Music with depth and emotional connotation is a dying art form.
Gone are the days of female singer-songwriter poets and multi-instrumentalists topping the Billboard charts with poetic reflection. What we have today is music for profit – an industry powered by sex, greed, sexism, abuse, and quite honestly — MEN.
Millennials, especially female, are identifying more and more with classic rock ‘n’ roll. Millennials were raised on music from the golden era of rock and roll by their parents or introduced to the genre by friends. It’s evident they are connecting to the music more than ever. Sales of Classic rock products have been climbing by 50% since 2012 across all demos, most notably within the coveted 18-34 age demo.
Many of my millennial peers identify with music by the women of classic and folk rock. Artists like Patti Smith, Joni Mitchell, Grace Slick, Stevie Nicks, and Janis Joplin gave their music beautiful, heart-wrenching imagery, similes, personification, and metaphorical actuality.
I’m a firm believer in the ideology that all music is beautiful. Every single genre resonates with humanity in a powerful, mind-altering way. Music is therapy for the soul. Music arouses and invokes feelings and emotions – it’s the most compelling and expressive language. But something is seriously wrong with today’s music released by female artists.
Let’s do some comparison work, shall we? We’ll start with music from the 1970’s rock era.
“Crazy On You”- on Dreamboat Annie (1976) by Heart
Writers: Ann and Nancy Wilson
“My love is the evenin’ breeze touchin’ your skin
The gentle, sweet singin’ of leaves in the wind
The whisper that calls after you in the night
And kisses your ear in the early moonlight
And you don’t need to wonder, you’re doing fine
My love, the pleasure’s mine”
“Blue”- on Blue (1971) by Joni Mitchell
Writers: Joni Mitchell
“Blue, songs are like tattoos
You know I’ve been to sea betore
Crown and anchor me
Or let me sail away
Hey Blue, here is a song for you
Ink on a pin
Underneath the skin
An empty space to fill in
Well there’re so many sinking now”
“Landslide” – on Fleetwood Mac (1975) by Fleetwood Mac
Writers: Stevie Nicks
“Oh, mirror in the sky, what is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
And can I sail through the changing ocean tides
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
Oh oh I don’t know, oh I don’t know
Well, I’ve been afraid of changing
‘Cause I’ve built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I’m getting older too”
“Crazy On You,” “Blue,” and “Landslide” were written by the artists about personal life experiences. Below you’ll see current Billboard Hot 100 singles from Selena Gomez and Ariana Grande.
“Hands To Myself” – on Revival (2016) by Selena Gomez
Writers: Justin Tranter, Julia Michaels, Robin Fredriksson, Mattias Larsson, and Max Martin.
“My doctor say you’re no good
But people say what they wanna say
And you should know if I could
I’d breathe you in every single day
Oh, I, I want it all
I want it all, I want it all
Can’t keep my hands to myself
I mean I could, but why would I want to?”
“Dangerous Woman” – on Dangerous Woman (2016) by Ariana Grande
Writers: Johan Carlsson and Ross Golan
“All girls wanna be like that
Bad girls underneath, like that
You know how I’m feeling inside
Somethin’ ’bout, somethin’ ’bout
All girls wanna be like that
Bad girls underneath, like that
You know how I’m feeling inside
Somethin’ ’bout, somethin’ ’bout
Somethin’ ’bout you makes me feel like a dangerous woman
Somethin’ ’bout, somethin’ ’bout, somethin’ ’bout you
Makes me wanna do things that I shouldn’t”
Are we going to remember “Dangerous Woman” or “Hands to Myself” in 30 years? Will the next generation be able to connect with the songs of this generation’s artists the same way we associate a painful breakup with “Blue,” life-changing experiences with “Landslide,” or our first crazy-romance with “Crazy On You?”
Stop silencing the creativity of female artists. Millennials -hell, people of all ages – want, need, and crave sentimental substance. Not countless singles/albums about sexuality and partying in the club. Give artists the liberty to emulate their musical influences. Give female singer-songwriters the ability to flourish and become the next Janis Joplin, Joni Mitchell, Joan Jett, Grace Slick, Chrissie Hynde, Stevie Nicks, Patti Smith, Linda Ronstadt, Annie Lennox, or Nancy and Ann Wilson. These women shaped the history of rock. These badass ladies were pioneers for females in music. They were and are bonafide rock stars. We’ve thanked the women who broke through barriers and surpassed men in lyrical and composure music history, album sales, and accolades by systematically allowing record companies and producers to mold the synthetic image and message put out by a plethora of female artists.
Sure, there are artists that are standing in solidarity and fighting to stay true to their artistic method. But they are few and far between. For every Adele, Brittany Howard, Vanessa Carlton, Lorde, or HAIM, there are 50 Selena Gomez’s and Ariana Grande’s. Listen – I am not invalidating the talents of these women. It takes a lot of strength, courage, and perseverance to record an album and share it with the world. Sharing your work with a critical society is akin to baring your soul and asking for judgement without any emotional protection. It takes a suit of armor to be a woman in the music industry. I admire every woman in this sexist and abusive industry for contributing to the arts. They are inspirational in every way, shape, and form.
I am simply calling out all artists with massive platforms that are able to change the culture of music for themselves and newcomers but instead allow their record companies to tell them what to record or write and how to exist. The women that allow people in a boardroom to tell them sex is the only message they can convey and to “let go” of the crazy notion of recounting their own personal journeys through their work because it’s too obscure for listeners to relate and/or the product won’t sell. Songwriters that are forced to record songs written by 10 other people without any input or contribution. Record companies need you more than you need them.
This is not female artists fault in any way, though. I blame the industry’s boys club for allowing this practice to be the norm. I blame labels like Sony who force their artists to work with producers that have allegedly harmed them. Because of this widely accepted, but hardly challenged practice, women fear being dropped by their label if they don’t accept the sex kitten image producers believe will line their pockets, instead of following their poetic muse and creating a painting in audio embodiment for their fans. They fear losing their sought-after dreams if they don’t conform. Artists like Taylor Swift, Sia, and Adele are some of the lucky few who were able to take control of their careers, producing and writing their own work.
The condition of the music industry won’t change without females in position of power. Where are the female music producers, you ask? I’ll list just a few reasons women are discouraged and don’t foresee a fruitful career in music as a producer with any faculty, or as an artist in general.
- Five women have been nominated for Producer of the Year Grammys in the classical category since 1975. One of these women (Marina A. Ledin) shares her nominations with her husband. 
- If that wasn’t shocking enough, only four women have been nominated for Producer of the Year Grammys in the non-classical category since 1980. Two of these women (Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey) share their nominations with men. 
- One song (“Girl Crush” by Little Big Town) on Billboard’s Year-End Hot 100 Singles in 2015 was written by a songwriting team consisting of solely women. 
- Apple Music executive and award-winning music producer Jimmy Iovine made a statement on CBS This Morning in which he claims women don’t know how to curate their own music playlists. 
- Singer-songwriter Kesha is fighting her label, Sony Music, in court to break free from her contract after alleged sexual abuse by producer Dr.Luke. This injustice has sparked national media attention and a campaign #FreeKesha supported by popular female artists Adele, Lady Gaga, Kelly Clarkson, Miley Cyrus and Lorde. 
- Additionally, Kelly Clarkson was blackmailed by her label, RCA, into working with Dr. Luke. Clarkson’s label refused to release her 2007 album, My December, if she did not agree to work with Dr.Luke on hits “Since You’ve Been Gone” and “My Life Would Suck Without You”‘. 
- During a speech for her Emotion Revolution project in 2015, Lady Gaga revealed she nearly quit music due to being treated like a money-making machine by her label. 
I don’t want true imaginative and musical poetry to die with the artists of the golden age. We can’t let that happen. Record companies need to value their female artists and give them the opportunity to articulate their innermost thoughts through their work, no-holds-barred. Real life experiences matter more than engineered, catchy hooks created by artificial intelligence, auto-tuning, and a multitude of other songwriters that do not have any emotional connection to the artist. The industry lacks integrity and is communicating lies: artists cannot be happy with the state of music.
We can’t sit in silence and live in complicity anymore. We can do better. We can change the music industry and fight to give artistic and creative freedom to all artists.