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Miscellaneous - A Women's Decade

  by Jon Rogers

published: 1 / 12 / 2009

Miscellaneous - A Women's Decade


In 'Hitting the Right Note', Jon Rogers looks back on the last decade and concludes that it has been a women's era

The first decade of the century without a doubt belongs to women, well at least musically. Beyoncé seemed to be everywhere and fulfilled the role of pop diva and is worth an estimated $87m. It was her who was picked to sing at the party for president Obama and his wife Michelle after his inauguration. Kylie revitalised her career and got heterosexual males all hot under the collar by simply donning a pair of skimpy gold pants. And she also managed to grab attention with her hit 2002 single, ‘Can’t Get You Out of My Head’. Dido ruled the charts in 2001 with the year’s best selling single ‘No Angel’. Amy Winehouse had one of the decade’s best albums in ‘Back to Black’ with her captivating voice but then she hit the rocks by picking up a drug habit and becoming a regular appearance in the gossip columns due to her erratic behaviour. And also making her presence felt was Lily Allen, daughter of the actor Keith, who sang songs about everyday life and rubbish boyfriends and certainly hit a chord (let’s forget about the awful BBC3 chat show). In a symbolic moment at the MTV Awards in Los Angeles in 2003 Madonna kisses Britney Spears during a performance of Like a Virgin. On a darker note though the world became preoccupied with what seemed to be the very public breakdown of Spears as the paparazzi detailed her every move. Fortunately, despite a few disgruntled voices over her apparent miming, her comeback dates seem to see the former Disney employee back on form. And in the last year or two there has been a whole host of female singer/songwriters who have picked up acclaim from the likes of Bat for Lashes, Pixie Lott, Florence and the Machine, La Roux and even Lady GaGa, the latter appearing almost on a daily basis in the gossip columns for her bizarre and revealing outfits as she courted the press. When women weren’t doing it for themselves they were doing it in groups. They might have come out of a TV talent show but Girls Aloud lasted the distance. Having 20 consecutive Top 10 hits over seven years and five platinum selling albums. The Spice Girls also made a comeback and, while not unsuccessful, it didn’t quite match the hysteria the girl band created the first time around. Getting into hot water and the focus of death threats in 2003 were the Dixie Chicks, all for the heinous crime of coming out against the war in Iraq and the then president of the United States. George W Bush. Not that men were completely sidelined. Radiohead decided to please themselves with ‘Kid A’ and New York’s the Strokes made what many consider the best rock album of the decade with ‘Is This It’. And earnest, beardy folkie types came into their own perhaps most notably like Bon Iver’s acclaimed ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’. No matter what gender it was really a decade for glorious, unashamed Pop. Fluffy, light-weight songs to lose your abandon, dance along to and belt out that cheesy chorus. A big catalyst was definitely the huge popularity of the revitalised TV talent show. The decade saw the likes of 'Pop Idol' (in its various guises), 'Britain’s Got Talent' and 'The X Factor' draw massive audiences. Recent editions of 'The X Factor' saw audiences peaking in excess of 15 million, around a quarter of the entire population. Those shows made household names of Will Young, Gareth Gates, Girls Aloud, Susan Boyle. In comparison if 'Later with... Jools Holland' gets over a million viewers that would be considered good going. Sometimes though success on one of those shows was no mark of actual talent. Can ‘Jedward’ really be said to be worthy finalists even if they were entertaining (for all the wrong reasons)? The Svengali behind the shows, Simon Cowell, helped usher in the age of the disposable pop hit. For a while the latest hot pop sensation was riding high on the crest of a wave before the next wannabe pop puppet was ushered into the spotlight. The point wasn’t to make some great work of Art but to go out and simply have a good time, have a few drinks, dance and let your hair down and possibly snog someone at the end of the night. It was if the old adage "Fuck art, let’s dance" had been resurrected. And while pop acts grew in popularity so-called alternative acts (and I use the term loosely) became nothing more than boy bands with skinny jeans, angular haircuts and pretended to be authentic by hold a guitar. An endless stream of rubbish supposedly alternative acts were paraded about like Franz Ferdinand, Muse, Kaiser Chiefs, Kings of Leon, Stereophonics and Snow Patrol and a never-ending list of wannabes who were under the misapprehension that if you played ‘real’ instruments then you must somehow be authentic. Most were just as manufactured as the likes of Westlife and Boyzone and just as utterly dull to listen to. The decade was also a great time to reform that band from yesteryear. Cream of the crop was rock titans Led Zeppelin dusting off the cobwebs for a one-off charity gig at the O2 in 2007. By all accounts a show to remember, if you could get tickets. But everyone was getting in on the act. The Spice Girls no doubt picked up a rather large cheque, big enough to put aside their differences, at least for a while. And there was also a new phenomenon in the birth of the nostalgia tour. Here a number of acts would reform and go on tour together. The idea being that on their own someone like Kim Wilde wouldn’t be able to sell out her local scout hut but bundle her together with the likes of Paul Young, Rick Astley and some other long-forgotten stars and suddenly you’re an attraction. The idea is that everyone plays their crowd-pleasing hits (or hit in some cases), no fluff, no "new stuff" and then get off the stage. You appeal to a certain demographic and clean up. And everyone goes away happy. The artist has topped up their pensions and the pundits have relived the hits from their youth. And everyone was at it. Even the Pixies could put aside their arguments to tour again. And recently John Lydon decided to bring Public Image Ltd back from the dead, even though he’s the only original member of the post-punk outfit playing. My Bloody Valentine switched on their amps once more for a series of ear-splitting gigs. And anyone remember Snuff? Well, if you do, you can go and see them strut their stuff once more, if you really feel the urge to do so. And recently I could have gone to see a whole host of faces from the past like Lloyd Cole, Midge Ure, Deacon Blue, the Bluebells, Spandau Ballet... And its not just acts from the 1980s at it either. Next year I can go and see the likes of Bad Company, the Moody Blues and Lynyrd Skynyrd. Oh yes. Not quite in the same vein, but a comeback none the less, was sixties' balladeer Leonard Cohen, who while at a pensionable age, showed the youngsters just how it was done filling three hour sets with his beautiful songs of heartache. His voice, richer than ever. And Cohen was also given a boost in 2008 as 'The X Factor' finalists were given a version of his song ‘Hallelujah’ to sing on the show. That caused Sony to re-release Jeff Buckley’s version of the song which made it all the way to number two in the charts. The song was only kept from the top spot by another version of the song. The X Factor winner Alexandra Burke took the song all the way to the top of the charts. That clip of her singing the song on the show, for me at least, sums up the musical decade for me. Here was a woman, singing on a TV talent show involving Simon Cowell. It’s just a pity she hadn’t reformed and all the key factors in the decade would have been in place. Plus anyone with an interest in music that was a little more demanding than the latest feel-good pop ditty could snigger at her over-emoting the line, “You don’t care for music, do you?"

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