EqualizeHer had gathered a lot of diverse and talented women on Sunday night. The new organization, launched by singer-songwriter-producer Linda Perry and philanthropy partner Alisha Ballard, has for goal to create equitable spaces for women and provide support and resources for women interested in music-industry careers, and, last night, a full night of music was organized at the legendary Troubadour in Los Angeles. A few lucky female artists, who had either never performed live or had little experience, ended up opening for artists such as Aimee Mann, Tinashe, and Paris Jackson!
Today, everyone is talking about gender inequality in the music business but Linda Perry, who is known for having produced very popular songs –including “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera, “What You Waiting For?” by Gwen Stefani, and “Get the Party Started” by Pink to name a few – is taking real action. “I’ve been in this business for a very long time and I’ve seen many people adapt to the industry standard of how females are represented and treated,” said Linda Perry in an interview pre-show. “To turn our back on what is still a very current issue is just as bad as the problem itself, and we need to show our young females how to rise above and fight for what they believe in. On October 9, we are going to let our young female talent perform for the first time at the legendary Troubadour where many iconic powerful artists have played, giving them a taste of the possibilities because when you are on that stage everyone is equal.”
“The lack of opportunities and safe spaces for women to thrive in the music industry today – no matter the path they choose – is unacceptable,” EqualizeHer-co-Founder Alisha Ballard continued. “This event is about starting a movement and rallying support around a change whose time has come. With artists such as Paris Jackson, Aimee Mann, and Tinashe coming out to perform and help spread our message and having the right people in the room to hear it is how we are going to start to make a real impact.”
According to statistics, women represent only 21% of artists, 12.6% of songwriters, and 2.6% of producers, while fewer than 1% of popular songs are written solely by women. Last night, Linda Perry also pointed out that there are very few women involved in other behind-the-scenes positions. “Girls just don’t have to be sexy on stage,” she said while introducing the first female performer, the 17-year-old Ashley, who sang her own compositions. The young girl was visibly intimidated and shaking a bit, but she soon played her sweet and intimate songs with confidence, just accompanied by her ukulele. Handpicked by Linda herself, the other performers included Whesli whose R&B-injected, soulful, playful songs, and elastic vocals reminded me of Moses Sumney’s debut… plus how could you resist a cover of Bill Withers’s “Ain’t no sunshine” Audley was a funky big-hair rapper who brought plenty of energy on stage, especially when two female dancers came on stage to fire up the performance. “Anyone working for a label here?” asked Perry, “She is ready to go, stop fucking with the numbers!” Tish Melton brought emotion into the room with luminous, fully crafted folk songs whose lyrics and melodies were glowing beyond her young age. “She is going to be huge,” predicted Linda Perry after her performance. “Talent is one part of it, you have to have the drive and this kid is the full package,” said Perry to introduce another performer, Jasmine Star. The young woman surely had the right attitude and rocked the room with a funky guitar, an electrifying performance, and plenty of flashy effects. But let’s not forget, there was also a totally adorable and surprise performance by Linda Perry’s son, 7-year-old Rhodes, who sang Cher’s “Dark Lady” with so much conviction and expressivity that he certainly stole the show.
Aimee Mann, Tinashe, and Paris Jackson played a short set each, and who could better represent the diversity of women’s talents than these three? Aimee Mann, wearing a “My Aim is True” shirt, performed a few of her perfectly crafted songs, little vignettes-like novels over creative and melancholic chords that are so cinematic that several of her songs played a central role in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “Magnolia.” Aimee precisely did one of the soundtrack of “Magnolia,” “Save Me” along with “Burn It Out” off her last album “Queens of the Summer Hotel” exploring mental illness, as well as a few songs off “The Forgotten Arm”: “I Can’t Help you Help Anymore” and “Video.”
If I am much more familiar with Aimee Mann than Tinashe, it was not the case for many young women around me who got excited when the R&B singer appeared on stage wearing a very sexy black dress with giant puffy sleeves. She sang “Naturally” just accompanied by a discreet acoustic guitar, followed by the hot number “X,” “Last Call,” and “Remember When.” She surely charmed the cheering crowd who, a few minutes later, stayed very quiet during Paris Jackson’s set. The young woman sang a very intimate set of melancholic songs – one of them was the title track of her new record, which I don’t think is released yet. She asked for the lights to be turned off, “I don’t like to be seen when I sing.” Her voice was sweet and vulnerable, reminiscent of Billy Eilish at times, but soaring above the melody during “breathe again,” while her guitar melodies were quite beautiful, with a touching alt-folk or even ethereal vibe. Overall, Paris, who released the album “wilted” with collaborators Andy Hull and Robert McDowell of Manchester Orchestra in 2020, sounded a bit sad and very humble, but nothing in her music was reminiscent of her famous father’s music, the elephant in the room whose name was never pronounced during the night.
EqualizerHer, which was launched earlier this year at SXSW 2022, promised to be an interesting project to follow. Opportunities for women should be cherished and this event at the Troubadour – a legendary venue that has helped launch the music careers of hundreds of leading artists – was just the first in a series of planned events by Perry and Ballard’s organization to put talented women on the stage and in the studio. You can watch parts of the performances of this memorable night on EqualizeHer’s Instagram page.
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