Skip to content

To be somewhat catty

Madonna, Beyoncé, Britney, Whitney: if you think about the most iconic names in mainstream pop history, you’ll probably come up with a list of women. And this week, we have solid confirmation of female artists’ dominance. British audiences listen to more female musicians than male, according to the latest industry figures for 2023.

Pop stars, yes. Artists not so much.

Which of those are we going to try to portray as musically adventurous?

Quite. The pose, the image, the wrapping, sure, pop stars. Artists?

29 thoughts on “To be somewhat catty”

  1. British audiences listen to more female musicians than male

    Tell us something about the composition of the audiences.

  2. Shirley Bassey ?

    Modern chanteuses tend to be more of a gesamtkunstwerk: the dancing, costumes nd what goes in around them is as important as the singing.

    Often this is because their own voices aren’t that strong or they are so devoid of personality that they cannot hold an audience.
    Kylie is a good example – as much as I love her, she really cannot sing.

    Heavy metal concerts are a bit like that too. Because the music sounds the same ( ie everyone is deaf within the first minute and cannot tell the difference ) they have to have pyrotechnics and crashing aeroplanes to break it all up.

  3. It is only in very recent years that female pop artists in general have been taken seriously by the music press and listeners at large

    That’s nice, darling.

  4. There was a time when female singers let their talent entertain us. Nowadays, it seems that the more flesh they display, the more famous they become. Male singers may wear snazzy slacks and shirt, but they don’t come on stage in Speedos and high heeled wellies, so why do female singers dress like sexual exhibitionists? Perhaps it’s the old show business adage followed by women, “If you don’t have the talent, show ’em your tits”.

  5. Female popular music singers used to be divided between the super-glossy performers who largely wrote music that other people had written (from Madonna to Britney Spears) and very differently-styled singer-songwriters like Carole King and Joni Mitchell – and it was the singer-songwriters who were the ones more inclined to push the envelope musically.

    But many of the high-gloss singers of today do write their own songs – Taylor Swift being the most obvious example (note that some that are marketed as “singer-songwriters” have co-writing credits rather than solo writing credits: Olivia Rodrigo’s songs are all “co”-written “with” Daniel Nigro, for example).

    Swift is an incredibly good lyricist, even if her music is generally fairly simple. There’s a reason her stripped-back covid era albums Folklore and Evermore (recorded when fancy production in a large studio wasn’t possible) are the ones that got a serious audience interested in her – the clever lyrics weren’t buried in the usual modern overproduction.

  6. Penseivat – there’s sexy (the Bangles were sexy and so was Kate Bush) and then there’s… whatever that Achy Breaky Heart guy’s daughter was doing when she was licking a microphone and twerking, making off-putting faces the whole time.

    A lot of modern culture is just pornographic, perhaps linked to how the kids have been accessing hardcore pornography from their phones for the past decade and a half.

    People just accept that, apparently? They talk about porn as if it’s a normal thing to watch. But it isn’t, we never watched videos of gangbangs in 4K. We thought we were daring reading Razzle.

  7. I think that modern pop stars are under pressure to create and invent personalities for themselves because they are in reality very bland people. Lily Allen claimed that her public persona was just a character that she played. I’m not sure why she had to invent someone so obnoxious, but she was playing the ladette I guess. Miley Cyrus strikes me as the same, she wanted to be the opposite of her wholesome Hannah Montana character. Who is to say that in a few years time she does not reinvent herself again ?

    I don’t think that I could consciously identify a Taylor Swift song. I did try to listen to some Dua Lipa – I was told that she was talented and intelligent – – but it sounds as if her music was generated by a ZX Spectrum.

    ( I saw a post on Instagram where someone filmed Amy Winehouse, who, once the coast was clear, took off her high heels and put on some ballet pumps much to her relief. )

  8. “We thought we were daring reading Razzle.!”
    I can now reveal that far from the right on eco warrior i presented to the world i had in fact ulterior motives, base ones in fact, for volunteering at the school’s paper recycling operation. (the school’s motive was it actually made money). Mine: The Sunday Sport.

  9. HB – I’m sure dearieme said sex is what coal comes in.

    You were cleverer than me. I was always wondering why there weren’t any girls in the school computer club.

    However, playing with BBC Micros and associating with spotty nerds did lead to a career associating with spotty computer nerds, so I mustn’t complain.

    Something I’ve noticed about young people these days is they have no curiosity about technology. We couldn’t wait to tinker with computers and write offensive messages about each other in BASIC. Today’s yoof doesn’t even know how to root their fondleslabs or safely pirate software. They take the magic device for granted. They’re Eloi. Sad!

  10. Ottokring,

    “Modern chanteuses tend to be more of a gesamtkunstwerk: the dancing, costumes nd what goes in around them is as important as the singing.”

    This is very true, more so than a generation ago. A lot of Taylor Swift’s success is about the songs being about her life, so it’s like a product connected with the gossip.

  11. Steve: Too true. Over Christmas, prompted by a thread on a programming group, I’ve been tidying and and documenting some old ZX Spectrum Z80 code, distangling them from the projects they were embedded in so they can be usable as stand-alone libraries by other people.

    When testing it the satisfaction at a job well done was followed by the realisation that to so many people it would be just completely imcomprehensible what I’d done. And that’s with today’s so-called technically competent “IT” people.

  12. Slightly off topic but this is genuinely hilarious:

    Regarding the article itself – couple of questions:

    – The writer looks even more like an Alien than Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett – is this a requirement to write for aforesaid publication?

    – She’s probably right that mainstream pop is dominated by women in the current context. Feminists have total control of the mainstream media and dominate publishing and broadcasting (even if the role is held by a man their political beliefs are always well to the Left of the usual member of the North Korean politburo) – women (as a rule) tend to be very lacking in technological sophistication so even if there’s a multitude of different sources of music out there (which there is now_ they lack the nous to go and find it.

  13. The fact that unless you’re (part of) a Boyband or utterly and completely bow to the Woke Brokers you simply won’t get signed by the Power Skirts in charge as a male artist may have a thing or two to do with it.

  14. I’d hate to be growing up a girl in today’s society. Girls have no clue who or what they’re supposed to be – they only know that they’re constantly told that everything they ever try will probably fail because men will do it better.

    And so they’ve become lemmings, looking for any little bit of groupthink-love they can get.

    Which is why they all, as a huge fungible mass, glom onto movements, acts, shows – anything that they think gives them membership and belonging.

    I went to a huge stadium show of T Swift last year with a young rel, and watching the all-girl crowd was frightening. A true Borg.

  15. The dearth of male bands is quite something. We still get male solo singers, but groups of several blokes have essentially vanished.

  16. Jgh – if GitHub went down tomorrow I think a lot of “developers” would be unemployed by Monday.

    VP – Chappelle starts his set with an extended anecdote about meeting Jim Carrey on the set of Man on the Moon, when the actor refused to break character as Andy Kaufman, demanding everyone treat him as the person he was pretending to be. And then comes the punchline: that’s pretty much what trans people act like.

    Except they’re not getting paid, lol.

    his latest material a flimsy dismissal of his past transgressions that doubles down on the laziest of them at the same time. That this should find a home on Netflix mere days after the platform adds Ricky Gervais’s similarly grievance-driven Armageddon points to the emergence of an unsavory new niche in comedy.

    Mary Whitehouse has been reincarnated as a soyboy.

    Much of Chappelle’s set processes a 2022 incident in which a disgruntled member of the audience at Los Angeles’s Netflix Is a Joke Festival stormed the stage in an attempted attack triggered by jokes about the queer community and the homeless.

    I guess that’s why they call them bums.

    Chappelle makes the baffling assertion that only gay men appear in photos with their mouths open


    a Chinese pedophile tries to bait a child with the promise of a puppy, except the boy says he’s not hungry.

    Fucking hell. 😀

    Ok, Dave Chappelle wins everything.

  17. Well I have very eclectic music tastes but I still think that the absolute GOAT is J.S. Bach so I don’t care.

  18. bobby b

    And so they’ve become lemmings, looking for any little bit of groupthink-love they can get.

    I saw this on a small, but nonetheless terrifying scale a couple of years back. A group of well spken and generally attractive young women, students I assumed, late teens or early twenties were on the train opposite me comparing their vaccination certificates and how proud thay were that they were up to date on their boosters.

  19. Steve

    I knew you’d find that one amusing!! I did laugh out loud at the phrase:

    ‘Mary Whitehouse has been reincarnated as a soyboy.’

    Although I think Whitehouse was at least vaguely literate and seldom asked (in my recollection) for a ‘safe space’

    Your observations about IT coding are spot on – even though it’s been a while (Like you I misspent my youth on the ZX81 / Spectrum) spending hours creating programs from ‘YS’ or ‘Sinclair User’ – wish I’d stuck with it to be honest!!

    In my experience, many ‘developers’ are simply not actually aware of fundamental basics – a key aspect of why so many things are f&^*ed beyond repair!!

  20. To be fair, the article is taking a bit of a bashing below the line, which gives me a scintilla of hope for Civilisation.

  21. There are numerous female musicians creating fascinating, mould-breaking music, but none of them are likely to be on Lauren O’Neill’s playlist. I have written extensively about them on my website and in my various books, and can safely say that I am an authority on women’s underground music. None of the “pop stars” cited by Ms O’Neill interest me in the slightest.

    Probably the most interesting female musician of the last couple of decades is Carla Kihlstedt – an American classical violinist who works have spanned modern classical, jazz, rock and pure avant-gardism. Her band Sleepytime Gorilla Museum – who cross Henry Cow with modern metal styles, mainly using home-made instruments and adding a dash of dadaist humour – are about to release their first album in more than 15 years. I am confident that it will be one of the highpoints of my 2024.

  22. VP – Like you I misspent my youth on the ZX81 / Spectrum) spending hours creating programs from ‘YS’ or ‘Sinclair User’ – wish I’d stuck with it to be honest!!

    They were marvelous days. I remember being enthralled by the very idea that you could control the things you see on TV.

    Cassette loading times that you could boil a kettle to, and brew up a nice cup of tea just in time for

    R Tape Loading error

    But we were appy!

  23. . . . many ‘developers’ are simply not actually aware of fundamental basics – a key aspect of why so many things are f&^*ed beyond repair!!

    Dunno, back in the day when awareness of basics was considered more important than nowadays, there were still clunky interfaces and ridiculous errors. The “year 2000 bug” was created by the generation of supposed “basic fundamentalists”, and was no doubt corrected by the few “even more basic fundamentalists” of their time. I think that’s just how it’s always been and always will be; general mediocrity serviced by core expertise.

    The speed and churn of programming development actually makes specialised knowledge a risky prospect. Now that “AI” can pretty much handle the nitty gritty of coding (give it another year and it’ll probably be very reliable), we’ll need a replacement for “learn to code” as a buggy whip pisstake.

    In some ways I regret missing out on the “computers when young” thing; I really have no clue beyond a bored and lazy layman’s understanding of how these toys actually work. I had zero interest in computers and programs until they could do something I was interested in (2D and 3D graphics, photo editing, etc). Likewise I have almost no interest in how my car works – but I sure like driving and going places.

  24. Computers and techy gadgets are essentially equivalent to appliances for the youth of today.

    I think I would be correct in saying that the commentariat here are all of a similar, or older generation.

    Like many, I was fortunate to have been the right age when the computer revolution took off. (my first foray was with the ZX81). Those with a techy bent could actually see the hardware and software evolving in real time (and actually take part!)
    It’s a bit different nowadays. For one, there is a dearth of techy programs on the box. Where’s the “Beyond 2000”, or “Tomorrow’s World” for this generation?
    I know that there’s endless stuff on YouTube, but it’s so atomised that you have to actively seek this stuff out, whereas as kids we would all be talking about stuff we’d seen on the telly.

    The artsy fartsy twats in the BBC have also successfully purged anything that requires more than a room level IQ to watch from the TV .

    Another issue is that the complexity of stuff in general is so great, it’s hard to get a foot in the door.

    There wasn’t a toy or present from my youth that I didn’t take apart (and sometimes put back together). Try doing that nowadays with a >£1000 iPhone with it’s pentalobular screws and ultrasonically bonded case.

    Another reason is the dumbing down of our society in general. I live in Birmingham, which used to be the “Workshop of the World”. Now, the local economy seems to be based on Birmingham City Council and the Government pissing as much money up the wall as is possible, and rest of the economy consists of Charity shops, tattoo parlours, nail bars and gambling dens, with of course the obligatory coffee shops selling us £5 cups of tasty water.

    I look at the toys and gadgets that the Chinese sell their kids on Temu & Ali Express, everything from drones to puzzles to working steam engines and the latest techy gadgets and think that that used to be us here, when we were a serious nation.

    I think there are still areas that can inspire the younglings – the raspberry pi foundation has the right idea and has been wildly successful in bringing the computing equivalent of Lego to the masses, but it’s an uphill battle.

    Sorry for the rant, I guess I’m just pissed that we don’t have a moonbase yet, or flying cars.

  25. To get back on topic – I went to a Madonna concert last year (present for the wifey) and to be honest it wasn’t really my thing. The rather pathetic pandering to every woke & right on cause wasn’t really for me and of course the fact that she she could never really sing didn’t help at all. At this point she’s probably got more body augmentation than a T800 so she can probably qualify as a cyborg.

    For masochistic reasons I also fast forwarded through the TayTay concert to see what all the fuss is about (she’s in the news rather a lot). I’m deffo not the target demographic for her. My overall impression was that Leni Riefenstahl would have been awed by it, as it had a similar vibe to the clips I’ve seen of the Hitler rallies (but with rather less talk about Lebensraum).
    Of the music – I can’t remember a single song. A bland mish mash of pap. And if you think she writes her own songs, then I’ve got a bridge to sell you. They’re clearly written by a committee and/or AI. The writing credit obvs for legal/financial/copyright reasons.

    May see Goldfrapp if she’s touring this year.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *