Hey dude, why don’t you talk about something you don’t have much authority on and pretend you have a strong and valid opinion?
I get excited about women in rock music. Not in a, “Oh, it’s so hot when girls play music” sort of way either. I probably dig it because I didn’t see much of it when I was a teen going to shows every week. There’s something awesome about the uncommon (especially when you’re a weird kid to start with). Girl music stars? That’s fine. But girls in indie/punk rock bands? Fucking right on.
What I’ve been thinking about for the past few weeks or months (not continuously) is how people appreciate female vocalists. I think the words “female vocalist” put an image into most people’s head. I hear female vocalist and think Ella Fitzgerald. I’m sure most people have a go-to. Madonna. Gwen Stefani. Maybe Britney Spears or Christina Aguilera, for the younger kids. And maybe, for the actual youth of today… google “pop artists”… Jessie J. Most of the people that I think of (and I don’t think I’m alone in this) are relatively good singers. If not actually talented by your standards, they have pleasant enough voices. Maybe Britney Spears can’t hit a ton of notes (I honestly don’t know), but her voice isn’t grating or abrasive. I know there are examples of less pleasant female vocalists from the past but not a ton. Even female “rock” singers like Joan Jett had decent voices. And while Janis Joplin would occasionally wail, she had an amazing voice otherwise.
I think it is infinitely more difficult to get people to listen to abrasive female vocals. There is a long history of terrible male singers (Bob Dylan, anyone?) so it’s comfortable. It’s almost expected. But I think we associate women with pop stars, and pop stars with (more or less) good voices, so that when we hear a shrill or odd voice from a female singer, we are less accepting.
Personal Anecdote to make a point:
I listen to some punk/indie/pop punk rock with singers that sound horrible. Punk is understandable, no one makes sense in that scene. But there’s still an overabundance of unpleasant male singers when compared to women.
Chris Conley from Saves the Day on Sound the Alarm.
Aaron Weiss from mewithoutyou.
Keith Latinen from Empire! Empire! (I Was a Lonely Estate)
The list is endless. It’s all, basically, annoying, unusual, harsh, acerbic, singing. But I love it all. And more to the point, I hardly notice it. I hear all that noise by choice, yet the first time I heard UUVVWWZ, her voice shut me down. I thought, “I love the music but I can’t stand her voice.”
Maybe she doesn’t sound like Billie Holiday, but neither do Matt Pyror or Tomas Kalnoky. The same thing happened with Screaming Females.
She’s even an awesome guitarist. Now, I love their most recent album, Rose Mountain, but my initial reaction was still, “this isn’t a good voice.” as if all I listen to is Justin Timberlake. I even had this reaction to Hop Along, though her voice is basically awesome.
I’m loving their new album. And I love her voice, now. To be fair, I liked it really quickly but there was the underlying nagging criticism. “She strains too hard, too much.” How stupid is that? The music is great. Her voice, along with the others I listed, is awesome. Sure there might be flaws, but when the hell did I start caring about that? And why does it only seem to come up when I’m listening to female singers? I was able to overcome the initial bias to enjoy all of these bands, but I find it annoying that I have the bias in the first place.
I fully acknowledge that this bias might be a personal problem and the rest of the world is accepting of all types of female voices. I’m not sure I’d buy that, but it’s possible.
When I was playing music back in the day, almost every guy I knew played an instrument and almost no women did. I don’t know every reason for that, but I see my reaction to female singers and I can’t help but think stuff like that plays a big role.
Note: This is primarily about rock/pop music. Stuff like hardcore/punk/rap/metal/etc. are difficult to talk about because the concept of a “good voice” in those genres is more ambiguous.