Archive for the ‘Vocalist’ Category

Today is International Women’s Day.  Radio stations have been blasting us with a higher-than-usual ratio of kickass female artists, giving me the urge to spread some love on my forever faves, older and newer.  Here are five songs by or featuring women that I want to give some International Women’s Day love.

Ain’t Nuttin But a She Thing – Salt ‘N’ Pepa

My wee little 90s girl heart lived on the rhymes of Salt N’ Pepa.  And while “Shoop” may be the SNP tune I could rap on command, this one gets the IWD love for putting the boot down on being underestimated for our S-E-X.  I love this track for showing love to our unique ability to be mothers while still doing everything else a man can.  The video is equally ferocious, lush with female dominance and enough body-ody-ody for my burgeoning bisexual teen heart.  Extra bonus for the burns and beatdowns on the video’s violating males.

Gotta Knock A Little Harder – Mai Yamane (The Seatbelts)

This little gem from back in the day still gives me chills.  Mai Yamane’s voice is husky and fervent as she tears through this bluesy track.  Every yeah yeah and woo woo is sinewy flesh beating at the door to your heart and coming away with chunks of wood and iron.  Tucked away in the credits of 2001’s Cowboy Bebop motion picture, this track is one of the lesser celebrated triumphs of the “Seatbelts,” a jazz band of collected artists who created Bebop’s beloved and renowned soundtracks that were so good they nearly outshined the anime itself.  Yamane’s voice was a standout among them all, a beacon of fervor I still love decades later.

The Joke – Brandi Carlile 

A good way to measure if you’re dead inside is to listen to this track and try not to get some feels.  Carlile’s voice is crystal clear and resonates around my head.  No, really.  I feel it like someone is gently tugging the skin behind my ears, like the Goddess is gripping me by the cuff like I’m a puppy.  This track is a hammer on the heads of the snide and cruel.  Special love goes to the second verse that gives love to refugee and immigrant women, whose struggles are close to the heart of why have an International Women’s Day in the first place – the tragedy of textile workers, mostly immigrant women, who died while being locked inside the burning Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in 1911.

Too Many Creeps – Bush Tetras

Despite being a lifelong New Yorker, I only recently got into the Bush Tetras and their long history of being one of New York’s finest punk funk bands.  They were remarkable for being mostly female, comprised of vocalist Cynthia Sley, guitarist Pat Place, and a long history of female bassists.  Their recent collection, “Rhythm and Paranoia – The Best of the Bush Tetras” provides nubs like me with a lovingly crafted collection of their finest work, which I have devoured.  I got to catch them doing a Planned Parenthood benefit this past December, and let me tell you, our rock and roll elderwomen are freaking awesome.  Women ran to the front of the stage and stood our ground in a sweaty mess of estrogen and joy.  I wish I had this band growing up, but I am grateful I have them now.

The Lesbian Power Authority – Alix Dobkin

Alix Dobkin was the first lesbian feminist musician to originate in the states and go on a European concert tour.  Back in the days when the feminist movement of the Civil Rights Era was in full swing, Dobkin was a folk musician playing coffeehouses and singing about love the straights wouldn’t dream of.  Her landmark album, Lavender Jane Loves Women, remains close to the heart of today’s young lesbians.  It can be surprising to look back to the wee days of 1973, when singing songs about women loving women was brash and revolutionary.  There is no better day to remember who blazed the earliest trails for women to be fully free than on International Women’s Day.

Want to see other female artists Music Survival Guide loves? Check out:

Kovacs is the name of baldy-rocking Dutch songstress Sharon Kovacs.  After the initial success of her 2014 EP, My Love, Kovacs released full length albums Shades of Black (2015) and Cheap Smell (2018), as well as several successful singles.  In 2022, she whet the European public’s appetite with four of the album’s tracks as singles (“Not Scared of Giants,” “Bang Bang,” “Fragile,” and “Goldmine”) before dropping the her third full length album, Child of Sin, in January 2023.  In a departure from her more poppy and trip-hoppy releases this past decade, Kovacs seems to have found sturdy footing in a more classical approach.  Co-written with producer Jonathan Quarmby, Child of Sin becomes an unmissable piece of art and drama.

Kovacs winnows down the guts of her stories into their most raw and pure form, and bejewels them in tinkling instruments and jaunty arrangements that center the beats of her storytelling.  There is no extraneous detail, no unnecessary layer, no excess that draws away from the white-hot heat of her bluesy vocal.  That voice!  On tracks like “Goldmine” and “Bang Bang,” she dances on rhythmic tip-toes like a Liza-esque chanteuse, breathing self-possession and ambition into every beat.  More sensitive tracks like “Fragile” and “High Tide” may recall an Amy Winehouse type of flesh.   But her pain isn’t necessarily sacred.  The choices of rhythm sound at home in a cabaret, draped in fabrics, which makes it fun and apt for repeated listens. And for all its pain, Child of Sin is transcendent. Kovacs is reliving the agonies of her youth and emerging, victorious.

The best draws of Child of Sin are the little grotesque details that become brain food for the visual listener.  “Fragile” has its own unique body horror, illustrated through her “porcelain teeth” and her body “decomposed til’ only dust is left.”  “Bang Bang” happens in the heat of the moment until you catch the premeditated detail of the plastic sheet.  Kovacs becomes her own “Love Parasite” after sensing her urges “crawling around my insides, multiplying in the dark.”  It’s this kind of attention to detail that gives her tunes their magnetism and helps expose her core. She is clearly having some fun with it all, like her own personal season of American Horror Story.

A tiny detail of hand-biting in “Goldmine” illustrates Kovacs being subjected to what might be the dominance of men withholding her cash and suppressing her talent.  Similarly in finale “Mama,” Kovacs gently rejects the overbearing maternalism from an apologetically cloying parent: “ain’t like it used to be, when I would hold your hand, and wobble on your knees.”  Kovacs unchains herself from the weights others use to restrain her, both personally and musically. “I’m controlling everything now, independently.” she says in her press release.  “Music, videos, costumes, set design, make-up, even the look of the record.”  The result is as addictive as it is gut-twisting, and wall to wall enjoyable.

Title track “Child of Sin” features a duet with Rammstein giant Till Lindermann singing from the core of the earth, telling a dual story of youth and pain.  While the story has just enough detail to leave the listener wondering about the ugliness of the protagonist’s origins, it creates just enough visual to leave me hungering for a spotlight and a sequin dress.  Kovacs, fellow baldy queen, write us a musical.  I can only imagine what you would do.

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