Good Things Come in Threes: Women with Attitude (Lily Allen, Katy Perry & Amy Winehouse)
By sheer coincidence, I’ve started listening to three artists who have striking similarities in their art which people might not, at first glance, realise.
Why I think they are similar is probably just more just for personal reasons than any scientific ones. Stil, here are the major reasons:
- They are strong, highly visible individuals with brains, attitudes or opinions. Forget dance units with cloned girls grown on “pop-farms” and harvested just in time fo rthe holiday number ones, these girls have a lot to say.
- They have crafted a media personality that makes them stand out. Some say this is just to get attention: But then, I guess that’s the point isn’t it, if you want to be a star these days, you have to do a bit of media whoring.
- They sing about similar things, sex, drugs and rock & roll! I can dig that.
- They are distinctive and don’t hide their roots in their songs. They sing about things directly around them. Their songs feel real, not idealised concepts of love or romance, but life’s troubles, from the rather trivial affairs of everyday life, pet peeves, annoyances etc. through to confronting really quite threatening situations.
- -> I’m going to get stoned for this comment, but please read to the end before mailing me: They all appear proud of being White Trash! Like a Jean Paul Gautier fashion range that uses daily, household items and turns them into something wonderful, these ladies take the dreary, dull goings-on of modern existance and breath new life into them, creating works of art that inspire, enliven or sometimes, even just titilate.
- I listened to all three of them for the first time within a week of each other, which means that I associate them with each other. When I play one, I tend to want to play the others.
Now, to be honest, these things don’t make them sound like the sort of artists you’d want to listen to in front of your mum or with your grandparents in the room, and frankly they’re not.
So, is there else similar about them?
Did I say they were women? Yes?
Then I guess that’s about it…
… Because when it comes to musical styles, they are so far apart they could be considered the three corners of a very large triangle. There are practically no similarities between them at all.
Lily Allen with Alright, Still
She has layered a thick “Lahndanah, Innit!” sheen over some pumping Ska beats to come up with a mix of sass-trash hits and zany surreal ditties that depict London like no other album I know.
Familial-love, dispair, mortgates, the weather, vandalism, violent revenge, no topic is beyond reach of this girl. Her songs are so graphical that if she wasn’t singing, she’d prabably be an artist. Or failing that, a social commentator or comedian.
Katy Perry, One of the Boys
This is pure, unadulterated mainstream-pop, plain and simple: Catchy beats, engaging choruses, thickly layered synthsand drums, there is nothing at all straining or even slightly difficult to listen to, musically.
Yet, this is the most controversial of the three albums, having two tracks that have caused an online firestorm in the US and one that has reached a collosal 10,000 comments on US iTunes store. I’ll repeat that:
A single track that has reached no less than 10,000 COMMENTS!
So what’s the issue?
Her songs are blatently sexulally ambiguous, “metrosexual” numbers, bluring the line between male and female in an entirely unsubtle fashion. The landmark song being, “I kissed a girl.”
OK! OK! Regular readers are going to go, like, “Oh here he is, on about lesbians again, for Pete’s Sake!”
But they say you wait 30 minutes for a bus and three come along at once… Not that I was waiting for a lesbian theme or anything… (he says, digging himself even deeper into a hole)…
[GET ON WITH IT!!!]
OK, right. So this song propelled her album to iTune’s number one along with “You’re so Gay!” using the word gay as in pathetic rather than happy and lively… or that other meaning that it sometimes has.
Now I count neither of these songs as classics. Sure they are catchy and you might find yourself getting weird looks when you start humming, “you’re so gay and you don’t even like boys,” or sad, sort of pitiful looks when as a young man you find yourself singing, “I kissed a girl and I liked it!” on a train. But they’re not classics like “Unchained Melody” or “Help”.
Other songs on the album also include gender-provocative digs, with lines like “You change your mind like a girl changes clothes.”
Still, in my opinion, any song that gets 10,000 comments and votes polarised between either 1 or 5 is an oustanding success, regardless of its melodical merit.
“You’re so Gay” is another one. Purposefully aggravating title designed to catch the listener’s attention.This pop song is just catchy enough to keep you listening… If you like pop, that is. Again, polarised comments abound, some saying it’s insulting, others its just fun.
THIS is what art should be about. Raising questions, testing people’s mores and humour, making people LAUGH, SHOUT or SING. Making people EMOTIONAL (he says in CAPITAL LETTERS!).
IKAG: Progressive Metro Pop with a pro freedom-of-expression stance or Cheap Gag (TM) designed to titilate the boys?
YSG: Insulting to gays by implying that they are weak and pathetic or just a mild dig at a mincy/artsy boyfriend who spends more time preening himself than paying attention to his open minded girl, who would feel beeter if he just came out rather than string her along.
So, listen for yourself and decide.
Amy Winehouse, Back to Black
One word, “WOW!” This woman is a diva. I’d heard some of her songs in passing and only when my colleague told me that she wasn’t a large “Mama” from Louisiana, but instead a “waiflike druggie” (paraphrasing, slightly) from London did I really take notice.
This woman is (was?) unreal. Her first album Frank hinted at things to come and come they did, and quickly too. And, judging by her self destructive spiral into oblivion, her second album “Back to Back” may well be her last and certainly came just in time.
Just in time for the lucky listener to catch her at her drug induced dystopic best! Listen and be treated to a unique musical fusion of edgy soul and jazz brought up to date with hard hitting and chameleonic lyrics that appear equally at home describing hazy days steeped in fine bourbon on the banks of the Mississipi as they do depicting realistic, personal images so intense they’re practically porn.
So there you are, then: Three divas from three different walks of life. One a metro pop queen, another an intelligent social commentator and of course, not forgetting the drugged out diva.
If you don’t listen to anything else this year, listen to these inspiring (!?!?!) ladies sing and realise your own world isn’t so bad, after all.