Do We Even Want Lilith Fair?

I’ve a piece in the June issue of The American Prospect on this summer’s Lilith Fair revival:

In 1998 and 1999, the festival featured a slightly more diverse lineup both racially and musically. But as the decade came to a close, there was little room in the mainstream for the kind of music Lilith was promoting. The charts were populated by a rush of young, single-sex pop groups like *NSYNC and Destiny’s Child — spawned by the success of the Spice Girls — and what McLachlan called “angry white male middle-class rock bands.”

Today, pop groups have fallen out of favor (although the now-defunct Destiny’s Child and *NSYNC spawned solo superstars Beyoncé and Justin Timberlake), and the angry white male middle-class rock bands aren’t producing many top-10 hits. For the most part, the biggest hits in 2010 are in the pop and hip-hop genres, which influence each other so much as to be almost indistinguishable at times.

While hip-hop is dominated by men — perhaps more so now than at any other time in its history — women own pop. No wonder Lady Gaga, who has had five top-five hits in the past three years, proclaims, “I’m a free bitch, baby.” Beyoncé’s 2008 album I Am…Sasha Fierce became her third to debut at No. 1 in the U.S. and won five Grammys, including Song of the Year for “Single Ladies.” And country singer Taylor Swift made a major crossover into pop after her 2008 album, Fearless, sat atop the Billboard 200 chart for 11 weeks, longer than any album released after 2000.

It might seem like an odd time to revive Lilith Fair — which is exactly what McLachlan is doing this summer. When she announced the first set of artists for 2010, she said it was “wonderful to see established and new artists alike have the opportunity to play in front of much larger or more diverse audiences than usual.”

But even the most ardent supporter of women in music could be forgiven for asking: In the era of Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and Taylor Swift, do we really need, or even want, another Lilith Fair?

Read more at the Prospect.

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  • I was really, actually, a bit geeked to learn Lilith was returning. But I will say, given the music landscape, here’s an alternative to Lilith that I think speaks to your own observation about where the ladies are (pop) and where the ladies aren’t (hip hop): CASRAM [Can A Sista Rock A Mic? Festival]!! I really think Lilith-likely folks would respect and appreciate what’s happening over here ’round the mid-Atlantic and DMV. >>

  • I was psyched when Lilith was announced and fully intended to buy the ticket even as recently as a month ago. Then I looked at the lineups for all the Texas cities, and the ticket prices.

    If prices were cheaper, I’d still go even though there are only 2-3 artists I’m mildly interested in on the lineup. But $50+ for bad seats? Slightly less than that for lawn tickets? Nah, I’ll pass.

    • shani-o

      Yeah, I saw something that said Erykah isn’t even going to be at the Dallas show. There’s no way I’d go if she weren’t in the lineup.

      • I was really hoping to see Erykah. I’d pay the ticket price to see her, Mary J. Blige, Janelle, Gossip, Cat Power or (this being Texas and all) even someone like Loretta Lynn. Texas is getting none of the above.

  • keke

    First let me just say…awesome article, it was a great read!

    Yeah, I was actually really excited about the return of Lilith Fair. I remember it was extremely popular during my high school years. although i never went to any of the concerts, I do remember Lilith Fair played a big part in the exposure of many female artists/musicians…the chick rock. and i became a fan of artists such as Sarah McLachlan, Sean Colvin, Joan Osborne and a whole host of other women in the folksy/rock music genre.

    I’m really excited to see a more diverse lineup, and I think may help with the success of the tour and I hope that it boosts the profile of these artists, namely Janelle Monae….that chick deserves to be a household name.

    So sad that she will not be performing in Chicago, neither is Eryka or Jill or Sheryl Crow. Mary will be in the Chi but I’m not into her that much. But there some good names on the Chicago line-up, I just don’t know if I want to actually pay to see them.

    If Janelle Monae was performing in Chicago, I wouldn’t even think twice, I would have already bought my ticket.

  • Jesse

    I think it is about time we hear something different-people are craving honest and authentic music again. As a musician in Nashville, I really think the folk/americana scene is a locomotive on its way up. Maybe the ’60’s will come back around again…in a new way…where people actually appreciated music—the lyrics, the honesty, the raw. I think once that happens, everyone will breathe a hugh sigh of relief.

  • Wow Lilth Fair, that’s a blast from the past. I haven’t heard it spoken about in years. I use to love Sarah and like said before she introduced me to a lot of musicians I would have turned from or simply ignored. “Sunny Cames Home” was my song.

    Peace, Love and Chocolate

  • Dennis

    I’ve been a fan of women rockers and blues women, even soul, for decades, not much into pop or strummers. Besides looking for a diversity in the line-up how about diversity in the crowds? I’d pay good money to see a line-up with Marcia Ball (great cajun piano player), Janiva Magness (only the second female BB King Blues Artist of the Year, the first was Etta James), Sue Foley (really terrific blues guitarist from Canada), or my favorite all girl tribute band AC/DShe. The point is there are really terrific female acts, in all genres that appeal to a lot of different tastes that would attract a really diverse crowd. These women performers above consistlently play to sell crowds in dive bars, honkey tonks and road houses all over the country–not sure why they haven’t achieved a national following–they draw bigger crowds in Europe than they do in Amerika–and they play the music of the national patrimony. So yeah, Lithith Faire seems kind of frivolous, put on by people who neither understand music or sociology.

    • I disagree. While I’m not familiar with the artists you mentioned, I’m also not familiar with most of the second and third stage acts at Lilith, either. But from the research I did for this piece, the genres appear to be much more diverse this time around. I don’t see anything frivolous about Lilith Fair.

  • In the era of the Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin, and the Eagles, did we really need, or even want, punk rock? In the era of Chic, the Trammps, and the Bee Gees, do we really need, or even want, hip hop? (I suppose it depends on what you mean by “we”…)

    Some of us will always need musical alternatives, regardless of the identity groups we belong to. Pop doesn’t, and never will, do it for everybody.

  • Joy Marie

    in a world with taylor swift (whoes lyrics pit girls against each other, and drools over boys who are uninterested in her) we are in desperate need of some empowering female music. (@ Jess )But maybe the line up could use some more female hip hoppers.

  • Scipio Africanus

    Straight up and down, if I could organize a concert over maybe an entire day of Fiona Apple, E. Badu, Janelle Monae, Natalie Merchant, Alanis Morisette, a behaved Lauryn, Me’Shell, maybe Lyte, and, say, Haila Monpie or Vannia Borges (for my Cuban music lovers) I’d pay alot of money to see that. I’d travel to see that.