Girls Rock

by Jungreis

Josquin, Beethoven, Mozart, Verdi, Haydn, Bach…what do they all have in common?

I will not give an anatomy lesson.

This course has focused almost exclusively on male composers. There is valid rationale behind that, the reasons behind which go beyond this course: the great works in Western music have tended to be written by men. The course would be flagrantly fraudulent in advertising itself as a tour of Western music if it did not hit on pieces like Beethoven’s Fifth. Yes, we listened to a little bit by Clara Schumann, but her husband was a famous composer, so she gets fame by association. (She was also quite good.)

For now, I’m not going to concern myself with why it is the case that old, “classical” music is so male-dominated. I don’t care, because it’s ridiculous. Plenty of good music, even from traditionally male-dominated genres like shred guitar, has come from women.

I want to recognize a few contemporary ladies who play awesome music, some of whom I’ve mentioned a few times on this blog. I will certainly think of an awful omission right after I post this, so when you see that I’ve left off some of your favorites, note that I’ve done the same to myself.

Tarja Turunen: Tarja was the lead singer of one of my favorite bands, Nightwish, until her husband started managing the band and the keyboard player disliked dealing with him. They fired her immediately after a big concert in Helsinki, Finland; the show is now known as End of an Era. That was quite the era, though. They recorded great songs like Wishmaster, Stargazers, Romanticide (awesome title…stupid rap section towards the end), and Ever Dream. Tarja’s unbelievable vocals are critical to these songs being as good as they are. In fact, when Nightwish was forming, the intention was not to form a metal band. It was only after the others in the band realized that her vocals were much too powerful for an acoustic rock band that they went towards metal.

Orianthi: She has a last name, though she doesn’t use it professionally and I don’t know it. She is a guitar player. She worked with Michael Jackson towards the end of his life. She’s played with Steve Vai, who I’ve remarked is one of the all-time great guitarists. Her instrumental with Vai, Highly Strung, is a really cool combination of guitar harmonies and guitar combat. (The “combat” remark will make complete sense once you listen to the song.) Most of her other original music is pop/punk that is heavy on the pop, though she’s managed to put some cool guitar licks into mainstream-sounding songs, which I of course support – probably under all circumstances.

Ana Vidović: She is amazing. Ana is a classical guitarist; she does not write or even arrange her own material, as far as I know, though I really like the idea of her being part of a group that does original music. Nonetheless, I’ve posted on here a bunch of times that the mark of a great player isn’t just the ability to do what seems impossible, but the ability to do so while making it look easy, even mundane. I saw her in September in Baltimore. Some of what she played was incredibly demanding, and I’m a guitarist; I know the tricks we use to make ourselves seem better than we really are! She looked like “Ho hum.”

Lzzy Hale: Halestorm has about five good songs, but that’s not Lzzy’s fault. Vocally, she is at the other end of the spectrum from Tarja – very good, but hardly polished. It works better that way. Halestorm is much angrier than Nightwish, though I’d love to hear Hale singing at least one section Romanticide. (It is the angry part of the song, but still not the silly rap section at the end that should not exist.) What I in fact blame for Halestorm’s mediocrity is a perceived loss of aggression in a heavy rock setting due to having a female band member, and then overcompensating (in inane ways) for something that is in fact not missing.

(By the way, I’ve spelled her name right. For whatever reason, she does not write an “i” in what is pronounced “Lizzie”.)

Since Lzzy also plays the guitar (sometimes), I like the following idea. Have her learn to play the bass; it’s like the guitar but you get confused at first when you’re playing the highest strings. Ana and Orianthi will be the guitar tandem. Orianthi has the 80s shred style, and while Ana claims not to be so great with a pick, I’m sure that she would be just fine using a pick for rhythm playing and then using her fingers for lead lines. Tarja will be the lead vocalist, though she will split time with Lzzy and to some extent Orianthi. The band still lacks a drummer, so maybe grab Meg White from The White Stripes and see what happens.

Yes, the band has a lot of different styles that have the potential to clash. It would take some adjusting by all of them. They could pull it off, though. After all, these girls rock.