Calling it out: women are making better music than men

Jade Bird, by Mick Clarke

According to definition, a troubadour was a composer and performer of Old Occitan lyric poetry during the High Middle Ages (1100–1350). Since the word troubadour is etymologically masculine, a female troubadour is usually called a trobairitz.

So, it seems that the male appropriation of all things music began back in medieval times. When we think of the idea of the troubadour — we picture the romantic, dishevelled but handsome guy — the lone singer-songwriter travelling the road with a guitar slung across his back, going from town to town, living hand to mouth by the power and poetry of his songs.

Bunk!

Women are the new troubadours now. This is because, in the tradition of the genre, they are writing better songs and performing them better than their male counterparts. And they are doing it against all odds, navigating their way through an essentially still male-dominated music industry.

Myself and the good team at MIDiA Research have been working toward the publication of a groundbreaking study of 400 female creators (songwriters, musicians, producers, technicians and managers from around the globe) in conjunction with music distribution company TuneCore and independent label Believe. The full results will be published during Women’s History Month, March 2021. The study will reveal some shocking and well-known truths about the challenges faced by women creators from sexual harassment to the ‘motherhood burden’. From the genderization of music production and under-representation in music media. Also, the report will examine some deeper revelations about the endemic issues of unconscious bias and poor access to industry resources for female creators, along with positive developments and a forward path to change.

Yet as the discourse increases and women’s voices are heard more loudly in the music industry one thing I see little about is the simple calling out that women are making music that is better than their male counterparts: across many genres in which we curate at The Song Sommelier. How do we know this? Because we have the best research tools in the industry — our ears.

In country-pop, neo-soul/R&B and pop, it is women who are blazing a trail with innovative musicality, powerful songs with brilliant lyrics and strong narratives, and great artistic creative concept. As a curator, it is obvious to me — because our playlist series in these genres are so much easier to fill with female artists. Their songs stand out and, as artists with something to say, so do they.

Just recently, the same goes for a lot of indie and Americana too — the genres that work well in the troubadour (or should we say trobairitz?) tradition. So for New Troubadours Volume 3, we focus on the current crop of female singer-songwriters. For the remainder of Women’s History Month we will do the same for our Dark & Stormy and Postmodernist Pop series as well as adding some iconic female artists to our artist pages. We listen to a lot of music, but I have to say that right now, and for the last few years, all the great pop is coming from women.

To celebrate International Women’s day in the context of music, revisit our thoughts on the pioneering role women played in electronic music and our collection of rather female dominated genre playlists.

Check out the full articles and playlists on https://www.songsommelier.com/

Brought to you by the Song Sommelier.