Fem The Future

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Today in my local HMV I was surrounded by blue. Yes, Ed Sheehan had intercepted every corner of the shop to promote his new album, meaning even the staff themselves had to swap pink shirts for a deeper shade… I was shocked to see even the carrier bags offered were covered in that dreaded divide sign. The thought of becoming a walking promotion for an artist who far from lights my fire and baffles me with his chart notoriety was just too much. This got me thinking a lot about International Women’s Day and its relationship with pop music. In my mind, women have always been running rings around men in the field of pop music, crafting genuinely progressive tunes and championing social change. So why is a ginger chap from Suffolk afforded renewed success and minimal scrutiny when so many female pop acts aren’t?

Since the dawn of time I always regarded women as being the dominant force in pop music. Growing up on a healthy diet of Spice Girls, Britney and, of course, Madonna, I listened to and watched females who shaped and shifted pop over and over again. Obviously, at that time I had little awareness of the male gaze, the male-dominated music industry and the masculine bravado which reduces women in music to one-dimensional ‘singers’, whose only other talent is ‘looking good’. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve fallen into these traps myself and found myself checking my reactions – this mess is engrained in society. Thankfully, the internet has really started to open up this conversation and provide platforms for important explorations of femininity – just look at Beyoncé’s landmark Lemonade.

It’s easy to shout about the Ed Sheerans and The Weeknds of this world but for too long female pop artists have been undervalued for their artistry, technical ability and, importantly, social impact. I mean, let’s not forget the invaluable representation countless women in pop have provided for the LGBTQI+ community… Without losing myself in this discussion, I really wanted to use this post to celebrate the women in pop: musicians, writers, producers, technicians, managers, or, all of the above, who continue to keep the pop landscape as thrilling, forward-thinking and inclusive as it was when Madonna first cried: ‘Express yourself!’

Check out my Fem The Future playlist below for some of the best female collabs of last year:

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WTF is Pop?

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For centuries scientists, philosophers and religious nuts alike have all been throwing in their two cents to try and determine the true meaning of life. In that time, wars have been won, technology has changed the face of the Western world forever, and Carly Rae Jepsen’s Call Me Maybe has sold in excess of 18 million copies. So, what is my point? What is the fantastical link I am trying (but probably failing) to make? Well, the point is: pop music can be as head scratchingly baffling and beautiful as life itself. Some will regard pop as low art – a cheap and nasty product of the mainstream music industry. Others will regard it as an expert study in postmodernism – a perfect collision of style, substance and slay. For me, pop is all of these things and more.

Nearly ten years ago I encountered an article by Pitchfork writer Tom Ewing comparing Britney’s pop masterpiece Blackout with the disembodied voices heard throughout David Lynch’s equally masterful TV series Twin Peaks. I’d never watched the show before but the comparison stuck with me as I re-approached Britney’s robotic come-ons with new ears. Five years later, I had become a David Lynch devotee and the bizarre comparison suddenly made perfect sense. On one level, Blackout is an escapist slice of forward-thinking electropop; on another, it’s the sound of manufactured pop quite literally eating itself as our former bubblegum princess is drawn into darker and more daring sounds – see Exhibit A:

It’s moments like this when pop really gets interesting and the good, the bad and the ugly perfectly align.

So I suppose you’re still wondering… WTF is Pop!? Well, as your Pop Scribe I’m hoping to explore the endless answers to this question through a careful combination of words, sentences and clichés. Failing that, here’s a quote from Ms. Britney Spears herself:

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“I don’t really have time to sit down and write. But when I think of a melody, I call up my answering machine and sing it, so I won’t forget it.”