OPINION: Are The New Riot Grrrls Coming Yet?
by Alan Hanson
Years ago Justin Timberlake grew up and started wearing suits and making pop classics and acting in movies like “Alpha Dog” and it seemed simultaneously the Backstreet Boys all turned 50 and disappeared. The latest round of megapopular boy bands died an unflattering death for the most part. But since sub-genre popularity is cyclical, it was no surprise that idolized teen boys with angelic voices would dominate youth culture once again. The semi-recent resurgence of teen boy groups, however, neglected to bring with it the female version of itself. In its previous incarnation it paired with the Spice Girls, Girls Aloud, Sugababes, and many more, but they also died out and never returned. And in that gap fits perfectly the possibility of some new Runaways, a new version of Hole, a second coming of Bikini Kill.
Let’s break down the wide range of pop stars into four huge quadrants: boy bands, male solo artists, girl groups, and female solo artists. Comparatively, the girl group section is amazingly lacking. But what’s interesting is that the acts outside of this particular quadrant inform what should fill its hole.
If we take a look at the connections between boy bands and male solo artists we’ll find that they’re pretty similar. The current scene is dominated by sweet boys who sing about romance and contemplate their feelings often. Boy groups such as The Wanted, One Direction, even their predecessors, The Jonas Brothers, can emotionally and aesthetically be easily likened to their solo counterparts. Justin Bieber, Frank Ocean, Bruno Mars; they’re all nice, sensi-bros who could, in different circumstances, easily be in boy bands. There’s a connection of thoughtful, clean-cut artists over both sections.
On the women’s side, however, we have a much more interesting landscape. A whole new crop of emerging stars are existing in a largely empowered field who aren’t singing solely about romance. This new pop attitude trickles down from bigger-than-Jesus Beyonce, cascades over Rihanna and Pepsi-flavored Lana del Rey, and pools around a very Tavi Gevinson-informed new generation of artists like Grimes and Kitty Pryde. Granted, these new e-punk artists aren’t nearly as famous as their male counterparts and the bracket of fame above them is still largely in the hands of Taylor Swift and Katy Perry. But if the female side of pop mirrors the male’s, at least in connections between groups and solo artists, then these new, grungy, young female voices are going to paint the scene for the new all-girl groups of which there are nearly none.
These new bands will probably play their own instruments. Their Rookie Mag influenced penchant for DIY jackets and zine publishing will transfer over to their live shows and their albums and general Riot Grrrl 2.0 aesthetic. Maybe we’ll be lucky and some young punk will follow in Tavi’s footsteps but make a record label instead of a magazine. Wouldn’t that be Heavenly?