I’m gonna be more self-indulgent than usual and be one of those people who bitches about a pop culture countdown that doesn’t cater to my tastes. The list in question is VH1′s 100 Greatest Women in Music.
What a fucking awful list it is.
There’s a little bit of a mutiny going on in the comments of the list I linked to. People are complaining about the exclusion of such diverse artists as Aretha Franklin, Joan Jett, Kim of Matt and Kim. Vh1 hastens to add that their selections are weighted towards artists who’ve been more active in the last twenty years (so people crying Aretha or Joan Jett can, apparently, GTFO). Fair enough. There’s got to be some parameters.
However, having a list that has any pretensions at naming great women in music — not just any music, not any genre, just, you know, Music with a capital M — is a joke when it’s essentially a list of The Most Accessible and/or Profitable Names in Pop Music That We Could Think of Off the Top of Our Heads and P.S. The Music Can Take a Backseat to the Persona, That’s Cool. Ke$ha’s on there, for instance. No. 57 (fifty-seven). I’m sensing a primacy bias there because I think her inclusion will look absolutely ridiculous even five years from now.
There’s what seems to be a couple of throwaway spots for Vaguely Alternative artists like Feist and Meg White, at the bottom end of the list of course so as not to take up too much valuable real estate. I guess I should be happy that they even went for anyone like that, even though I’m sure the only reason that Meg’s on there is she’s most famous for being a female drummer and because one of Feist’s songs made it onto an iPod Nano commercial. Actually, I might have spoken a bit too soon because there are other choices like Kim Gordon, Regina Spektor, and Florence + the Machine on there. That’s about as out there as this list will get, and it helps to have had your music featured on Grey’s Anatomy.
I get the logic behind lists like this, I really do. I know that VH1 is never going to have a countdown with any particularly daring or interesting choices because they want to appeal to as many people as possible. I don’t necessarily want a snobby-ass list full of obscure choices that have been objectively ranked according to some music god in the audio pantheon, because in a countdown of great women in music, I really do think there is a place for the Madonnas and the Lady Gagas of the world. These are artists who have a huge influence in music that doesn’t actually have a ton to do with their music. I actually don’t find the top 20 of the list all that offensive, even though I don’t actively listen to or like any of it (with the exception of Adele), because I think a lot of this list is about influence and many of them are indisputably big names, if they are a little “of the now.”
However, so much of it is filler which depresses me, especially as I’ve been listening to some incredibly talented artists who are really unlike anyone I’ve listened to before and who happen to be, you know, women. I’d just like to see some more of them make lists like this sometimes. But instead we’ve got the Pussycat Dolls cracking the hundredth spot. For fuckin’ real?
This isn’t about having indier-than-thou tastes or wanting to obliterate this entire list. (There is some real talent on there, too, it’s not just about being amous.) Although I think mainstream radio is a wasteland and the audio equivalent of a twinkie diet, I still unabashedly love the likes of Kanye West, Lady Gaga, and Coldplay. So it’s not like I can’t embrace the mainstream. But my music embrace is SO much wider, and when I see lists like this one VH1 compiled it just strikes me as the list of someone severely tame, unadventurous, who doesn’t particularly care all that much about music.
So without further ado, here are some ladyfolk I’ve been listening to recently who I think are hugely talented and considerably better than a lot of the crap that made it onto VH1′s list.
There’s some other artists, solo or bands that are female-led or have prominent female folk, anyway, that I also think merit a lot more credit than a huge chunk of VH1′s list — Lily Allen, Kate Nash, Rilo Kiley (Jenny Lewis), the Yeah Yeah Yeahs (Karen O), Metric (Emily Haines), for some other examples. And people who have way more cred than me could name a boatload of others.