Girls still wanna have fun The post-50 women re­defin­ing pop

It’s not just male rock­ers age­ing (dis)grace­fully... Lisa Ver­rico her­alds the post-50 women re­defin­ing pop

Woman & Home (South Africa) - - In this issue... -

Of the many gigs I saw in 2017, only one made me laugh out loud, dance arms-aloft down an aisle and not care that I could hear my­self singing out of tune. Bana­narama’s come­back con­cert at Lon­don’s Ham­mer­smith Apollo was a night of pure joy. Watch­ing the ‘girl group’ – now in their late fifties and early six­ties – fluŠ their dance rou­tines just as they used to, gasp at the size of their ’80s hair, and tell sto­ries about how they be­came friends wasn’t just a nos­tal­gia trip. As a pop critic, I’ve seen scores of re­unions over the years – from Si­mon & Gar­funkel ig­nor­ing each other on stage to The Po­lice bury­ing hatch­ets. All were fan­tas­tic but none as much fun as Bana­narama. The trio at­tempt­ing to mimic moves from one of their old videos, or teas­ing each other

for be­ing out of breath, was bril­liant be­cause of who they are now, not who they were decades ago. It re­minded me of nights out with pals af­ter years apart.

What­ever mu­si­cians claim, most re­unions are about money. Bana­narama’s wasn’t like that. The joy the au­di­ence felt came straight from the stage. Sara Dallin, Siob­han Fa­hey and Keren Wood­ward ob­vi­ously loved be­ing back to­gether in front of fans who shared their ex­cite­ment. The re­union came about af­ter they got drunk sev­eral sum­mers ago at a din­ner at Fa­hey’s house. At 2am, they talked about tour­ing to­gether for the first time – Fa­hey quit the band in the late ’80s, just be­fore their first tour. The de­lay was partly due to other com­mit­ments, but there was also the worry that no one would care. In fact, when their come­back con­certs were an­nounced, all 13 dates sold out so quickly that an­other 10 were added. As Keren joked, “That’s 23 dates in a month – at our age!”


Bana­narama are by no means alone in prov­ing pop isn’t a ca­reer that women out­grow af­ter a cer­tain age. Deb­bie Harry, 73, has never stopped tour­ing or re­leas­ing records. She re­formed Blondie 20 years ago, and be­gan hav­ing hits all over again. And un­like, say, The Rolling Stones, much of the band’s new ma­te­rial has been fan­tas­tic. If you love clas­sic Blondie, check out their cur­rent al­bum, Pol­li­na­tor – it has all the hall­marks of

Par­al­lel Lines, but brought up to date. Fel­low Amer­i­can singer Madonna, 60, is an equally tire­less per­former. She’s ex­pected to re­lease new ma­te­rial any minute now, and we’re ex­pect­ing big, glossy tunes that’ll be house­hold hits.

And then there’s Pe­tula Clark. Over two years ago, I watched Pe­tula, then

83, rock a base­ment club in Ber­lin, play­ing old songs and new, in­clud­ing the dance hits she’s been hav­ing across Europe in re­cent years. Cru­cially, Pe­tula doesn’t try to keep up with the kids – she writes songs she likes and per­forms them. She doesn’t need the money, but said, “What else would I do? It’s my job.” In a sea of male mu­si­cians whose ca­reers seem­ingly have no sellby date – Paul Mccart­ney, El­ton John, Rod Ste­wart, Robert Plant, Paul Weller, The Stones, The Who… women post-50 mak­ing >>

mu­sic have of­ten been viewed as an anom­aly. When Kate Bush took a decade out of the lime­light to bring up her son, she was seen as an ec­cen­tric recluse. The 60-year-old has since re­leased three as­ton­ish­ing al­bums.

Like Kate, Cher, 72, chooses when she wants to work. Af­ter a five-year break, she headed back to the record­ing stu­dios, in­spired by her time on the set of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.

Her new al­bum Danc­ing Queen in­cludes 10 ABBA cov­ers that the ‘God­dess of Pop’ has made her own – and it sold around 153 000 units in the first week!


Since go­ing solo, for­mer Ev­ery­thing But The Girl singer Tracey Thorn, 56, has made her age an as­set, touch­ing on top­ics in­clud­ing menopause and dat­ing af­ter di­vorce in her songs. Her lat­est al­bum, Record, is a must-hear for mid­dle-aged moms. A high­light is Go, a dreamy pop song that de­scribes empty nest syn­drome al­most too beau­ti­fully to bear. “You must out­grow it all/those marks on the wall/you should leave it all be­hind/and I should never mind,” she sings. “To wave you out the door/it’s what my love was for.”

Lis­ten­ing to Go or the glo­ri­ous disco song Ba­bies – on which Tracey looks back over her life and com­pares 3am on a dance floor to 3am in a rock­ing chair, feed­ing – I was shocked to re­alise that, de­spite be­ing a mid­dle-aged mom my­self, I’d never no­ticed that next to no pop songs de­pict that side of my life. Now, I’m in search of any that do.

My cur­rent ob­ses­sion is Kylie Minogue’s new al­bum, Golden. Re­leased shortly be­fore the singer turned 50 in May, it’s by far the best record she’s made since her thir­ties, partly be­cause it ac­knowl­edges her age. Kylie mixes coun­try with her trade­mark disco-pop – “Dolly Par­ton on a dance floor”, as she de­scribes it. Golden is a sur­vival al­bum, made in the wake of Kylie’s very pub­lic break-up with the ac­tor Joshua Sasse. I love the song A Life­time To

Re­pair not just be­cause it makes me want to dance, but also be­cause it


cap­tures a re­la­tion­ship break-up in mid­dle age, so di‹er­ent from how it feels in one’s teens. Go lis­ten, and while you’re at it, check out her hit

Danc­ing, which has a killer cho­rus for any­one wor­ried about los­ing their lust for life. “When I go out/i wanna go out

danc­ing,” sings Kylie, as e‹erves­cent as ever, but re­fer­ring to the rest of her life, not her by­gone club­bing days.

But it’s not only in­ter­na­tional singers who’re chang­ing per­cep­tions of post-50 women in pop. On home soil, Mango Groove’s lead singer Claire John­ston, 50, says she en­joys per­form­ing now more than ever. And PJ Pow­ers, 58, is us­ing her years of ex­pe­ri­ence and in­flu­ence as a mu­si­cian to spread the word about so­cial jus­tice – her track Walk In My

Shoes is mu­sic with a mes­sage.


What th­ese suc­cess­ful artists have in com­mon is that they are mak­ing mu­sic that suits them and excites them, rather than try­ing to com­pete with a new gen­er­a­tion with di‹er­ent ideas and in­flu­ences. Björk, 53, is cur­rently mak­ing the most chal­leng­ing mu­sic of her ca­reer; whereas Lisa Stans­field, 52, re­cently re­leased an eighth al­bum that’s as classy and soul­ful as its pre­de­ces­sors.

I’m look­ing for­ward to re­dis­cov­er­ing more of my teenage idols. In 2017,

I saw Ali­son Moyet, 57, for­merly of Ya­zoo, on her first world tour in 30 years, for which she rightly re­ceived ec­static re­views. I’ve also fallen back in love with Kim Wilde, whose new al­bum,

Here Come The Aliens, re­calls her Kids In Amer­ica era, but adds rock gui­tars. It’s ex­cit­ing to see that the women we dis­cov­ered on those weeknight

Pop Shop ses­sions all those years ago are still go­ing strong and rock­ing stages. As coun­try pop star Sha­nia Twain,

53, would say, “Let’s go girls!”. w&h

Per­form­ing live in 2017 at Lon­don’s Ham­mer­smith Apollo Bana­narama The orig­i­nal trio re­formed in 2017 for a suc­cess­ful tour. From left: Siob­han Fa­hey, Sara Dallin and Keren Wood­ward

Kate BushHer 2014 live shows – her first since 1979 – were well worth the wait. Right: in the late 1970s

She’s set to shake things up with new mu­sic out in 2019 Madonna

Deb­bie Harry Blondie’s front­woman is still one of the most iconic women in mu­sic. Right: in 1978

Kylie Her new al­bum Golden is a sur­vival al­bum, which she made af­ter a break-up

Kim Wilde She may be 58, but she’s a true rock chick!

Tracey Thorn Writes about her ex­pe­ri­ences of menopause and empty nest syn­drome

Ali­son Moyet 2017 saw her first world tour in 30 years

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