A Hierarchy of Lilith Fair Artists
Last week, the initial line-up was announced for next summer's return of Lilith Fair, Sarah McLachlan's late-'90s festival celebrating music made by women. The last Lilith Fair was held over a decade ago, but memories of McLachlan & co.'s earnest acoustic ballads have not faded from public consciousness (nor has the faint smell of sandalwood). For all its feminist cred, Lilith Fair isn't exactly remembered as the most exciting show, musically.
But now that some of the artists lined up for Lilith Fair 2010 have been revealed, we may begin to answer the eternal question: Will new Lilith Fair be too much like old Lilith Fair?
When the Lilith Fair reboot was first announced earlier this year, the feminist blogosphere erupted with "meh." Kate Harding described the neo-hippie image Lilith couldn't shake: "a bunch of broomstick-skirted college students who talked about their periods too much going to see a bunch of white ladies you could hear in your dentist's office." Sady Doyle situated Lilith in history: "To me, it doesn't represent feminist innovation, but the moment right after feminist innovation went mainstream and right before it was swept off the stage." And Amanda Marcotte dismissed it on artistic merits: "I’m sure MacLachlan means well, but she’s done the greater feminist music community a great disservice. . . the phrase 'feminist music' has all these connotations that are completely unfair: women with acoustic guitars boring you with their earnest, pedantic music."
Will next year's Lilith artists—including McLachlan, Mary J. Blige, Sheryl Crow, Indigo Girls, Chairlift, Sara Bareilles, Ingrid Michaelson, Emmylou Harris, Corrine Bailey Rae, Ke$ha, Erykah Badu, and Colbie Caillat—help represent feminist innovation in lady rock? Or will they continue to further the adult-contemporary stereotype of feminist music that is JUST SO UNFAIR?
Below, I've ranked a selection of these artists based on how many of the Classic Lilith Fair Keywords apply to them. The keywords are: Acoustic, Hippie, Earnest, White, Canadian, and Contemporary. Let's see how they do, from most Lilith to least Lilith.
MORE LILITH THAN THE ADULT CONTEMPORARY STATION WAFTING FROM YOUR DENTIST'S OFFICE:
1. Sarah McLachlan
Lilith Fair Keywords: Acoustic, Hippie, Earnest, White, Canadian, Contemporary
2. Colbie Caillat
And coming in fast on the inside is Colbie Caillat! I am convinced that Colbie Caillat was born to play Lilith Fair, only the festival passed before her time, so Fate was forced to re-organize Lilith Fair next summer in order to put Colbie Caillat in her rightful place in the Universe, which is Lilith Fair.
Colbia Caillat is all earnest contemporary hippie accoustic, no complications. Check out the lyrics to her first hit, "Bubbly": "I've been awake for a while now / you've got me feelin' like a child now / cause every time I see your bubbly face / I get the tinglies in a silly place." What?
Lilith Fair Keywords: Accoustic, Earnest, White, Contemporary, Hippie
AS LILITH FAIR AS THE BROOMSTICK SKIRT YOU'VE HAD STUCK IN THE BACK OF YOUR CLOSET SINCE 1997 AND CAN'T SEEM TO GET RID OF, FOR SOME REASON:
3. Sheryl Crow
Sheryl Crow's guitar is electric, a bit of a departure for Lilith's inner circle. But Crow is Lilith through and through—she played all three Lilith Fair tours in the '90s, where she churned out her brand of reliable American rock that manages to never get too interesting.
Lilith Fair Keywords: White, Contemporary
4. Sara Bareilles
I can't blame Sarah Bareilles for the fact that her hit, "Love Song," quickly became The Only Song You Are Allowed To Play In The Trailer For Every Romantic Comedy Ever. But can Sarah Bareilles blame me for the fact that I cannot hear her music without thinking of Patrick Dempsey taking a series of absurd pratfalls in the course of his Maid of Honor duties? No. No one is to blame here.
Lilith Fair Keywords: White, Earnest, Contemporary, Acoustic (a piano is acoustic, right?)
NOT TOO LILITH-Y:
There's a dude in this band!
Keywords: White, Canadian
6. Tegan and Sara:
Tegan and Sara are, in fact, Lilith Fair royalty: They played one show on a tiny stage back in 1999. They were one of the most interesting acts there. (Not that I was there, mind you. I looked it up on Wikipedia).
Lilith Fair Keywords: White, Canadian
7. Mary J. Blige
I love that Mary is playing Lilith Fair. That is all.
MIGHT BE CAUGHT WEARING BIRKENSTOCKS WITH SANDALS, BUT ONLY IRONICALLY:
And then we have Ke$ha. With lyrics like "I'm talking about everybody getting crunk, crunk / Boys tryin' to touch my junk, junk," Ke$ha's "TiK ToK" doesn't exactly situate herself as a likely collaborator for McLachlan's next live recording of "Angel." Ke$ha's auto-tuned party jams aren't typical Lilith Fair material, but that doesn't mean they're particularly challenging, either.
Lilith Fair Keywords: White.
I DON'T CARE THAT SHE'S KINDA LILITH-Y, DO NOT SPEAK ILL OF EMMYLOU HARRIS:
9. Emmylou Harris
Yes, Emmylou Harris has actually recorded a duet of "Angel" with Sarah McLachlan (free if you sign up for the Lilth Fair newsletter!) But I'm going to show my hand here: Emmylou Harris is awesome.
Lilith Fair Keywords: White, Accoustic, Hippie
Full list of Lilith acts released so far: A Fine Frenzy, Ann Atomic, Ash Koley, Brandi Carlile, Butterfly Boucher, Chairlift, Chantal Kreviazuk, Colbie Caillat, Corinne Bailey Rae, Donna Delory, Emmylou Harris, Erykah Badu, Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, Ima, Indigo Girls, Ingrid Michaelson, Janelle Monae, Jennifer Knapp, Jill Hennessy, Jill Scott, Katzenjammer, Ke$ha, Mary J. Blige, Meaghan Smith, Metric, Miranda Lambert, Nneka, Sara Bareilles, Sarah McLachlan, Serena Ryder, Sheryl Crow, Sugarland, Susan Justice, Tara MacLean, Tegan and Sara, Vedera, Vita Chambers, The Submarines, The Weepies, Ximena Sarinana, Zee Avi