“Good music programmers are rock stars to the women of this generation, just as guitar players were for their mothers.”
—From the Beloit College Mindset List, in which two dudes at a Wisconsin college attempt to get a bead on What The Freshmen Class Might Be Thinking via the making of a list with claims both rooted in fact and, er, less so. This item—No. 41 on the list, which is crafted with people born in the year 1994 in mind—stuck out in particular, since 1994 was also a year in which quite a few women made their own stamp on the pop, rock, and R&B worlds, proving that they didn’t need to flutter their eyes and faint over men in order to participate in the musical agora. (Also, what does “music programmers” mean, anyway? People who decide what gets played on radio stations?) Below, an extremely partial list of songs that, after I recovered from my rage blackout, immediately came to mind and fueled my anger so much I almost passed out all over again.
Hole’s major-label debut Live Through This came out on April 12, 1994. The list notes that Courtney Love’s then-husband Kurt Cobain died in the same year, but glides over this fact and instead puts down women as a mass of quivering bodies left to potentially swoon at any guitar-wielding man who might pass. I’ll leave the reasoning behind that up to you.
Portishead, “Glory Box”
Dummy, the first album by Portishead and showcasing the impassioned vocals of Beth Gibbons, was released right at the end of the summer.
Madonna, “Human Nature”
Madonna’s rebuke to her pearl-clutching critics was released as a single in 1995, but it appeared on her 1994 album Bedtime Stories.
This ode to revenge-cheating appeared on TLC’s CrazySexyCool, released in the later months of 1994. (It topped the Hot 100 in 1995.)
Heavens To Betsy, Calculated
Corin Tucker’s stripped-down pre-Sleater-Kinney duo released their first full-length album on the Olympia label Kill Rock Stars in 1994. Other records of note from that year on that label, which was at the forefront of releasing music by artists in the riot grrrl movement, included the Bratmobile EP The Real Janelle (on which the spitfire punk trio covered the Misfits) and the CD compilation of Bikini Kill’s first two EPs.
Veruca Salt, “All Hail Me”
This sneering assertion of supremacy appeared on a 7-inch before being recorded for American Thighs, the Chicago band’s first album, for which I lined up at midnight outside the Rose Records in Evanston, Illinois in September 1994. (R.E.M.’s Monster came out the same day.)
I could go on. Björk’s astonishing Debut was still having its aftereffects felt. Albums by Tori Amos, Slant 6, Aaliyah, Lush, and Liz Phair came out. Lisa Germano’s superlative Geek The Girl was released in 1994 as well. The Breeders, L7, Luscious Jackson, Shonen Knife, and Blast Off Country Style were on Lollapalooza. There wasn’t complete gender parity—there still isn’t, as our advice columnist can attest—but come on, women weren’t just swooning over the dudes in bands in 1994, and they taught their nieces and daughters and other young women who came after them that they didn’t have to restrict their involvement in music (especially rock music!) to being fans, either.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on August 21, 2012