Ranging from out-there and politically abrasive sounds to chilled raps and harmonies capable of floating- today, the female voice is truly boundless and when it is combined with an abundancy of style, creativity and significance, obviously, the product is quite something.
Here’s a few of the latest and greatest…
[Image sourced: http://www.standard.co.uk]
The 41 year-old British-Sri Lankan, Maya Arulpragasam, stage name: M.I.A, alongside her rapper/singer title has been labelled as a visual artist, activist and also a leading face in the mid-2000s Nu-Rave movement.
Her songs comprise odd instruments, strange samples and hard hitting lyrics. They are so controversial, in fact, that she has received widespread criticisms. However, Maya has never been afraid of shouting loudly over them and has been described as having a “testy relationship with authority” (The Guardian).
Having been a refugee herself, Maya isn’t fond of people turning a blind eye on the issue. She even called on Beyoncé and Kendrick Lamar to not only focus on the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign but on the plight of other groups, such as today’s refugees. “I’dom, Me’dom, where’s your We’dom?” (Borders, AIM, 2016)
Her song ‘Borders’ also asks us “Identities (what’s up with that?)/ Your privilege (what’s up with that?)”. Parallel to the lyrics, the music video hauntingly depicts lines of people in the desert to highlight the rights-for-refugees agenda behind her music. It was, however, centre of a little row between her and MTV video music awards, as she was left off the nominations list which was, in her opinion, due to the company being prejudiced against her subject matter.
Very recently, M.I.A pronounced herself still on the scene with new track “Goals”. This time, could she be referring to the rise of unattainable ‘goals’: “Ride of your life, better bring your GoPro”? Accompanying the song, Jaime Martinez creates a video series of gifs.
NYC based alt R&B artist, Destiny, uses her strong voice to rap “high-tech fairy girl music” (Papermag.com). She can be found dropping mixtapes that highlight her obsession with individualism, voicing her support for the LGBT community, or telling her crowd at a gig “that’s what you do when a white boy disrespects you” (The Cambridge Student).
Growing up, she hosted parties and go-go dancing from the age of 16. So it’s no surprise where her strange and upbeat sound was born from. The first song she released that gained international recognition, ‘Bitch I’m Posh’, is a song which can best be described in one word: hot. Perhaps a more ‘serious’ tune to show the extent of her immeasurable talent is ‘Destiny’ a song that (according to the YouTube comments) she wrote when she was just 17. Fader also published a documentary by Orian Barki of Princess Nokia called Destiny, which is also an interesting watch.
Spoken-word artist? Poet? Rapper? Playwright? Kate Tempest’s limitless career allows her a strong platform to make claims of a lost Europe and tell stories of ordinary lives and struggles. Her righteous sounds may have flourished out of the “shitty part of town” that she tells The Huffington Post she grew up in. But aware of others struggles, she points out it was in a nice house, where there was always food on the table.
Supporting Scroobius Pip to Billy Bragg, Kate Tempest gained herself a rather large following even in today’s society which is diluted with pop. Her influences range from Samuel Beckett to Wu-tang Clan and her sound can be compared to a perhaps more politically aware Jamie-T.
[Image sourced: http://www.independent.co.uk]
Solange Knowles began her career at 16 with her first studio album ‘Solo Star’. After a few minor acting roles and writing for her older sister Beyoncé, Solange gracefully and properly returned to singing in 2008 with ‘Sol-Angel and the Hadley St. Dreams’ which infused sexy pop with motown (check out the song ‘T.O.N.Y’). In 2012, ‘True’ appeared: an album that may have been more influenced by R&B than the former (check out the song ‘Losing You’).
And to bring us up to date, last year she released ‘A Seat at The Table’ which was her first number-one album in the US. It was, rightfully, highly critically acclaimed. ‘Cranes in the Sky’ won the Grammy for ‘Best R&B Performance’.
‘Don’t Touch My Hair’, the song from her last album followed a very well-written and thought out essay on Solange’s ‘SaintHeron.com’. She writes…
“You and your friends have been called the N word, been approached as prostitutes, and have had your hair touched in a predominately white bar…”
“You don’t feel that most of the people in these incidents do not like black people, but simply are a product of their white supremacy and are exercising it on you without caution, care, or thought.”
Solange uses the perfectly soft and gentle warm sound of her singing voice to contrast with the strong, slightly angry lyrics in ‘Don’t Touch My Hair’.
[Image sourced: https://nationofbillions.com]
As well as being Kendrick Lamar’s favourite female vocalist to feature, Anna has seen the release of two fairly successful albums as a solo artiste. ‘The Feminine Act: 1’ and ‘The Feminine Act: 2’ are two strong albums with a strong message, which isn’t hard to guess what that message is from the name choice.
“No one tells the woman we go through the fiery flames to come out flexible,
A girl has got to try twice as hard and still it's you who says you made her”
(Stacking that Paper, The Feminine Act: 2)
As she sings of the many tribulations of the everyday woman, one can’t help but feel slightly disheartened by how relatable her lyrics are. That said, it’s pretty empowering stuff.
You could make the assumption her albums are all ‘girl-power’ but her lyrics are also akin to heartbreak and the complex array of emotions the female brain is subject to. But her music isn’t written simply for women, it is necessary for everybody to listen to it. Not just that, but her poppy alt sound is very enjoyable.
[Image sourced: http://www.boomtownfair.co.uk]
After attempting her own adaption of Flying Lotus’s ‘JAZB’ last year, IAMDBB has appeared on the music radars for the addictive sound of her strong yet relaxed and nonchalant voice. Mancunian artist, IAMDBB, says her genre is urban jazz (Google thinks it’s “ambient”) and claims that harmonies are key to her music and are a “vibe that the UK is lacking” (thenorthernquota.org).
She’s chilled, cool and niche and her music is the very same. She firmly believes in doing whatever she likes with her music and doing something that’s different. The Manchester urban music scene, according to IAMDBB is full of people “not practising what they preach, everything you do needs to be honest” (thenorthernquota.org). Her views and her music appear to be ‘right-on’ and she recently played at a Trafford Rape Crisis fundraiser in April (fun fact: she’s also sang for the Angolan president).
[Image sourced: http://www.telegraph.co.uk]
Russian, feminist, protest punk-rock band, (very accurately named) Pussy Riot, has had a fluctuating membership and as you probably already know have had their fair share of run-ins with the law. Their songs have lyrical themes ranging from LGBT rights, feminism, and a general “fuck you” to Putin. Even after being attacked with whips and pepper spray at the 2014 Winter Olympics they’re still provoking the establishment and have lately turned their attention on Trump with new songs last year called ‘Straight Outta Vagina’ and ‘Make America Great Again’.
We can look for the commonalities in these women’s approach to creating music, but maybe the only commonality is that they are all so strongly individual.