I’m a woman who writes about rock and roll
May 26, 2015 4:11 PM   Subscribe

"The record store, the guitar shop, and now social media: when it comes to popular music, these places become stages for the display of male prowess. Female expertise, when it appears, is repeatedly dismissed as fraudulent. Every woman who has ever ventured an opinion on popular music could give you some variation (or a hundred) on my school corridor run-in, and becoming a recognized 'expert' (a musician, a critic) will not save you from accusations of fakery." The World Needs Female Rock Critics, by Anwen Crawford for the New Yorker. Discussed in the piece is Jessica Hopper's new collection of essays, The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic, which has been greeted with glowing praise. Here's an interview she did with Hazlitt: 'Am I Womansplaining To You?' And here she speaks to Meredith Graves of Perfect Pussy: "Being a fangirl is all the qualification you need. And don't wait for anyone to give you permission. They won't. And you should do it anyways."

Here's a classic essay from Hopper that lit a fire under the emo scene in 2003 - Emo: Where the Girls Aren't (via the Internet Archive). "Girls in emo songs today do not have names. We are not identified. Our lives, our struggles, our day-to-day-to-day does not exist, we do not get colored in. We span from coquettish to damned and back again. We leave bruises on boy-hearts, but make no other mark."
posted by naju (11 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite
One of the publicity photos (featured in this article) they did for Hopper is an absolutely awesome shout-out to the famous Joan Didion Vette pictures by Julian Wasser.
posted by Celsius1414 at 4:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [6 favorites]

Related: MAD LIBS: Indie Female Musician Album Review Edition.

A long time ago when the world was young, I really wanted to be a music critic. I gave it up for a lot of reasons (deciding it wasn't really for me and that there was no money it in it) but when I was writing about music for a while, I loved it. I loved it so much. I fortunately felt a little sheltered from the whole "this is something women don't do" aspect of it, but my decision to not do it did have something to do with that -- I couldn't find any women critics I looked up to who were writing about music.

I no longer read music criticism about women artists that's written by men. There are definitely some men whose music criticism I enjoy reading and whose opinions I respect. But I'm so over reading another man telling me what he thinks of a woman.

I spent way too long in my 20s absorbing men's opinions about music -- waiting for their approval of what I was into or waiting for them to somehow sanction something I might be interested in. I still find a lot of great music through men whose tastes I trust -- friends, critics, DJs, etc. -- but one day I woke up and realized, as I like to put it, "Fuck you, I can read Pitchfork too." I stopped waiting for some man in my life to say "This is good." I finally felt the confidence to be able to say "This is good" myself.

(And oh, I laugh so hard when I post a track on FB or whatever and 3-6 months later, some man in my life will post something by that artist. Like, uh, yeah, remember when I told you about that? MAYBE YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO ME, fools.)

I applaud these new rock memoirs (let me go on about Viv Albertine's book again) by women and I wish I had gotten to grow up reading Jessica Hopper's work (I think she's about the same age as I am. Possibly younger). I'm glad there are girls out there who have her now. Maybe they'll find the courage and ambition to follow the path I thought I wanted to be on.
posted by darksong at 4:49 PM on May 26, 2015 [11 favorites]

"Germaine Greer’s “The Female Eunuch,” published in 1970, was dedicated to Roxon"

Are you fucking kidding me?

There's your street cred right there.
posted by clvrmnky at 5:24 PM on May 26, 2015

Ellen Willis.
posted by languagehat at 5:26 PM on May 26, 2015 [5 favorites]

My favourite piece of rock journalism is probably the 'Waiting for Morrison' section of Joan Didion's The White Album. Excellent use of detail and disdainful quotation marks.
posted by betweenthebars at 6:03 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

That path is not an easy one to discern. The most famous rock-music critics—Robert Christgau, Greil Marcus, Lester Bangs, Nick Kent—are all male.

What do these four guys have in common? Published in Creem Magazine in the 70's, by the greatest rock journalism editor of all time, Jaan Uhelszki!

(well, I vaguely recall Creem reprinting an Elvis Costello NME interview by Nick Kent, if that counts, and if I'm not mixed up with something else.)
posted by ovvl at 6:07 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

This kind of hits home as I start toying with doing a podcast of fan commentaries for nerdy robot stuff that I've liked since I was 13. I'm 42 now, and there's nothing I can look toward if I don't make it myself. Thanks for this post.
posted by Queen of Robots at 7:02 PM on May 26, 2015 [2 favorites]

posted by chococat at 8:30 PM on May 26, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh my gosh, I've been a huge fan of Crawford's for years now. I can't tell you how thrilled I am that she's writing for the New Yorker. Her criticism is immaculate, her book on Live Through This fantastic, also she's like super smart and an artist and Australian and everything.

She has a habit of beginning articulate, lucid, wonderful blogs and then deleting them, as well as popping up and down on Twitter, thus causing me to have to actually work to keep track of her social media. She's conflicted about having an online presence, which makes me respect her even more.

Essential reading: Her classic takedown of Nick Cave, The Monarch of Middlebrow, from before she changed the spelling of her first name. Her essay on Ian Curtis, the movie Control, and her childhood living with a depressed father is also beautifully written and deeply moving, but doesn't seem to be online anywhere (see: deleting her blogs, above). She also spent a couple of years doing an MFA in poetry at Columbia.
posted by jokeefe at 11:49 PM on May 26, 2015 [3 favorites]

Shout out to Kim Cooper, too (aka MeFi's own scram).
posted by jonp72 at 6:14 AM on May 27, 2015

On that Hopper emo article, this line clarified for me what was bothering me about all of the early 2000's emo bands like Dashboard being conflated with my fav at the time, Jawbreaker, under the 'emo' label:

Emo’s characteristic sensitive front is limited to self-sensitivity.

I always thought Jawbreaker had songs about girls, yeah, but with me being a girl I could relate to the lyrics because they seemed to be emotional about a whole person rather than just whining that some emotionless girl ripped out a heart and shat on it and ohmygod isn't it the WORST because GIRLS DON'T CARE
posted by knownassociate at 7:05 AM on May 27, 2015 [2 favorites]

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