(…) and did things that only men were allowed to do, and therefore disturbed people that lost their power over them. Witches, in reality, were nothing but forceful women who weren’t understood, and generated fear due to their intense pasion and love and freedom that were so restricted for the twisted society of that era. And in a way, Joanna, Kate and Björk are like that, and to look at them as witches is not that offensive. Maybe being a witch doesn’t always got a negative connotation.
Hi, thanks for the great question! I agree about the innate power of witches and I realized a little while ago how much empowerment I actually derive from reading the history and culture of witches. And I understand the impulse for people to call Kate Bush and Björk and Joanna Newsom witches. They are powerful, they are special and talented, they tap in to and use feminine energies that are important (but misunderstood), and they are extremely independent and smart. But my main criticism around that moniker for them as artists is that it is too often cast upon them by people and critics who don’t actually analyze and engage with their femininity and its power in a critical and clear way. They cast that moniker on them because they are being reductive and unwilling to explain what “witch” means in a literal and figural way and also many times, I think they are intimidated. Witches directly threaten kyriarchy and when one is called a witch, it’s a warning to those who want to uphold oppressive structures. And we also cannot divest that moniker of its sexualization. Witchcraft and (illicit) sex have been tied together for centuries and I think that is part of the impulse to give them that moniker, too: it’s just another facet of how objectified and sexualized female artists are in this society. Witches are desired and hated because of their sexual independence. Transgressions are attractive, but they also must be squelched.
Let’s keep on talking about this. Anyone else have any witchy stuff they want to discuss here?
Here is a response from an Anonymous user to a post of mine about Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush. My own response is after the jump.
Excellent article, and I agree that we must get away from sexism when it comes to our amazingly talented sisters. Bjork comes to mind as another woman whose been called a witch due to her unique artistic vision. I feel like “some” of this sexism is not malicious or disrespectful, as much as an inability to find the right words to describe their talent. A genius is also a creature steeped in magic and mystery; the word being related to genie. The problem lies that Bush, Newsom, Bjork, and Joni Mitchell for that matter are all women who embrace and are unafraid of their female energy —they exude this goddess aura. Their words and sound represent the “Sensual World” of love, relationships, beauty, nature and the spirit. Much of contemporary music is driven by masculine energy, whether it be in a male or female form. One energy is not better than the other; they are different and equally important and need to be respected as such.
As I was procrastinating today (as I still am), I googled Kate Bush and I stumbled upon a pretty awful article published before Aerial came out six years ago. Not only did the article imply, as many articles do, that David Gilmour (a member of Pink Floyd who championed her music to record labels) creatively controls Kate Bush, the author also called her “elfin.” And thus, we again see a link drawn between Joanna Newsom and Kate Bush, pop music’s fairy princesses.
We recently received a response to my post on the gender-binary in music journalism and how it affects the perception of Joanna Newsom and other female musicians. I am going to respond to this in enumerated paragraphs, pretending like I never learned how to construct a cohesive argument by using linking words like “moreover…”
I don’t think there is a gender-binary problem with journalistic reporting, and here is why: tastes are very different to sounds. The “comparison” between Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom is more accurately described as an “if you like Kate, perhaps you’ll like Joanna too, because those are the kind of tastes you have.” Furthermore, Joanna Newsom, as you’ll know, is a woman, and has a female voice, and some people like the sound of female voices more than male voices in their music, and vice versa.
Am I the only person who is sick of Joanna Newsom being compared to Kate Bush by music critics when both female artists are hardly alike? Although I greatly admire and respect Kate Bush’s brave pop experimentation and I listen to her often, I am not a huge expert on/fan of her. From her discography, I only truly enjoy The Dreaming, Aerial, and Hounds of Love. But, even with that concession, I still can justifiably declare that the comparison, while complimentary in nature, is essentially baseless. Joanna, throughout her career, has never written an album like The Dreaming and Kate Bush will probably never write an album like Ys. If I ever hear a single synthesizer or drum machine in a Joanna Newsom song, I might faint from shock. (I almost did that when I heard the electric guitar in “Baby Birch,” though I absolutely love it now.)
Yes, of course, Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom both write difficult music that demands attention from the listener. Yes, they both write heavily allusive music, with narrative leanings (Joanna much more so than Kate, however). Yes, they both have strange and highly emotional vocal delivery (Kate having a much larger and more classical range than Joanna; three-octaves to be exact). But can’t we say all that about any of the greatest musicians…ever?