Regarding gender, the double-edged sword is a slippery one. Not exclusively but especially in the music industry, women must take great pains to prove their mettle in the same situations where men seem to be lauded for their “boys will be boys” approach. In an age where The Advertiser is omnipresent and constructed personas are praised and purchased based on their “authenticity”, the gendered cues that lead the masses to attack a performer’s authenticity have not been articulated much at all, let alone enough. Musicians of the female identification may be having a renaissance in popularity —read “marketability”—but that sure as fuck doesn’t mean they are given the same allowances as their male counterparts, be those allowances in or against their favor.
Of course it’s Meredith Graves’ stellar voice, as spectacular through a PA system as it is on paper, that was compelled to further investigate this issue through her own experiences, both as witness and witnessed. Reading at this past weekend’s Basilica Soundscape in Hudson, New York, Graves’ words relayed in unflinchingly personal, articulate and enlightening prose the complexities of being a gender in the music industry. That’s right, a gender, any gender. All the genders get fucked over. She opened her talk with the twisting up and downs of her own perception of Party Hard posterboy Andrew W.K. Between a pre-performance airport sighting and her post-performance infatuation with him, Graves became momentarily obsessed with the divide between a quiet, sullen dude and the infectiously vivacious hype man for all things party. She found his classical music training and off-the-beaten path Brony activism basically expunged from his past. She found that Andrew W.K. is 100% inauthentic. And she knew that We, the people, love him for the inauthentic self construct. We love him so much we not only accept his true, less marketable passions, we actively ignore them.
How differently, Graves thought, do the mass receive Lana Del Rey’s cultivated musical training, intentionally clipped vocal range, and much less far afield rebranding than that of Andrew W.K. Their products, as I see it, are not vastly different. Pussy and Pepsi Cola. Party Hard. Partying hard with pussy and Pepsi Cola, these are both trite as fuck, people! So why, then, is one artist so burdened by a need to prove her musical skill and the other is so UNburdened by a need to prove hi expertise that his extensive training is virtually erased from history?
Read Graves’ own exploration in the essay, published in full at The Talkhouse for a dark and dizzingly clear glimpse into the incongruencies of the gendered experience and their effect on both the musicians we love and the ones we love to hate.