The problem with being a lady singer

Photo by Kevin Edwards. CC Licence.

"Yeah, but it's not like she made the entire thing."

This is what a friend said to me while I was gushing about Beyoncé's artistic vision in Lemonade. I questioned her, and apparently Beyoncé needs to have written, directed, starred in, and edited it to be worthy of praise as the artist behind Lemonade.

Does anyone else think this is a pretty high standard to hold an artist to? What about the fact that we seem to hold female musicians to this much higher standard than the menfolk?

We never seem to believe that they are in control of their lives or creations. Possibly this also happens in other art forms, but I hear it all the time with music. Especially when it comes to pop musicians, who we all know to have large management and songwriting teams.

Was everyone just too hurt by Avril, who claimed to have written all her own songs until the guys who actually did write them came forward and everyone was like, "oooooh BURN! This 14 year old girl didn't actually write all that, she just had INPUT!"?

(As an aside, how is it that those guys weren't breaking some non-disclosure agreement by coming forward? Why were articles about them writing the songs not concluded with a reference to the lawsuit from the record label?)

Here are the things we can never trust when it comes to female musicians:

The authorship of their songs: unless they have fully documented their entire writing process, composed for every instrument, and did all the arranging and mixing themselves, then they didn't "really" write it. And if some woman DID do all that? It's probably fake, because who does that?

Their choice of clothing (or lack thereof): if she is showing more of her body than is currently deemed "appropriate", then evil gross male managers are forcing her to be overly sexualized. If she is dressed appropriately, then she's being forced into a one-dimensional "good girl" role and that's just not fair.

Their sexuality and dating choices: anything that deviates from heteronormativity is immediately suspect of being done for attention and/or marketing. At best, she is confused, but more likely she was told to act gay to sell records. The only "unless" here is if it was a subtle part of her image from the start (not like the girls from TATU who made out in their video; more like Ani DiFranco, but she's exempt from this particular scrutiny because of angry feminist folk music that no music executive would ever seek to control or understand.)

Their artistic vision: it's the song authorship issue, applied to album covers, music videos, tour concepts, and visual albums. At best we seem to be able to admit that maybe a female pop artist "had the idea" for something, before it got taken over by a team of real artists to turn it into something worth watching.

Don't get me wrong, pop stars TOTALLY have teams of people making artistic decisions for them, and none of us really know which ones are artists with vision and ideas and skills who are running their empires and which are just good performers (although when was it so bad to just be really good at performing?), but can we at least start levelling the same questions at male musicians?


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