Though many doors have been opened there are many that have remained shut. For instance, the way that many labels choose to market female artists like sex symbols instead of relying on their ability to perform. Women musicians are becoming more and more visible, and, with this, visibility comes into power. Ani DiFranco and Madonna are just two examples of women who are starting their own record labels and signing their own bands.
By doing this they are insuring that female artists get heard. Obviously, not every women musician can have this kind of determination, but the fact that they are on stage playing what they love, music, makes them powerful. There is nothing natural about the contemporary pop female singing voice, because there is nothing intrinsically natural about any kind of actual vocal expression, voices being governed by changing cultural rules and fashions and varying between genres.
With vocals as with music, the record industry works with a set of categories into which it seeks to mould its performers, with the aim of controlling consumer choice (Cowther, 145-50). Gender is inevitably a factor in this categorization process. The categories available for women are restricted, and women’s music, which cannot be fitted into these, may be either rejected outright as unsuitable for signing or altered so that they do fit.
Suzi Quatro, was originally in a family group with her sisters, playing strip clubs. Her first record, however, presented her as a folk-singer, with a characteristic folk image. The producer of this record was Mickie Most, who had just produced Julie Felix. With later producers she changed her image yet again, although like Madonna, Annie Lennox, and Bjork, Suzi Quatro was, apparently, always in control of these image changes. Many women performers in the past have had little influence over their image.
The traditional female classification of ‘female folk-singer/singer-songwriter’ has been a very conservative category, offering women little scope for experimentation. Because of the lack of role models, many have been packaged as folk, perpetuating the dominance of the female folk image, so that it is not surprising that many of my first batch of interviewees had, in their teenage years, aspired to become folk-singers, whilst very few had, even briefly, entertained the notion of playing rock.
Feminism and lesbianism have also had an effect on singers. Because conventional female pop songs usually presumed a male listener, women have been expected to sing in heterosexist terms for the male ear. The variety of voices were heard on the post-punk ‘Making Waves’ album of women’s bands, the reason being that many of these bands were singing for other women, and thereby breaking the voice codes. There is, in the 1990s, a growing greater variety in women’s voices.
Images, too, have been more artfully utilized by confident female performers, Annie Lennox and Madonna developing the tactic of presenting a succession of images, in a playfully ironic postmodern way, as a means of avoiding the traditional image trap. Women vocalists have been successfully fighting for more control over their careers within the music industry.
Ammer, Christine. Unsung: A History of Women in American Music. Westport, Conn, Greenwood Press, 1980. 110-13 Anderson, B. P. , Hersbacher, K. P. Etzkorn, R. S. Denisoff.
“Hit Record Trends, 1940-1977. ” Jornal of Communication 30 (1980): 31-43. Cowther, Bruce, and Mike Pinfold. The Jazz Singers: From Ragtime to New Wave. Javelin, England: Sterling, 1988. 145-50 Freudiger, Patricia, and Elizabeth M. Almquist. “Male and Female Roles in the Lyrics and Three Genres of Contemporary Music. ” Sex Roles 41 (1978): 61-65 Gandee, Charles. “In The Closet With Madonna”. Vogue Oct. 1997: 306-313, 378. Udovitch, Mim. “Madonna”. The Rolling Stone Book of Women in Rock. Ed. Barbara o’Dair. New York:Random House,Inc. ,1997. 299-301