since then so does Girl Power still exist in 21st Century? I think it does.
2013 was certainly the year for women in music. To name a few Katy Perry released her 3rd album ‘Prism’ along with her ‘Killer Queen’ perfume range, Lady Gaga continued to be her wonderfully weird self with her third album ‘Artpop’, Kylie Minogue became a judge on The Voice UK and Beyoncé sent social media into meltdown when she released her audio/visual album out of the blue. These acts not only earn their power from their success but also from respect. When Emeli Sandé’s debut album ‘Our Version of Events’ received lots of positive reviews from music critics it became the best selling album of 2012. So she earned respect from her commercial and critical success.
Meanwhile Miley Cyrus made the headlines for all the wrong reasons. Her short bleach blonde hair, skimpy outfits, tattoos and red lipstick was a sudden and drastic image change from her clean cut Hannah Montana days. Her notorious behaviour was also attracting attention, who can forget ‘twerking’ with Robin Thicke?! Although she isn’t the best role model she was the leading lady in the press throughout 2013 and she “came in like a wreeeecking baaaaaaaallllll!” On the flipside Taylor Swift is seen as a very positive role model. The straight edge country girl is idolised by many young girls in the US and who can blame them, her lyrics are light-hearted and she doesn’t take herself too seriously. The opposite to Miley.
It’s not just the pop sector were women seem to be leading the way. Artists like Lana Del Ray, St Vincent, Haim, Warpaint, The Pierces and Jenny Lewis tap into a more select audience but still gain critical acclaim. Let’s not forget the front women such as Hayley Williams from Paramore, Amy Lee from Evanescence, Hannah Reid from London Grammar, Gwen Stefani from No Doubt, etc.
Women in rock music often have difficulty breaking through because it is a very testosterone led genre. I particularly admire Joan Jett, the “Godmother of Rock” and rightfully so. She formed all girl rock band The Runaways in 1975 and they became an overnight success. When they broke up in 1979 she went solo and several platinum and gold selling albums later she is still touring! I recommend watching ‘The Runaways’ (starring Kristen Stewart and Dakota Fanning) to see how their passion and determination got them from practicing in a trailer park to sell out shows in Japan.
So Girl Power is still alive and strong today but in a different way. The Spice Girls’ version of “Girl Power” became their slogan, it also represented how a girl band could be just as good as a boy band (many of which were about in 90s!). Today female artists and girl groups continue to dominate the charts and more are emerging from every sector of industry, this is the 21st Century version of Girl Power. But really Girl Power has always existed, from Sister Rosetta Tharpe in the 40s to Aretha Franklin in the 60s to Madonna in the 80s (and now!). As Joan Jett once said “Girls have got balls. They’re just a little higher up that’s all”.