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Queer folks and women of alternative music

Diverse artists for any alternative playlist
Celebrate women’s history month with these artists.
Illustration: Tatianna Dubose • The Sentry

As a loosely defined genre, alternative music implies -a diversion from the mainstream culture. Even before the title existed, artists like Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees or Gwen Stefani from No Doubt made names for themselves as pioneers of a different path for music. 

Ever since the dawn of alternative, women and queer folks have led the way. Siouxsie Sioux and the Banshees started off in the early days of punk and goth in the late 70s and remained active throughout the 80s and early 90s. Her influence can still be clearly seen in the fashion and musical style of artists like Phoebe Bridgers.  

With the name of a goddess, Phoebe Bridgers rose to fame recently as the queen of sad people everywhere. Bridgers’ most recent album, Punisher, hit people during quarantine in just the right spot. Also collaborating with Julien Baker and Lucy Dacus to form boygenius, the trio harmonizes with the audience on an emotional level. Punisher crosses the line between indie and alternative, if ever there was one, with songs like “Kyoto” having a beat much closer to rock than folk.  

Many of these musicians also engage in political activism, with Bridgers speaking out against the previous president on multiple occasions and releasing a cover of the song “Iris” by the Goo Goo Dolls to support Stacey Abrams’ campaign against voter suppression in Georgia. Even in the 90s, artists like Cat Power and Bikini Kill closely aligned themselves with leftist politics.  

Bikini Kill and riot grrrl in general represents a clear example of alternative bands taking a feminist stance. Primarily based in cities of the Pacific Northwest during the 1990s, groups like The Third Sex and Bratmobile took it all up a notch with their appropriately harsh lyrics and tone to represent their experiences in society.  

By the 2000s, alternative music had gone mainstream. Bands like Paramore and the Yeah Yeah Yeahs built on their predecessors, but their sound appealed to a wider audience–likely because they signed major record deals instead of recording at independent labels. Despite her quick ascension to the mainstream and multiple Grammy nominations, Phoebe Bridgers released both of her solo albums through independent labels PAX AM and Dead Oceans. 

Paramore formed in Franklin, Tennessee, not far from Nashville, and they are led by singer and songwriter Hayley Williams. Coming from New York City, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs are led by Karen O. With their art punk-inspired sound, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs have gained recognition as one of the leading voices of the last couple decades. Karen O even created the soundtrack for the beloved 2009 film Where the Wild Things Are.  

Alternative music is a realm where women and queer folks can express themselves and reach out to an audience of people who may be struggling with similar issues. Musicians like Phoebe Bridgers likely became such an icon because her music speaks with authenticity, and her artistry brings a sense of calm and camaraderie.  

This is a selection from the March 24 issue. To view the full issue, visit: https://online.flippingbook.com/view/824791066/

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