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Women On The Verge: At The End Of The '90s, A Few Artists Set The Stage For A New Era


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The unrest on the rock scene in the first half of the 1990s felt to many like a paradigm shift, but it was really a blast pattern: a series of eruptions that added up to real damage but which only partially reached pop's cultural foundation. Into this fractured landscape came a diverse array of artists who took on the challenge of expressing self-aware womanhood in very different ways. The messages these artists sent were mixed. Some seemed almost retrograde: the teen pop stars whose tanned-and-taut young queen was Britney Spears, and who expressed a self-confident ***uality that was hard to read as wholly self-cultivated, but which has been fully claimed as such by today's pop rebels from Taylor Swift to Lorde to Charli XCX. 

The Spice Girls were outliers, but not by much. Their massive popularity presaged a new wave of American teen pop also spearheaded by a tricky sweetheart: Britney Spears. Today, Britney has become a first-name-only goddess revered by dance music mavens for her willingness to take chances with experimental producers while still owning the center of the pop charts. As a feminist icon, Spears remains nearly as problematic in 2018 as she was when her authentic schoolgirl pout made her a star with "...Baby One More Time" twenty years earlier. She's still one of the most powerfully charismatic pop stars of our age, and deserves respect not only for being the indelible voice of a pop juggernaut, but for her longevity in the face of every major pitfall celebrity can create. Yet since a public breakdown made her an official pop tragedy in 2008, a debate has raged about whether Spears has been the prime agent in her own success, or an exploited asset, and she herself is only now emerging as an artist in ways that might clarify matters. The story of Britney Spears couldn't have been less suited to the story of women toppling male power structures that dominated the 1990s. Nonetheless, her importance as both a musical and cultural influence is undeniable. Like Elvis, Britney Spears embodies a seismic shift in American culture – not toward the cultivated rawness of rock and roll, but away from it, into an era dominated by new technologies that throw into question the very nature of the authentic. A voice in league with new technologies, Britney Spears embodies something fundamental about our time. Every artist working in the pop realm reckons with her.

The troubled iconicity of Britney Spears can overshadow just how much other women changed popular music just before and after her emergence. Before her, there was Gwen Stefani, who like every cool kid's favorite Spice Girl Mel C decked herself out in clothes as sports-functional as they were ****, and who sang about the very limits placed upon her as a woman fronting an all-male band in No Doubt's "Just a Girl." (Stefani, like a few others who debuted in the 1990s, makes our list because her solo career commenced in earnest in the 2000s.) There was Jewel, singing about addiction and the the ***ual exploitation of young women in a hit, "Who Will Save Your Soul," that critics dismissed as teenage flowered-notebook rambling. A year later there was Fiona Apple, who made her revelations about ***ual trauma and its aftermath — her song "Sullen Girl" was a #metoo moment decades before its hashtag — but whose very (slender) physique seemed out of step with the time's feminist mores. "I'm a little torn," sang Australian pop star Natalie Imbruglia in 1998, her baggy hoodie in the "Torn" video sending one message while her glam squad-enhanced eyes sent another. It was hard, sometimes, to tell whether these ingenues were sending mixed messages or signaling complexity. Something similar was happening in R&B, as the mighty TLC led a new wave of sleek-voiced women whose versions of empowerment weren't as obviously fierce as what En Vogue had embodied in 1992's "Free Your Mind."

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Just now, THE BAJAN VIBE said:

I wouldn't be the same woman without all the impact Britney Spears had in my life. 100% convinced of that. She has inspired me in so many ways.

She has inspired a lot of girls to dance and be confident I've grown up with her and happy to see these kind of articles now she's getting the respect she deserves. 

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16 minutes ago, Prachi said:

Why nobody has read this beautiful article? Has it flopped? :shaking_shake_gold_yellow:

sorry, I get too many notifications lol sometimes I get lost in all of them

 

This is really good, and that's not even counting the female movement in other parts of the world. Here in Latin America we also had a lot of female artists doing their thing, mainly Shakira, but there were many others too, and the thing is we also got the music in English besides Spanish, so we got the best of both worlds. I suppose something similar must have happened in other places. 

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1 minute ago, PokemonSpears said:

sorry, I get too many notifications lol sometimes I get lost in all of them

 

This is really good, and that's not even counting the female movement in other parts of the world. Here in Latin America we also had a lot of female artists doing their thing, mainly Shakira, but there were many others too, and the thing is we also got the music in English besides Spanish, so we got the best of both worlds. I suppose something similar must have happened in other places. 

Agreed in my country English music was a flop not even Madonna managed to make this huge noise, Britney mania was something else kids like me dressing up like her waiting to watch MTV she ruled and 2000s like nobody else. 

Shakira is famous here too especially Whenever wherever, hips don't lie and of course Waka Waka is heard by everyone here. 

But even Brit's FF era was big here especially TTWE and Criminal. 

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