The Womansong Project
One year. Fifty-two albums. And each album from a female artist or artists, or from a band fronted by a woman. Part personal exploration and part political statement about the power of women’s art to speak truths too painful for speech or the written word.
I first thought of starting this project in the summer of 2010; as with most of my big ideas, I never quite forgot it – but also never quite got around to starting! My inspiration came from two small incidents close together in time. The first was being caught in traffic on the way home from work when the song “Date Rape” by Sublime came on the radio, and the second was explaining to my parents, children of the sixties and seventies, what the song “Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones was really about.
I was frustrated by the music on the radio. I was frustrated with years of listening to songs by talented male artists that described women as objects of desire to be won, and of a popular music that ignored or suppressed any hint of lesbianism or bisexuality, unless it were of the performative, male-pleasing variety to be found in Katy Perry’s “I Kissed a Girl.” I knew there was better music out there, music by women speaking of raw and painful truths, and also of real beauty and joyfulness. I knew there was music out there by women fully in control of their own artistic expression, who were not merely products of the polished and soulless popular music machine. I knew of some women like that from the music my parents had shared with me growing up – women like Janis Joplin, Aretha Franklin, Joni Mitchell, Donna Summer, Ella Fitzgerald, and Grace Slick. A few I had found myself, despite my unadventurous musical tastes – Shakira, Joan Jett, Patti Smith, Annie Lennox, and Grace Jones. But I knew that I had barely scratched the surface.
This is my commitment to exploration and celebration. I limit myself to no genre or time period. I intend to write about music which I consider to be interesting but flawed alongside the music which I love deeply and irrationally. My choices will be idiosyncratic and are not meant to be representative per se, though I will try to curb my natural inclination to run back to the soul, R&B, and Motown artists of the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.
I intend to update every weekend, probably on Sunday, to give me time to listen to an album in full and to track down relevant recordings and videos when possible. I am not a professional writer, I am not a musician, seven years of flute lessons notwithstanding, and I am not particularly knowledgeable about music. This is a project of growth. I am an amateur – one who is devoted to an endeavor out of love.
Come listen with me.