Women on the verge . . .
7 December 2009
Thursday December 03 2009
From little boots to Lady Gaga, from Florence and the Machine to St Vincent, even the most unmusically minded can't ignore the fact that 2009 was chock-full of interesting releases by women.
From Speech Debelle's Mercury Prize win to Whitney's comeback, if this year was an ad, some lazy advertising exec would pinch Here Come the Girls from Boots for the soundtrack. In Irish terms, the past 12 months have been particularly stellar, not just because of the number of women making music and being recognised for it, but for the sheer breadth of what they're doing. Imelda May's meteoric rise has made rockabilly mainstream, and Miss Paula Flynn showed you can reinvent yourself after having a very big first hit. Lisa Hannigan's year has included rave US reviews for Sea Sew, a Jay Leno appearance and, like May, she played the über-stage that is Glastonbury.
It's not that long since international acclaim and a profile outside of Ireland existed only for a handful of Irish acts, and very few of them were women. Even the ones that sold records and broke into the US -- The Corrs and Sinéad O'Connor -- made music that was chart-friendly and had the backing of a major label. Now a new generation of Irish women in music is proving that not only do you not need a record label to get noticed (step forward Julie Feeney and Miss Paula Flynn), but you can be as eclectic as you like. Valerie Francis's take on the singer-songwriter canon is as unusual as it is accessible -- and who are we to argue if Kanye West is a fan? Julie Feeney fuses pop and orchestral composition and is indicative of how boundaries -- musical, gender and otherwise -- are gradually fading away. The result is a broad landscape of challenging, interesting music where -- boys with guitars are making way for girls with harps, batons, cellos and great voices.
MISS PAULA FLYNN
The name might not ring a bell but you've definitely heard Paula Flynn sing. Her vocals featured on a version of Let's Dance in an ad for bottled water, which EMI later released as a single. With her music career taking off, her background in radio took a short break, but this year she began presenting an alternative country show on RTé's 2XM and is working on a radio documentary for RTé. Although her self-titled debut was only released in September, she is working on album number two and plans to tour in 2010.
- Sinead Gleeson