AKB48 – Kimi Wa Melody

Infectious bubble gum pop ecstasy, or borderline “ear worm” annoying?

AKB48 (pronounced A.K.B. Forty-eight) is a Japanese pop act, a super-group not just in their popularity throughout Asia, but because somehow the band has more than 100 members.

The group has found controversy for seeming to use underage sexual imagery in lyrics and videos, and at public appearances such as in their own theatre. For example, a magazine photo showed a member with her naked breasts covered by what looked like a child’s hands.

AKB48 is also seen as providing examples of strong female role models to Japanese culture, in a larger society that is seeking to make gains for gender equality. But another member shaved her head as some sort of apology, after she stayed over night with a man.

Fanny – Ain’t That Peculiar

It’s said Fanny were the first all girl group to put out a record on a major label, but perhaps this ignores Motown (this song is a Marvin Gaye/Smokey Robinson cover)? This isn’t a racist conceit with two members of Fanny born in the Philippines.

So how about the band gets the kudos because they rocked to their own tunes that they also performed.

In 1970s larger society, women were becoming less deferential and advocating for equal treatment and respect. Fanny is said to have been a feminist beacon, at least for for rock music. They faced obstacles, even being prohibited from playing at a UK concert once for being too sexy!

Coon Creek Girls – Banjo Pickin’ Girls

It’s toe-tapping time!

The Coon Creek Girls beat Hillary Clinton to the Oval Office. In 1939, this all-girl, early country music outfit gigged at the White House. There, they entertained King George VI and Queen Elizabeth, for President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Politics can be divisive, and the string band players who had success in a male industry, went separate ways by the end of the year.

Bruce Hornsby – The Way It Is

Does passing a law change people’s thoughts and behaviors?

Bruce Hornsby was skeptical in 1986 – “the law don’t change another’s mind” – thinking back to the US 1964 Civil Rights Act.

This law banned discrimination based on skin color and religion at private establishments like lodging and restaurants, and public places at the state and local government level. Employers were forbidden to discriminate on these grounds and gender, too. The law eased restrictions on voting for African Americans, though did not end qualification requirements. It started the progress toward desegregation of public schools.

 

Against Me! – True Trans Soul Rebel

Singer Tom Gabel said he was transgender, and is now known as Laura Jane Grace. This song is from the punk band’s sixth album, Transgender Dysphoria (2013). This is another term for what psychologists may refer to as gender identity disorder: believing/knowing one is born the wrong sex, basically.

When people identify with the interests, perspectives, values and beliefs of groups in society, this is sometimes called “identity politics.” A big part of identity politics is concern and advocacy for minority representation and rights.

 

Beastie Boys And GoldieBlox – Girls

Fabricated pop bands are nothing new, whether that be 1990s boy bands or 1960s bubble gum pop outfits. Coca Cola sort of had a hit song, with I’d Like To Teach (The  World To Sing). Here, a toy company using YouTube, that figures its aim is to encourage girls to consider engineering as a career (by buying their toys), found itself plagiarizing the Beastie Boys 1987 song, Girls.

The Beastie Boys’ song was most likely a playful, tongue in cheek, frat humor throwaway… more than a deliberately misogynistic and anti-feminist rant in need of awkward political correction:

Girls to build a spaceship / Girls to code the new app / Girls to grow up knowing / That they can engineer that.

(Disappointing that a juvenile ditty is ripped off with high school quality rhyming?)

The now deceased Beastie Adam Yauch never wanted his group’s music used in commercials. GoldieBlox figured they were doing a parody, which allows reproduction. But they apologized to the Beastie Boys all the same.

(Yet the Beastie’s masterpiece record Paul’s Boutique bursts with unlicensed samples?)

Umm, meanwhile, some might say girls were needlessly caught in the  middle of a dispute about routes to their empowerment they never asked to be party to.

Helen Reddy – I Am Woman

A million-plus seller from 1972 on women’s empowerment that later became used at beauty pageants and on beer commercials…

But even if Reddy came to resent being mostly known for it, the influence on popular culture and feminism is tremendous.

The lyrics call for not giving up in seeking gender equality, that setbacks only embolden, and that this is just a start (“I’m still an embyro”). In this respect, feminism, as an ideology is often characterized as “post materialist.” That is, it concerns itself with matters of self-fulfilment. Too, feminism doesn’t stop: gains made are paths to seeking more improvements for women. This makes feminism and other ideologies such as environmentalism more evolving and dynamic than historical forebears such as liberalism, socialism and conservatism.