In Celtic mythology the shriek of a banshee was the sign of death approaching. Some women even worked as banshees, wailing laments for lost souls for a price. The sound of a woman screaming had power to strike fear, but at the same time it was also a howl of pain which was understood by all.
Researchers into use of language in literature identified that women invariably are described as ‘shrieking’ and ‘screaming’ while men are more likely to be said to be ‘shouting’. Therefore you could argue that screaming is seen by many as an expression of unwanted emotion, as though such outbursts are a sign of weakness or madness.
You’d think then that this would mean women would be known as the best screamers in music. Somehow the music industry bias means even this accolade is skewed in the favour of men. Quite a few publications have run ‘the best screams in music’ lists and women are poorly represented on them all. Paste magazine’s list included zero female screams, Pigeon and Planes had a few but nowhere near 50% and The Independent actually said: ‘Great female screams are quite scarce, it seems.’ That of course is totally wrong and insulting. Women have been screaming on record for a long time and they still are, just listen to the new Bully album.
So in honour of all banshees everywhere and since it’s Halloween here are my five favourite female screaming songs.
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