Out of the quarter century that I’ve spent fumbling on this planet, I’ve only felt sure of three things: my clout as a writer, a feminist and, more acutely, a severe audiophile. For the record, I barely possess any musical talent. If anything, I’m more like an idiot savant in the way that artists, songs, albums, lyrics, arrangements, histories, tour stories, urban legends and even one-hit wonders are filed away in my brain. (Eat your heart out, Raymond Babbitt.)
I can’t quite explain how music culture gripped me harder than its performance — the sounds, moods and sensations just seemed easier to claim. It was a desperate urge to “own” some kind of scene that drove me to learn almost anything about music; a mutation that evolved with puberty.
As a teenage girl trying to survive the eighth grade, I didn’t easily find anyone my age wanting to discuss Pete Townshend’s windmill strum or belt out every line to Queen & the late, great David Bowie’s “Under Pressure.” Of course, at some point, we were all hormonal devotees of music icons — whether in the crushworthy or Godlike sense — but this devotion felt somewhat different. It was cerebral yet intimate.
Not knowing many who understood that kind of devotion, I had plenty of alone time to do what I loved — research both new and old music. (Yes, for all intents and purposes, I was a geek.) It was then that I discovered the film Almost Famous, based on director Cameron Crowe’s exploits as a teenage music journalist for Rolling Stone. In a pivotal scene, Crowe’s protagonist William Miller (Patrick Fugit) seeks advice from his surly mentor and confidante Lester Bangs (R.I.P. Philip Seymour Hoffman) about the pitfalls of rock idol worship. Lester chides:
The only true currency in this bankrupt world is what you share with someone else when you’re uncool. My advice to you — I know you think those guys are your friends — you wanna be a true friend to them? Be honest, and unmerciful.
The struggle never felt realer until that moment — PSH had ripped out my heart and showed it to me, Temple of Doom style. Not only did I epitomize the four-eyed face of “uncool,” but I also wasn’t doing anything about it. I realized then that maybe I could share this devotion to music by writing about it — especially since some gawky teens like a young Cameron and his fictional doppelganger could pull it off.
There’s just one problem: such critical thinking about music is mainly accepted or expected among men. Sure, if you’re a woman who loves to write about music, it makes you seem pretty cool among the boys’ club and earn some honorary balls — but it doesn’t mean you will be taken seriously.
Last year, The New Yorker published a critical essay on how the world of music writing has spun on the finger of the male critic since the late 1960s — naming Bangs, among others — while either ignoring or demeaning the opinions of female counterparts. “The record store, the guitar shop, and now social media: when it comes to popular music, these places become stages for the display of male prowess,” noted writer Anwen Crawford. “Female expertise, when it appears, is repeatedly dismissed as fraudulent.”
Don’t get me wrong; plenty of female critics can have their valid thoughts heard on the current music scene. Though, you can rarely find a single space on the internet devoted to women — let alone most marginalized groups —writing about music.
So, with that in mind, here marks the start of Hollerbody, a creative outlet that examines the art and culture behind music from the fringes of its mainstream. It will read almost like any other music blog today — album and song reviews, artist interviews and roundtable discussions — except it will serve as a platform for the voiceless.
It’s all happening.