The eighth grade had me yearning to be like No Doubt ska-goddess Gwen Stefani, with her white-tank-and-leopard-pants combo, mega-glam red lipstick and culturally-appropriated bindi-bling. The eighth-grade adoration I felt for the Gwen Stefani of the late 90s has come to define the way I feel about my most-favourite female musicians to this day - a blend of deeply-felt regard for their musical talents, and intense longing to possess just a micron of their fierce badass-ery.
With artists like Adele and Florence Welch gaining a serious foothold in the once male-dominated music industry, it's an especially potent time for female musicians. And true to my 14 year-old days of idolizing Gwen Stefani, girl-powered music still has the special ability to activate the most spirited of solo kitchen dance parties.
Here, a sampling of my current five most favourite female musicians:
Hailing from Vancouver, B.C., Frazey Ford’s luscious, heartfelt melodies first caught my attention via social media, with a few friends respectively declaring their love of her music only a couple days apart. There’s something deeply stirring about Frazey, both in the honest-cadence infusing her newest album, Indian Ocean, and the way she flaunts her sumptuous curves in all their shimmying glory. Frazey is part of the line-up for this summer’s Atmosphere Gathering in Cumberland, B.C., and frankly, I’m buzzing with anticipation to see her in the flesh.
I was enamoured with First Aid Kit from the very first listen, their playful, folksy ballads begging to be sung-along with. This Swedish sister duo embody all the bohemian goodness that calls to mind flower crowns, flowing tresses and fringed kimonos, although there’s a haunting kind of melancholy infused into their otherwise frolicsome vocals. Case in point, “King of the World”, with its deceptively cheerful lines, “That one day I’d wake up all alone / With a big family and emptiness deep in my bones / That I would be so blinded, turn a deaf ear / And that my fake laugh would suddenly sound sincere.”
True, my fondness of bluesy-goddess Elle King likely harkens back to my teenage Gwen-Stefani-girlcrush, but there’s no denying that Ms. King holds her own as this generation’s sultry and surly white-blonde bombshell. I’m especially endeared to Elle King by her brash unapologetic-ness, likewise defying body image standards with her ultra-feminine figure and arms decorated in tattoos. From the innuendo-ed catchiness of “Ex’s and Oh’s” (“They always wanna come, but they never wanna leave”), to the heartbreaking harmonies of “Kokaine Karolina.”, Elle King’s music perfectly exemplifies the same ferocious sauciness that sets her apart from the masses. (Bonus trivia: Elle King is the daughter of former-SNL star and Happy Madison-mainstay, Rob Schneider!)
What my partialness to Brandi Carlile shows me is that I inarguably have a “type” when it comes to favourited female musicians, with her music described as a blend of folk, rock and (I hate to admit) country (for shame! I’d always proudly declared myself an adversary of the country music genre!). Brandi Carlile’s latest recording, The Firewatcher’s Daughter, showcases a lively mix of foot-stomping anthems (try “Alibi”) and mournful verses, with “The Eye” having quickly become my favourite track on the album.
While I admit I’ve only recently become turned on to Rising Appalachia, one thing is for sure: this is music for the people. Which makes sense, as sister’s Leah and Chloe describe their style as “a collection of sounds, stories and songs steeped in tradition and a devotion to world culture." With many of Rising Appalachia’s songs lamenting about justice from a macrocosm point of view, and the band serving as a regular on the transformational music festival circuit, Rising Appalachia is committed to what they call the Slow Music Movement, striving to remain for and by the people. (You can catch the duo at Victoria’s Sugar Nightclub on Wednesday, July 27! Tickets available here.)