Where Have All the Girl Bands Gone?

March 9, 2014
By S-Chique00 GOLD, Dundalk, Other
S-Chique00 GOLD, Dundalk, Other
10 articles 0 photos 18 comments

Favorite Quote:
Rocky Balboa: You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain't how hard you hit; it's about how hard you can get hit, and keep moving forward. How much you can take, and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done.

International Women’s Day has just been and gone, and I must say it is truly uplifting to ruminate upon the plethora of women, acclaimed and anonymous, who have made leaps and bounds to win us women an equal grounding in every arena. Sport, business, politics, music- actually, scratch that last one. For much as I want to exalt the success of my gender in the music industry of late, there’s one small problem – it’s difficult to spot. Where have all the girl bands gone? It’s a question that continues to baffle me.

If we cast an eye briefly over the past five decades, each one has borne musical fruit in the form of fantastic female outfits. The swinging (albeit sexist) sixties spawned not only stand-alone Motown vocalists, but a multitude of incredibly talented all-girl groups such as The Ronettes, The Supremes and The Shangri-Las, whose feats inspired racial, as well as gender, equality. The seventies raised the success bar even higher, as the world was introduced to the concept of female-fronted acts – ranging from the saccharine Carpenters, to the unapologetic Pretenders. Even the godawful eighties, for all their unadulterated excess and questionable music legacy, were the same era which spawned such powerhouse units as The Bangles and The Go-Gos. It was also at this time that acts like Blondie reached the pinnacle of critical and popular acclaim (yes, technically not an all-female outfit but to neglect to mention Debbie Harry somewhere in this article would be criminal).

The nineties, sadly, appears to be the decade where the figurative record became unstuck. Some would reference the grunge-tastic Hole or the crude lyrical stylings of Salt ‘n’ Pepa, but in examining dozens of teen-queen ensembles - famous for an hour, only to be brutally cast upon the “has-been” heap – no one can ignore the seismic shift from female bands (playing instruments, writing songs, and behaving like a band should) to “girl groups”; or glorified puppets. The Spice Girls were given nicknames – that should say it all.

In an age in which it’s purported that the war on gender equality is drawing to a close, how can it be that noteworthy girl bands are in shorter supply than ever? Before I attempt to find an answer, let me clarify something. I use the term “girl band” strictly to define a group of female musicians and songwriters. In other words, The Saturdays, The Sugababes (in all their incarnations) and other acts of their ilk don’t qualify. I fear the general consensus may be that it’s just no longer cool to like girl bands. Let’s seriously consider this. Girls like male bands. Boys like male bands. But somewhere along the line, it was deemed unacceptable to afford girl bands the attention they rightly deserve.

Could our marginalisation be self-inflicted? Let’s not be coy about it, ladies – an intrinsic bitchiness pervades our species, consistently stoked by the fuel of the media. Could it be that the inherent competitiveness and suspicion within our gender prevents us from feeling solidarity with female musicians? It’s a convenient theory, but I can’t say I agree with it – we have only to look at the multitude of dynamic standalone females in the industry today to realize that it doesn’t hold any merit.

Maybe it stems from the blurred boundary which exists between girl bands and girl groups. My fundamental problem with girl groups lies largely with how they are marketed - like sugary, cookie-cutter copies of one another, acting and speaking as one giggling, vapid mass. They’re stripped of opinions, individuality, and moulded into an image that will “sell”. And yet these pseudo-empowering dolls, these marketing products, are the figures which grace the bedroom walls of millions of young girls. They clutch hairbrushes and prance in front of mirrors like their mothers and grandmothers before them. Sadly, instead of aspiring to challenge conformity or deliver a message, they aim to look and sound like what they are being fed by our culture. Where are the days of The Runaways, Bananarama – dare I say it, All Saints - bands that spoke to generations of teens not as an image or a brand, but as a unifying force? Girls of days past longed for the brazen fortitude of Joan Jett and the dungaree-clad camaraderie of Bananarama – not sexiness, but strength. Girl groups today, on the other hand, serve as living, breathing extensions of the alienation synonymous with photoshopped magazines and unattainable beauty standards. Unaware of the pressure they embody, their legions of fans are paying the price.

Whatever the reason, the sideline position of girl bands cannot be accredited to a lack of talent. In writing this article it is incumbent upon me to acknowledge notorious Russian rockers, Pussy Riot. Admittedly more widely known for their political exploits and jail stints than for their music, they are an inspiring force nonetheless. There are, however, less extreme examples. With bands like Haim taking the global audience by storm, and on my own shores, acts such as Featuring X winning hoards of followers by the day, the future of this decade’s musical legacy seems secure. I just hope that more are inspired to take up the mantle, and reclaim their – our - rightful standing in today’s music scene.

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