As a nation, there’s no denying that we take a lot of our direction from American culture. Unsurprisingly, our music is no different – with some notable exceptions.
We take their lead with fashion, technology and television, and if we were to categorise our various types of Australian female artists, we could largely put them into four main groups.
We would firstly acknowledge the mainstream Auto-Tuned R&B and pop artists that make it through to our heavily US-populated commercial radio playlists. These women tend to be the winners of those TV ‘talent’ shows: Idol, The Voice, etc. They generally toe the line and follow the American lead. I shall cite Jessica “de-butt” Mauboy as an example.
Next up, we have a broad selection of country artists that metropolitan Australia is largely unaware of. I’m talking Beccy Cole, that kind of artist. These women do really well in country Australia. They also frequently sound like American country artists (but usually it’s over-produced Reba McEntire-style country, not timeless and classy Tammy Wynette-style country).
Then we hit the community radio sector, where we thankfully take a turn away from American-focused females. This sector ranges across countless genres – folk, indie, punk, jazz, country, metal and everything in between. These artists generally work a second job in addition to playing music. Some will wear their influences too obviously on their sleeves, some will sound like nothing you’ve ever heard, and some will sell out a 300-capacity pub in Sydney while greater Australia remains oblivious to their existence. This is by far the most interesting group. You’ll find Laura Jean, Pikelet, Love of Diagrams, Catcall, Otouto and many other unique and impressive women in this category.
Finally, we hit youth radio, and will focus on Australia’s most popular youth network, Triple J. It is here where things often get weird. Something’s going on in the water. All these women have funny voices. It’s like Bjork and Joanna Newsom spawned some kind of hellish recurring nightmare. Julia Stone: prime example. Gossling: wtf.
The Js love these soft-voiced, baby-talking girls. Love them. This has been the bane of my existence for the past five years. They don’t wallow entirely in this putrid swamp, they also aggressively flog Sydney success stories Sarah Blasko and The Jezebels. They’ll give a bit of time to sassier lasses too, like your Lanie Lane’s and rock royalty like Adalita.
However, the most promising development for the Australian female musician landscape, in my honest opinion, is Triple J’s support of young Melbourne artist Courtney Barnett. She doesn’t wear make-up. She plays guitar really well. She doesn’t look, sound or try to be American. She also doesn’t aggressively pronounce words in that frequently-used Missy Higgins occa accent.
The future is looking good for our youth. Come on Triple J, stay on course!