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Boybands are the best

Author:
Zeyn

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

(DISCLAIMER: I use the term ‘boyband’ loosely. I do not think of 5 Seconds of Summer as a boyband in the same way that I see One Direction as one. However, I believe that many of the objections to this labelling of them stem from a problematic place. I do not use it derogatorily – to me, there is nothing derogatory about the term ‘boyband’.)

I used to think of myself as too cool for school – or rather, too punk rock for ‘meaningless, mind-numbing’ chart music. I had special disdain for fangirls, for people who loved particular pop artists with any degree of intensity. I believed that my devotion to my favourite bands was different – superior even – because the bands that I loved wrote their own songs, and their songs MEANT something. I laugh at the irony of that now, considering my favourite band has written songs with the titles Poppin’ Champagne and Stella – the latter of which is indeed a song about beer. OH THE DEPTH. Alas, when I saw groups of girls wearing their JLS hoodies, I scoffed and rolled my eyes. I told anyone who would listen that those girls were zombies with no opinions of their own, that they were completely brainwashed. I said that these artists were not in fact artists, that their music was not ‘real’ music. Oh yes, I was one of those people.

Fast forward a few years, and you’d have a hard time believing that was ever me.

I am someone who sobbed for hours on the day that Zayn left One Direction, someone who was highly sensitive to the terrible ‘Two Directions’ joke that seemingly everyone came out with in the weeks following. I am someone who has read a considerable amount of Larry Stylinson fan fiction. I have even written a little. I am someone who goes to see 5 Seconds of Summer concerts and takes 100 blurry pictures, and later captions every single one with HEARTACHE ON THE BIG SCREEN. I am someone who’s lock screen is of Michael Clifford, someone who stares lovingly at said image periodically throughout the day. I am someone who thinks about Michael Clifford constantly, someone who frets over his sleeping patterns and stress levels, as if I am his mother. Oh yes, I am one of THOSE people.

Once upon a time, I despised boyband fangirls. Now, not only am I one myself, but I love the others immensely. I actually think one of my favourite things about being a fan of these artists is the other fans. I recently went to see 5SOS on the UK leg of their Sounds Live, Feels Live tour, and it was amazing. The boys themselves were, of course, fantastic, but it was the way that they connected me to the thousands of people – predominantly teenage girls – in the room that made the night so special. The New Broken Scene is no empty sentiment; it’s real – in our screams and joy and boundless passion, we were united. I had never met the girls next to me before, but we danced to Hey Everybody together, and delightedly screamed “OH MY GOD” in each other’s faces whenever our faves did something OMG worthy. (FYI, OMG worthy actions include breathing. Have you even lived if you haven’t witnessed Michael Clifford breathing IRL though???)

Band

 

It’s funny to me that having a fanbase of predominantly young girls is deemed a kind of condemnation – surely, by now, the history of pop music has taught us that teenage girls are the most powerful people on the planet. It is teenage girls who launch musicians into success, even into icon status. If you’re a middle-aged man dismissing 5SOS because they attract excitable and emotional teenage girls, you might want to remember who made the Beatles’ career.

With the rest of the world’s disdain for teenage girls, the boys of boybands are a relief – they understand how incredible we are, they appreciate us, and they remind us constantly of how awesome we are. Their affirmation of our existence and worth is significant to us – it’s nice to have someone who doesn’t treat you with scorn. It’s also nice to have somebody with power advocating for you – another rarity. The action/1D campaign was arguably the best thing of all time, because the values and opinions of teenage girls were respected and listened to on a big scale, rather than undermined or dismissed.

More recently, Ashton Irwin of 5 Seconds of Summer proved that he was, quite frankly, better than everybody else. The band were asked in an interview about fan fiction. People in the spotlight are always either uncomfortable with this topic, or ridiculing of it. 5SOS, refreshingly, made jokes entirely at their own expense, complaining only that the romantic standards typically present in these fan creations made them look bad. They didn’t mock the creators, they mocked themselves. This in itself was astonishing to me, but when Ashton continued to discuss it, I was seriously amazed. He said that he thinks it’s cool that young people are creating things, and he loves that fan fiction is a window into our minds – it is a way of understanding what we think about, and the way we think. This was the first time that I’ve ever heard a famous person acknowledge the value of this form, the first time it has been understood. As someone deeply invested in fan fiction, this mattered a lot to me – so much that I may have even shed a tear or two. It was through fan fiction that I finally discovered last year that there is a name for the way I experience sexuality; that I am not defective; that there are other people like me; that I am whole. It was in fan fiction that I found my voice again after losing it, that I was able to let loose creatively, and it is fan fiction that I turn to again and again when I am struggling to write fiction but feel a desperate need to. Fan fiction is a huge part of fandom for me, a huge part of life in general. I am deeply touched that Ashton appreciates this thing that matters to me so immensely.

In summary: boybands are the best thing in the whole world. Other than teenage girls. But boybands definitely come in a very close second. There is no shame in loving them – in fact, I believe that it is something to be proud of. Your passion is beautiful, and it is a part of something big, something extremely powerful. Embrace it.

The Girls Can Rock

Author:
(left to right) Jenna McDougall of Tonight Alive, Lynn Gunn of PVRIS, Tay Jardine of We Are The In Crowd

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I might have mentioned it before, but rock music has a really big problem. Sexism is the problem. Let’s be honest, most aspects of our culture are sexist. The film industry disproportionately favours male directors, and generally caters to the hetero-male gaze. Yawn. And in all corners of music, misogyny is rife – rappers are still on about how they’re ‘fucking bitches three ways’ and are going to ‘knock that pussy out’, and pop singers still think it’s cute to be obsessive and controlling in a way that is frighteningly comparable to an abusive mind-set.

News flash: we have this problem in rock music too. It tends to get ignored; a community that prides itself on being for the outcasts, rock is not keen on examining its faults, preferring to believe in its acceptance of all, despite the clear evidence to the contrary. Rock chooses to ignore the problematic way in which it treats women, and as a young woman who gave pretty much her whole heart to this music, I am tired of it.

Possibly the things that frustrates me most is how little credit our girls get. North America’s Warped Tour features around 120 bands, and in recent years, only about 20 of those have included women. Over in the UK, the Reading & Leeds Festival showcased the talent of just 6 bands containing women; alternative music festival line-ups are overwhelmingly dominated by men. Which is not to say that there are no girls at the front right now – there are, a whole lot of them. The problem is that so few of them are getting noticed.

I’m bored of how little credit these rocking women are given, of how little attention they get. It’s time to change that, starting right here, right now. No more “there just aren’t any girls in good bands” rubbish, no more excuses, because here’s proof that the girls can rock.

For fans of Fall Out Boy, Set It Off, and Panic! At The Disco…PVRIS are your band! Actually, PVRIS are your band, whatever you like – they completely transcend the boundaries of genre! Frontwoman Lynn Gunn is many things; an equally poignant and punchy lyricist, a simultaneously vulnerable and powerful vocalist, an endearing personality, the love of my life, and a captivating performer. Lynn Gunn is a star, through and through, and this band’s brilliance is something that cannot be denied.

For fans of Simple Plan, All Time Low, We The Kings, and everything slick, shiny, and upbeat about pop-punk…We Are The In Crowd, Against The Current, Jule Vera, and Echosmith encompass it all. Having seen both WATIC and Echosmith live, not expecting a lot from either, I can promise that they deliver energetic, and dynamic performances, as well as catchy tunes that will have you smiling so much your face hurts. ATC and JV are similarly striking in their sound, every melodic, anthemic song just oozing energy.

For fans of the slightly punchier pop-punkers such as Neck Deep…Tonight Alive are for you. These Australian pop-punkers are fronted by Jenna McDougall, who is pretty much the coolest human you will ever come across. Jen is the ultimate hero, inspiring all with her positive but straight-up attitude to life – Tonight Alive aren’t about being overwhelmingly and unnaturally upbeat, but they don’t go in for negativity. I have been known to cry for approximately half their set at gigs and festivals, whilst jumping and dancing wildly, because that’s what they spark in me, in everyone – an abundance of feeling, and the drive to live.

For fans of bands like A Day To Remember…Love, Robot and Behind The Façade are killer. Behind The Façade are a particularly exciting band to me, because *gasp* MORE THAN ONE MEMBER OF THE BAND IS A GIRL. Shocking, isn’t it? They have a fantastic sound too, as do Love, Robot, fronted by the ever-charming, ever-brutal Alexa San Roman. Alexa is Jeremy McKinnon, but (dare I say it?) better.

For fans of straight up punk, bands like Anti Flag and The Menzingers…Against Me! are the most progressive, political punk band going. The band are vocal about everything; racism, sexism, homophobia, and most strongly, transphobia. Since singer Laura Jane Grace came out as transgender in 2012, the band have put out an album of incredibly raw emotion and raucous sounds. Transgender Dysphoria Blues is the best album to have come out of the past five years, and that is not something that is up for discussion; it is fact.

For fans of Enter Shikari…Marmozets are a brilliant bunch. I love them to pieces. Looking at them on stage, you’d think they were going to be an average indie band. Well, average is one thing they certainly are not, and things get far too heavy to call this indie. Frontwoman Becca Macintyre is a complete powerhouse, belting and screaming and never stopping for breath, but it never seems like she needs to. She was born to make noise, and bloody good noise at that.

For fans of bands like Mallory Knox, We Are The Ocean, and other stadium-worthy rock…Halestorm and The Pretty Reckless kick-ass. The Pretty Reckless get a bad rep, mostly because the world is full of slut-shamers. It sucks, a) because slut-shaming sucks and b) because TPR are actually pretty good. Taylor Momsen’s voice is dark, snarling, and absolutely captivating. Halestorm, meanwhile, would probably be one of the biggest bands on the planet right now if it weren’t for the simple fact that Lzzy Hale is a woman. A fearless, bad-ass, refuses-to-be-silenced woman. They are a Foo Fighters kind of good. They deserve a Foo Fighters kind of recognition.

For fans of Metallica, Slayer, Anthrax…give Babymetal a go. Yes, really. I’ll be honest, when I first heard of Babymetal, I thought it was a gimmick. I went to see them at Reading, expecting it all to be a big joke. But it was phenomenal. This was real, heavy metal music, heavier than anything else I heard across the weekend. And it was fun. Really fun. I loved it. Kudos to Babymetal.

 

 

Save pop punk… from sexism

Author:
defend_pop_punk

By Sophia Simon-Bashall

I am a person who is happiest when listening to live music, preferably from within a crowd of very sweaty people, who care about the band in front of them as much as I do. Of course, I LOVE Taylor Swift and One Direction with an intensity of devotion akin to religious worship, but the majority of what I listen to is rock music of some kind. Chiefly, pop punk.

For me, as for many girls of my generation, it started with Paramore. I loved Green Day and Blink-182, but it was in discovering Paramore that I delved into this music, that I found a sense of belonging. Hayley Williams was a teenage girl, and she was KILLING IT. She was loud, and she was unapologetic about it. I didn’t understand my attachment then, beyond “I LOVE HER SO MUCH SHE IS SO COOL”, but now I realise that she was the only person I knew of challenging the ‘boys’ club’ vibe of rock, and carving out a space for girls. I will genuinely always view my discovery of Paramore as one of the most important times in my life, because it was through Paramore that a world was opened up to me, the world that saved me again and again.

I live for these bands, I live for going to shows and jumping around and singing my lungs out and finding kinship with strangers because they feel what I feel about the songs being played and the people playing them. And I have defended my scene relentlessly over the years, from stupid comments about how we’re all menacing, aggressive Satanists (I mean, Patty Walters IS pretty terrifying), and how the music ‘encourages depression and self-harm’ (TOTALLY). But I’m recognising more and more its imperfections, and suddenly, the scene that saved me doesn’t feel like such a safe space anymore.

Pop punk has an undeniable sexism problem. A big one. I mean, the genre is practically founded on objectifying woman and moaning about being friendzoned. That, and pizza. But there’s far more to this issue than a few problematic lyrics.

This is supposed to be an alternative scene, a scene for the kids who feel like weirdos and losers, a scene that doesn’t follow rules or conventions. And yet, who is the face of this scene? Oh yeah, that’s right – middle-class white boys. How subversive. What’s worse is how very in denial some of them are of this issue – I recently read a comment made by Vic Fuentes of Pierce The Veil, rejecting the notion that the scene has a gender imbalance, on the basis that the scene’s big rising star is Lynn Gunn of the band PVRIS. This remark was reminiscent of Warped Tour’s founder Kevin Lyman comment that “If you’ve got 20 bands that have women in them out of 120 bands, that’s one out of six bands.”, a ratio he thought was “absolutely OK”. It’s like, because we have a couple of girls in the scene, everything is okay. Never mind that the majority of them don’t get nearly as much recognition as their male counterparts, never mind that when they do start to gain some prominence, as with Lynn, they are subject to ridicule and belittlement, harassment, internet trolling, and objectification, things that Neck Deep’s frontman Ben Barlow does not have to go through.

The bands may be predominantly made up of dudes, but the fans certainly are not. And yet, guys in the crowds still manage to dominate, and push girls out. I went to the Reading festival this summer, at which PVRIS were playing. I hung out at that stage through the two bands before them, in order to be in the prime spot, at the barrier, in the very centre. It was worth the wait, because when they came on, Lynn Gunn was right in front of me, so close I could practically touch her, and I don’t think my little queer heart has ever been so chuffed. Unfortunately, about two songs into the set, a mosh pit opened up, sucking me in, and eventually forced me out.

I hate to say it, because I know some girls do enjoy them, but ultimately, mosh pits are massively testosterone-fuelled. They are about boys proving their masculinity, because what fulfils the social construct of ‘male behaviour’ than shoving and bashing each other? They are also, quite frankly, about pushing girls out – nothing seems to anger a couple of entitled white boys than a group of girls claiming space for themselves (never mind that we waited for HOURS in order to claim it, whilst said boys have pushed their way to that point in the crowd). After being pushed over, and left on the floor, being literally trampled for a couple of minutes before someone bothered to help me up, I had little choice but to go to the very back of the tent to watch the rest of the band’s set. And, whilst PVRIS were incredible, I didn’t really enjoy it, didn’t really enjoy seeing the band I pretty much bought my ticket for, because I was shaken up, and in pain. It sucked. At the time, I was really upset about it. Now, I’m angry as hell, because I had as much right to claim that space as anyone else, I had a right to have a good time, and a bunch of guys took that from me. And this isn’t an isolated incident, either – I don’t know a single pop punk girl who hasn’t had a similarly negative experience at a show. This is not the way it should be.

TW Recently, there’s also been a startling number of allegations of sexual harassment against members of bands. It’s sickening. The reaction has also been pretty sickening. After allegations meant he had to leave the band, ex Set It Off bassist Austin Kerr was quick to make excuses for himself, whilst claiming to ‘take responsibility’ for his actions. The manipulative nature of his statement was disgusting and irresponsible, and fuelled a great deal of victim blaming. Those who spoke out against ex-guitarist of Neck Deep, Lloyd Roberts, were similarly met with horrific backlash, despite the band’s pleas that people ‘refrain from attacking the people making these statements’. It took these girls immense courage to speak about their experiences, and they were attacked for it.

hayley

Some of this makes me ashamed to call this my scene. I almost want to reject the scene, if it weren’t for the fact that at the end of the day, I LOVE these bands, I LOVE this music, and I LOVE the shows. I truly don’t know where I’d be without it; bands like All Time Low have been my lifeline at my lowest points, my escape from the world and from my own head, and I will never not love them, I will never not be grateful that they exist. But I am sick and tired of the state of the scene. I am sick and tired of this being a white boys’ club, of feeling like I have to look a certain way to be accepted as a girl, and that even then, I’ll either be seen as ‘one of the boys’, and expected to reject other girls, or a girl to ogle, and then complain about, regardless of whether I put out or not. I’m a pop punk girl, which means I can’t win, and I’m sick and tired of it. But I’m not giving up on this scene. I believe it can do better, and I won’t stop fighting for that. I will keep calling out bands on problematic lyrics, objectifying music videos, sexist comments, and gross actions. I will keep defending my right to be at the front of or in the middle of a crowd, rather than relegated to the back. I will keep defending other girls in crowds, and the girls who have the guts to get up on stage. I will keep defending pop punk, but the pop punk I want it to be, not the pop punk it is right now.

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