To celebrate this year's International Women's Day, The Courier Music writers talk about the female artists that they love and are inspired by...
In 2017, Lorde released THE album of the year (according to The Courier anyway).
Melodrama was most certainly my album of the summer. I’ve liked Lorde since her first single, ‘Royals’, was heard everywhere back in 2013. But Melodrama really brought things up a notch, and my now undying love for her was born. The album is flawless and superbly produced. Each note hits the emotion needed for the song, just as every musical instrument or accompaniment aligns unfalteringly. It’s not often you find an album of 11 well-crafted songs that leave you struggling to name a favourite.
As a female artist, Lorde is unapologetic about showing vulnerability in songs like ‘Liability’ alongside capturing explosive drunken party encounters in ‘Homemade Dynamite’, refusing to be boxed in or labelled as many female artists often are. It’s refreshing to see a break-up inspired album that critics don’t just shrug off as something for heartbroken girls. I love how Lorde is so honest about “the story of the last 2 wild, fluorescent years of my life” – even her Twitter is open and engaging.
Even aside from her immense talent and ability, Lorde is a great woman to be inspired by. She stands up for her beliefs, recently seen by her cancellation of an Israel tour date, in protest of the Israel-Palestine conflicts. After being educated, she cancelled the tour and apologised for her mistake; being able to handle being called out like that is difficult and makes me respect her even more. And despite being snubbed for a performance at the Grammy’s (she was the only woman nominated in the Album of the Year category), she rose above the double standards and focused on providing incredible shows for her dedicated fans. Lorde is a hard-working, talented woman to be admired – and sang along to, always.
When I was 11 years old, my cousin and I went into town. Wielding our pocket money fivers, we headed straight for HMV’s 2 for £10 CD section. She opted for the culturally iconic album Fergalicious, something I tease my now-vegan hippie cousin about regularly. I opted for a CD by someone I had vaguely heard of through my mother, Regina Spektor’s Begin to Hope.
Looking back on it now, I see the buying of that album as somewhat of pivotal moment for me. Regina Spektor’s songs tell stories. They showed me songs could be more than AABB rhyming schemes and a catchy chorus. Granted, I’m sure my parents were a little surprised at 11 year old me pottering around the house singing along to songs about the Oedipus complex, but the simple fact that she writes about complicated and interesting topics like that is what makes her work refreshing.
Spektor is a Russian-Jewish refugee who moved to New York as a child. As well as providing for an interesting foundation from which she views life, particularly social equality, this mix of identities gifted Spektor with a voice of velvet. If she were merely reading the McDonald’s breakfast menu it’d undoubtedly be enough to make me swoon. She is also an accomplished musician, originally training as a classical pianist.
As someone who can't remember a time in my life when I didn’t play the piano, she was a big inspiration for me and my main motivator in carrying on playing the piano through that phase when a lot of kids feel they’ve “outgrown” their hobbies and quit. Nine years since buying my first Spektor album, I’m pretty confident I know the words to all 109 of her songs, I've seen her live and still contest her to be one of the most faultlessly talented artists I’ve ever encountered.
- Carys Thomas
Without any doubt, the pop industry's sound is shifting to a new electronic realm. It's an exciting change that, although perhaps lacking more traditional instruments (which were hardly used in noughties pop anyway), is seeing a new ambition and creativity that pop music has been lacking in the past.
Heading up that change is none other than Charli XCX. Whilst XCX is still releasing the sickly-sweet songs of 'Boys' and 'After the Afterparty', it is her work with producers such as A.G. Cook and SOPHIE on mixtapes Number 1 Angel and Pop 2 that has received positive critical attention. Charli XCX's bravery in releasing music that she is passionate about, ignoring typical pop music constraints, is so healthy and so inspiring.
The effect it has, not only on her incredibly diverse fan base, but musical colleagues is clear too. Within the last year, the 25-year-old has released collaborations with 23 artists, all of whom have spoken positively about the experience of working with her. She's also written for the likes of Blondie, Camila Cabello, Icona Pop, will.i.am, DJ Fresh, Diplo and Alma.
The way Charli XCX goes about being the pinnacle force of pop music but not being fussed about headlines is a breath of fresh air. Her importance to today's music cannot be understimated.
I don’t remember the first time I heard Grimes’ music, but I certainly recall the place it took me. Her ethereal, fey sound is so far removed from anything that was available in 2015 that naturally she became a cult songstress. Her high-pitched angelic vocals are always tied to utopian, discordant yet beautiful production that weaves the conventions of the genre with the madness of a true artist.
The feelings evoked from her songs always inspire me, from the upbeat nursery-rhyme backdrop of Butterfly that makes me feel like I can do anything, to the off-beat jungle banger ‘Realiti’ that is about the adrenaline of adventure leading you to live at the dangerous extremes of passion.
Grimes personifies artistry, a woman with a powerful voice making music from her pure imagination and compelling people to listen, an excellent ambassador for International Women's Day.
Otep is one of the few artists who emerged during the regrettable nu metal period of the late ‘90s and early ‘00s I can still listen to. Whilst her work might still conform to the usual tropes of the genre such as infusing elements of rap and the downtuned guitars, Otep’s work has a depth that surpasses most of her peers. Her lyrics, as epitomised by songs such as 'Blood Pigs', are infused with a poetic flourish and rage drawn from her lived experiences.
Her vocal range is fucking phenomenal as well. In addition to the aforementioned rap influences, Otep’s vocal delivery revolves around clean singing or brutal, guttural roars that beautifully encapsulate the rage in her lyrics.
As an LGBT woman in a male dominated genre, Otep already stands out amidst the plethora of whiney dudes that typify nu metal. And through the sheer ferocity of her music, Otep represents a shining light in one of metal’s otherwise poorer subgenres.
I liked Moloko’s quirky trip hop, but I love lead-singer Roísín Murphy for all that she did afterwards - her debut, Ruby Blue (2005), will forever sit on the shelf of my all-time favourite albums.
It was such an eccentric release that her label requested that she make it a bit more single-friendly; thankfully she didn’t relent. Her and producer Matthew Herbert mix percussion from found objects with jazzy brass - and, of course, her gorgeous, instantly recognisable voice, full of soulful husk and sensuality, perfectly suited for every melody she writes.
Her compositions wander all around disco, jazz and pop, and her most recent releases, Hairless Toys (2015) and Take Her Up To Monto (2016) are strange delights, demanding listen upon meditative listen. From the moment she refused to commercialise Ruby Blue, she’s been committed to her very own unique atmosphere, taking listeners to alien planets that unearth the oddest sense of déjà vu, warm and erudite all in one.
- Jess Weisser