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Musogyny: Should lyrics lead the way?

Everyone knows it’s a man’s world out there (thanks James Brown) but there is none more so than the big bad world of music. From Miley’s twerking to Sinead’s slut shaming, these last months have seen an upward trajectory in the debate around gender issues within music. Rest assured that we here at Notion will be keep a keen eye on all things sexism and there may even be some naming and shaming along the way.

Modern song writing has become much less political than it historically has been, as tipping the boat too much is now a risky business for the commercial artist. If sensibilities sing too strong, musicians face marginalising half their market, and it doesn’t take an accountant to know that doesn’t put money in the bank.

Long gone are the glory days of mainstream peace anthems and protest songs save for maybe Billy Bragg and hopefully the line up of the new Raise Your Banner Festival , which this year will give a home to all those of more political persuasion.

Sitting on the fence is now a norm and clearly speaking out on society’s injustices within the medium of music as a whole falls well below the benchmark set by the likes of 60’s legends Country Joe McDonald and Bob Dylan.

Maybe a product of their conflict-filled time, the charts have turned from the socially conscious trend of yesteryears to one that promotes the less thought provoking themes of ‘Thrift Shops’ and being ‘Sexy and I Know It’. Sure, music should be fun, but where have all the causes gone amongst the mix?

Aside from the odd girl power single from pop singers like Lily Allen and Beyoncé, it is especially rare that albums are used in their entirety as a weapon of mass communication to promote things like gender equality, let alone issues such as gay rights as well.

However, with the tyrannical climate of the Sochi Winter Olympics and the fallout from Russia’s human rights violations upon us, maybe it’s time for a change up and leading the way is British electronic musician Planningtorock who, with her new LP All Love is Legal, is championing a myriad of worthy causes.

Being streamed via The Guardian ahead of its release later this month, the music is food for thought as songs titles such as ‘Let’s Talk About Gender Baby’, ‘Patriarchy Over and Out’ and ‘Misogyny Drop Dead’ speak volumes for themselves.

While still unlikely to make its way to the soaring heights of other mainstream artists, it hopefully is a step towards opening up acceptance for bodies of work that contain strong messages and sentiments. It’s a fantastic thing to see a revival in weighty topics being addressed forthright within music without the veil of metaphor and hints.

Good mainstream protest songs were blatant in their meaning, pushing back openly on war, politics and oppression the artist holds in contempt. There used to be no pussyfooting around the subject and a strong desire to identify with a cause; people said what they thought and didn’t care if isolation was the consequence.

Strong opinions have been a taboo in popular culture of late with many female role models failing to identify clearly to marginalised beliefs. What artists like Planningtorock do is readdress that imbalance, putting meaning and political strife into the heart of their craft and giving voice to those radical beliefs.

While love songs and the like hold merit and meaning, maybe what the charts need is an injection of social awareness to ignite new thought. Perhaps actually all we all need a really good protest song to get all of our voices singing to the same tune.

- Sarah Joy



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