By Coleman Bandy
For as long as people have been getting fed up by the status quo, there has been protest music. Below, find five albums with feminist themes from artists who are sick to death of issues like double standards, gender roles, and sexual assault.
Camp Cope – How to Socialize and Make Friends
Camp Cope’s ‘How to Socialize and Make Friends’ is an angry record. Kicking off with the aptly-named “Opener,” the Australian band’s second album is full of striking lyrical detail. “Opener” is both a eulogy for dying romance and a lamentation of the music industry as a whole: when singer and guitarist Georgia McDonald recreates a bitter conversation with an ex, the nasty vitriol is arresting. “And all my success has got nothing to do with me / Yeah tell me again how there just aren’t that many girls in the music scene.” While “Opener” is literally the first song on the record, the title doubles as a booking agent’s advice to a talented band forever relegated to be an opening act. “It’s another man telling us we can’t fill up the room / it’s another man telling us to book a smaller venue / ‘No, hey, c’mon girls, we’re only thinking about you’ / Just get a female opener – that’ll fill the quota.”
Chastity Belt – Time to Go Home
‘Time To Go Home’ is Chastity Belt at its finest. The all-girl rock band, which may have released its final album earlier this year following breakup rumors, never sounded freer than on its 2015 offering. The album features sly references to being stuck in relationships in “Trapped,” stories about women feeling lost in “Lydia,” and its best song, “Cool Slut,” is an exposé on the classic double-standard regarding promiscuous women being labeled ‘sluts’ while their male counterparts are mere playboys. It’s a simple but powerful refrain. “We’re just a couple of sluts / So what? We like to fuck.”
U.S. Girls – In a Poem Unlimited
U.S. Girls’ Meg Remy is one of the best lyricists in modern music. On her 2018 album “In a Poem Unlimited,” Remy explores modern feminism from a variety of acute angles. From the industrial “Rage of Plastics,” which describes a town so polluted that its air renders its women barren to the faux-religious parable “Pearly Gates,” a song about a conniving St. Peter who only lets women into heaven if they sleep with him, Remy has crafted a deeply human album with a dark streak. Thankfully, the heavy lyrics don’t dampen the mood: the album is a banger. Its feminist underpinnings, while undeniably serious, come across as celebratory rather than somber. It was my favorite album of 2018, and I think it plays even more powerfully today than when it first came out last year.
St. Vincent – St. Vincent
How many songs have you heard that discuss female masturbation in a normal, almost mundane fashion? “Oh what an ordinary day,” sighs the bored Annie Clark on “Birth in Reverse,” a standout from St. Vincent’s 2014 self-titled album. “Take out the garbage, masturbate / I’m still holding for the laugh.” Like a modern analogue to Green Day’s “Basket Case,” the song is a refreshingly funny take on the day-to-day realities of living in the modern age, full of apathy and indifference. The album doesn’t shy away from darker issues like sexual assault and drug abuse, but Clark describes these themes as if writing from a journal, her lyrics both crass and diffident. It’s another record that has only improved in the five years since its release.
Stella Donnelly – Beware of the Dogs
Stella Donnelly is one of 2019’s best breakout artists, an indie-rock princess from Wales with a 90s aesthetic but modern sensibilities. The subtly intense and rollicking “Boys Will Be Boys” is a standout track from her debut album ‘Beware of the Dogs,’ its poppy melodies disguising the lyrical bite at its core. “Old Man” is even more forceful: like the Beatles if born from the Me Too Movement, Donnelly uses pristine pop to hint at a much darker political undercurrent. “Your personality traits don’t count / if you put your dick in someone’s face / And no, it’s never too late / We sat there silently while you kept your job / and your place and your six-figure wage.” Donnelly is mad as hell. You should be, too.