If you’re a woman in music these days, you’re given two options: you can either be sexy and fun or you can be sexy and serious. Either way, you’re expected to pony up your body to be manipulated, prettied up, dressed the right way and posed just so in order to garner media attention. Sure, men are marketed in similar ways, but the focus with male musicians is on their music first, and their appearance second. Of course, when they’re better looking, you’re a lot more likely to hear their music. (Case in point: Calvin Harris) But when it comes to women, I struggle to find an example of a female musician who is both popular and ugly. This post is not about that ugly person.
Nobody is more aware of this sad dichotomy than Grimes, who’s been an outspoken critic of the music industry’s double standard. She wrote out her feelings on the subject on her Tumblr and it picked up a lot of attention, though much of that dismissed it as a “feminist rant” instead of what it was, an objective, first-hand account piece scrutinizing the music industry for the boy’s club that it is.
Popular music in the nineties was loaded with women who were politically-charged and female-centric whose sales didn’t suffer in the same way they do now. Tori Amos, Sarah McLaughlan, Ani Difranco, The Indigo Girls all thrived in what could be called the “Lilith Fair Era.” Their era passed quietly with the new millennium, relegating them back from the spotlight, back into obscurity. Grimes is among the few female musicians (along with CHVRCHES’ Lauren Mayberry and Karin of The Knife) eschewing sexuality in an effort to be taken seriously as a musician, to be treated with respect and refusal to accept objectification as status quo.
Fortunately, her music does speak for itself. It’s quirky, dance-able and sweet. At times, you can hear the anime and video game influences, serving as a kind of soundtrack for your life as an RPG. She wound up cancelling a final tour date last summer in order to get started on recording a new album, which hasn’t been given a release date as of yet but will be released through Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label. Until then, and for this Sunday, satiate yourself with her ambitious debut, Visions below.