The ‘pretty girl’who refuses to play the genregame
When Kate Nash received her Brit award for Best British Female Solo artist last week, she made the most interesting observation of the night (it was, in fact, the only observation made on the night). She said that “female is not a genre”.
This was a radical statement, given the surrounds, though undermined somewhat by an inane voice-over presenter who a few seconds earlier had described Nash as “such a pretty girl”.
The only remarkable aspect of this year’s Brits was that it did mark a welcome new change in which women are being represented in music. Since the Spice Girls’ heyday, the ceremony has been marked by a succession of thrusting and pouting girl-band types – each as disposable as the next – with the odd “maverick” thrown in to relieve the tedium. The “maverick” was always easy to spot: she was the woman who wrote and performed her own songs and didn’t feel the need to dress like a cheap hooker and perform a routine that would make a lap-dancer blush.
Nash, Adele, the quickly arriving Duffy and a whole slew of interesting new talent will no doubt go on to dominate the “female” category at the Brits in years to come. It can only be a good thing for the watching masses to know that you can be a normal healthy size, that you can control your career, and that you can still elbow out Kylie for the main prizes. It’s little wonder that artists such as PJ Harvey and Björk are always described as “weird” when the only comparisons in their genre would be with over-made-up stage schoolgirls with an eye on Heat magazine. Through sheer weight of numbers, the likes of Nash, Adele and Duffy are beginning to broaden the female genre, and the nominees for Best British Female Solo reflect this.
It used to be hard to drum up five worthy nominations for this
category, but this year’s list also included Harvey, Leona Lewis, KT Tunstall and Bat for Lashes. The only really old-style act in there was Leona Lewis, who came through some TV talent show but has since showed herself to be a performer of merit and not just another pop puppet.
And finally it seems, the female soul singers are not making Joss Stone’s mistake – trying to sound like Mariah Carey. These newer stars are more influenced by acts such as Ella Fitzgerald, Etta James and more recent greats such as Dusty Springfield.
It’s no coincidence that just as the Brit female nominations were announced The Spice Girls were cancelling the remaining dates on their comeback tour. Though the Spices claimed “other commitments”, it’s understood that the tickets just weren’t selling. How beautifully ironic that the horrible “girl power” phrase has no bearing on Posh and company, and that, if it’s used at all, it’s applicable to the new breed of female singers.
Girl power was disingenuous. The Spice Girls were put together by men, their songs were written by men, their look was styled by men, and they were managed by men. They only had to stand there and look pretty. (And, most times, even that was beyond them.)
Nash’s statement about female not being a genre really should be examined by not just the Brits but all music awards. The point she was making was that there simply is no longer a need for distinct “female” categories in award shows. After all, the Mercury Music Prize doesn’t have a separate “women only” shortlist, so why should the Brits and other such affairs? Bye bye girl power.
Kate Nash: genre defying