For today's installment of RetroPop, the groove-friendly series in which I invite you to join in on my mashing of lady-driven Top 40 pop songs with great female works of art from the past, I suggest you flip the switch. Turn out those desk lights, turn off your overhead chandeliers, snuff your candles and for goodness' sake unplug the lava lamp. Because today we're going deep into the dark with sisters in song, Ellie Goulding, Ella Fitzgerald, and Emily Dickinson.
Welcome again to RetroPop, where we mash up lady-driven Top 40 tunes with the work of great female artists from history and explore what they have in common, maybe elevate some readers' respect for Billboard hits, and revel in some great women writers in the process. Your reactions, disagreements, and playlist suggestions are welcome and encouraged. So let's jack the volume to 11 and get down with some Gothic romance!
One fateful evening in a kitchen in Brooklyn in the winter of 2008, I stood leaning on a window, freezing air seeping into the sweaty room. A woman emerged from the bathroom wearing a modest black dress with a white collar. In the smallest voice, she said, "We're Screaming Females and we're from New Jersey." My eyes lit up.
Welcome again to RetroPop, the Top 40-centric series where I invite you to help me compare the messages of lady-performed Billboard hits with themes from the work of great female artists of the past.
Today we're going straight to the lyrics of the latest hit Nicki Minaj single, "Starships" to find out what it has in common with a (relatively) well-known and respected poem by all-around funky lady Edna St. Vincent Millay. Holla!
Welcome to the first proper installment of RetroPop! A blog in which I, your humble guest writer, bring together my loves for the Billboard Hot 100 and bodacious bits from female artists of the past. It's all based on my argument that lady-related pop messages of today are no less worthy than pop messages from the canon of women artists throughout history, and that by comparing them a bit maybe we can have some fun and give today's female pop stars a bit more cred in the process. (Possibly making us "thinking girls" feel less guilty about bustin' a move to Beyoncé? Added benefit.)
Today, in this first true demonstration of the RetroPop mashup style, we'll take a look at some parallels between Carly Rae Jepsen's dancelicious song of the summer, "Call Me Maybe," and my favorite Jane Austen novel, good old Pride & Prejudice (P&P).
Laetitia Sadier, who some may know as the bilingual frontwoman of '90s indie-rock band Stereolab, just dropped her second solo album, Silencio, a couple weeks ago on Drag City.
Sadier's vocals were one of my favorite things about Stereolab, always melding perfectly with their synth-driven songs, still bright and melodic while hitting minor or dischordant notes. Stereolab fans will not be disappointed with Silencio (Tim Gane, Stereolab's other front person, joins the album as well). The album has plenty of atmospheric pop songs, washes of sound carried by guitars and bossa nova beats, English and French lyrics over synth and moogy notes. But while it's easy to drift through the album, there's a lot more going on lyrically and politically on Silencio.
It took me two showers to wash off the dirt from Portland-based roots music festival Pickathon last weekend, but I'm still basking in the glow of new music discoveries. Some of my faves after the jump, with links to band websites and performances...
The world's biggest flirt has triumphed over a social revolutionary on the pop charts: Carly Rae Jepsen and her flouncy seven-week chart topper "Call Me Maybe" finally unseated Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" as the longest-running number one single for a female singer with the Interscope label.
Flirty summer fun winning out over social comment, according to the dollars we are paying for the music they are making, means something. And yet, since this ideological overthrow was executed in the arena of pop music, the philosophical shift our iTunes purchases are fueling is not being discussed in the same way it might be if we were talking instead about domestic themes culled from the latest Jennifer Egan book or other pieces of more "worthy" art.
So what if we worthified the Top 40 by considering it alongside thoughts and arguments from great women writers of the past? What if we made explicit connections between the music of Kelly Clarkson and the oeuvre of Charlotte Bronte? What if we could talk about the contrasts between Adele and Emily Dickinson?
Welcome to my new guest blog, RetroPop, where the messages from today's biggest female-created pop tunes are played right next to those of rockin' and respected female artists from the past—and where dancing while blogging is highly encouraged.