There's a script for women in commercial country music that doesn't necessarily coincide with more mainstream stereotypes and assumptions about women. If you've ever heard Carrie Underwood's ubiquitous 2007 single, "Before He Cheats" (lyrics), you'll recognize the tropes.
Of course there are exceptions, but the ideal country woman is often blond (and white), feisty, world-wise, and hot. She is deeply possessive of her man, and aims to squelch competitors for his affection. She gives the appearance of working-class roots even if she didn't grow up working class, and she's equally comfortable talking about guns (Miranda Lambert's "Gunpowder and Lead"), Jesus (Underwood's "Jesus Take the Wheel"), and heterosexual romantic relationships (Dixie Chicks' "Cowboy Take Me Away").
One of the newer variations on these themes is the girl group Pistol Annies (Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe, and Angaleena Presley). Check out the first single of their August LP, Hell on Heels (lyrics):
In May, Religion Dispatches published my first interview with former darling of the Christian contemporary music scene, lesbian singer-songwriter Jennifer Knapp. Then over the summer, I got to meet and interview Knapp in person while covering the Wild Goose Festival, an event that celebrated (predominantly Christian) spirituality, justice, and art. We talked a bit about the limitations of Christian music, feminism and sexuality on the same day she filmed the "It Gets Better" video below. I'll be critiquing some evangelical Christian music later in the series, so I'm very excited to share unpublished parts of our interview with you here today:
Last week, I wrote about apocalyptic themes and imagery in contemporary music. In closing out that discussion (at least for now), I use PJ Harvey's February LP, Let England Shake*, as a jumping off point to think about about war as apocalypse. In the album, we encounter a crumbling empire beset by militarism.
Here is the music video for "This Glorious Land" (lyrics here). It's about declining British empire:
Over the weekend, St. Vincent's upcoming album, Strange Mercy, started streaming on NPR. The woman behind the band, multi-instrumentalist singer-songwriter Annie Clark, started out as a member of the Polyphonic Spree and Sufjan Stevens' tour mate. She is known for juxtaposing sweet, Feist-like vocals with dark, often violent imagery. The disconnect between body and soul (that is, between the material and spiritual) is a central theme of her third album. The newest single, Cruel," examines this disconnect in the context of the trivial cruelties of day to day family life.
My name is Kristin Rawls, and, yes, I am a preacher's daughter. I'm in my early 30s, and I was raised in an unusual blend of Protestant traditions. The preacher (my dad) grew up in the Southern Baptist church, got "saved" during the Pentecostal-influenced "Jesus movement" of the 1970s and ultimately settled in a mainline (not fundamentalist) tradition. My family practiced a confusing mix of them all. The result? I became pretty cynical about the the whole thing.
This blog series is named after blueswoman Michelle Malone's song, "Preacher's Daughter" (transcript here):
Ellie Greenwich, October 23, 1940 – August 26, 2009
American singer, songwriter, and producer Ellie Greenwich died yesterday of a heart attack. Greenwich was best known for writing and co-writing such girl group classics as "Be My Baby" (The Ronettes), "Da Doo Ron Ron" (The Crystals), "Leader of the Pack" (The Shangri-Las), "River Deep, Mountain High" (Ike & Tina Turner), and many others. Greenwich and Jeff Barry, her former husband and writing partner, had 17 singles in the pop charts of 1964.