GrrlBeat @ the Feminist eZine Riot Grrl Archive
Welcome to GrrlBeat!
"GrrlBeat" was a series of women's music articles written by Leslie Harpold for RiotGrrl.com during the 1996 - 2001 period. Sadly RiotGrrl.com is no more. We have archived some of the articles here for research purposes and also because they are an enjoyable read. This is not a complete archive of every GrrlBeat article ever written, but it is enough to provide a sense of what GrrlBeat was.
The articles include:
Gonna Fly Grrl
Never being a person who likes to look back and say "I wish I had" or that I "woulda, coulda, shoulda" I'd like to share with you the one thing I wish I had done differently. Okay, it's the one thing I'm willing to admit to.
If I could do it over again, would learn more about physics. You heard me right, physics. Not so I could accelerate particles, but so I could eventually study to become a recording engineer and ultimately a record producer. I'm a woman, and there just aren't any really famous female record producers. If I had started early enough, I could have been a teenage sensation, at worst a college grrl prodigy. Who are the big name producers? From the days of Quincy Jones and Thomas Dolby being high in demand, to today's Dust Brothers, Babyface, Steve Albini and Butch Vig, it's a boys club. This realization crashed down on me like a ton of bricks when I was watching MTV the other day.
Missy Gold, heiress to the HipHop throne was on with other record producers discussing sampling in music and it occurred to me that I had never seen a female record producer. Many female singer/songwriters have self produced their music, but they haven't made a career of sitting behind the board and trying to extract the most from their artists.
All I'm lacking is the technical skills. Other art forms have proven women can be just as creative and adventurous as men are. Still, why has this one area of the music industry failed to embrace women? I initially thought it was because it was the same old story, boys club, 'grrls keep out.' But after calling several engineering schools, it seems female enrollment in programs that teach such things is frightningly low, if not non-existent..
Why is this? Non traditional female roles are generally first broken through in the arts, but opular recorded music seems to be sleeping on this one. There isn't the talent available to step up and take over the helm. That's why I say I should have been a record producer.
Missy Elliot comes closer than I've seen any woman come so far. Getting her start writing songs for artists like Jodeci, New Edition, Aliyah, the Brat and Mariah Carey, she has insisted on co-producing each track she writes. This has garnered her some attention from the media, plus \ she has the talent to make it go. Over her relatively short career she has managed to align herself with some of the top artists both in and outside of her genre. She's rapped, written, sang, and produced her way onto 20hits in the last two years. Missy 'Misdemeanor' Elliot clearly means business. Finally, she put out her own record.
And what a record it is. I left behind softer hip hop long ago, but Missy has shown me there is something to come back for. Her new record 'Supa Dupa Fly' is a delicate balance of Jungle, Hip Hop, rap and underground beats. She has a easy, natural comfortable singing style that pulls you effortlessly you from beat to beat, no matter what the pace of the tune. Every time I listen to cuts from this album, I end up playing it several times in a row and still want to hear more. I feel like a kid. When I try to listen like a critic, I can't keep it up. It's a pop song with a little edge, just enough to keep my jaded ears glued to the speaker.
As a woman, you can't help but like her. Missy Elliot is articulate, smart and ready for the brass ring. She is aggressively promoting her own record label, 'The Gold Mind,' a joint venture with her parent label, Elektra. Her services as a producer are highly in demand, and she's doing the one thing I wish I'd have done.
I want to see her shine. I want to see women start producing records all over. I want the stereotype that 'girls don't know anything about music' demolished. And I want to hear 'Sock it 2 Me' right about now.
In theory, I should like Fiona Apple. In theory.
In reality, it's a different story. She has a lazy sultry voice, and can actually sing, This is a good thing, by my standards. She has a good production team. Another good thing. She's chick positive, which I endorse heavily. But somewhere along the line, something goes horribly wrong.
She's young. In her zeal to make a good point, she contradicts herself a lot. She's trying way too hard to be cool. From her appearances on Howard Stern where she tries to lambaste him for being too concerned with physical beauty she often succumbs to his shameless flattery of the way she looks in a belly shirt.
She's a go getter. Fiona got discovered at a record industry Christmas party when her friend, a baby-sitter got a publicist to play her demo tape. Within a few days she had a contract. This is the stuff music business dreams are made of.
Fiona had a rough childhood. I think we all know that now that her story has been told at every opportunity and this is where I start to lose my patience. I don't want to like someone's music because they had a difficult childhood. I tried that once and it turned into Michael Jackson. Just be glad you've come so far and can now afford the therapy you need.
If you read an interview about Fiona, all you hear about is her teen years - her attack, how people thought she was a freak, the too often repeated story of how a boy told her she was pretty and she pushed him, the whole strong petulant routine., While I am empathetic to her trouble as a teen, I ask 'who the hell had a good childhood?' Why, then is this grounds for buying your record? I understand the plan. Paint a picture of the poor chanteuse, child prodigy, victim of circumstance. Spend your eighteen dollars on her CD so you can feel sorry for her and yourself at the same time. Read all about her in Spin and Rolling Stone so you can weep openly at her traumas. Hey, what happened to the new sincerity we're supposed to be having in the 90s?
Did any of these people listen to the record? Yes, she has a velvet voice, but the songs are pure hooky pop. That's a good thing and it sells records. This is a silk purse/sow's ear situation, though, and we're supposed to believe that this is artistry of the Van Gogh kind, from the depths of madness a poetic soul emerges. Vincent she ain't. Oh, I'm sorry, like all the other critics, I'm supposed to compare her favorably with Sylvia Plath, right? As if.
I say this - you want a pop record by a teeny little girl with a good voice, check it out. You want to explore the poor little Xenophile's world, dive in. You want real pure soulful artistry? Check out someone with a little more going on. Like Tori Amos, Kate Bush, Emmylou Harris, Tracy Thorn (of Everything but the Girl) or Gillian Welch. Someone who music matters to.
Fiona, I'm sorry, I'm not your friend and I'm not a trained therapist, so there's very little I have to offer you, and I've already read Maya Angelou, so I'm sure there's not much you have to offer me. I have hope for you. A voice like that and some mature songwriting and a publi image makeover, and you might just be on to something.