Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Singing the unsung

  • 15 September 2020
I stare out the bus window, my eyes chasing raindrops down the glass. They jiggle in unison as we jolt over speed bumps. I imagine they’re dancing along with the songs belting through my tangled earphones.  A Carla Geneve lyric catches my attention: It's raining on Tuesday, got my Doc Martens wet. I glance down and smile at my soggy docs.

I’m cheap-wine drunk and giggling with my friend. We dance around the room in our undies, ignoring our unfinished uni assignments in the corner. Alex Lahey is blasting from the speaker as we yell along: I went to B Grade University and got myself an arts degree!

I’ve just met someone new, and we’ve been chatting all week. I go out night after night in a big group, and he’s there too. We flirt on the dancefloor, obvious and awkward and excellent, and I can’t stop smiling on the way home. There’s an Amy Shark song stuck in my head: I had a great night because you kept pressing against my arm. 

Women’s voices have long been deemed unpleasant and unneeded. In her 1995 essay The Gender of Sound, Anne Carson explains that in Hellenistic and Roman times, women’s very vocal chords were considered incompatible with meaningful sound: women were too shrill, too hysterical, too woman. Carson notes that from Ancient Greece until the modern day, the patriarchy has said of women: ‘their sounds are bad to hear and make men uncomfortable.’ Thus, women and their stories have historically remained unsung. 

The modern music industry reflects and perpetuates the sexism of the song-world. The USC Annenburg Inclusion Initiative found that women 'are missing in popular music,' with 3.6 male artists for every female artist and 37 male producers for every female producer in the Billboard Hot 100 song list of 2019. But times are changing­ — or rather, they are being changed at the hands of exceptional woman-musicians across Australia. In fact, Aussie youth broadcaster’s Triple J’s latest Hottest 100 showed a shifting sentiment to women in music, as more and more women take to the stage and sing their stories. 

And these stories are immeasurably important. When Geneve sings about wet boots and Lahey sings about university and Shark sings about flirting on a night out, they are singing, seemingly innocuously, about their banal everyday life. But when I hear those songs, I hear my quotidian, too. And I hear: ‘these are our lives, the everyday lives