"Kids in America" :: Kim Wilde
I hear this in Charli XCX’s “London Queen” and in Taylor Swift’s “Welcome to New York.” The influence is much more pronounced in the latter; both are searching for the beat, both are hiding their hearts, Wilde finds the heat soothing and Swift isn’t blinded by the lights. I’m pretty sure both Charli and Taylor are familiar with the song because I’m pretty sure both have seen Clueless, though”Kids in America” is from 1981, one of an overwhelming number of New Wave one hit wonders. That era (loosely) has cropped up in Charli’s earlier singles and even as she transitions away from the overt darkness that made those songs memorable, the almost too saccharine quality of so many 80s one-hit wonders is still a source of inspiration.
What really unites all three is the pursuit of a manifest destiny. These women feel strongly that they belong somewhere, that this place is central to fulfilling their ambitions. Kim’s pre-internet sense of wonder sees America as a place where anything is possible, the source of “a brand new experience.” Charli ties conquering America to a career high water mark. Taylor’s New York fantasy is the dividing line between her country past and her pop future. Go East, Young Women.
I want to shake the shit out of music journalists writing about riot grrrrl. There have been so many movements spearheaded by women within music - Diana & Motown, Nina Simone, Whitney & Arista Records, Aretha & Arista/Atlantic, soul music in general, women in hip hop, 90s girl groups, indie r&b/neo soul (hate that term but whatever) - yet they continue to focus on this rather small block of time that was characterized by white women creating nondescript tunes that, seems to me, didn’t mean all that much to anyone outside of that exclusive group (probably because they were so racist and homophobic and transphobic no one wanted to fuck with their shitty music). By now, everyone who wants or needs to know that riot grrrl happened does. Let it gooooo.
Kesha’s lawsuit against Dr. Luke has been foreshadowed by past events, but it’s nonetheless heartbreaking. I’m support Kesha 100%; it seems remarkable we don’t automatically draw connections between pop stars suffering “mental breakdowns” and the potential abusive men in their lives that are heralded as the creative masterminds behind their work. I hope Kesha escapes this contract; her musical career seems like a minor point in the grand scheme of issues here, but Dr. Luke has been largely credited as the architect of her sound and if she makes a change in artistic direction, it will be met with an enormous amount of industry bullshit about agency and authenticity.
This has become a recurring theme in pop music: the shadowy male producers who are the so-called brilliant masterminds behind these public young women. Kesha had Dr. Luke. Lady Gaga had RedOne. Ariana Grande had Harmony Samuels. I can’t remember the last time we talked about an up-and-coming female pop star without talking extensively about her core production team, and that often makes sense when looking down the credits. This is what the industry does. It pairs young women off with the real geniuses and puts them to work.
This makes the Tinashe album that came out last week pretty incredible. There’s no shadowy male producer behind Aquarius, and any attempt to try to define that album as such is bullshit. Aquarius sounds like an extension of Tinashe’s mixtapes which she recorded and produced in her home studio. Even with this so-called assembled team of superstar hitmakers, all the tracks on Aquarius are unmistakably Tinashe. The Stargate songs sound like Tinashe. The Mike WiLL song sounds like Tinashe. The Detail song sounds like Tinashe. Even the guitar solo on “Bet” is Tinashe, whose idea it was because she thinks they are “cool.” The only song that actually sounds like its producer is “2 On,” but even that sounds like unmistakably like Tinashe with the flirting and the winking and the charming that only the girl next door could bring to a DJ Mustard beat.
My favorite thing written about the new Tinashe album was by Meaghan, who points out, “Aquarius is an anomaly in an age of major label standardization: a debut done unmistakably on Tinashe’s own terms.” This is the only correct framing. Any attempt to credit it to a team of dudes is a massive disservice, but I’m not surprised: old school music criticism is not particularly interested in the artistic vision and genius of black women. Just ask Beyoncé.
It’s so easy to read about Kesha’s lawsuit and feel hopeless. Men like Dr. Luke are given every opportunity, and even accusations of this magnitude are unlikely to torpedo his career. Conversely, by revealing herself as a victim of his assault, Kesha stands to lose everything. In the grand scheme of things it might seem relatively minor, but reframing the discussion around pop stars is a way to put power in the hands of the women creating music. When the narrative is one of ingénues, muses, protégés, and mild puppetry it reinforces the idea that women making music are nothing without their superstar producers. This, in turn, reinforces the fear and domination wielded by abusers. By discussing women as the architects of their creative vision, we can give strength to their choice of co-workers. Women like Tinashe (and Kesha, Gaga, Beyonce, Britney) are supremely talented regardless of their co-credits and the way we discuss that talent is important. The impulse to regurgitate every line item in the liner notes because #facts is incredibly strong, but ultimately these are albums that bear one name — the artist’s.
suspecially: super especially
suxtra: very bad
entrigue: meal-sized intrigue
egregarious: awfully friendly
cuckoon: a cage of obliviousness
reskeptical: a bin for your doubts
evilution: malicious growth
spillhouette: the stain on the carpet
tootsday: the worst day of the week (formerly Tuesday)
colleagiate: your post college work environment
consensuous: a kind of sex you can have
cuddlingus: obviously i was just in a mood, idk
dickwitted: the male mind
bachatanal: dance party
i have something for you! i’m selling my ticket to her show @ the chapel on the 21st for face value. if you’re interested, please message/email me!
Thank you, Sophia!
And coming up straight ahead, we’ll talk about Argentinian singer-songwriter Juana Molina.
For this I’m very happy to have—from Buenos Aires herself—Juana Giaimo take over this week. Juana is part of The Singles Jukebox and The Music Writers Collective, and she has featured in Rookie Magazine.
You can follow Juana on her Tumblr.
See you in a bit.
I AM SO EXCITED ABOUT THIS!
- Frances Ha
- the Plastics
- Ginger Fitzgerald
- the Bling Ring
- Weetzie Bat
- Enid Coleslaw
- Lindsay Weir
- Allison Reynolds
- the White Witch
- Lydia Deetz
- Andie Walsh
- Tracy Flick
- Alice in Wonderland
- Laura Palmer
- the Lisbon Sisters
- Rory Gilmore
- Effy Stonem
- Torrance Shipman
- Lucy Wagner
- Cher Horowitz
- the Pink Ladies
- Margot Tenenbaum
Specifically, that goes out to anyone who feels like Lester Bangs cornered the market on music writing because clearly he felt dwarfed by the dude(s) who are even less tethered to structure, authority, and/or the canon than he was. And it’s similarly another reminder of how little has changed. I love the opening paragraph because it’s such a timeless complaint. It’s something I feel gloomy about pretty regularly and why I always want to read more writing from women. What better way to annihilate these age old complaints than by including, promoting, and listening to people who are outside of this system?
(Lester Bangs’ Introduction to the Citadel Underground Edition of Gulcher by Richard Meltzer)
This reminded me of so much.
Here is episode thirteen of Swoonstep, a podcast where smart cool chicks talk about their interests in music and the musicians who can get it. This week your Swoonstep hosts are joined by the #cangetit queen Anaïs Mathers, who takes her popular awards show game (basically she tweets about who can get it and who cannot get it) and gives us the rundown on which musicians can and cannot get it. Before we do that, we discuss growing up with the overwhelming white male post punk and indie rock scenes and the Kardashians (hey, Kim married Kanye; it counts as music). An American cutie who moved to Canada for love weighs in on how she feels about Drake pre- and post-move, and we get the official #cangetit/#cannotgetit verdict on the rapper.
Anaïs is an American writer who now lives in Toronto. You can find her work at This Recording, and she wrote about Swoonstep and #cangetit star Jenny Lewis’s band Rilo Kiley for an excellent One Week One Band. You can also find her writing on Tumblr, where she also takes pictures of her food, shows you all her cute hairstyles, gets deep about her Cuban roots, and cracks dad jokes. Of course, catch the aforementioned #cangetit on Twitter at @anaees. She is such a cool chick.
Let us know if you’re a cool chick who has opinions about music and can tell us who can definitely get it, and thanks for listening!
Anaïs’s Rilo Kiley Week pre-dates my readership of One Week One Band, and I’m reading it now and it’s so great. I’ve been thinking a lot about what her thoughts on bands that dudes ruined because I didn’t have very well formed thoughts at the time (hangover :/) but there’s so much really dude beloved stuff that has never sunk in for me. One story I wish I’d shared was when I started listening to rap via T.I. and Cam’ron mixtapes sent to me by a friend, another friend lamented my taste as “pop rap” and sniffed he only listened to M.F. Doom. I have never listened to M.F. Doom, I never will. Fuuuuuuck M.F. Doom! Anaïs was a great guest and I want to hear ALL her stories.
Happening Now (10.8.14): Oh dear God, not again. Another life lost in St Louis. So little information right now, but it seems that an unarmed 18-year old boy was tased then shot 16 times by an officer, possibly off-duty. Not clear what provoked the event, but I’ll keep you updated as info is released. #staywoke #blacklivesmatter
Be weary of the police reports so far. ALL witness statements seem to contradict it, but the police refuse to interview any of them. They seem to be concocting a story right now to cover for the officer. It’s looking real grim right now.
JJ72 - “Oxygen”
“No Better” is a song about summer and the way that summer heat makes you slow and languid but also achingly, painfully aware of the people you’re with. Something about sweetness that shatters your bones, something about sweat that sticks your hair damp to the back of your neck and makes you want to cry.
Reading it and listening to the song is giving me flashbacks to being fifteen and “Oxygen” being perfect. JJ72 weren’t quite teenagers any more and it’s teenage sounding in a very different way, but still: “short sleeves and warm skin”; ridiculous implied descriptions of kissing; a feeling of breathless heightened intensity in the summer heat.
This reblog is mostly because wow, I have not thought about jj72 in probably a decade, but my sister and I were both so into them in high school, though I can’t remember how we were introduced to them. I feel like they must have opened for a band we saw because I’m almost positive my sister had a jj72 t-shirt.