KYD Advent Calendar

KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

2014 columns, Pop Culture

Girl bands: where did they go?

by Julia Tulloh , February 19, 20142 Comments

TLC

 

Where have all the girl bands gone? I mean those all-girl pop music groups (rather than guitar bands) who dominated the charts until about twelve years ago. There aren’t any nowadays. Unless you include HAIM – who are brilliant, but not really a pop group – or the Pussycat Dolls – who officially disbanded in 2010 – or the Saturdays, whom I doubt anyone reading this post has even heard of.

My first awareness of a girl group was Australia’s very own Girlfriend. The videos for ‘Bad Attitude’ and ‘Take It From Me’ catapulted me into the technicolour world of young women performing dance routines in matching overalls, replete with midriff tops and flower hats (you know, like Blossom used to wear). I was hooked. I asked my parents for cassette tapes from groups like En Vogue (responsible for the best pop song of the 1990s), TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, All Saints, Eternal, the Spice Girls (of course), and later Destiny’s Child. I also recorded tunes straight from the radio, by Blaque, Atomic Kitten, S.O.A.P., Mary Mary, and Bardot.

These days, female pop singers like Rihanna, Taylor Swift, Katy Perry, Lady Gaga, Miley Cyrus and even Lorde are somewhat marketed with the tween girl demographic in mind. That’s not to say to that young teens and children only listen to pop music (my other favourite groups as a kid were Nirvana and Soundgarden), nor that they are the only demographic interested in these artists – I simply mean that solo artists have almost totally filled the space girl groups previously occupied.

A couple of years ago, a Flavourwire article suggested that girl groups have ceased to exist because they’re too hard for record companies to market:

What’s remarkable is that as pop has evolved, sex has stopped working as an effective way to market girl bands. Owing to a number of pop milestones in the past few years, (like) pop stars who have valiantly fought to realign the media narrative of their careers around their body of work, not their bodies, women in pop are enjoying more success for what they’re releasing and not how they look releasing it.

There is some truth in the above. Most female solo artists today have their own brand of independence and self-determination. However, there are a couple of problems with this argument. Firstly, women’s bodies are still used to sell music all the time, and the female solo singers listed above are still subject to merciless criticism of their looks (see here, for example).

Secondly, the argument assumes that progress for women in the pop industry is solely the domain of solo artists. The Flavourwire writer notes that some of the 1990s girl bands heralded messages of empowerment (the Spice Girls’ motto was ‘girl power’) but doesn’t explore just how much the success of women today is built on the ideology of past groups. En Vogue’s anti-prejudice anthem ‘Free Your Mind’ demanded that women not be judged for what they wear or who they date; TLC critiqued the expectation that women conform to a certain body type in ‘Unpretty’; Salt-N-Pepa were one of the first female rap groups; and Alisha’s Attic sang, ‘This girl’s a person, you know?’

The idea of girl bands might seem daggy and dated nowadays, but today’s Taylor Swifts and Katy Perrys are able to brand themselves as independent women, in large part because of the girl groups who came before them.

Julia Tulloh is a Melbourne-based writer and is currently working on a PhD in American Literature. 

ACO logo




  • Pat

    Unless you’re strictly referring to the Western music industry alone, what about K-Pop girl groups? (e.g. 2NE1, Girls’ Generation) They’re hugely popular and interestingly enough, (if I’m not wrong) at least within the domain of female pop stars, K-Pop is dominated by girl groups rather than female solo artists. I think that the choreographed style and strong visual elements of K-Pop girl groups is definitely worth looking into as well.

    • Julia Tulloh

      Hi Pat,
      Thanks for raising this! You’re quite right, K-pop girl bands pretty much constitute today’s most successful girl bands. It was actually remiss of me not to mention them – a few people have mentioned it to me since I wrote this piece. I guess I was more focussing on bands that are or have been popular in the Aussie mainstream – which is mainly American groups – even UK groups like Little Mix haven’t taken off here in the way they have in their native Britain. Maybe this says something interesting about the West – we’re way more into single solo artists, as if there’s something not quite as successful about ‘making it’ as part of a group (ie. sharing the success around). K-Pop groups, though, could actually warrant their own column altogether – which is something I could write about in the future.

9508984918_5d8a187fc1_z

Marika Sosnowski

Living Side by Side: Multiculturalism at Home and Abroad

It all seems quite idyllic – people of varying nationalities, religions and cultures coexisting peacefully. It could be a blueprint for the perfect multicultural society. However, there’s something beneath the surface that is troubling to the western notion of modern liberalism. Read more »

9864007066_4a196b364d_z

Tim Robertson

Fear, loathing, and the erosion of civil liberties

The hysteria currently being concocted by Australia’s political leaders is a smokescreen for the more serious threat facing everyone – an attack of the very freedoms and values our nation has been built on. Read more »

308982705_be9f94455b_b

Marika Sosnowski

Back inside: Life on the Syrian-Turkish border

In Turkey, less than 50 kilometres from the border, Syrians have chosen their favourite cafes, have opened Aleppine sweet shops and set up stores in the old city. Read more »

isabelle_cover_grande

Dark Places and Safe Spaces: S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars

S.A. Jones’ Isabelle of the Moon and Stars is a powerful and affecting depiction of a young woman struggling with mental illness and emotional turmoil. A book like Isabelle might well be described as the underdog of Australian publishing: a character-focused literary novel published by a small press … Read more »

w527705

Carody Culver

Taking Christmas off the shelf

Ah, Christmas – for some, a time of gift-giving, awkward family gatherings and over-zealous consumption of rum balls; for booksellers, a time to weep silent tears of stress and experience the irrational but persistent fear of being buried alive beneath boxes of the latest Stephen Fry memoir. Read more »

22432611

S.A. Jones

The modern epistolary novel: Annabel Smith’s The Ark

Annabel Smith has given the epistolary novel a twenty-first century reboot in her recently-released dystopian novel The Ark. Told through emails, blogs, procedural reports, speech transcripts and the occasional newspaper clipping, this impressive technical feat of storytelling is a clever and appropriate twinning of form and function. Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

Kim_cover_web_

Julia Tulloh

Kim Kardashian, butts, and the internet

We’re used to seeing her butt, and we’re also used to Kim doing crazy publicity stunts. Her entire life is a publicity stunt in itself, both the means and end of a crazy, money-making, power-acquiring trajectory. Her very fame is built on the playful and shameless self-exposure captured in the Paper shoot. Read more »

theartofasking_image

Julia Tulloh

Living on fans: The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

Rather than enticing people to pay for music through marketing campaigns and radio play, Amanda Palmer is interested in connecting with her fans, becoming friends with them, and creating a system of exchange within the community that is formed. This means that art is not often payed for with money. Read more »

Exodus-Gods-and-Kings-Poster-Bale-and-Edgerton-691x1024

Rochelle Siemienowicz

Problems with God: Exodus: Gods & Kings

This is the thing about retellings of old and beloved foundation stories: it’s impossible to come to them fresh, without trying to compare and contrast with previous versions for veracity and style. It’s usually the modern incarnation that comes up short. Read more »

Screen-Shot-2014-10-01-at-11.22.21-AM

Matilda Dixon-Smith

Can too many parts destroy an adaptation? The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1

It’s a relief to feel the weight of fidelity lift off an adaptation film, as Mockingjay: Part 1 becomes a meta-exploration of fame, franchise and future. Read more »

Maps to the Stars

Rochelle Siemieonwicz

Monsters in Los Angeles: Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler

Both Maps to the Stars and Nightcrawler are peopled by monsters who may look human, but are actually spiritually deformed and morally repugnant creatures of the most loathsome kind. The suggestion implicit in each of these thrillingly creepy stories is that these ‘freaks’ are born out of and adapted to the hellish spiritual landscape of LA. Read more »

3991099211_8397c745fe_b

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Taking up space: The legitimisation of creepshotting

There is a relationship between catcalling and creepshotting. Both are practices that involve the reduction of strangers to objects to be gawked at and commented on, which is what makes the ‘Men Taking Up Too Much Space on the Train’ Tumblr blog interesting and complex. Read more »

IMG_0086

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Pictures of pictures: Monument Valley and the rise of the in-game photographer

Presenting screencapturing a game as a form of camera-free ‘photography’ gives rise to a conceptual issue. If the ‘photographer’ is moving through, and capturing, a world created entirely by others, then who exactly should take the credit for any images created? Read more »

IMG_4309

Connor Tomas O'Brien

Patrons and gamemakers in the shadow of Gamergate

There is a lot to unpack about Gamergate, and a great deal more that isn’t at all worth taking seriously, but what the patronage pseudo-controversy has drawn attention to is the fact that there are potentially huge issues with moving to a model of monetary transactions in which our payments are increasingly networked and ‘social’. Read more »

2447663467_2d543e6c87_o

Danielle Binks

Young Adult literature: genre is not readership

YA is not a genre – it is a readership. It may seem like pedantic nitpicking to focus on this distinction, but so pervasive is the mistake, amongst even established literary channels, that explaining the difference has become increasingly important and indeed necessary. Read more »

00page

Danielle Binks

Disability or superpower? Deaf identity in YA

‘We actually need more stories about deaf and hard of hearing characters and for their experiences to be shared in stories. Often, young readers believe they are ‘alone’ in their deafness and do not realise that there are many others like them.’ Read more »

Anne of Green Gables

Danielle Binks

Books that take you there: YA literary tourism

How has literary tourism taken on new dimensions and greater capitalism, thanks to youth literature – both old and new, book and film? Read more »

mariah-carey-all-i-want-for-christmas

Julia Tulloh

A SuperFestive Christmas playlist

I know what you’re thinking: lists like this became redundant in 1992, when Jon Bon Jovi rubbed shoulders with Cindy Crawford beneath a Christmas tree for the first and last time. Does the ideal of Christmas music get any better? Perhaps not, but many have tried. Here are a few other Christmassy pop goodies. Read more »

drake-cover-650

Justin Wolfers

Drake’s climate change epiphany

Or: ‘Heat of the Moment’ as an epiphany in which Drake realises the urgency and importance of acting on climate change Read more »

Swans_To_Be_Kind

Chad Parkhill

Against the Album of the Year

We won’t see an end to end-of-year album and song lists any time soon – it’s hard enough for sites and publications to turn a buck without scorning one of the easiest means of acquiring sales and page views. Read more »

??????????????????????

Stephanie Van Schilt

Lady Bosses on the Box

An increasing number of female-driven comedies, dramas or melodramas are popping up on our screens. Through the filters of fiction, the worlds these heroines inhabit directly reflect our own. This is the age of the lady boss. Read more »

105768385_5672eae965_z

Stephanie Van Schilt

Bananas without pyjamas? Budgets cuts and the next generation of ABC kids

From my humble beginnings watching kids’ programming, I learnt that ‘Your ABC’ was indeed, our ABC. The protests and public outcry which followed this week’s announcement of cuts to the ABC demonstrate its crucial role in fostering a sense of community for Australians. Read more »

Marry Me - Season Pilot

Stephanie Van Schilt

Happy Hangovers and False Starts: Happy Endings and Marry Me

Binging rarely ends well. Binge eating is how unwanted food babies happen. Binge drinking is how inhibitions and memories are erased. Binge-watching a TV show can take over your life. Which is exactly what happened a few years ago when I fell in love with Happy Endings. Read more »