Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Grrrls of the 90s

22 Mar

Ah, alas, we have arrived at the 90s, a time period rife with fierce female energy and feminine manifestos lamenting bad break-ups and their rightful place in a world dominated by men. It was a decade that featured a sexy pool of female talent; females who weren’t going to sit quietly in a corner looking frail and weepy. No, these women weren’t going to take men’s shit any longer, in fact, they were going to sing about the shit their men put them through, immortalizing their feminist woes and the men who’d done them wrong forever in song.

alanis

Click to watch “You Oughta Know”

Alanis Morissette – Morissette stood apart from the grunge movement that consumed the whole of the 90s, and, truth be told, she stood apart from everyone, claiming her own corner of the music industry with Jagged Little Pill and the hell-hath-no-fury anthem, “You Oughta Know,” an angst-ridden confessional that is lyrically courageous, fierce, expository and vulnerable. She became the radio-friendly poster girl for angry young women, leading the way for many of the ladies listed here to sing the same.

shirley

Click to watch “Stupid Girl”

Shirley Manson – Hottie? Check. Sexy accent? Check. Perfect blend of delicate songbird and badass frontwoman? Double, triple check. Dressed in the uniform of the 90s: melancholy pout, short skirts, fishnets and combat boots, Shirley Manson played the part of Misery Chick well as singer for the band Garbage. She’s made headlines recently showing her supreme support for Record Store Day, saying, “(Record Store Day) promotes the belief that time spent exploring a small, lovingly curated record store, discovering artists, music and ideas can arm you against anything that ever threatens to overwhelm or engulf you.”

nina and louise

Click to watch Veruca Salt’s “Shutterbug”

Veruca Salt – Besties Louise Post and Nina Gordon would stand side by side belting out songs like “Seether” and “Volcano Girl” onstage every night and then retreat to their hotel rooms where the pair would talk for hours on the phone. A falling out between the two fractured the group, reducing Veruca Salt to a tragic platonic love story and silencing, in my eyes, one of the best bands to come out of the 90s (see Eight Arms to Hold You).

polly jean2

Click to watch “Rid of Me”

PJ Harvey – While “Down by the Water” and Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea are more my speed, Harvey’s Rid of Me is a stand-out. Adding to the list of crazy ex-girlfriend albums (see Alanis Morissette and Liz Phair), her pure, unadulterated fury and unabashed raw power is spilled across this Steve Albini-produced gemstone.

dolores

Click to watch “Zombie”

Dolores O’Riordan – As frontwoman for the Cranberries, O’Riordan’s aggro-Irish lilt cuts like glass, and her pixie-esque frame only adds to the wonderment that such a big sound can come out of such a tiny person.

gwen

Click to watch “I’m Just a Girl”

Gwen Stefani – Cloaked in a cutesy vocal trill and pseudo-bashful, eyelash-batting stare, Gwen Stefani asked to “take this pink ribbon off my eyes” in the irony heavy, “I’m Just a Girl.” As a result, she removed the pink ribbon from many women’s eyes. Stefani stood far apart from her grunge girl counterparts, fronting the ska-heavy No Doubt, but she still showed lyrical sister solidarity and staying power, going on to become a fashion icon and designer, successful solo artist and one in a string of celebrity singers whose husbands were referred to as Mr. (Insert Female Moniker), with the honor for Mr. Gwen Stefani going to hottie rocker, Gavin Rossdale.

courtney

Click to watch Hole’s cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Gold Dust Woman”

hole

Hole – Courtney Love may be the train wreck everyone can’t turn away from, but she’s got her toehold in music history, nonetheless, and it’s firmly rooted in the 90s. As frontwoman for the 75% female band Hole (alongside equally as kick-ass  rockers, if not more so, Melissa Auf der Maur and Patty Shemel), Love is considered by some to be a modern day Yoko Ono, but she’s also a no-holds-barred rock chick who gave an outside voice to every woman’s inner dialogue and spawned a legion of girls dressed as broken dolls just like her.

bikini kill

Click to watch “Rebel Girl”

Bikini Kill – Responsible for spawning the riot grrrl, movement, Bikini Kill were a punk rock feminist quartet with Runaways leanings, which can be heard all over the Joan Jett produced “Rebel Girl.” Lead vocalist Kathleen Hanna is married to a Beastie (Ad-Rock), dated Dave Grohl, started Riot Grrrl, a fanzine that spawned the movement of the same name, and is the person who scribbled “Smells like Teen Spirit” on Kurt Cobain’s wall. I don’t really need to say what came of that, do I?

L7

Click to watch “Pretend We’re Dead”

L7 – L7 formed in the 80s but were easily rolled into the fold of the grunge movement alongside other female-heavy acts Hole and Bikini Kill. Although their act was full of tampon flinging and dropping trough on national TV, the ladies of L7 ultimately wielded their power for good and started Rock for Choice, a pro-choice organization.

liz phair2

Click to watch “Supernova”

Liz Phair – Gender bender Liz Phair wasn’t afraid to tackle taboo topics and sing about subject matter once deemed unbecoming of a lady to talk about. Her Exile in Guyville is like a raw nerve stroke of genius. Another post-break-up nugget, Guyville was also a response to the Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street, each song on Guyville meant to parallel each track on the famous Stones album.

sheryl

Click here to watch “My Favorite Mistake”

Sheryl Crow – A dirty-hot vibe, growling rasp, and impressive cadre of  collaborations, the former back-up singer for the King of Pop decided to forgo the angry young woman route traveled by so many of the ladies listed here and struck a balance between standing her ground and exposing her soft underbelly in a, musically, very straightforward way. Instead of screaming about how her man had done her wrong, Crow begged the question, “Are you strong enough to be my man?”

kim deal 2

Click to watch the Breeders’ “Cannonball”

Kim Deal – For the first two Pixies’ albums, bassist Kim Deal went by Mrs. John Murphy, a name chosen as an ironic feminist joke. Her stint as Mrs. John Murphy may have put her on the map, but “Cannonball” off the second album Last Splash by the Breeders, the band she started with twin sister, Kelley, shot her into the mainstream. 

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One Response to “Women’s History Month – Women Who Rock…Grrrls of the 90s”

  1. Guest 9.13.2010 at 2:50 am #

    “It was a decade that featured a sexy pool of female talent; females who weren’t going to sit quietly in a corner looking frail and weepy. No, these women weren’t going to take men’s shit any longer, in fact, they were going to sing about the shit their men put them through, immortalizing their feminist woes and the men who’d done them wrong forever in song.”

    What a contradictory and sexist post.

    Anyway, none more influential or dynamic, or with more hurdles (personal and external) to climb, than Shirley Manson. It’s pathetic the barren, glossed description you gave.

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