Wednesday, December 7, 2011

By Girls For Girls

Glee* recently had an episode that was all about one of the character (named Santana) coming out to her family and so all the songs were supposed to be 'by girls for girls'. The big finale number was 'I kissed a girl' by Katy Perry. A song that condescendingly treats lesbianism as a fun past time to try on for the weekends when you're hammered. The Same Katy Perry who sang about hoping her 'gay' ex boyfriend hangs himself with his H&M scarf! This is the artist they chose to represent women in the LGBT community?! I'm not on board. Not at all. It might be a bit much to be expecting Glee kids to break into Tori Amos but would a bit of Indigo Girls really do them that much harm!? So here are my choices of songs by women, for women that I think would better accompany a story about supporting women being open about their sexuality.

Playboy Mommy by Tori Amos

Any conversation about female sexuality should include a conversation about motherhood, and here's a song that approaches the subject honestly and leaves the saccharine for the mothers day cards. It's both completely personal to Tori Amos and the situation she was in at the time, and also opens up a bigger conversation about not just the relationship between mothers and daughters, but also how women judge each other.

One of my favourite things about Tori Amos is her ability to be both absolutely heart wrenching, and pretty hilarious in the same sentence. In this song, where she sings to her miscarried daughter who she feels judged by, you get gems like;

'Don't judge me so harsh little girl
You got a playboy mommy
Come home
But when you tell them soldiers my name
And cross that bridge all on your own
Little girl they'll do you no harm
Cause they know your playboy mommy'
So my interpretation is she's saying 'well you chose not to be born because you didn't think a slut like me would make a fit mother, but when you get to heaven mention my name coz heaven's full of dead soldiers that I'm good 'friends' with so they'll treat you well'. That's quite a complicated, and I'd say witty, sentiment to be singing about.

She has a habit, I think, of wavering between very profound and very inane lyrics. Unlike Kate Bush, who often intentionally writes silly lyrics, Tori Amos seems to sometimes just get a bit lazy (I know I might get hung for saying that, but come one! I mean in black dove she sings 'you're not a helicopter, you're not a cop out either'!) but like the girl with the curl when she's good she's very very good. In Playboy Mommy there's a very clear narrative throughout and every lyrics means something and has a reason for being there.

In or Out by Ani DiFranco

I'm not choosing an Ani DiFranco song because she's gay (or bi) and the Glee story line was about a gay character coming out, same as I wouldn't just choose songs by Asian artists for Mike Chang.

And I have to say this isn't my favourite Ani DiFranco song but it fits the bill perfectly because it's not a song about Ani DiFranco's sexuality, it's about other peoples reactions to it.

Get Out Of My House by Kate Bush

It's pretty debatable whether this song is about female sexuality at all, but it's definitely about asserting yourself and being confident in your choices. I absolutely LOVE in this song the way Kate Bush screams 'get out of my house'! It's the most amazing piece of acting/singing I think I've ever heard. It really sounds like it could be a real life recording someone took of their (very) disfunctional neighbours fighting. The first few times I listened to it it was just the raw timbre of it that appealed to me but the more I listen the more melodic it sounds. It repeats again and again throughout the song and I could listen to it forever.

Kate Bush often acts out characters voices during songs. Sometimes they get a bit silly for my tastes (like on 'There Goes a Tenner') but on this song she does it to perfection when she sings from the point of view of the Russian (or maybe eastern european!?) door man. The vibe I get isn't so much that she's putting on a characters voice but that she's saying 'I can be both the emotional, visceral woman screaming 'get out of my house', and the boss who can very calmly but authoritatively tell you you're not getting in.'

I only noticed recently that the chanting that comes in at the end is actually Konnakol with lots of effects on it. What this song has to do with South Indian rhythms I have no idea, I'm guessing she just thought it sounded cool and she was right. 

*I'm pretty sure anyone who says they don't like Glee is lying, along with people who say they 'don't have a sweet tooth' or 'love the gym'