2014: the year pop went feminist. Kind of. Look, 2014 has been a really shit year for music, but there were lots of things the girls of pop did that I enjoyed, whether they were feminist things or not. Here are my favourites.
CHERYL TWEEDY COLE FERNANDEZ-VERSINI WHATEVER BEING ALMOST GREAT
I’ve been on a Cheryl downer ever since the Girls Aloud split, but I was more than ready to go Full Stan after this L’Oreal advert premiered. Literally nothing in Cheryl’s album campaign, from the dud singles to the excruciating “acoustic” sessions came even close to being as exciting as this 90 seconds of dance routine to a Stockholm Syndrome song, but in those 90 seconds there was glorious, glorious hope.
TAYLOR SWIFT’S FEMINIST EPIPHANY
Taylor Swift still doesn’t understand what feminism is, and if Lena Dunham continues to be her guide, chances are she never will. Still, the pros of pop’s reigning tween (and hipster) queen self-identifying as feminist largely outweigh the cons of her limited grasp of the cause. (Note to Taylor: feminism doesn’t mean I can’t and won’t call you a twat when you are one, just because we both have vaginas). It is my hope now that all little girls who grew up thinking cheerleaders are the enemy, boys are the only answer and it’s okay to slut shame and slander your love rivals because TayTay sang so will reach the same epiphany their glorious leader did and educate themselves past the most basic notions of girl power 2014 to discover it’s not just about earning the same money as men or using it as a shield to deflect even the most valid of criticisms, but about being the truest version of yourself you can possibly be, without the weight and discouragement of gendered expectations.
KYLIE & DANNII MINOGUE’S HARPER’S BAZAAR COVER SHOOT
The most important sisters in pop music joined up for what seems like the first time in ages for a truly adorable covershoot for Harper’s Bazaar. The media angle on the Minogue sisters has always been to pit them against each other and do down Dannii’s achievements because they’re so regularly eclipsed by Kylie’s. This shoot was a nice reminder that no matter what the storyline is, the proof is in the well-styled, beautifully shot pudding.
NICKI, JESSIE & ARI
Female artist gets male rapper to spit 16 to 32 bars on the end of their track or male rapper gets female singer to take the reins on a chorus has been the derigeur standard for collaborations in pop music for way too long. ‘Bang Bang’ was not the new ‘Lady Marmalade’ we’ve been waiting for but it brought us one step closer and signalled a shift into more ladies working together than competing than has been seen recently. ‘Bang Bang’ was the best all-female collaboration of the year and while it was purely an image boosting exercise for Jessie J and Ariana Grande on their opposite sides of the Atlantic, there were plenty more to choose from, most with Nicki Minaj at their centre. Gaga and Xtina, Angel Haze & Sia, Shakira and Rihanna, Katy Perry & Kacey Musgraves, Beyoncé, Nicki and everyone… hell even Rita and Igloo, all these girl-on-girl collaborations and more happened this year. More of it in 2015, please.
MADONNA x KATY PERRY (AND WE LIKED IT)
Madonna and Katy Perry for V magazine was a fun photoshoot (the switch-hitter dom/sub covers and Katy at her most brunette with M at her most blonde are so yin and yang), but the interview process revealed so much about them both as professional touring artists and their similarities. There’s a dislike of Katy Perry that permeates public opinion which I have been ruminating on for a while and will post some words about once I feel I can articulate my thoughts properly, but the V interview revealed, more than any other I think, why she’s one of the most successful popstars operating at the highest global level and why Madonna views her as an artist worthy of attention.
BEYONCÉ CALLING NICKI BY HER GOVERNMENT NAME
Nicki was part of two massive female collaborations this year; the first, as discussed, was mainly for networking and image boosting and there was probably an element of that to the ‘Flawless’ remix too. But that beckoning, that summons, that confident “Onika…” highlighted a little something more in the relationship between Beyoncé and Nicki, arguably the two most powerful and successful black females in music while Rihanna is on hiatus. That flash of familiarity is more than just business. It pins the whole song together, in my opinion.
TINASHE: A STAR IS BORN
I’ll just let this video do the talking.
THE ‘I LUH YA PAPI’ VIDEO
The ‘I Luh Ya Papi’ video was a feminist triumph in all the ways that 2013’s ‘Blurred Lines’ parodies failed to illustrate. Textbook “straight”, “masculine” looking men, bronzed and oiled in tiny white pants and reduced to servers, props and gorgeous background dressing for Jenny from the Yacht. The intro, where J.Lo and girlfriends discuss the bullshit double-standard in marketing right to the label guy’s face couldn’t make the message any clearer. In a year where feminism was the central theme to pop music in general, Jennifer Lopez managed to nail the whole thing harder than Beyoncé stood directly in front of the word in letters 8 feet high.
WOMAN OF THE YEAR 2014
The real deserving winner: Nicki Minaj. Nicki has been ubiquitous this year; she starred in a movie, released 5 singles of her own and featured on as many again, stole the show at the MTV VMAs performing in that dress with Jessie J and Ariana Grande as well as hooking up with Usher for a live performance of their track ‘She Came To Give It To You’. She obliterated the male gaze on ‘Lookin’ Ass’ in February then again with ‘Anaconda’ and that iconic Drake scene in August and spoke eloquently and intelligently about feminism as a black woman and more pertinently as a black woman in hip hop. She’s endorsed her own clothes, fragrances and alcohol. She broke the VEVO record. She did incredible photoshoot (Dazed) after incredible photoshoot (L’uomo Vogue). She hosted the MTV EMAs. She has bested herself as a business woman and an artist and enthralled me for the whole of 2014. Nicki Minaj is my woman of the year. Get on your knees.