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Pop Girls, Etc.

By Scott Smith in Arts & Entertainment on Mar 7, 2006 8:50PM

"[We’re] reminding the kids that there is another way of life, that you don't have to be Britney Spears. Trying to get 16-year-old girls to pick up guitars instead of hot pants. Or guitars and hot pants."

The source of that quote is Justine Frischmann, lead singer of the punk rock band Elastica (ask your older brother about them; then ask your cool uncle to tell you about Wire). One could argue whether Elastica was really the band to lead this particular charge, but the quote deftly illustrates that women who wish to pursue a career in music don’t always face an either/or proposition.

2005_03_pick.jpgToo often, female pop stardom meant you’d be singing some tunes produced and written by other people whilst you shook your ass. This would go on for a few years until the inevitable fadeout, which was usually preceded by a brief marriage to your manager or backup dancer and followed by a pictorial in Playboy. Conversely, if you were a woman making rock music, you had to rock at least as hard as the guys, or it wasn’t quite good enough.

But recently that’s changed. Smart, danceable pop and rock music from artists like Annie, Shakira and Tegan and Sara is finding a place in the hearts of the kids in a way that we haven’t seen since…The Bangles? The music doesn’t shy away from femininity (or should we say feminism?), it’s powered by it. Nor does it subsist only on image or glamour. To paraphrase Chrissie Hynde, "it's not 'fuck me', it's 'fuck you.'"

All this is a long-winded way of saying that we’re glad the Chicago Public Library is taking up Ms. Frischmann’s cause with the help of some local artists as part of Women’s History Month.

Tomorrow, the Brainerd Branch of the CPL will host a songwriting clinic at 4:30 p.m., hosted by Gina Crosley, of the recently departed Rockit Girl. She’ll focus on crafting the elusive three-minute pop song that doesn’t rhyme “heart” with “apart” or “party" with “Bacardi.” Then once you’ve got your chops, head to the Budlong Woods Branch on Saturday the 11th for Venom Lords singer/guitarist Gina Knapik’s “Starting A Band” discussion at 2 p.m.

Lastly, we’re not sure who the genius is that counterprogrammed Knapik’s talk with the Women Rock! panel at the Harold Washington Library at 1 p.m. on Saturday, but that person should be forced to listen to the greatest hits of Debby Boone while the rest of us hear from Chicago Reader music writer Monica Kendrick, Venus magazine publisher Amy Schroeder, DePaul University professor of sociology Deena Weinstein and local writer/publicist Jessica Hopper whose “Emo: Where The Girls Aren’t” essay ensured we’d never listen to Weezer the same way again and whose piece in last week's Reader (warning: irritating PDF file) could be viewed as a dissent against our thesis above.