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Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Where are the women?

It was brought to my attention by Bellsg at the end of the countdown that not one single female artist made it into the hottest 100 of all time. NOT ONE. In 100 songs, NOT ONE OF THEM WAS FEMALE. While there were a handful of female band members and featured vocalists, there were no females whose own songs made it to the hottest 100.

What does this mean? Is it simply that all the great rock gods are just that, gods and not goddesses? But surely there are some female artists out there that warrant that coveted hottest 100 of all time title? What about Stevie Nicks? Tori Amos? Bjork? Janis Joplin? Not even Carole King?
I find it very hard to believe. But also very eye-opening.

After this discovery, I went through my music collection to see what were my favourites, what I listened to the least, and what I listened to the most. And while female artists were high up there on the number of times listened, all my favourite songs are sung by male artists. The ones I voted for in the top 100 were Riders on the Storm (Doors), All Along the Watchtower (Jimi Hendrix), Throw your Arms Around Me (Hunters and Collectors) and Smells Like Teen Spirit (Nirvana). No females there.

And when you think about it, the biggest bands of all time are all males: The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, Nirvana. So what's the message behind this?

I think it has to do with society's obsession with rock stars. That classic leather pants, scruffy hair, smoldering sexiness, all revolve around that iconic rock god look, beginning, of course, with the one and only Jim Morrison, who was likened to the Greek god Adonis during his time at the top. And let's face it. Rock gods are idolised. Women want to be with them, men want to be them. The power, the money, the fame, the whole bad-boy persona (maybe not in the case of The Beatles...but that's an exception) that surrounds the rock god type.

And while there are plenty of females to idolise, the psychology isn't there. Men might think they're hot, but that doesn't separate them from any other hot female. Women might think they are successful and great musicians, but that also doesn't separate them from the rest of the successful, great female musicians. Male rock gods are elevated by society as exactly that-unattainable gods who we admire from afar.

So while it's disappointing to know that really, there are no female artists out there that have made as strong an impression on us as their male counterparts, perhaps it's a chance to redeem ourselves. Think about your favourite female artists and make sure you vote for them next hottest 100 of all time!

You can see the full list of the hottest 100 of all time here; more info on the lack of females in the charts here; and what The Age had to say about it here


Bells said...

I was thinking about this in the context of what else the list showed us. The list showed us that very few songs from the last decade made it either - but you'd expect that in an 'of all time' list. If the voters just went for what's relatively current, we'd all be bemoaning the lack of great classic acts. I think classics are rarely born, they grow over time.

And I'm not sure who deemed it a rock classics list either - it jsut said 'of all time' - so why did it have to just be rock artists? Why are only the biggest, and loudest deemed classics?

I suspect if it was a top albumbs of all time that would be more representative of the place of women in all music. I've seen those lists before. You get tori Amos and Joni Mitchell and all the others all showing up because their body of work is more than about one or two anthemic pieces.

Suddenly Fourty said...

I think there are a lot of great female rock stars out there. But I think when they listed the top rock artists, they seem to have singled out those ones that made groundbreaking contributions (i.e. new genres, new styles, new sounds, etc.). For some reason -- and I've wracked my brains on this as well -- women don't seem to figure a lot in the creation of fundamentally new styles and genres in the rock scene.

Even in classical music, you will find men utterly dominating the field. On one hand one could suspect that women did not find much of a voice at the time when Mozart and Beethoven lived. But it seems that their low representation in rock n roll in contemporary times is consistent with this as well.

Perhaps it is the predisposition of men (could be a testosterone think) to take risks that gives them a higher likelihood of hitting upon a winning sound or style..

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