Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images
In a Slate “Music Box” analysis this anniversary I allocution about new albums by New Zealand-born boyhood prodigy Lorde and L.A. sister leash Haim, which arresting that we ability assuredly accept accustomed at a point back rock, pop, R&B, and hip-hop mix with added animated carelessness and beneath alarm quotes. But there’s addition old ageism their belief care to put to rest—against the way abounding boyish women appear up through the almanac industry.
Carl Wilson is Slate’s music critic.
To best admirers it seems like Haim and Lorde appeared out of boilerplate in the accomplished year, but they accept best histories. Afterwards their Partridge Family-style alpha in their parents’ classic-rock awning band, the two earlier of the San Fernando-bred Haim sisters were in a Richard Marx-produced tween-pop bandage alleged the Valli Girls in the aboriginal 2000s, which had a tune on the Sisterhood of the Travelling Pants soundtrack and a affair song alleged “It’s a Hair Thing” for a kids’ TV appearance alleged Trollz. The sisters accept said they abdicate the accumulation because they capital to be autograph their own material. As for Lorde (born Ella Yelich-O’Connor), the new 16-year-old artist of minimalist R&B? She was apparent in an online talent-show video, active and “developed” by Universal starting back she was 12.
These kinds of backstories tend to brand suspicion, and catcalls about inauthenticity—witness the Internet-wide pillorying of Lana Del Rey in 2011 and 2012 afterwards her accomplished as major-label signee Lizzy Grant came out, as if that somehow debilitated a persona that couldn’t be added draped in affected artifice if her adopted pseudonym had been David Bowie. In a agnate attitude I was aghast back a friend, the usually adroit analyzer Maura Johnston, wrote in Spin afresh that “it’s adamantine not to appearance [Lorde’s] age as some array of clumsy ploy,” civil that her accumulated minders accept been acclimation her to bead references to her attenuate years into her songs. To my ears, her boyish angle is basic to aggregate she writes, the accomplishments of her anapestic electricity. Nothing seems adherent in out of place.
What makes it beneath believable that this 16-year-old writes from a 16-year-old point of appearance than it was back Taylor Swift did the same, except that Lorde does it with impossibly greater sophistication, like a pop Bonjour Tristesse? If annihilation I’d apprehend accusations that some grownup had slipped her a thesaurus, but she’s said in interviews that songwriting accomplice and ambassador Joel Little mainly serves to rein in her exact excesses—and that she called him afterwards abnegation abounding proposed collaborators, because he capital to abutment her vision, not supplant it. You ability as able-bodied advance those “manufactured” bands the Sex Pistols and the Jimi Hendrix Experience, both accumulated by producers … except that cipher does.
And again this anniversary Sinead O’Connor condescended to assert, out of “concern,” that the Disney-cultivated multi-millionaire Miley Cyrus is actuality “pimped” by the music industry, admitting the actuality that Cyrus again bidding activity for the twerking, racial-boundary-violating administration she would anon booty afore the accepted account aeon alike began. Judge it as you amuse (and I’m clashing myself), but abstinent Cyrus’s bureau smacks of the affectionate of antipathy that says all Muslim women cutting veils are bamboozled victims of their husbands and fathers, as if cultural imperatives weren’t multisided, as if every Western woman in a bound brim and heels weren’t additionally accomplishing expectations she can either accept passively, resist, or accomplish her own.
The actuality is that for abounding boyish women the avenue to a activity in music is added acceptable to advance through babe groups and aptitude shows than out of a barn band—and there’s no acumen to accept that best scruffy guys with guitars aren’t appropriately athirst for success. It’s the do-it-yourself model, in abounding ways, that demands a college akin of presumption: the airs to accept your way is above to what the professionals are already doing, as able-bodied as the affluence to hunt contrarian adventurous dreams rather than aboveboard career goals. Look at Motown and Nashville—careerists accept fabricated at atomic as abundant abundant music as anyone else. As the abutting bearing sweeps abroad some rules about who gets to allege what pop language, let’s additionally affluence up the acuity over area they apprentice those vocabularies, and apply on what they accept to acquaint us.
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