Happy International Women’s Day (and Women’s History Month) from all of us here at Coog Radio! We’re taking this day as an opportunity to celebrate the amazing accomplishments of women within the industry. Columnists Leslie Campos and Adison Eyring have picked out and highlighted a few of the most influential female artists of the last fifty years and beyond. Here’s to the past, present, and future of female artistry!
1960s — Nina Simone
Nina Simone, whose birth name is Eunice Kathleen Waymon, is one of America’s most iconic voices. She has long reigned and probably will always be hailed as the queen of jazz and blues. She had been working diligently for many years but really gained recognition during the early 1960s. Her deep, sultry, and velvety voice coupled with her impeccable lyricism propelled her forward where few women had gone before in the music industry. Through her platform, Nina, as well as many of the women on this list, have utilized their positions to advocate for those beside them. Her legacy as creating that image of women being able to express themselves with more soul and complexity will forever live on throughout musical and cultural history.
1970s — Diana Ross
Who’s more iconic than the prolific Ms. Ross? Nobody. Though she had already reached incredible heights as one of the first successful Black crossover acts with The Supremes in the 60s, the 70s saw Ross transform into a true legend. Her eponymous solo debut contained a little diddy called “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” that went straight to number one, and the rest of her career pretty much followed suit. In modern terms, she Beyoncé’d. On top of her impeccable fashion looks (big hair, slinky gowns, and glitter to boot), mesmerizing stage presence, and voice like a nightingale, Ross constantly broke boundaries and paved the way for Black female artists to be viewed as dynamic pop powerhouses. Any A-List music act you can name, regardless of gender or genre, has absolutely cited Ross as an inspiration at some point — as they should. She’s Diana Ross.
1980s — Kate Bush
Kate Bush is the patron saint of all weird female pop artists, point blank. Any time a female artist just straight-up screeches on a track or sings about some absurd literary narrative, we owe it to Kate Bush. A bit of a prodigy, she debuted at age 19 with her self-written number one hit single “Wuthering Heights.” Her accompanying debut album, The Kick Inside, earned her the Guinness World Record as the first female artist to sell a million copies of an entirely self-written debut. She later produced her fourth album, The Dreaming, entirely by herself at age 23. And all of this before her magnum opus, Hounds of Love, was even a twinkle in her eye! Let Bush serve as a reminder that women are capable of successfully writing their own stories all on their own, and also that we all could be accomplishing more at our age (sheesh).
1990s — Selena
Much can be said of the Corpus Christi native, Selena Quintanilla, but the most unanimous statement is that she was ahead of her time. Her forte was within the heavily male dominated Tejano music genre. Despite heavy backlash by men in the industry, she has become one of the (if not the most) iconic figure for the Tex-Mex sound. It is unfortunate that Selena was taken from us at such a young age of 23, but her legacy lives on. Selena demonstrated endless potential while being cognizant of her position. She used her voice to help define what it meant to be a brown woman of color, successfully experiencing and navigating through multiple cultures at once — thus making Selena an incredibly relatable figure for many people of color to this day.
2000s — Beyoncé
BEYONCÉ?! Yes, we’re talking about Queen B herself. Throughout the span of her career, the H-Town claiming superstar has undoubtedly become a national treasure. Through an immensely intense work ethic and undeniable talent, Beyoncé has not just raised but created entirely new standards in the music world, where she stands unmatched. The Beyhive has seen the songstress go through many phases of her life, from being a young woman to now a mother and wife. Few musicians have lived their lives as documented as Beyoncé and even fewer have remained successful in keeping enough people interested. In recent years, while she has chosen to settle down a bit more, Beyoncé has chosen to also increase her activism. We have seen her through the creation of the affordable Knowles-Temenos Place Apartments in Houston to help combat the city’s low-income population as well as advocating and pushing for the inclusivity of young Black creatives in the entertainment industry. We (along with everybody else) look forward to her next move.
2010s — #TheFutureIsFemale
With more avenues into the industry than ever, women from all possible intersections of identity are making space for their voices to be heard. A quick look at the Billboard charts or Pitchfork’s best albums of 2018 will show that, though there’s still a long way to go, women have been dominating across genre. Artists like Mitski, St. Vincent, and supergroup boygenius are redefining the historically sexist genre of rock; Rico Nasty and Tierra Whack are critically acclaimed, lyrically brilliant, and coming up at a time when Cardi B is constantly breaking records for female rappers; SOPHIE, Charli XCX, and Rina Sawayama are pushing the boundaries of twenty-first century pop; and, of course, H-town’s very own Solange just released one of the best projects of 2019. The list can go on and on, but you get the picture: in the words of that very catchy hashtag, the future is female — and inclusive of women from all different backgrounds and perspectives. Frankly, it’s about time.