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From Janis Joplin to P.J. Harvey, Women and Popular Music explores the changing role of women musicians and the ways in which their songs resonate in popular culture. Through a series of artist case studies Sheila Whiteley examines the interaction between feminist debates and music culture over thirty years of pop history.
Sheila Whiteley begins by examining the counter-culture's reactionary attitudes to women through the lyrics of The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. She explores the ways in which artists like Joplin and Joni Mitchell confronted issues of sexuality and freedom, redefining women's participation in the industry, and assesses the personal cost of their achievements. She considers how stars such as Annie Lennox, Madonna and k.d. lang have confronted issues of gender stereotyping and sexuality, through pop videos for 'Justify My Love' and 'Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)', and looks at the enduring importance of the singer-songwriter through artists such as Tracey Chapman. Lastly, she assesses the contribution of contemporary artists including Tori Amos, P.J. Harvey and Courtney Love, and asks whether the Spice Girls are just a 'cartoon feminist pop group' or if they provide positive role models for teenage girls.