This morning, on Lauren Laverne’s 6Music radio show, I was reminded how much pop music has changed in the last two decades. Two tracks by strong female artists were played quite close to each other and, in a busy office where the radio is on purely in the background, it was only the chorus of each which really stood out. They could not have been more different.
En Vogue released Free Your Mind in 1992. A song about prejudice – especially the types faced by young black women – it has a chorus which blasts out a really powerful message: “Why oh why must it be this way? Before you can read me you got to learn how to see me, I said… free your mind and the rest will follow. Be colour blind, don’t be so shallow.” Compare that to Beyoncé’s Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It), released in 2008, where she sings about meeting her ex in a club: “Cuz if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it, don’t be mad once you see that he want it, if you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it.” I guess that’s supposed to be ’empowering’ or something?
It’s no wonder that girls these days don’t identify with feminism. Instead of the likes of En Vogue and the Spice Girls singing about prejudice, sisterhood and ambition, they have Beyoncé singing about being crazy in love and how she’d cheat on her girlfriend if she was a boy. And let’s not forget the the less than excellent role model Rihanna who is once again working with her violent ex. Kids look up to pop stars and musicians and it’s a real shame that the mood in the music industry seems to have moved away from something so positive. If you need to prove to any young women you know that they should care about feminism because it is relevant to them, just point them in the direction of A Thousand Reasons. Pop music may be taking a step backwards, but we don’t have to.