I’m actually a day late on this, but please don’t hold it against me! Yesterday, as I’m sure you are aware, was International Women’s Day (IWD) and I felt I should mark it in my own way. So this week’s theme for my tunes is: women. The message for this year’s IWD is #ChooseToChallenge – if you want to know more about it, you can find the official website here. I’m acutely conscious of the fact that I, a man, am writing a post that marks the day for women – I assure you, it is done from a position of respect (a word that you will see again later). We are in the 21st century but women are in many ways regarded as inferior citizens: that is just plain wrong, and I fully support the day’s objectives, and hope that this post will in some way help to raise a tiny bit of awareness of the need for society to improve.
I feel that I should begin with something rousing and anthemic, and this one fits the bill:
Two female icons of pop music together: it doesn’t get much better than that. This was a track on the Eurythmics’ fourth album, Be Yourself Tonight, which was released in April 1985, peaking at #3 in the UK and #9 in the US. It was released as a single, and reached #9 in the UK and #18 in the US. If you didn’t already know that this was from the 80s there are some big style clues in there: Dave Stewart rocking the ‘pop star twat’ look is probably the biggest of these. But nothing can detract from the power of the song and its lyrics, which are still just as relevant today.
Today’s second tune is also a piece of iconic 80s pop. A simple song and message, with a superb video:
This was track 2 on Cyndi Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual, which was released in October 1983. It’s a wonderful first record, and I played it a lot when I bought it. As well as this song, it includes Money Changes Everything, She Bop and Time After Time – see what I mean? The album got to #4 in the US and #16 here. This was the lead single for the album, released the previous month, and was a #2 hit on both sides of the Atlantic. The lady playing the part of Cyndi’s mum in the video is… Cyndi’s mum. Apparently the video only cost $35k to make, largely because the cast – who also include Dan Aykroyd – were unpaid volunteers. It is a load of fun, and the underlying message is still strong. It also won two best female video awards, one of them from MTV.
I’m taking the pace down a little with my next tune, which is also the only one this week by a male performer:
A simple song of love, apology and regret, and it is beautiful. This was a track from the 1980 album Double Fantasy, which was credited to both Lennon and Yoko Ono: they each wrote seven of the album’s fourteen tracks. It marked his return after a five year break following the birth of his son, Sean, and was released in November 1980, just three weeks before he was murdered. The album was #1 in both the US and the UK, as well as in Australia, Canada and Norway. Before he died, Lennon had chosen this to be the second single from the album, following (Just Like) Starting Over. It was released in January 1981, and was #1 in the US and #2 in the UK. Lennon described it as ‘an ode to Yoko, and to all women,’ and it is certainly that. As I said, it is a beautiful song, and you can feel the love in it.
A fun one next. I don’t think this one really has true ‘feminist’ credentials, though the lyrics kind of go in that direction, in a sort of follow up to Cyndi Lauper. To me, it is just a great pop song and an enjoyable video:
This was a track on Shania Twain’s third album, Come On Over: the one that sold by the truckload. There were two versions of the album: the original, more country one for the US, and the ‘International’ version for the rest of us, which had re-recorded versions of all but one of the sixteen tracks, to make them more attractive to an international pop music audience. The track listing was also changed. I bought the version we were given, and played it to death! The video is for the version I knew back then, ie. the international pop one. The album was released in 1997, and made #2 in the US, though it was #1 on the country albums chart (for a total of 50 weeks!). The international version reached #1 here in the UK, as well as in Canada, Australia, Ireland, The Netherlands, Norway and New Zealand, so I guess the reworking proved to be a good idea. It has sold more than 40m copies worldwide, and is the ninth best selling album of all time in the US (sixteenth best in the UK). This song was the opening track on the US album version, though it was track 10 here. It was the eighth song to be released as a single – by then we were into 1999! – and was #3 here in the UK, #23 in the US mainstream chart and #4 on the country chart. To be honest, I was surprised people were still buying the singles by then – didn’t they all have the album already?!
My penultimate tune for this week is another with a defiant, ‘in your face’ message:
I first became aware of Lady Gaga when the BBC showed her 2009 appearance at Glastonbury as part of their coverage of the festival. I thought she was remarkable, and put on an incredible show. That was in her relatively early days, but she was already a huge star. I was hooked! By then, she had released her debut album, The Fame, which was #2 in the US and #1 here, amongst other countries. This song was the title track from her second album, which was released in May 2011 and topped the charts in…wait for it…the US, the UK, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Russia, Sweden and Switzerland! As a single, this was #1 in the US and several other countries, but only got to #3 here: what a bunch of slackers! The video is from the Grammys show of 2011, and emphasises Gaga’s power as a performer.
I’m closing today with where I began, well, half of the initial act anyway. Whatever the message about International Women’s Day might be, there is one thing that all women (men also) deserve:
Written by Otis Redding, that was the opening track on Aretha Franklin’s 1967 album I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You, which was #2 on the US mainstream chart, #1 on their R&B chart, and #36 here in the UK. As a single, it was #1 on both the US mainstream and R&B charts, and #10 here. The word ‘classic’ gets thrown around a lot – I’m as guilty of that as anyone – but in this case I think it really does apply.
That’s all for this Tuesday. I hope you’ve enjoyed some powerful ‘women’ songs and, if you have time, do visit the IWD website.
Till next time. Take care.