The icons that launched a thousand music journos. Here's to the women!
Gigwise
14:00 8th March 2022

From us to you: Happy International Women’s Day! Providing the backbone of the industry, the foundation for all our favourite genres and sounds, the absolute blueprint for music past, present and future—here, we’re honouring the women that inspire us. 

Calling out to our writers to give us some gushing sentences about their icons, here are some of the women that launched a thousand music journos.

Little Simz 

There is arguably no artist, male or female, more at the top of their game right now than rap superstar Little Simz. She delivered one of the most acclaimed album of 2021 with her colossal, cinematic and introspective masterpiece Sometimes I Might Be Introvert, resulting in a BRIT Award win last month for Best New Artist.

On top of that, Simz also became the first solo woman ever to sell out three consecutive nights at Brixton Academy on her most recent UK tour. Now it seems Simz has more achievements primed for 2022, as she is a strong favourite for the 2022 Mercury Music Prize and has also just been announced for this year's Glastonbury—given the right slot, this is sure to be one of the moments of the summer. Outside of music, she's also making waves too, getting ready to reprise her role in Season 2 of Netflix's Top Boy when it returns later this month, proving there's nothing she can't do. If it's not clear yet, it will be very soon: this is currently Simbi's world and we're all just living in it. (Karl Blakesley)

 

SOPHIE 

SOPHIE’s uncompromising vision, teasing attitude, and sheer technical skill will forever enrapture collaborators, writers, and fans alike. Her discography is a colour-blocked patchwork of cartoonish contrasts: silly and superficial (‘LEMONADE’), but surprisingly sincere (‘It’s Okay To Cry’), inflected with brutal whimsy (‘Faceshopping’) or an alien ambience admired from a distance (‘Pretending’). It’s over a year since the Glaswegian producer sadly passed, but SOPHIE undeniably established the hyper-pop sound and community. There’ll never be the right words to communicate just how world-changing SOPHIE was: the way to honour her status as an icon is to simply listen. (Alex Rigotti)

 

Kathleen Hanna

Kathleen Hanna, riot grrrl icon and political activist, has been at the forefront of musical feminism for fucking years. With her absolute radical performances and material stemming from Bikini Kill that you can really sink your teeth into, to Le Tigre and their politically-lined pop sensibilities. Even today, she continues to lead by example with her activism, donating all proceeds from Bikini Kill’s previous Bandcamp Friday to Trans Lifeline. Hanna has provided the youth with viciously empowering music for the past thirty years, and what a privilege it is to still be educated by someone so conscious of socio-political issues. Without her presence, we might not be graced with the likes of Big Joanie, Pussy Riot or Nova Twins, not to mention how to channel our rage for the better. (Jack McGill)

 

Karen O 

Growing up as a fan of indie rock during the early noughties, I'd be lying if said many of my music heroes were female. Ok, so I enjoyed Kim Deal's basslines for The Pixies and the odd Breeders song, but hearing 'Maps' by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs for the first time was a real mind-blowing experience and one that really changed my thinking.

A raw, rock'n'roll band fronted by a female singer with emotion and energy in abundance. Karen O was proof that gender really didn't matter and that women could rock just as hard. The New York band would go on to sell millions of records, receive multiple awards and Grammy nominations, but just as important to their lasting legacy was breaking down the door of male hegemony in the indie rock world.

Today Karen O’s legacy is felt from in a range of contemporary bands such as Dream Wife, Black Honey and even Wolf Alice. Now, when’s that Yeah Yeah Yeahs reunion happening? (Matthew McLister)

 

Patti Smith 

I’ve never quite cried like I cried when I went to see Patti Smith perform at Royal Albert Hall. With her long grey hair and battered clothes taking to the historic and classically beautiful stage of the hall, her screaming voice and gruff poetry made the most incredible juxtaposition. In her books, poetry, music and public speaking, Patti has always been a beacon of strength. She teaches us to go beyond what's expected, always be surprising but always stay soft and vulnerable. Embracing her tenderness while also becoming the godmother of punk, she represents the best of womanhood to me. (Lucy Harbron)

 

Mitski 

What is more iconic than announcing your indefinite retirement from music, and gaining more fans than ever in your absence? Part of the allure of Mitski is the mystery, the image of the hermit genius, unwilling to be pinned down by definition or fame. Somehow managing to transcend genre even within the same album, she has released classical-inspired piano ballads, grungey guitar songs, synth-pop tracks (adopted years later by TikTok teens) and funeral dirges, yet she always sounds unmistakably Mitski.

She was labelled the queen of “sad girl” music, called that “reductive and tired” and released a disco album. She famously hates fame but is opening for Harry Styles. Mitski is the enigmatic icon of the nihilist feminism era, on her way to becoming the household name she both deserves—and perhaps only reluctantly wants—to be. (Nancy Dawkins)

 

Fiona Apple 

There’s nobody quite like Fiona Apple. She’s unique, clever and powerful in both her lyrics and her music itself. Fetch the Bolt Cutters came at a time when we all needed it—something raw and beautiful to cling to whilst the world around us descended into uncertainty—and I’m so thankful for that. Fiona’s work leaves me feeling empowered and in touch with my vulnerability; her genius is something to be celebrated. (Holly Parkinson)

 

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah is responsible for the track ‘Ladies First’, one of the first unified approaches to a genre that generally tried to pit women against each other. A celebration of womanhood and making it in music, an industry that is already hard for women to break into, within hip-hop, a genre that was constantly on the back foot and trying to prove its legitimacy, is truly something to be marvelled at. (Dale Maplethorpe) 

 

Hayley Williams

It's only a quick Google search to tell you that Hayley Williams is 33 years-old, but a long stretch of time indeed to come to terms with how young one of our best living songwriters still is. 

Having started Paramore back in her high-school days, Williams has morphed with her band—and as a solo artist—producing some of the catchiest song of recent times—within the genres of both pop and rock. She continues to cut through with Paramore and delivered an impressive solo project in Petals For Armor (2020) before following it up with FLOWERS for VASES (descansos) last year. Consider that Williams was recently given a writing credit for the Olivia Rodrigo mega-hit 'good 4 u' (which, many people pointed out, sounded a good deal like 'Misery Business') and you'll see how high and far her sounds have already reached. Think how much more there is to come. (Jessie Atkinson)

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Photo: Press