THE YEAR IN MUSIC: Teen girls (and fierce young women) rocked the world in 2013
YEAR IN TOFU AND WHISKEY Call it the Rookie Magazine trickle-down effect: Teen girl rockers ruled the world in 2013. Granted, some 20-somethings were in there too. But still, these young and fierce ladies — celebrated on either Rookie's more polished site or eye-popping Tumblrs of a similar demographic — were the artists to take notice of this year.
The young majors of 2013 were 17-year-old New Zealander Lorde and Los Angeles sister trio Haim, all in their early 20s. There were also female rappers and soul singers, like Cameroon-raised Lorine Chia (20), and Brooklyn-based Angel Haze (22). Locally, there was teen surf pop quartet the She's. On a smaller scale, there are emerging acts like Sacramento's sister duo Dog Party, which, at ages 14 and 17, released its biggest record to date on Asian Man Records this August.
Rookie is the web magazine for young girls that looks more to the Sassy archetype than Seventeen, but so far beyond those bounds that it's almost ludicrous to compare the two. Started in 2011 by now-iconic mini fashion blogger Tavi Gevinson, the website blends style, feminism, and culture into a Nylon-esque vision of rude glamour. More so, it's become a casual, glittery hit-maker, simply by nature of showcasing exciting new talent early in the game, often before it's been hungrily shredded by the widespread blogger industrial complex.
Musicians are featured in gushy profiles, or longer Q&As, often with more personalized questions than are found on standard music blogs. An early Rookie writeup on Lorde reviewed her full-length record Pure Heroine (Universal Music Group) in a typically conversational tone: "I first heard Lorde, when I was in the parking lot of a Target one night. It was 10:50pm and I was in the car by myself, listening to the radio; I had just been going through a breakup and was in an awful state of mind. Suddenly this song came on with a simple beat and this AMAZING voice that made me sit up straight and turn on Shazam, which told me it was Lorde's song 'Royals.'"
Can't you too remember such a time? An moment in a youthful life, alone in your car or next to the stereo in your room, the disappointments of a confusing day rushing through your mind, and then the moment a song transformed that hurt into pure joy? It might not have been a pop song, but it certainly could have been.
Thanks to the thrill of that paradoxically anti-consumerist pop song "Royals," Lorde (née Ella Yelich-O'Connor) was undoubtedly the biggest of the aforementioned bunch of teen girls who made it big in 2013. She became a bona fide pop star in black lipstick and a poof of untamed, grungy curls. And while her look and style are certainly endlessly dissected, she came to the pop charts when there was a specific need for her new breed of mainstream-yet-still-underground-enough-to-be-weirdish sound.
In her recent essay on Lorde and others of her ilk, NPR writer Ann Powers poetically described Lorde's step away from pop stars of the tongue-out, twerked-out Miley variety we also suffered through in 2013: "Lorde is a phenomenon because of perfect timing. She came along just when listeners were craving what 'Royals' famously advocates: a different kind of buzz. After a few months as the new find of early musical adopters, this droll chanteuse became notorious for suggesting that some kids might prefer to stand apart from pop's endless party."
Angel Haze was another standout — a stunning, pansexual, artistically rare rapper who took Macklemore's "Same Love," and gave it meaning, singing of her own (real) struggles with sexuality. The young artist's debut full-length, Dirty Gold, doesn't even see release until January 2014, but her covers (she also took on Eminem's "Cleanin' Out My Closet") made her a name to know in 2013.