International Women’s Day: Outstanding Women in Music

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With today being International Women’s Day, we couldn’t let today pass without paying tribute to some of the most fantastic women in music – from Kero Kero Bonito to Sigrid to Kate Bush, enjoy our exploration of these outstandingly talented women.

Sigrid

If you love incredible talented Scandinavian singers, then you’ll definitely love Sigrid. She’s only 22 years old, and somehow everything she’s done so far has been magical. Her debut single ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ premiered on Radio 1 and was simultaneously made Hottest Record in the World, and her May EP was adored here at The Edge.

After submitting a song she wrote in two weeks to the Norwegian equivalent of BBC Introducing, she quickly gained national radio coverage and had record deal proposals left, right and centre. Dropping her law school plans thanks to the encouragement of her parents, she was signed by sixteen to Petroleum Records and considered to be a Norwegian breakthrough artist.

In 2016 she signed with Island Records (after listening to ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ once, the very next day they flew out to sign her), and last year she released the very same song with them which not only charted in the UK, Norway, and Australia, but has over 26 million Spotify streams and has gained her over 3 million monthly listeners. Over the summer she performed at The Great Escape, on Glastonbury’s Park Stage, and at Reading Festival, but possibly even more exciting than that, she is now immortalised forever in The Sims 4: Parenthood as a sim-lish version of ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’.

Drawing on a particularly bad writing session, ‘Don’t Kill My Vibe’ bites back at the people there who interrupted and patronised her as she sings “You shut me down, you like the control/You speak to me like I’m a child”. Hopefully, those producers are incredibly annoyed with themselves for missing the next big thing in pop, but how fortunate that such a fantastic pop anthem came out of a terrible experience – to be described as “The new Lorde, basically” after one song is quite the accolade.

Don’t Kill My Vibe, and Sigrid in general, is fantastic, my only criticism being that her music isn’t coming quickly enough to satiate us here at The Edge. Sigrid is definitely set for big things next year.

words by Carly-May Kavanagh

Kate Bush

Kate Bush, now 59, began writing songs at the age of 13. At 16, she was spotted by Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour and given the chance to record a professional demo tape that signed her to EMI, a division of which is now owned by Bush for her music label Fish People. In 2013, Bush became the first female artist to have five UK charting albums over five successive decades, and tickets for her Before the Dawn tour the next year sold out in fifteen minutes. As of 2014, she also holds the record for third highest amount of simultaneously UK charting albums, behind only Elvis Presley and The Beatles.

She first entered the charts with ‘Wuthering Heights’, and the music video quickly became iconic, and the source of multiple parodies. EMI had initially pushed for her to release ‘James and the Cold Gun’ as her first single, but she was determined to debut with ‘Heights’, and it went on to earn her the title of first woman to ever achieve a UK number 1 with a self-written song. It is also important to note that ‘Heights’ was written when she was just 19. ‘The Man With The Child in His Eyes’ is also evidence of her innate musical talent, for it’s lyrics written at the age of 14 won her the Ivor Novello Award for Ouststanding British Lyric in 1979.

Her determination for control began to earn her a reputation before she set up her own publishing company, Kate Bush Music, to escape the overwhelming authority of other labels. In order to further ensure her ability to work by her own rules, she also built a private studio near her home.

Her music covers a vast range of subjects, drawing inspiration from historic events and figures such as the Vietnam War or Joan of Arc, or from literature, as with ‘Heights’, as well as songs adapted from Stephen King’s The Shining, or Tennyson’s poetry.  For a song (and music video) that will really pull the feminist heartstrings, search YouTube for ‘This Woman’s Work’ and have a little cry.

Bush’s music continues to push lyrical and narrative boundaries, as well as those of the human voice. And while she’s more than a dancing figure in a whirling red dress, it’s an appropriately fairy-like image to know her by.

words by Sophie Jones

Hannah Reid (London Grammar)

My love for London Grammar is not really a secret anymore. And because it’s the age of the female-fronted bands (hell yeah!), lead singer Hannah Reid’s presence on this list is a must. After their debut If You Wait intrigued indie fans around the world, London Grammar’s sophomore album Truth Is A Beautiful Thing propelled them to UK Number 1 and cemented their presence and identity as one of the most unique bands on the market.

What makes their sound so particular is, of course, Hannah Reid’s voice. With the most mesmerising vocal spectrum I’ve ever come across in mainstream music, Reid’s voice is one you just can’t miss. From the gravest, subtlest harmonies to soaring heights reminiscent of opera singers and heavenly falsettos, Hannah Reid can take you wherever you want to go. And you can bet it’s a hell of a journey as well.

Her live performances are just as humanly impossible as her album ones, and the passion with which she performs is a pleasure to behold. While her crippling stage fright pushed her to the breaking point a few years ago, she has been facing it openly and bravely to pursue her passion – and that makes her all the more fantastic.

words by Thea Hartman

Joni Mitchell

In the 2003 masterpiece, Love Actually, Emma Thompson’s character defends her favourite singer to her husband, played by the late Alan Rickman, with the immortal line: ‘I love her, and true love lasts a lifetime’. 

The artist is Joni Mitchell, and the feeling is something that I can relate to on every level. She was a contemporary of artists revered by millions, part of the same scene that saw Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen rise to fame, but outshines them all with her lyrical intricacies and breathtakingly beautiful composition. Joni Mitchell brings a heart-breaking tenderness and a fierce wit that  resonates throughout the years, yet has failed to achieve the recognition that her male counterparts have bathed in. 

She has inspired so many incredible women – artists as diverse as Laura Marling, Bjork and Chrissie  Hynde  have all credited Joni Mitchell as their inspiration. Not even the Nazareth treatment can take the beauty and sensitivity out of her lyrics.

If I had to choose a favourite album, it would be Blue, her fourth and most critically acclaimed record. Its narrative speaks of a woman worn down by heartbreak, baring her soul to the world, yet with an undeniable strength and hope  that continues to awe . Perhaps the most poignant song ever written about the new life of a former lover is ‘The Last Time I Saw Richard’, most likely writer about her first husband, Chuck Mitchell. 

“Richard got married to a figure skater/And  he bought her a dishwasher and a coffee percolator/And he drinks at home now most nights with the TV on.”

Joni may not have gotten the dishwasher, but how could that compare to being the brightest talent of a generation.

words by Hermione Cook

Ellie Rowsell (Wolf Alice)

The first name that comes to mind when considering great female-lead bands is Wolf Alice, a band that often saturate their performances with ruthless power and full-frontal emotion. 2017 was certainly the year that the four-piece took the world by storm, with their second album Visions of A Life earning second spot on NME’s album of the year list, and third spot on The Edge’s very own list. The band are immediately identifiable by their organic mix of ethereal melodies and hard hitting rock. Frontwoman Ellie Rowsell has an unnerving talent in captivating the audience with her haunting and, at times, operatic falsetto. The vocalist and guitarist is not only the frontwoman for the best female-led band in the UK, but she is the leader of the best indie rock band in the country, regardless of gender. Proving that they cannot just match the countless male-fronted bands that festivals are currently festooned with, but in fact surpass them in terms of musical talent and exceptional delivery on the live stage. Wolf Alice is currently the most convincing argument to support the fact that female-led bands are hugely underrepresented and undervalued in the world of music.

words by Harry Fortuna

Sarah Midori Perry (Kero Kero Bonito)

For the first few years of its existence, Kero Kero Bonito was a duo, comprised of school friends Gus Lobban and Jamie Bulled. It wasn’t until 2013 however, when vocalist Sarah Midori Perry joined the band after responding to an advert on a message board for Japanese ex-pats, and the subsequent release of their first album one year later, that Kero Kero Bonito exploded in popularity. Lobban and Bulled needed someone who spoke Japanese in order to help marry the group’s J-Pop/Dancehall inspirations, and it turns out Perry was the perfect fit.

Perry’s distinctive voice shares its time fairly equally between singing and rapping as well as between English and Japanese, creating a unique, yet extremely accessible take on the J-Pop genre. The pint-sized leading lady of Kero Kero Bonito brings more to the table than just a fusion of eastern and western lyrics however. Originally a visual artist, Perry takes her distinctive style with her on stage, often crafting her own outfits to beautifully complement her hyper-positive bubblegum persona. Perry’s saccharine sensibilities help balance out the slightly subdued Lobban and Bulled in crafting Kero Kero Bonito’s brash, 90s pop culture mood. This thread continues to run through into their music also, with liberal sampling of classic Nintendo and Playstation soundtracks, and nostalgic lyrics about playing Tomb Raider and using Windows ‘98.

It is directly because of Perry then, that Kero Kero Bonito have been able to rapidly build upon the foundation laid by Lobban and Bulled, becoming the breakout stars of the PC Music scene.

words by Teague Hipkiss

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12-year-old possessive lioness and shiny goddess of all things nerdy. I am usually great and sometimes edit news. I support everyone and like everything @faithfulpadfoot. If you speak ill of musicals I may or may not bite thee.

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Features Editor and Editor-Elect of The Edge; second year English student and full-time lover of dogs and words (primarily, but could also fangirl about all things entertainment for a fair amount of time).

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Third year PAIR student and live editor. Also the Wessex Scene's Head of Events. Fan of cats, gigs and a tea lover - find me rambling about politics and cats @_Carly_May on Twitter.

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Second year languages student, mostly sorts out the illustrations for Wessex Scene, but enjoys seeing live music when allowed out.

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