Rant du jour – comparing apples with apples

11 Jul

This picture is currently doing the rounds on Facebook: Image

The context – a man can achieve perfection on his own, a woman needs an army of men behind her and still comes up short. Displaying the lyrics, credits and production team underscore this claim. Getting the whiff of sexism? Oh, it’s palpable. 

And it’s hugely selective – the Beyonce track only featuring the chorus and the Queen track selected verses (the song doesn’t have a chorus).

But is the comparison fair? Comparing an operatically epic song from 1975 with a deliberately militaristic one from 2011? A 1975 song that took a damn long time to create, a process that may have taken up to ten years of work and then three weeks to actually record. Compare that with the Beyonce track, which was done quickly.

Are we comparing equally? What other music was recorded in 1975 with similar iconic status? 

Well, Patti Smith released Horses which is widely regarded as one of Rock’s masterpieces. John Cale was the sole producer and song writing credits were either Patt Smith or restricted to four collaborators per song (she included covers and reinterpretations). 

What other female solo performers were releasing chart topping and wildly acclaimed music at that time? Carol King, you know, one of the most respected song writers and performers whose 1971 album Tapestry spent over 300 weeks on Billboard’s charts for the past 40 years. Who broke her record for longest consecutive #1 female recording artist? Only happened recently: Adele for 21, an album co-produced and co-written by her. 

Other female solo performers releasing music during the 70s that totally kicked arse? Oh just Joni Mitchell, Linda Ronstadt, Chaka Khan, Joan Baez, Grace Slick, Tina Turner, Stevie Nicks, Patti Labelle, Janis Ian, Karen Carpenter, Siouxie Soux and Helen motherfucking Reddy. And that list barely scratches the surface. The 70s were a riotous time and women were out there making amazing music. 

As sexism goes, images like these are a cheap shot. Compare Bohemian Rhapsody with Smith’s Land (parts I and III written solely by her, II has a songwriting credit owing to using Fats Dominos/Chris Kenner’s Land of 1000 Dances). There is like for like, merit for merit, songwriter for songwriter, producer for producer.

But maybe this isn’t worthwhile because it’s not a funny cheapshot jpg that can be snorted at and shared in under a minute. It’s far funnier when we can point and laugh at women – often marketed for their looks over their talent – and try to enforce the notion they aren’t credible artists, irrespective of their success. 

Bohemian Rhapsody is a classic – but there were other classics, crafted and performed by women of equal iconic status from the same era. 

I could compare the production and song writing credits between Beyonce and another popular performer, say Justin Bieber, but what’s the point? Slinging hate and derision is a futile exercise, especially within an industry where there have long been songwriting and production factories alongside talented, culture-changing solo performers.

You may be poised to yell out that I’m taking it all too seriously. I’m not. I live in an age where I’m asked to leer at celebrity women who aren’t wearing makeup, where we long for the candid fat shot or memes that posit women as insecure, crazy and who either want to friend zone, fuck you over, take over your life or berate you. Where it’s not enough to be rich and successful – the traditional marker of power – because there’s always some lurking malcontent with basic photo-editing skills and broadband to make a mockery of you for any reason based on their insecurity and need to pillory.  

We are constantly under attack – an attack on intelligence. Fight back.

3 Responses to “Rant du jour – comparing apples with apples”

  1. Anon July 11, 2012 at 2:38 am #

    Are they actually bagging out women, or is this a comment on old music vs new, or the fact that Beyonce isn’t actually much of a musician compared to musicians in the past? Beyonce isn’t actually a credible artist, perhaps it’s simply about that?

    I can’t help but feel you’re simply turning something about music into something about how women are all still so hard done by. When there are so many options to interpret something by, why choose to look at it as an attack on our sex? Surely there are more positive things to spend your time thinking about. The context here is that Beyonce’s music pales in comparison to Queen’s, nothing more.

  2. chhopsky July 11, 2012 at 6:43 am #

    Just curious, why do you think that this is specifically an attack on women and not ‘modern pop artists’? There are so many of these that criticise Skrillex.

  3. Amy Gray July 11, 2012 at 7:35 am #

    Chhopsky – you make an incredibly excellent point about Skrillex as a regular meme target (which I noted on FB and Twitter in case anyone still had a vestige of interest). Thank you so much for that.

    As for modern vs old, I referenced that above when I noted that manufactured rock/pop music has long existed and many factories churned out hit after hit, whether it was the Hit Factory (Sedaka/Goffin/King), Stock Aitken Waterman or other, more recent producers churning out buckets o’shite.

    Anon – judging whether or not someone is a credible artist is subjective and, in current terms, Beyonce Knowles appears to have the longevity, industry and commercial success to suggest many do actually consider her to be a credible artist. And if this was going to be an even comparison why not actually compare one of her greatest known/popular tracks (i.e. a number one) with the number one Queen track?

    I was having a bit of back and forth over this with my boyfriend via email as we jumped into one of those meme sausage factories to find more examples and the majority were classic rock male bands (often from the 70s/80s) against current female solo performers. Well, them and Justin Bieber, who gets so much abuse along feminine lines it isn’t funny.

    Does it show that it’s old vs new? Well, as mentioned in the original post and this reply, there is ample evidence to suggest that this isn’t the case not only from how the music industry works and has worked over the past 60 years but also in the frequency of older male artists vs younger female artists. Do I think there is a cabal of men desperate to further misogyny by creating and posting shite like this? Not at all. But I do think it’s an act of casual sexism (especially given the frequency) and actually, I think calling it out is one of the most positive things I can do. It’s a positive that I want to spend my time acting as if I live in a world with equality and calling out sexism when I see it.

    Also? I mentioned a truckload of female artists from the 70s and dug into my playlists to enjoy them all over again. Can you believe I forgot to mention Kate Bush? I’ve had a brilliant, well-soundtracked afternoon.

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