Hottest 100 of the last 20 years rant (everyone is entitled to one, right?)

9 Jun

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Is anyone else disturbed by this list? Let me rephrase that, because I’m sure that there are lots of people who are sick of Wonderwall and feel like mentioning Blink182 publicly may well have broken the protective spell which has miraculously allowed us to pretend that they (and those ridiculous skater shoes I wore in year 9) never existed:

Is anyone disturbed by the fact that there are only seven female lead singers on this list?

Out of 100?

And 16 women… in total? Out of all the bands? And I am actually counting these women every time they have appeared… which means that when we consider we have bands with female members popping up more than once, like the smashing pumpkins, there are even fewer than 16 women on this list? (NB I really hope I have counted this wrongly. Please, please let me know if there are any more).

I know it’s just a popular vote, and a bit of fun, and it doesn’t matter – and don’t get me wrong, I actually really think the list is full of good music. I was happy to see that quite a few of the songs I voted for are on there (just none of the ones where women sang. Or made music in any way).

The thing that bothers me is that 940,000 Australians voted for this list. That’s an impressive proportion of our populace, and the majority of them (apparently) were aged between 22 and 25. I’m not saying their collective choices are wrong. I am genuinely wondering what has gone wrong that women’s indie music is so sidelined in our hottest 100s and in our hearts.

Perhaps this is a question about why women are less successful in the music industry in general, and in the indie music industry more specifically. Out there in the world we have Beyonce, Lady Gaga, even dreary, home-grown Delta making bucks from their pipes – so where are the visible women on this list? Why is megastardom an easier glass ceiling to crack than that of most-beloved indie songstress?

You’d think Triple J listeners on the whole might be inclined to think of themselves as ‘less establishment’ or ‘more progressive’ than those who listen to Triple M. So why are they voting as if they had never heard a song written and performed by a woman? Has my generation just been watching far too much Mad Men?

Where is Bat for Lashes? Portishead? PJ Harvey? Garbage? Cat Power, First Aid Kit, Ladyhawke? Bjork, for God’s sake?? Is it really that uncool to like female singers? Does that make you daggy, mean you have poor taste, mean you have no edge, no anger, no testosterone? No cool?

In all seriousness, I have a theory about what might have influenced our country to make this list. We are asking people to think back in their imaginations and compare music from the past 20 years with what they consider to be ‘great’. ‘What is the best music from the last 20 years?’ often equates roughly to ‘what music from the last 20 years is most like the best music of all time?’ Our culture, thanks to some tenacious baby boomers, is awash with the notion that music belongs to the late 1960s, the late 1960s belonged to rock, and rock belongs to Led Zeppelin, the Rolling Stones and the Beatles. In other words, to men. John Lennon, Robert Plant and Mick Jagger et al are the gods of rock, on pedestals so high that nothing ever written since or in the future can be compared to them. Female voices, female drummers, female DJs don’t fit the stereotype of ‘great’. Good music is masculine. We all know that.

There are amazing female singers out there, and we really do love them (not just me, and not just women in general). The problem is that when we are asked if they are really good, we think they can’t be. Our love for the music is not enough – they need to fit the mould. And just like other kinds of sexism that stops women from being recognised, we need to see this tendency for what it is, and start being proud of liking and respecting female indie musicians.

I’m going to keep trying to think of alternatives to this theory. I certainly don’t think it totally solves the problem. But it worries me that we are enculturated to believe that indie belongs to men. Has anyone got any other ideas?

EDIT: It looks like other people have had the same reaction: Karen Pickering’s list of female-fronted bands that could have made the list is enormous and gratifying, while the Vine has published a rant that’s basically this one with a bit more effort put in.

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3 Responses to “Hottest 100 of the last 20 years rant (everyone is entitled to one, right?)”

  1. noisynoodle June 10, 2013 at 8:59 am #

    I definitely noticed the lack of Bat for Lashes who I think has been the female vocalist of 00’s. However, I won’t complain as I didn’t vote this time around – particularly as I didn’t think any of my picks from the last 10 years would get in and I was right (no Bat for Lashes, Mastodon, Dillinger Escape Plan).

    • heathesaurus June 10, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      Hey noisynoodle – thanks for mentioning Bat for Lashes in particular. She’s an amazing musician and I definitely agree that she is the female voice of the noughties! Also a killer live performer. I may have a bit of a crush.
      I think you’ve hinted at something interesting there as well – maybe people who would vote for women (and other less dominant acts) feel like it’s pointless and actually choose either to not vote, or to vote for more ‘mainstream’ alt rock acts who have ‘a chance’ of getting on the list. Are we selling our favourite acts short?
      Loved exploring your blog, by the way!

      • noisynoodle June 12, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

        I totally agree BFL is freakin awesome live. I don’t get why more female artists didn’t make the cut. I definitely have noticed my tastes increasing to listen to more female artists over the last decade. I thought the big pop acts were also killing it in the mainstream market (Adele, Lady Gaga, Rihanna) so I presumed that would pervade through to alternative markets as well. Thanks for your kind words, and keep on ranting!

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