Albums of the Year 2021

In 2021 I have reviewed nearly forty albums and which have all connected with me on some personal level. Overall I have found this year tough as I have struggled to really love a lot of the albums released this year, compared with the last few years.

So for this end of year list I have tried to single out the fifteen albums which really stood out among the gloom, ones which have helped me in some way.

For the top spot I have gone with the criteria which I have used since I started this blog: most listened to solo female artist with the majority of songs on the album solo written. This choice has helped me single out the talent from a sea of quality offerings.

Please note that this list only includes albums I have reviewed so obviously I don’t include any male artists.

This list includes links to my original album reviews, rather than risk repeating myself. Happy new year and thanks for reading!

Continue reading “Albums of the Year 2021”

Songs of the Year 2021

Well this has been the strangest year of my blogging life. The triple whammy of a pandemic, lack of live music and mid-life apathy has caused me to struggle to connect with new music. The less I blogged, the more I felt out of touch, the more writing became harder and social media became terrifying, until you wonder why you ever started in the first place.

In the end what brings me back here are the songs. There are so many amazing female artists whose music inspires me to write, helps me, entertains me, moves me and that will never change even if the world does.

If you’re reading this then thank you for bearing with my sporadic blogging schedule this year. Here are a list of songs that got me through, that kept me believing in something, anything, everything. I hope you find a kindred spirit & song in this post. Continue reading “Songs of the Year 2021”

Thoughts on the 2022 Grammy Nominations

What a long, strange year it’s been. The fact that we’re even having an almost normal 2022 Grammy ceremony is a miracle in itself, considering the pandemic has caused havoc to the music industry on so many different levels. Consequently it’s been a variable year in terms of quality releases, so I’m thankful to have these nominations to remind us of what good stuff deserves further attention. Continue reading “Thoughts on the 2022 Grammy Nominations”

Slight Return

Doesn’t everyone at some point dream of going back in time to their youth? Who wouldn’t want to experience life again without the crushing reality of adult human existence weighing us all down?

After the last eighteen months of coronavirus hell, I was craving such a moment. So when I saw the chance to get tickets to see two bands I had loved as a teenager – Britpop legends Sleeper and the Bluetones – it felt like a strange kind of serendipity. Restrictions had just been lifted in Scotland. I was double jagged and desperate to get some kind of normality back to my flatlined existence. Continue reading “Slight Return”

The Other Side of ‘Cancelled’

After the string of abuse allegations against Ryan Adams were published by the New York Times I was one of the first fans to write my cancellation statement. As far as I was concerned we were done. I didn’t want to hear his music again. Life was too short to put any more of my personal energy into supporting his career.

Two and a half years later the reality of what ‘cancelled’ means as a music fan is actually way more complex than I ever imagined. Continue reading “The Other Side of ‘Cancelled’”

Women in Music to Support on Patreon Right Now!

This year has exposed the uncomfortable truth that many in the music industry are struggling to keep their heads above water both financially and emotionally. The pandemic has destroyed the touring eco-system and underlined the endemic issues caused by loss of income due to streaming.

Paradoxically the Internet which caused the collapse of physical record buying, could actually offer some useful solutions. Since lockdown began musicians have been diversifying into live-streaming and using their social media to connect with fans.

Platforms like Instagram and YouTube offer further opportunities but these may veer too close to asking musicians to become influencers or vloggers for some to be entirely comfortable. Selling out might be an outdated concept but there are still some limits. And while crowdfunding for individual projects has been helpful in the past, many have been burned by the Pledge Music scandal which left artists and fans out of pocket and suspicious of digital middle men.

In contrast the direct funding site Patreon seems to be much less of a risky endeavour. Artists ask for monthly donations in return for tiered rewards which are usually content based rather than linked to physical products – for example exclusive live-streams, q and as, discounts on merch, first opportunities to buy tickets for shows, written updates, cover songs, workshops, meet and greets etc. Some do offer physical products but there seems to be less potential for issues if Patreon ceased to exist.

Like the name suggests this is inspired by the original idea of patronage where someone with money supported an artist just to do their work. The site’s model goes further than this by incorporating ideas from social media to help create communities of fans, letting them connect with the artist on a new level. Most fans donating will likely buy albums too so this becomes an additional rather than a replacement source of funding.

Personally I’m happy to just donate without rewards but I can see the added value in what many artists are offering. When I asked about the site on Twitter I received only positive feedback from fans and artists alike. For once this seems to be working for everyone.

The only problem with Patreon then is choosing how to spend your money if you are lucky enough to have some extra to give. There are hundreds of worthy artists all needing your help. My plan is to donate a certain amount of money each month and then rotate to new artists after six months. Some might prefer just to choose one favourite and give them as much as they can afford.

If you are looking for options here is a list of women in music who are currently using Patreon – all of whom have been featured on Highway Queens in the past. Click below to help support the future of music:

Continue reading “Women in Music to Support on Patreon Right Now!”

Remembering Mary Wilson and her ‘Supreme Glamour’

Founding member of the Supremes Mary Wilson has sadly died at the age of 76, leaving behind a lasting legacy in Motown and music history. While the famous story of the band’s unravelling pits Diana Ross against Florence Ballard, the narrative that is often overlooked is how Mary survived as a Supreme through the whole ordeal, continuing the band after Ballard was dismissed and Ross went stratospherically solo. Mary’s story is one of quiet endurance and commitment to performance and style – beautifully told in her recent book ‘Supreme Glamour’. Continue reading “Remembering Mary Wilson and her ‘Supreme Glamour’”

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