Ladypalooza came at a weird time for me this year. South by Southwest was last month, which led to me writing extensively about music for a few weeks. Compound that with my fervent attempts to get EVERYONE! EVERYWHERE! to listen to my favorite band by writing what amounts to little more than musical erotica about their latest album. I was slightly burned out on writing about music. This would be only my second post on the The Beatdown AND there were a lot of great people signing up to write AND I had nothing. I panicked. Then I went to sleep. The answer would come to me tomorrow.
I’m very much like Scarlett O’Hara.
I decided I needed to write about one woman I admired, one that I hadn’t written about yet. But after reading the comments on Silvana’s piece (and looking at the moderator queue for all of the real assholes) I had a somewhat different topic: women’s voices. Male critics ran to the comments to let it be known that they didn’t like women’s voices. When called on this batshittery, they cried “YOU CAN’T TELL ME I’M WRONG. It’s just my opinion!” That is your defense? Look, I know all art is fundamentally subjective and unknowable, but give me a fucking break. There is a big difference between saying something like Ringo is your favorite Beatle and DISMISSING AN ENTIRE GENDER’S CONTRIBUTION TO MUSIC.
I LOVE women’s voices. Always have. Every since the first time I heard Tori Amos sing “Happy Phantom.” I realized that there was this thing called ladymusic, and this thing felt like a secondary vibration of my own soul. I’ve spent nearly a decade listening to every conceivable permutation of the female voice, and have found them marked by infinite variety. Every woman’s voice is shaped by her environment, and her history, and her genetics. Different women handle phrasing differently, clipping lines into tight stanzas or unrolling verses out as long as they need to go. Female musicians BREATHE DIFFERENTLY for christ’s sake.
My favorite type of voice is the contralto. You hear the term most often in discussions of female Opera singers – contralto is the range below alto. But oh, other ladies have this magic too. Marianne Faithfull, Annie Lennox, Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane. Nina Simone used to go as low as Baritone. WHICH IS WHAT I SING.
That’s just my favorite. Lady musicians vary in range. Some ladies don’t even sing. Some ladies scream. Some ladies ROCK YOUR SOCKS RIGHT THE FUCK OFF YOUR FEET. There is no excuse for hearing “Heatbeats” by The Knife, or “I Will Always Love You,” or “Oh Micky You So Goddamn Fine” and pretending you don’t feel anything. Don’t act like it doesn’t make you want to smile, or dance, or sing along.
EVERY FEMALE MUSICIAN HAS HAD TO WORK HARDER THAN HER MALE COUNTERPARTS. When a woman makes music, she is struggling against a culture than doesn’t accept her as an equal. As a result, the music that women make has a lot more riding on it, and is marked by the complexity of this struggle – giving it a higher bandwidth. Low-bandwidth music takes a long time to transmit a simple message – what Silvana called “dude music.” High-bandwidth music is the kind of music that forces you to spend hours carving out emotional narratives in the lyrics, going back weeks later to find they’ve caved in, closed themselves off to you and exposed new passages that run for miles.
This is what draws me back to my favorite band, Beach House. Their music is perfectly designed for deep, emotional analysis. I’ve spent entire days playing the song “Master of None”, just to hear Victoria Legrand say “Jack of all trades, Master of none, Cry all the time, ‘Cause I’m not having fun.”
Isn’t that just every asshole you’ve ever dated?
This music is high-bandwidth. This is music that transmits a complex message. I like some male musicians, love Elliott Smith, but I tend to bond with ladymusic. Because whether it’s Nina Simone, or Janis Joplin, or Karen O – women can’t afford to leave anything on stage. They can’t fall back on their gender privilege and coast for a few albums.
So, to all the entitled, douchy, holier than thou MUSIC DUDES out there, we entreat you to shut your head gash. We “The International Alliance of People With GOOD Taste in Music” veto your attempts to ridicule us. It is YOU who has shitty taste in music. We, the IAPWGTM (that’s one unruly fucking acronym) don’t want to hear another word from you on what makes good music. We got this covered, thanks.