- Paperback: 274 pages
- Publisher: Scarecrow Press (November 25, 2009)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0810872684
- ISBN-13: 978-0810872684
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.8 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 14.9 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 1 customer review
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,740,298 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Women Singer-Songwriters in Rock: A Populist Rebellion in the 1990s Paperback – November 25, 2009
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Lankford readably examines the 1990s work of Alanis Morissette, P. J. Harvey, Liz Phair, Courtney Love (and her band, Hole), Tori Amos, Sarah McLachlan, and Sheryl Crow, and discusses selected themes in the singer-songwriter world, from the riot grrrl philosophy to the less confrontational style of performers at McLachlan’s brainchild, the Lilith Fair, which reflects her mellow tastes, for which she and it were criticized. Despite very pronounced differences in musical styles, all these women wrote and sang their own material. Lankford notes that the women singer-songwriter trend arrived roughly simultaneously with third-wave feminism, and he believes the trend shares many qualities with the ideology, which he contends was born out of the nomination of Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. These singer-songwriters’ music, which he says constitutes populist feminism, became the soundtrack to many third wave feminists’ and non-feminists’ lives in the 1990s. Fans of the individual artists will enjoy Lankford’s detailed discussions of their music, as will anyone who wants to understand this particular aspect of 1990s pop-music culture. --June Sawyers
Extensively researched and endnoted, Lankford's book reads as much like a primer on third-wave (or 'lipstick') feminism as on the music and artists embodying it. . . . Lankford's book will serve as a definitive resource for women's studies as well as music history and popular culture programs on college campuses and it is broad enough in coverage and appeal to be of interest also to public library audiences. (American Reference Books Annual, May 2010)
Fans of the individual artists will enjoy Lankford's detailed discussions of their music, as will anyone who wants to understand this particular aspect of 1990s pop-music culture. (Booklist, March 2010)
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A few pet peeves though:
I felt that Lankford overdescribed some of the album art and refused to take a stance on some of the meanings of the songs. Instead of describing every color or image on an album insert, it would have been more helpful if Lankton included photos of what he was discussing.
Since his book is written in monograph form, using the artists as case studies to argue his points, he should have speculated on what he thought they were trying to say through their music, or provided interviews in which they discussed these topics. For instance, in the section on Courtney Love and Hole, he attempts to analyze the song, "Live Through This," and appears frustrated that Love does not spell out what she meant by, "this." Live through what? he wonders. It's silly. In addition, I challenge any reader to find a chapter in which he does not mention the artist's "exposed breasts" or chest in some fashion. The significance of this is not explained by Lankton, but it certainly left a bad taste in my mouth. In some cases, he exaggerated the nudity as in his discussion of the cover of Liz Phair's "Exile in Guyville." Her breasts are not in any way exposed as he claims. In addition, he describes the flannel shirt worn by a young Courtney Love as "V-neck" and seemed to suggest that it was pointing toward her breasts. A bit much, Mr. Lankton.
Another issue was his complete omission of some of the songs on certain albums. Some of the chapters discuss entire albums by artists while others only analyze specific songs. In those chapters on entire albums, Lankton should have discussed each song, if not equally, well then at least made mention of all of them. When discussing PJ Harvey's, "Rid of Me," Lankton makes no mention of the second track, "Missing." He makes the same mistake on his discussion of Liz Phair's, "Exile in Guyville" when he leaves off "Divorce Song." Since neither have overtly feminist messages, perhaps Lankton did not feel they meshed well with his argument.
While it's clear Lankton is a fan of these artists, his feigned ignorance of some of the meanings or imagery in the music was tiresome. In addition, his paraphrasing of the lyrics was frustrating. When discussing the meaning of Hole's "Doll Parts," instead of just citing the lyric, "Someday you will ache like I ache," Lankton instead says "One day he will feel pain like she does" (p.86). His rewording of some of the lyrics had me going back and trying to figure out which song he was talking about...and I've been listening to this music for nearly 10 years.
Beyond all the above-mentioned issues, it was a welcome addition to the fields of both music history and Women's Studies.