Nadia Elkharadly: The Feminine Mystique – Musical Edition

It’s surely not news by now that I tend to find mainstream music, for lack of a better word well…lacking.  While flipping stations on the radio, I came upon yet another Adele single written about whatever heartbreak she’d suffered in her young life.  Don’t get me wrong, “Rolling in the deep” is a killer song.  The girl has an amazing voice and puts serious passion into her songs…but the subject matter is always the same.  Blah blah boys, blah blah sad, blah blah…blah.

It got me thinking about most of the young female made mainstream music out there.   Taylor Swift writes a sad/angry/breakup song about every famous boyfriend that dumps her (you’d think these guys would get a clue by now).  Justin Bieber’s discovered Carly Rae Jepsen, whose claim to fame is a song about giving a guy her number, and fervently wishing he’d call her.  Yes, these are only three examples, but there are many more where that came from.

Normally when I bring up this lack of depth in mainstream music, especially that music coming from the younger generation of artists, the first argument thrown back at me is “what do you expect, they’re young!  That’s all they know!”  I call bullshit.  Being young doesn’t automatically make you shallow.  Going through a bad breakup or having your heart broken doesn’t mean that’s all you’re allowed to write about.  Whether it’s industry big wigs, a shallow audience, or a lack of creativity, young women in the music industry are being short changed by this pigeonholing.  Especially when there are so many examples out there, in the past, and in the indie scene, of young women making fantastic music that isn’t just about waiting around for a guy to pay attention to you, or whining about the last loser who screwed you over.  Wake up ladies, you’re better than that, and here’s the proof.

The Runaways

To anyone who wants to say that young girls only know about boys and breakups and the sads, may I present the Runaways.  Formed in the early 70s by music mastermind and LA eccentric Kim Fowley, Cherie Currie, Joan Jett, Lita Ford, Sandy West and Jackie Fox may have only been teenagers, but their music was far from romantic and sappy.  They were loud, they were angry, and they were great.  When girls their age were mooning over David Cassidy and Donnie Osmond (and maybe even Bob Segarini!), they were playing show after show, making rock records, and bringing their brand of girl rock all the way to Asia.  Their Live in Japan album is one of my go-tos for when I just want to dance around my apartment and sing at the top of my lungs.  “I wanna be where the boys are” is a testament to breaking that feminine mold and embracing that which is traditionally male – hard music, fighting and running wild.  They might not have been the best role models for young girls, both at the time and now, what with all the drinking, pill popping and raging they were doing before even turning 18, but that’s not the point of rock and roll.  And they got that more than anyone.  The world may have lost Sandy West, but Jett and Ford are still out there making uncompromising rock, and setting great examples to female musicians everywhere.

The Coppertone

I first heard about Amanda Zelina’s band the Coppertone through a Dine Alone records music sampler.  The featured song was “I know the dead”, and it intrigued me.  The fiery haired beauty may only be in her mid-twenties, but her musical soul is old and wise.  She plays the blues like she was born to do it, and likely she was.  Her voice shifts from quietly seductive to powerful and intense.  Her new record Hymns for the Hollow was recently released on Dine Alone, and while it’s great, I prefer the rough and raw feel of Hidden Dreams, her previous release.  Influenced by the guitar greats and vocal goddesses of the past (Tom Waits, Muddy Waters, Billie Holiday and Etta James spring to mind), Zelina’s music is addictive.  I’ve found myself singing “Heroine” (badly) randomly; it’s a song that just gets into your head and under your skin.  While much of her music (in the vein of true blues) is about heartbreak, lost love and intense emotion, the sentiments expressed are authentic, and the music accompanying them is expertly executed.  And apropos of nothing, her hair is extremely covet-worthy.  Wake up music industry – young women can be beautiful and make great music too.

Little Foot Long Foot

My buddy Bobby Singh (that’s his photo too) had been talking about Little Foot Long Foot for ages, and for good reason.  When I finally saw them perform last week at Dakota Tavern I was kicking myself for wasting all that time.  From the moment singer/guitarist Joan Smith struck her first chord, I was struck dumb.  I think the only thing I was capable of saying for the entire set was “These guys are awesome!” unless you count laughing at the arm flapping dancing hipster in front of us…and commenting on his lack of hygiene.  With Caitlin Dacey (Bella Clava) on keyboards and Isaac Klein (drums) rounding out the lineup, LFLF is an all-out aural assault, blending Black Sabbath-esque riffs with twangy, country inspired vocals.  Smith’s vocals blow you away, blending perfectly with Dacey’s.  Their voices are surrounded by classic rock infused guitars, eerily epic organs, and are all backed by Klein’s pounding drums.  These ladies (and Klein) out-rock rock veterans, and do it with sass and style, no sap included.  Don’t believe me? Believe their album Oh Hell’s producer, the one and only Sir Ian Blurton (C’Mon, Cowboy Junkies).  Don’t believe him?  Then be sure to check them out at the El Mocambo on May 12, as they rock out to raise money for Girls Rock Camp.

Scarlett Jane

What happens when you take two gorgeous brunettes and add spellbinding roots music to the mix?  You get an intoxicating cocktail called Scarlett Jane.   Andrea Ramolo and Cindy Doire are two seasoned musicians, with albums, tours and a whole lot of heart under their belts.  They sing about love, loss, adventure and life, and put their soulful lyrics to beautiful acoustic guitars and foot tapping beats.  No cheese, no artifice, just real, organic music, and its homegrown to boot.  Their album Stranger is on its way into the world, and if the sampling on their website is any indication, it’s going to be incredible.  Having seen Ramolo perform a handful of times, I can tell you without a doubt that the recordings will be backed by a great live show.  If you don’t believe me (again) be sure to check out Scarlett Jane at the Dakota Tavern on May 11th for their CD release party.  Under those twinkling lights and on that magical stage, you’re sure to be enchanted by Scarlett Jane.

Take note Adele, Taylor, Carly and company.  Youth isn’t an excuse.  Neither is being a girl.  My list barely scratches the surface of talented female musicians, past and present, local or international.  So do yourself a favour.  Next time “Someone like you” comes on the radio, turn it off and use your precious musical minutes to listen to some musical mavens that have more to sing about than old boyfriends and waiting by the phone.  Your soul will thank you for it.

Until next time,



Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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Nadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

One Response to “Nadia Elkharadly: The Feminine Mystique – Musical Edition”

  1. Fully Agree! Thanks for the tip on Coppertone and Little Foot Long – I would add Hot Kid to the mix (duo with female front) – wicked chops on the guitar and smart songs.

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