When I was 15 I started learning to play guitar. The man in the music shop who sold me the instrument encouraged me to learn because “there aren’t enough girls who play guitar” (his words). And back then, he was right – I really didn’t know of many female guitarists.
Fast forward ten years later and, while I personally won’t be rocking any stages at Glastonbury any time soon, the situation in the music scene has certainly changed. I have commented on this interesting development while watching the Glastonbury footage for the past couple of years . There are now literally loads of female guitarists, and I have certainly reviewed a fair few bands on here who contain at least one of these formally elusive creatures. At the very moment of writing there is a certain trio of LA sisters at the top of the charts and guess what? They play guitar.
This is more than ironic though. It’s important for the point I’m going to make. Anyone who takes the time and the effort (and in the case of guitar – the initial finger torture) to practice an instrument in order to reach a level of competency for playing live wants to be taken seriously as a musician. Fact. I can’t see how there could be any disagreeing on this point.
But it seems not all “musicians” (and I use this term generously) want to be remembered for their actual music. You might get the impression, judging by the current furore stirred up by the likes of Miley Cyrus, that the state of women in music is a grim one indeed. Pop legend Annie Lennox recently stated in an interview with BBC Radio 5 Live that pop music videos have become increasingly “dark” and “pornographic”, and I can’t say I disagree with her having seen some of the videos she clearly has in mind.
Rhianna, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus have all recently released such videos (‘Throw It Up’, ‘Work Bitch’ and ‘Wrecking Ball’ respectively). Now, I am not against women being comfortable with their sexuality and wearing what they like in their videos, even if that IS just a piece of cheese wire, but what’s important is the spirit behind the doing. And these are so obviously done in a childish “LOOK AT ME I’M BEING NAUGHTY!!!!!!!!!!” sort of way, in order to increase Youtube hits. It seems these artists are in competition with one another to be as controversial as possible, and that’s kind of pathetic to be honest. And what happens when people get bored of this behaviour? What will be their next move to attract attention? On top of that it gives crap journalists an excuse to write lazy filler articles on how the youth of today are being corrupted by these bad role models.
But here’s the thing. People who get into a tizzy about the state of the music industry are failing to see the full picture. Shock tactics are not the only things that get attention. Sometimes genuine talent does as well. The two best-selling albums in the world are Adele’s 21 and Amy Winehouse’s Back To Black – albums by two women who are known for their amazing talent instead of their raunchy music videos. Haim, unless I’m very much mistaken, do not get their kit off in the video for ‘The Wire’, and lick a sledgehammer in a provocative manner. You know why? BECAUSE THEY ARE PROPER MUSICIANS. For them, it’s actually about the music.
The Mileys of the world will come and go, because their careers are built on the unstable platforms of fluctuating public interest and titillation. The Adeles and Haims of the world, and many of the excellent musicians we cover on this website, will endure because their careers are built on the stable foundation of genuine talent and an actual passion for music.
And they are the only musicians that matter.