Back in February, I highlighted a few very talented rock star females of the ’90s – and I ended the article with the following sentences:
“Who is your favorite female musician from the ’90s? I most definitely missed a bunch. It’s so hard to try and profile so much talent in one article. I mean, let’s face it. Women dominated music this decade.”
It was definitely hard to try to summarize an entire decade in the span of a column. After some reflection, I realized that this article definitely deserved a “Part 2”. After all, I love the ’90s, I love music from the ’90s, and I love the fact that women kicked ass in the ’90s (and they still do today, of course).
Readers, here are a few more favorites and some notes on what they’re up to today. Readers, here are a few more favorites and some notes on what they’re up to today.
Alanis Morissette taught me that women could be angry and loud, and write song lyrics from the heart. Oddly enough, Katy Perry was highly influenced by Alanis, which might have been how “I Kissed A Girl” became so anthemic. It’s not just Katy who worships Alanis – Carly Rae Jepsen and Taylor Swift have also admitted to being massive fans.
Alanis isn’t just famous for being a musician – she’s also a record producer and an actress, and her awards thus far include sixteen Juno Awards, seven Grammy Awards, and two nominations at the Golden Globe Awards.
Maverick Records released Jagged Little Pill internationally in 1995, and thanks to radio exposure, the album became a massive hit. Ten years later, she went on to release an acoustic version of the album to celebrate its anniversary. In 2002, she released a CD/DVD packet called Feast On Scraps, which included backstage documentary footage, as well as eight unreleased songs that were created during the recording of her fifth studio album, Under Rug Swept.
Cut to 2006 – after about a year of very limited appearances, Alanis decided to record a new version of The Black Eyed Peas’ selection “My Humps”, which she recorded in a slow, mournful voice, accompanied only by a piano. The music video, which was released on YouTube, received a ton of hits. While many figured the video was an “April Fool’s Joke”, Fergie had a great sense of humor about it, and seemed quite flattered.
In the late 2000s, Alanis parted ways with Maverick and began working with new label Collective Sound, distributed by Sony’s RED Distribution.
If you’ve thought you’ve seen her pop up on your favorite show, you just might have. Alanis got her acting start on Nickelodeon’s You Can’t Do That On Television, and then appeared in Kevin Smith’s 1999 film Dogma. Since, she’s been on episodes of Up All Night, Sex and The City, and Curb Your Enthusiasm – and she had a pretty significant role on Weeds, which spanned through multiple episodes.
Back in 1993, Liz’s debut album, Exile in Guyville had been ranked by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time. The following year, her second album Whip-Smart gave us the song “Supernova”, which was a top ten hit that received a bunch of airplay on MTV.
Unfortunately, there was a bit of a delay on her 3rd release, Whitechocolatespaceegg, which finally reached fans in 1998. Liz got married and gave birth to her son in-between the gap, which helped mature her material a bit more. In order to promote the album and get her name out there again, she was one of the many talented acts featured during the Lilith Fair.
In 2003, her self-titled fourth album was released on her new label, Capitol Records. However, the album was skewed a bit based on the fact that her original attempt was deemed unsellable – and since her budget was already used up, she agreed to gain more money by scrapping what she had in favor of writing poppier, more radio friendly songs. Needless to say, this pissed off her fans. Also? The critics. So much, that people assumed she just said goodbye to her music career.
She kept at it, and digitally released Funstyle in 2010 with promises that the songs are 100% real Liz Phair.
If you want to talk about talent and success, you should consider chatting about Tori Amos. This singer-songwriter has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide. Born Myra Ellen Amos, she took on the name Tori after a friend’s boyfriend told her it suited her. Imagine being that friend’s boyfriend? He could honestly tell people who Tori just wouldn’t be Tori without him.
After a somewhat disastrous effort with a band, Tori went solo and released Little Earthquakes in 1992, which put her on the map. She was known for singing about real issues, including her religious upbringing (her father was a pastor) and sexual assault. In 1996, her third album, Boys for Pele, was released, which gained a lot of admiration based on the fact that it was recorded in a church, and used “unusual” instruments, like the harpsichord and bagpipes. While it wasn’t a mainstream hit, it was definitely a success, reaching the #2 spot on both the Billboard 200 and the UK Top 40.
After fifteen years with Atlantic, Tori signed onto Epic Records, but left due to creative difference after creating a few concept albums with them. In 2008, she signed a “joint venture” deal with Universal Republic Records.
Just last year, Tori took on the project of making a musical adaptation of George MacDonald’s The Light Princess, along with book writer Samuel Adamson and Marianne Elliott. She’s also continued her involvement with RAINN, an organization that connects callers with their local rape crisis center.
Out of all of the women mentioned above, it’s probably safe to say that Sheryl Crow has collaborated with some of the world’s most interesting singers and songwriters – from Luciano Pavarotti to Kid Rock. Pretty much every album Sheryl released had at least one hit song.
She even went on to pull a Carly Simon, by refusing to name the inspiration behind the song “My Favorite Mistake” off of her third release The Globe Sessions. “There will be just so much speculation, and because of that there’s great safety and protection in the fact that people will be guessing so many different people and I’m the only person who will ever really know,” she told Billboard Magazine. (Note: People think it’s Eric Clapton.)
While Sheryl had a public relationship with Lance Armstrong, this girl is totally Strong Enough (I had to – sorry) to raise two adopted sons on her own, and dominate against her battle with cancer a few years back. In early 2006, Crow had a lumpectomy, then a course of radiation therapy, after being diagnosed with breast cancer.
Sheryl went a little bit country with her latest release, Feels Like Home which came out on September 10, 2013. She’s also been involved with the theater – A new musical version of the acclaimed 1982 movie Diner is set to be released this December, with music and lyrics by Sheryl herself. While the play had a bit of a rocky start, it’s set to debut at the Signature Theatre in Arlington, Virginia.
To this day, “Come To My Window” is a hit that won’t quit. Seriously – I challenge you not to listen to this and start belting out the lyrics. You won’t be alone, as the song earned her the Grammy for Best Rock Vocal Performance.
Besides being extremely talented, Melissa shares something very rare with Sheryl – she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2004, and underwent surgery and chemotherapy. At the 2005 Grammy Awards, she made a return to the stage, bald and proud.
In 2001, she released her own version of a concept album with Skin, which she claims has a “beginning, middle, and end”. The album was conceived around her breakup with her first partner, Julie Cypher, so it was definitely an emotional recording. In
In 2006 she hit it big again, after writing “I Need to Wake Up” for the film documentary An Inconvenient Truth, which won for Best Original Song in 2006. She recently released 4th Street Feeling, and just announced through twitter that yet another album is on the way.
She continues to be a strong activist for gay rights, and also works with the Melissa Etheridge radio show, which you can listen to clips of online.
“Fast Car” was always a song that was ideal for a road trip mix back in the day, and it continues to be. Tracy’s rock was a bit more bluesy and folk, but she was still quite the influential artist of the late ’80s and early ’90s. In fact, she won a Grammy in 1995 for the very catchy “Give Me One Reason”. Expect that song to be in your head for the remainder of the day, by the way. You’re welcome.
Tracy was always interested in human rights – for example, she performed in London as part of a worldwide concert tour to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights with Amnesty International back in 1988, and even made a point of focusing a lot of her lyrics on poverty and other social causes.
Her last album was 2008’s Our Bright Future (which received a Grammy nomination), but she still performs at various charity events. Did I mention that her website is pretty much a coloring book? Even though it’s not actively updated, it’s still kind of fun.
In 1989, Ani was just 18 years old. She did what every 18-year-old girl does, and started her own record label. Yep – just like any other normal girl. Ten years later, she expanded the label to release albums other than her own, since it was a pretty successful venture.
The ’90s were quite successful for Ani, as she moved out to New York and began playing pretty big venues. Remember the epic opening song in My Best Friend’s Wedding? That was Ani.
She started getting into poetry about ten years later, and released a poetry book called Verses in 2007, and an album in 2008 called Red Letter Year, which she described as being one of the most relaxed releases she’s ever created. Her work is often pretty political, and autobiographical – which is why many fans feel like they know the singer on a somewhat personal level.
She’s also been a strong activist, raising over $47,500 in 2005 for musicians who lost their instruments in Hurricane Katrina. Her moves even sometimes hit a wrong note – for example, after Ani’s choice of venue for a 2010 retreat (a plantation), many petitioned against her, believing that she was trying to bring a positive light to a landmark that was historical for pretty horrific reasons. She ended up cancelling the retreat and issuing an apology this year, saying “I needed a wake up call, and you gave it to me.”
What are some memories you have listening to the artists above? Did I get them all this time? If not – who did I miss? (You never know – there could always be a Part 3!)