• Max Burt

Young female artists as 'industry plants' - Pt. 2

Traditional takes on masculinity, femininity, and male entrepreneurialism all contribute towards a (mostly) subconscious stigma towards young female musicians.

Linking back to the first part of this post, I think it'd be prudent to draw some comparisons between recent male and female 'industry plants' to hammer home the pattern of the biggest controversies surrounding the women, rather than the men. Chance the Rapper, Logic and Post Malone have all been accused of being plants, with the same amount or more evidence than has been presented in the Clairo and Billie Eilish cases, yet the male artists seem to face less online backlash despite this.

Probably the most glaring example to study is Post Malone. He became famous in the exact same way as Billie and Clairo - his track 'White Iverson' blew up massively on Soundcloud within a month of being uploaded, a music video was then released which further hiked his notoriety, and now Post is one of the biggest artists in the world. In a sense, his success was against all odds; a white dude, with braids, kinda goofy-looking, making a blend of trap and rock. I mean, in that regard, the only thing keeping hip-hop's current clown Tom MacDonald from rocketing his way to number one is his fuck-awful snowflake 'why-can't-straight-white-men-have-a-political-opinion-anymore' lyrics. Now that's a scary thought.

Post has also claimed that his success is self-made more than Clairo and Billie ever have. That's not a bad thing in itself, braggadocious lyrics come with his image and the genre, the problem comes with the comparison of the industry plant controversies surrounding Post, and Billie and Clairo. It seems problematic that he rose to fame in the exact same way, arguably with many odds against him (signifying that, like any other artist, he's had help along the way) and claims he is self-made, yet the people who assume Billie and Clairo are plants do not assume that Post is also one. Their reasoning, discussed in Part 1, should by all means garner just as huge controversy around him, and other male artists - but it hasn't.

So there's definitely a disparity - but why?

I would argue that young female artists face these accusations most intensely when they become more experimental, or genre-bending in their music.

When an artist like Clairo or Billie, who in their earlier discography had been corralled into the ever-present 'young female pop singer-songwriter' box, attempts to collaborate and integrate with the hip-hop scene (or any other male-dominated genre), it creates a largely subconscious association in the minds of the comment-section critics that the young female artist cannot survive there on her own. When Clairo opened for the likes of Steve Lacy, Brockhampton and Tyler, the Creator; when she featured Rejjie Snow on the track 'Hello?'; when Billie shows a close friendship with EARTHGANG, Denzel Curry and others on social media - all of this, in the mind of a subconscious music industry sexist, is the signal that she is out of her depth. That surely she must be guided along the male-dominated genre by a man with more experience - thus making her an industry plant.*

I say 'subconscious' because much of our surface understanding of the music industry is innately sexist - I'm not too proud to admit that, around four years ago, I used to think like this in my closed 'only sheep listen to pop music' mind, the stubbornness of which resulted in literally 99% of artists I listened to being male (cited from Spotify's annual account stats thing). This is broadly due to the old-fashioned vision of male entrepreneurialism - that traditional masculinity encourages boys and men to experiment in endeavours and seize opportunity, whereas traditional femininity has encouraged routine and passivity. So it has become the case that young female artists are discouraged from diving headfirst into genre-bending and experimental ideas due to the perceived norm that a male-dominated industry presents.

In recent years, as this norm changes with more and more female artists disregarding the 'pop singer-songwriter' box, the more traditionally-minded of us innately expect that those artists must rely on a lot of helping hands to reach success.

Of course, there is plenty of conscious sexism in the entertainment industry - we need look no further than the Me Too movement to see that. But the kind of engendered attitude I'm talking about here has rooted itself due to the industry being significantly male-dominated. 'Abusers, the pay-gap and lack of representation' - all of these are issues that must be addressed, but the solutions largely come from legislation, lawsuits and CEOs. What can we, as simple consumers of music, do to help change the tone?

*A rebuttal may be that someone like soft electro-pop artist Anna of the North, who has collaborated with multiple rappers, has not received accusations of being an industry plant - she is, however, 28. This is by no means old, but to the music industry she isn't young, and therefore may be viewed as more 'palatable' or 'respectable', mature enough to genre-bend without being a plant - so it's still specifically young female artists that are being subjected unfairly to this criticism.

We can make a conscious effort to find and listen to more female artists.

Basically, let's keep our feet on the accelerator. We're seeing the rise of more and more experimental female artists, and actively deciding to seek them out and listen to them whenever you're tired of shuffling your main playlist is gradually going to make a huge change in the way the music industry operates.

The more female genre-bending artists we support, the more potential young female artists will be encouraged to share their music with the world.

If you're someone that gravitates towards male musicians/vocals over female ones simply due to music taste, I know the feeling - that was my taste a few years back. In 2015 I almost exclusively listened to post-hardcore, punk and alternative metal - genres that definitely don't see many women on stage. But through a gradual and overall expanding of the stuff I listen to, streaming with an open mindset, a number of my favourite all-time artists are women. And I'm not saying that just to flex how extremely fucking nice and liberal I am oo

look at me I love equality, I'm just encouraging an open mind. If the opportunity is there to find new music we love, why not take it?

I've compiled a list of some of my favourite female artists below, I very much recommend you give them a listen. If you're searching for methods to find new music, give Anthony Fantano (yeah yeah I know I'm part of the meme), ALFO Media, NPR Music and COLORS a watch - those Youtube channels are my main sources for new stuff, female or otherwise.

Ya boy's recommended female artists and female-fronted bands, in no particular order:

  • Stella Donnelly - guitar-indie-pop-folk, tells it like it is in an inspiring way.

  • Sorry - female-fronted, experimental and hard to identify, like ominous post-punk or something.

  • JFDR - atmospheric and mesmerising experimental Icelandic artist.

  • Alice Glass - previously of Crystal Castles, making dark, disturbing electronic tracks.

  • Orchards - female-fronted math-rock pop fusion.

  • Anna of the North - entrancing soft electro-pop.

  • Noname - jazz-poetry-rap, smooth as fuck.

  • Men I Trust - female-fronted funky indie.

  • Alexandra Savior - hypnotising psychedelic indie-rock.

  • Crumb - female-fronted blend of psych-rock and jazz.

  • Marna - female-fronted alternative indie-pop.

  • Tomberlin - Ethereal and comforting guitar-ballads.

  • Thyla - female-fronted post-punk, amazing live.

  • Wolf Alice - obviously.

  • Clairo - Bedroom-pop, dream-pop. Her first EP 'diary 001' is the main highlight for me.

  • Billie Eilish.

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