Monday, 1 September 2008

Women Don’t Rock!

The kids are calling for a smothering by bollock-swinging, sweaty, stadium rockitypop, so AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Dragonforce & Rush will be coming round to drink your Red Bull, mess up your bed and call your mother rude names. That’s right, all the greats are lining up inside Rock Band 2, and you get to party like a real rock legend if you play with them!

Harmonix, and their Guitar Hero brothers Neversoft, have been releasing a never-ending stream of hard-rocking games based on the premise that you get to pal-up with the big names from rock history. But as Leonie Cooper at
The Guardian pointed out some time ago (sorry I’m late) it’s pretty much only the men who get to play.

That’s because across the five games there are less female artists included than there were Tupperware parties at Kurt & Courtney’s house. Is that because Hole, The Slits, Gossip, Blondie or Polly Jean herself, don’t deserve a spot at the rock picnic alongside The Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and The Offspring (?!)? Hardly.

Sure, you can play along with Bikini Kill, Joan Jett or The Donnas, but the pitiful number of female-fronted bands out of the 85 plus tracks on Rock Band 2 means you’ll have to replay those few a lot if you don’t fancy singing along to Journey. Again. According to
Eric Brosious (RB2’s Audio Director) “[There are] more female-fronted bands this time… but not enough. Oddly enough, girls don’t seem to mind singing guy songs, but guys don’t like singing girl songs, we’re such idiots”. Seems like Brosious' heart is in the right place, but distinguishing between guy and girl songs in the first place ain’t a great start.

So maybe it is because the boys demand that the disc be loaded with as many Judas Priest tracks as possible. But if Harmonix are content to keep the boys (and girls) drumming along to an achingly out-dated beat, and will happily admit to doing so, we'll have to take it back to basics, strap on our air guitar and make do with striking some classic Courtney Love poses.

Jordan Stead

Currently listening to...
Lykke Li - Youth Novels
Feist - The Reminder
Gwen Stefani - The Sweet Escape


James said...

According to wikipedia, Blondie are in Rock Band 2, as are Paramore, Lush, The Go-Gos as well as boy/girl-fronted acts like Sonic Youth, Fleetwood Mac and Lacuna Coil. I'm not suggesting things are equal - I'm no maniac - but I wonder: do you think the ratio of male/female vocalists featured in these games is any different than that of popular rock music as a whole? After all, I don't really see the male equivalents of Lykke Li and Feist in Rock Band either.

Coligo said...

A fair point, but even if the numbers are representative then the makers of these games are simply propagating inequality. The games needn't be representative, that's not what they're supposed to do; rather they exist to present music that is fun to play along with. Given the influence they wield surely it is not too much to ask for a little redress to an imbalance that exists in real life.

There are enough great tracks by female artists that would work incredibly well that they could make a great playing experience and a statement at the same time.

James said...

True dat, papa bear.