Music Column: Women in music fight back

Music Column: Women in music fight back
Photo courtesy of Naomi Lee

The year 2017, shockingly, lasted only 365 days. It’s difficult to understand how one year can hold such immense tragedy while simultaneously providing an outpouring of unique art that asks for change, or a reconsideration of the norm. It seems almost myopic or careless to rejoice over the miraculous beauty that came out of suffering and anguish, but as this year proved, it’s vital to have these most glorious escapes and, in some cases, recognizable criticisms of discomforting current events.

Like every industry, the music industry is faced with real and immense need for change and addressing of the sexist nature that consumes every aspect of it. If you think this is dramatic or that the music industry is removed from this kind of necessary societal change, read “Inside Country Radio’s Dark, Secret History of Sexual Harassment and Misconduct,” a well-researched piece recently published by Rolling Stone that only begins to scratch the surface of what’s happening behind closed doors.

Various industries have faced serious allegations. As this occurs, the public is finding their own way to reckon with their affected daily lives. How can we separate art that we cherish from horrifying allegations of abuse of power?

The perpendicular feelings created by loving the art, but reprimanding the artist were explained on The Year In Music 2017 episode of NPR’s All Songs Considered podcast. During the episode, Ann Powers, an NPR music critic and commentator, discusses her own struggles with misconduct in the music industry: “I’ve spent my entire life dealing with the fact that I have loved music by bad men, by men who have done bad things. Even if they are not essentially bad in their souls, they have wronged other people. They have wronged women. I have struggled with this and I continue to struggle with this. I don’t think we should have simple responses.”

Daddy Issues is the fitting, and winking, name of a full-fledged, powerful Nashville rock trio, comprised of Jenna Moynihan, Jenna Mitchell and Emily Maxwell. Having formed in 2014 following Moynihan’s happenchance encounter with bathroom graffiti using the band’s namesake, Daddy Issues has found an impressive sound and has created tracks with implicit meanings that resonate widely.

As discussed during the All Songs Considered podcast mentioned above, standout track “I’m Not” from the trio’s new album “Deep Dream” addresses sexual assault and the culminating feelings of inadequacy placed on the victim. Daddy Issues’ drummer, Emily Maxwell, released a statement that touched on her own history with sexual assault and pours light on the importance of continued encouragement of victims to share their stories: “As a survivor of childhood sexual abuse, I spent a long time going through every reason why it had to have been my fault until I finally started to come to grips with the fact that it wasn’t, which wasn’t until very recently. This song is about that confusion and how much it can be spurned on by the people around you telling you that your trauma doesn’t matter because outside of the fact that your abuser nearly destroyed your life, they’re a good and kind person and should be allowed to continue on with their pleasant and perfect world.”

Daddy Issues’ track “I’m Not” fully dives into this idea and paints a devastating mental landscape of a victim. Moynihan sings, “You’re so, you’re so great / And I’m not.” The song continues to track this lack of self-confidence and spiral of self-blame following an instance of sexual assault. This trio of women addresses the inherent issues and obstacles facing all victims of assault. They do so by providing willing ears with an angst-ridden track that perfectly emotes feelings of revulsion towards society’s handling of victims. 

Melbourne-based Camp Cope released “The Opener” in 2017, a single that addresses the band’s own struggles with male dominance in the music industry. The song’s commentary is fraught with confidence and self-doubt as Georgia Maq becomes riddled with angst, leaving listeners with a lasting urgency for immense change. While this song is easy to group with a long list of art pieces that challenge the patriarchal status quo, this song also finds a home on another list: Powerful music pioneered by women in the year 2017.

Camp Cope’s lyrical build-up is matched by an increasingly louder clanging instrumental that makes me crave to hear the song live in a cramped room known for its PBR specials. Georgia’s unique Australian twang makes each word sound like an angry pointed finger. The song’s angst-ridden aggression, but ultimately appealing and provoking nature, would be successful even without the recent outpouring of campaigns shedding light on the working conditions for women across all professional sectors, and beyond. When Georgia sings the lines “It's another man telling us we can't fill up the room / It's another man telling us to book a smaller venue”, it would be impossible to not garner images of the inflicted wounds and strife faced by the Camp Cope band, and the obvious realization that this is a common occurrence. 

While it’s easy to wonder about the dominance of these tracks because of the current political and cultural landscape, music that is a response to an important question is appealing because it is something for people to take in as an answer for now. I may not know how to grasp the effect of the recent allegations in my everyday life. One of my favorite movies, “Sing Street,” was released by The Weinstein Company. I was unaware until I watched the movie and the infamous last name flashed across my TV screen. For a minute, I considered turning the film off, but I realized that I can support and love that film without condoning the acts of Weinstein. We can’t separate art from the timeline of its creation. It’s often affected by current events and fails to be separated, but that’s what makes it wholly important. 

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