Mazzy Star, “I’ve Been Let Down”
This breezy, nearly bluesy acoustic tune on the 1996 release Among My Swan possesses a rare degree of vulnerability. Despite a mere three chords and simple lyrics, the tune manages to convey a universal yet highly unhealthy emotional state (“make me feel like I belong to you/make me feel it even if it ain’t true”). The narrator is well aware of her affliction, but won’t pull herself away from it. Use this tune sparingly, as Mazzy Star tends to be habit-forming. I prescribe a few spins for when the asshat who somehow caught your attention stops calling once he realizes you’re are smarter than he is. Yeah, it seems like it sucks now, but you should be focusing on your career anyway. Mazzy Star produced some of the most amorous music on the planet, much of it revolving around heartbreak and disappointment. You’d be much better off experiencing these sentiments vicariously through them (singer Hope Sandoval’s vocals are like plum wine) than seeking out your own disappointment, trap or distraction. So bust out the pink nail polish, pour yourself a glass of moderately priced pinot noir and throw on this sonic gem.
Memphis Minnie, “Kissing in the Dark”
Okay, so you know the Zeppelin tune “When the Levee Breaks?” That body slam of a song that closes out Zeppelin IV? Bet you didn’t know a girl wrote it. Not too many people are aware of Memphis Minnie despite her immense influence on music. The Algiers, Louisiana native ran away from home at age 13, played clubs in Memphis, joined the circus and later became the most popular female blues musician during the Great Depression. Her guitar work was more tapestry than ribbon and her voice a well-oiled machine. If you’re a fan of those super-gritty Robert Johnson recordings you may want to dial up songza.com and search for some of her tunes. This woman’s phenomenal talents and tasty tunes are only part of the equation; the fact that everything she was flew squarely in the face of convention should inspire single young women to foster their independence, flamboyance and rebellion rather than settle unquestioningly into the life of a breeder. Memphis Minnie was living proof of the adage, “well-behaved women seldom make history.”
Joni Mitchell, “Cactus Tree”
Most boys do not like Joni Mitchell. I can see why, as every note of her music, especially her early stuff, exudes unabashed femininity. Coupled with her musical talents, her work can be downright intimidating. Mitchell’s compositions tend to be extremely elaborate, utilizing guitar tunings of her own invention. Her lyrics are painting-like portrayals, packed with subtle social commentary and character studies. Independence is a common theme. “Cactus Tree” describes a young woman’s various suitors, who are trying to reel her in while “she’s so busy being free.” Now, Joni wrote this during a time when young women were sent to college to find a husband rather than cultivate a meaningful career or pursue their true passions. This song’s protagonist is a traveler who runs away out of fear that one of said dudes “will ask her for eternity.” Sheltered individuals may accuse her of being a woman of loose morals, in an attempt to defend their own gravitation toward easy answers. But this is clearly not the case. Instead, romance is secondary to our heroine, who clearly has other, bigger things on her mind. MTW