Popular Music: Another Denial of Female Voice?

A few years ago I was looking through my gallery of music and noticed that almost all of the vocal artists in my collection were male. ‘I just don’t prefer the female voice’ I thought. But then I began looking around and noticing that most all-time great bands featured primarily male vocals. Even the local music scene in the town I went to college in was dominated by male musicians and bands. And how many times have I seen a home-made music video of a couple of men mockingly singing and dancing to Lady Gaga, or some other female musician?—Countless, and it never seems to get old. It is a failure in American popular music culture that female vocalists are not taken as seriously as men to be creative artists.

Let’s take a test. Spend 30 seconds to write down every mainstream musician or band you can think of that were popular from 1960-1990 and which are listened to today in broad popular abundance. On my list, most of them are characterized by male vocals. I don’t buy that all these men were that much better than all the women producing music during these decades.  In music history the male voice is largely more infamous than the female voice.

Music is a medium to share messages, emotional meaning, and stories. This music phenomenon reflects whose opinions, thoughts, and emotions we are willing to listen to and regard as important. I’ve taken an initiative to research female vocalists and become a regular listener. I challenge the readers of this post to bring some equity to your music collection, if it’s not already. Go out, research and discover female musicians whose music you connect with.

Here are a few of my favorite female vocalists/musicians and some songs for sampling. If you don’t like them, go find ones you like and add your own suggestions in the comments!

Soko: “I Thought I Was an Alien” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDmvVilFeVQ

Neko Cake: “Man” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unNa-9qGkfI&feature=kp
* This song explores gender dichotomies

Cat Power: “Cherokee” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PDbPrOuXq2s

CocoRosie: “Lemonade” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tu3EcAHdHlE&feature=kp




4 thoughts on “Popular Music: Another Denial of Female Voice?

  1. womanstats says:

    The greatest female rock vocalists ever–
    Grace Slick–archetype song, “Don’t You Want Somebody to Love”
    Ann Wilson–archetype song, “Magic Man”
    Joni Mitchell–archetype song, “I was a Free Man in Paris”
    Janis Joplin–archetype song, “Get It While You Can”
    Aretha Franklin (ok, soul-rock), “Respect”
    Carly Simon–archetype song, “In Times When My Head Was Together About You”
    Carole King–archetype song, “Been To Canaan”
    Joan Baez (ok, folk-rock), archetype song, “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down”
    Roberta Flack (ok, soft rock)–archetype song, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”

    So many more . . . these women were guides . . .

  2. Chad Emmett says:

    Interesting post. I am not a big pop music fan, but from my kids playlists I can at least now recognize the sultry voice of Adelle. On a recent road trip we pulled out a best of the Carpenters CD harkening back to my wife’s and my teenage years. After a few songs, both my wife and daughter concurred that Karen Carpenter (who has a wonderful voice) always sang sad songs, many of them about lost love. The Carpenters were thus ejected in favor of something more upbeat. Adelle’s songs also seem to be about lost or jilted love. Does this represent a theme for women singers?

  3. Abigail Rumsey says:

    I’ve sometimes thought that my music collection seems dominated by male singers but brushed it off as thinking I prefer them. There are definitely not enough big female rock bands. I went to the Country Music Hall of Fame recently and discovered Wanda Jackson, who sounded much like Elvis (and was around at the same time) but I’d never heard of her: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wanda_Jackson

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