Fav Females: Pop/Alt-Pop

By Conner Yarbrough
Blog Content Contributor

For those of you that don’t know, March is Women’s History Month here in the good ol’ U.S.-of-A, and March 8th was International Women’s Day. Each of these events exist to celebrate the contributions of women throughout society in whatever role they fill in their daily lives. And, what better way for a college radio station employee (like myself) to celebrate than by sharing my favorite female-led albums of 2017 and my most anticipated female-led albums of 2018.

This mini-series, Fav Females, will take you through my music library, genre-by-genre, to feature my favorite female artists from this past year and the female artists that I think everyone should be on the lookout for this year. Each week, for the remainder of Women’s History Month, will be dedicated to a different genre of music and will come with a Spotify playlist (curated by me) filled with my favorite songs from the female artists that I write about – and probably a few honorable mentions. This final edition will feature my Fav Females who are altering the Pop/Alt-Pop genre for the better.

2017

Charli XCX, Number 1 Angel + Pop2

Though both Number 1 Angel and Pop2 are, technically, mixtapes, Charli XCX capitalizes on the success of PC pop and, essentially, creates an entire genre to herself. Working with producers like SOPHIE, A.G. Cook, and Danny L. Harle, and featuring a cast of other female pop artists, Charli becomes a part of the symphony of digitized sounds that her music has quickly transformed into. Both mixtapes take obvious inspiration from club/dancehall music as well as modern pop, though never really choosing one over the other – and it’s sick. At this point, no other artist has been able to successfully pull off the same sound with the same authenticity or speed, making Charli at least two or three steps ahead of the curve. I would describe both works as lyrically and sonically unafraid with sounds and beats that lend themselves to high-energy, sickeningly-catchy choruses and hooks. Pop2 was named “Best New Music” by Pitchfork.

Billie Eilish, dont smile at me

Now, I’m not usually a confrontational person, but I would fight Billie Eilish – mostly out of jealousy. Her first major exposure came in 2016 when her song “Ocean Eyes” was featured on YouTube star Connor Franta’s Spotify playlist “Common Culture, Vol. V” and was later globally rereleased once she had signed to Interscope Records. From there, the young artist was featured on the soundtrack for the Netflix original series “13 Reasons Why” with her song “Bored” and the then 15-year-old (ridiculous) Los Angeles-native and her older brother Finneas O’Connell worked together to put out her debut EP dont smile at me at the end of last year. Billie was recently named one of Apple Music’s UPNEXT Artists as she and her brother continue to sell out venues around the world… with no album out. On March 30, Billie released yet another track titled “bitches broken hearts” that I suspect may be a part of a bigger project in the near future as she seeks to capitalize on the reach she has right now.

Lana Del Rey, Lust for Life

Personally, I think Lana del Rey has unrightfully been deemed the epitome of the “I’m an artsy tumblr girl, hehehaha flower crowns” aesthetic. After watching Lana’s musical style develop over the years, it is easy for me to understand where people could be turned off by a surface-level viewing of her music videos – or maybe her beyond embarrassing SNL performance. However, with even the slightest look beneath the surface, it isn’t difficult to hear, see, and feel the emotion in the worlds that Lana seems to effortlessly create with each album. Her most recent album, Lust for Life, is her most personal yet and is her first album where, I feel, the listener doesn’t have to be transported to another world or be in Lana’s shoes to understand. Lust for Life finds its focus in the world that we are all living in right now within the context of an individual. It asks the questions: How can I grow as a person? How can we grow as a society? What should I do to help that growth? How do I care for myself when the world is asking me to care for so many others? Lana encourages her fans, primarily young adults, to enjoy the happiness that life has to offer and to not let the evil that the world has to offer put out our drive and determination to live a good life.

Lorde, Melodrama

Yet another star who, like Billie Eilish, really came into her music career in her mid-teens. Lorde’s most recent album, Melodrama, explores similar themes to those that she introduced in her 2013 debut album Pure Heroine: love, nostalgia, and growing up. Simply put, Lorde is the perfect embodiment of self-aware teen angst, and Melodrama encapsulates that with ease. What made this album so effective, for me, was the timing of each of her albums’ releases. Her first was released as I was entering high school and the second as I was entering school here at Texas State. Then, when you compare the two and hear the growth that she’s made, you can’t help but compare her growth to your own as she forces you to reminisce on the hardest parts about entering adulthood. Lorde hits close to home with a relatability that no one is particularly immune to.

2018

Kimbra, Primal Heart – April 20

Kimbra is one of the most talented and wildly underappreciated artists who has been on my mind (and playing through my speakers) since she debuted in 2012 on Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” She won a Grammy with the feature, but (sadly) has yet to achieve the same acclaim on her own studio albums. Her first two albums, Vows and The Golden Echo, contributed new techniques in looping, sampling, and sounds to alternative pop that, ultimately, made each album sound unique in comparison to each other and to other artists’ albums even today. When it comes to artistry, Kimbra is one of my go-to inspirations because of her attention to detail in every aspect of her work. She knows what she wants to say, how she wants to say it, how she wants the song to sound, and how she can depict all of those inspirations in a music video. Primal Heart, followup to The Golden Echo, is set to drop later this month and its singles have already shown Kimbra going in a completely new direction. Genuinely, I can’t wait to see how this album (and her albums in the future) will work to tell a story with the rest of her discography.

Ariana Grande

As far as I know, Ariana Grande is the most successful Nickelodeon-star-turned-pop-star like… ever. From “Victorious” to “Sam and Cat” to releasing her 2016 album, Dangerous Woman, that set a newer, higher standard for pop music; Ariana knows what’s up. Impressively, she has been able to smoothly graduate from a kids show to fully expressing herself in her music – a transition that rarely goes well without some sort of media/public uproar (see Miley Cyrus and her Bangerz era). Currently, there are no specific details about her newest album, however, close friends and past-producers have all said that she’s got a “masterpiece” in the works and that it’s not far from being finalized. If the rumors are true and she releases in time, I could easily see this album scooping up some major nominations and awards during the next awards cycle.

HOLYCHILD

The best way that I can possibly categorize HOLYCHILD’s music is “bitch-pop.” Every song they’ve released (so far) reminds me of an entitled Barbie doll complaining about how unfabulous (what a show) the rest of the world is, and (of course) it’s not her fault. Music-duo, Liz and Louie, combine an incomparable upbeat, bratty sound with subject matter that satirizes the pop-culture driven, money and sex hungry society that we live in. The two have announced via Instagram that the followup album to their 2015 release, The Shape of Brat Pop to Come, is coming this year and have teased followers with behind-the-scenes photos from a recent music video shoot.

Charli XCX

Despite releasing two album-quality mixtapes in 2017, Charli is set to release an official studio album at some point this year. The album would be a followup to her 2014 release, SUCKER, and, according to a BBC Radio 1 interview, is supposed to revolve around the parties and late nights that Charli experienced while on tour. Rumors about the album first surfaced after the release of the SOPHIE-produced Vroom Vroom EP in 2016, who is said to have also produced a lot of songs on the currently unannounced album.

Now, since this series began, there have been some updates to the albums that I’ve noted for you to be on the lookout for. So, to truly wrap up Fav Females, let’s take an *updated* look at what female-led albums you should be anticipating in 2018.

Cardi B, Invasion of Privacy – April 6

While I said that Cardi B’s debut studio album was set to drop in April, at the time of the Fav Females: Hip-Hop/Rap edition, that was all of the details that we had. But, on March 26, Cardi B took to her Instagram and Twitter to premier the album’s title, release date, and cover that is giving me some serious Missy Elliot vibes (which is beyond promising). The album will officially be titled Invasion of Privacy and will be released in a little over a week on April 6th.

Kali Uchis, Isolation – April 6

A feature on the Fav Females: R&B/Soul edition, Kali Uchis had three singles out when I wrote about her. However, Kali used her most recent performance of “After the Storm” with Tyler, the Creator on “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” to announce that her album, Isolation, will also be released on April 6th.

This is the final week in Women’s History Month and, thus, this edition marks the end of the Fav Females mini-series. However, that doesn’t mean that we stop celebrating female excellence in our everyday lives (especially when you can FOLLOW each week’s Spotify playlist to listen to over and over and over… if you’d like). March being Women’s History Month is merely a reminder of the importance of women throughout all of every society in the world. It’s a jumping point to recognizing that without women we literally wouldn’t be living in the world we live in today.

For the last time, listen below to this week’s Fav Females: Pop/Alt-Pop Spotify playlist to get a sense of how these women are redefining and pushing the boundaries of their genre.

Featured image by Conner Yarbrough.

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