Recently one of my students asked me if I, as a song writer, preferred to write songs for female vocalists or male vocalists. My answer was simple ”both”. I explained to my student that a good song will always be a good song regardless of which gender is performing it. However, it got me thinking about the amazing female talent there is at the moment. Not that the female talent has gone away but rather how strong the female talent is today.
Beyoncé, P!nk, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Christina Aguilera, Kelly Clarkson, Adele, Jessie J and of course Lady Gaga get regular airplay on the radio. All of them co-write their songs. To what extent they write their songs, I don’t know but at least their material is strong enough to be played and connect with millions of people around the world. Admittedly, I’ve only seen Lady Gaga live and she was brilliant in concert. However, I have seen the other artists’ concerts on DVDs and they are great. They can all sing, and they can all entertain.
Artists such as Taylor Swift and Adele have won Album of The Year at the Grammy Awards. And while Lady Gaga and Katy Perry sell lots of product/units/music, they also have a huge following in the online world such as Twitter, Facebook etc. Beyoncé is a powerhouse performer. Rihanna can’t do anything wrong with radio stations. Pink’s honesty in her songs connects with millions of people around the world and people still talk about her amazing performances on her last world tour.
I’m also a big fan of Celine Dion, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and probably one of the most influential people in pop music, Madonna. Over the last 20 years as a musician and music teacher many of my of female students and colleagues have sighted Madonna as a major influence. However, over the last 10 years the younger the student the less mention of Madonna. Celine Dion is probably one of the best singers in the world. She chooses to record brilliant songs but lately she’s been performing in Las Vegas and focusing on being a mum too. Interestingly, radio has not been playing her more recent material but mainly her older songs. She too, is also sighted as an influence on many female vocalists I have mentored or worked with over the years. In the late 1980’s, Janet Jackson’s album Rhythm Nation 1814 was a powerhouse. In the 1990’s her songs received a lot of airplay but not so much these days.
In the late 1990’s, the Spice Girls and Britney Spears sold millions of units and were huge in terms of media exposure and influence. According to various chart reports the Spice Gilrs have sold approximately 75 million units and Britney Spears approximately 100 million units. Very impressive!
When Mariah Carey’s 1st single came out the whole world paid attention. The song ‘Vision of Love’ was a brilliant debut single and thus began the career of one of the most popular female artists. In the 1990’s Mariah Carey wrote and released so many wonderful songs. Her songs were well constructed pop songs and songs such as Hero inspired millions of people. Her songs received constant radio airplay but when she moved to more of an RnB style, radio simply turned their back. However, Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You’ is now a Christmas classic and gets regular airplay and sales since it was released in 1994. Regardless of the lack of radio airplay, I still advise my female students to listen to Mariah Carey just to hear the tone and range of her voice.
In Australia, we have some fantastic female artists that have done very well. In the 1990’s, Tina Arena dominated the charts. During this time, many of my female students sighted her as their musical influence. These days Tina is still highly respected in Australia but I think she is more revered in France. Nevertheless, she has an amazing voice and deserves all of her success. For the last few years, Delta Goodrem has also produced some great pop songs and now some of my female students sight her as a influence. Some people questioned why she was chosen to be a judge on the Australian version of the TV show The Voice. But Delta has been there and done that, that is, plays an instrument, co-writes her songs, she’s had chart success, has regular radio airplay and has a great voice. If the producers of The Voice didn’t get Delta, who else could have they chosen? Tina Arena was already committed to being a judge on the TV show Young Talent Time. Did the producers of The Voice contact Kylie Minogue?
Kylie Minogue has had an incredible career. She’s an all round entertainer who puts on a great show. Also, Kylie has a knack of choosing great songs to record and her huge record sales and chart success are a testament to this. I think with her experience in the music business, Kylie would have been a fantastic judge on The Voice. Some people question this view because Kylie’s voice, they argue, may not be as strong as some other popular female artists. However, Kylie has the artistic and business acumen to mentor a new artist and guide them to use their strengths to fulfil their potential as an artist.
Australian female artists such as Kate Ceberano and Vanessa Amorosi also need to be respected. Kate Ceberano’s album Brave is an Aussie classic and Vanessa Amorosi’s new songs get regular airplay. However, her song ‘Shine’ still gets played a lot simply because it’s a fantastic song. Both of these artists have wonderful voices and can cut it live. Both Kate and Vanessa share the same manager (one of my former bosses) Ralph Carr who is one of the best artist managers in Australia. As they say in the business, Ralph has got great ears and will guide his artists in recording the right songs for their voice.
Other Austalian artists such as Jessica Mauboy and Riki-Lee Coulter also have wonderful voices and have worked hard to succeed on their own without any negative backlash because they found fame through Australian Idol. They’ve succeed because they’ve recorded songs that have connected with people and because they can cut it live. On the other hand artists such as Katie Miller-Heidke, Megan Washington and Katie Noon have a strong fan base but do not have the exposure as the Idol alumni.
For a young female artist today, I think that many of the people I have mentioned are suitable artistic role models. All of these artists are involved in the creative process. All of them can perform live. All of them have survived and are surviving in the very tough music business. They are strong and they are good at what they do. Just think of all of the hits songs all of these artists have recorded and that is some powerful music. Undoubtedly, these women have inspired millions of people around the world. They’ve all made a positive contribution in this world through their music.
So my advice to you aspiring female artists is to watch and learn from these greats, work hard, maintain your dignity, believe in yourself and go for it!
By STEVE YANKO
About the Author
Steve Yanko is a Music Teacher, Musician, Song Writer & Consultant who loves working in the world of music.
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