The ‘pretty girl’who re­fuses to play the gen­regame

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - Opinion - Brian Boyd on mu­sic

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.

bboyd@ir­ish-times.ie

Kate Nash: genre de­fy­ing

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Ireland

© PressReader. All rights reserved.