Rachel Maria Cox is Newcastle’s “favourite boy band” and Sad Grrrls Club Records affiliate. With ground breaking self described “emo-pop”, Rachel and co. are tearing up their local scene and only have more to come. We had a chat with Rachel about 14 songs that break the barrier.
Rachel: All of these songs & artists I’ve chosen are specifically those who have either broken new ground for or have been key figures of particular groups who have typically been marginalised and underrepresented in music. I think celebrating the artists who are making amazing music in what has typically been an industry dominated by cisgender, heterosexual white men is important to creating a more diverse and accepting musical culture.
I acknowledge that a lot of this music is almost certainly more significant for people of colour and black people than I can appreciate. It’s not necessarily for me, but I still feel that I have a responsibility to amplify these voices as much as I can. Please let this music speak for itself as much as possible, I don’t feel that my words can really do a lot of it justice.
David Bowie & Queen – ‘Under Pressure’
Both these artists were pioneers both musically and for LGBTQIA people and this collaboration between the two of them is an unforgettable song. Both these men dared to do new things creatively that celebrated their difference and the striking simplicity of Under Pressure creates a sort of underlying tension or anticipation of a better time for people of gender and sexual minorities.
A.B. Original & Dan Sultan – ‘January 26‘
As barriers go in Australia, it’s an undeniable fact that Indigenous Australians face a lot more of them than white Australians, and have since Invasion Day (or Australia Day), January 26th. This song is so significant because it not only forced Australians to face up to the shameful elements of our history that January 26th celebrates, but also the fact that we still have a long way to go. The fact that this song reached the top ten of Triple J’s Hottest 100 and actually prompted them to change the date of the countdown will always be one of my favourite moments in Australian Music history.
Bjork – ‘Dark Matter’
When talking about artists who break the barrier it’s very hard to go past Bjork as an artist who has always pushed the boundaries of music, pioneered for women in music and particularly female producers, and been an all round creative force to be reckoned with. Biophilia, the album that this song comes off, was also the first album ever to be released as a series of interactive apps. I remember learning about this when I was studying music and just being so blown away by Bjork’s ability to push every single boundary of music and technology and to defy any kind of categorising.
Baker Boy – ‘Marryuna (feat. Yirrimal)‘
Another important Indigenous artist is Baker Boy, and this song to be the first Indigenous language song to be in the hottest 100, plus it’s a straight up banger. The preservation and celebration of Indigenous languages in any form is so important and I think this song is a turning point for seeing Indigenous musicians.
Habits – ‘Selfie’
Habits make really boundary pushing music. One of the things that I think a lot of people outside of the LGBTQ community don’t quite understand sometimes is that when you are not often represented in any kind of media, to not only push for your own representation but to celebrate your own public presence is an act of defiance. Selfie is one of my favourite songs of this year and Habits are one of my favourite acts in Australia ever.
Tori Amos – ‘Me And a Gun’
The first time I ever heard this song it was so striking I felt paralysed. It’s the first song I ever heard that dealt explicitly with the feeling of being raped, and the fact that it’s completely a cappella was also something I’d never really heard before. Tori Amos is not an artist who shies away from challenging subject matter but I think this is one of my favourites for being both so raw and so unflinching.
Against Me! – ‘True Trans Soul Rebel’
It’s almost impossible to talk about artists or songs that break boundaries without talking about Against Me! I don’t even have anything else to say about this choice except it’s an amazing song, and amazing album, and an amazing band.
Janelle Monae – ‘Make Me Feel’
Okay so first off this song SLAPS. Hard. A big nod to Prince and Michael Jackson who were both groundbreaking artists in their own right, but the sexual ambiguity in this song also makes it in my opinion a bit of a queer anthem. In case you have not noticed a trend yet I am ALL about LGBTQ artists making kickass music.
Miss Blanks – Skinny Bitches (Feat. Moonbase)’
I’m actually going to quote Miss Blanks herself on this one because I think she’s one of the best voices in music right now and everyone should be following her on twitter. “Could you imagine a highly visible trans woman of colour putting out a rap record celebrating women with a fat ass while ALSO dismantling Eurocentric beauty standards and the heteronormative male gaze/ownership over femme bodies IN THE TRACK? Oh wait, I did that.”
Kendrick Lamar – ‘King Kunta’
To Pimp A Butterfly is another one of those albums that you almost can’t ignore when it comes to definitive albums. A lot of other people have spoken about why it’s so important and I’m not going to even try and add to that, I just have so much respect for Kendrick as an artist and for this album in particular.
Two Steps On The Water – ‘Hold Me’
I don’t know that there are many other songwriters currently working in Australian music who have the ability to rip a heart out as efficiently as June Jones. Unlike the upbeat defiance of trans artists like Habits and Miss Blanks, Two Steps On The Water are a band who manage to perfectly encapsulate the vulnerability and softness that comes with it. I challenge you not to cry.
High Tension – ‘Bully’
Honestly I kinda wish I was half the powerhouse that Karina Utomo is. When I was a teenager and first started going to hardcore and heavy shows the representation of women and people of colour was practically non-existent, so to see a band like High Tension succeed I hope makes that heavy music boys club a little bit afraid.
Hayley Kiyoko – ‘Girls Like Girls’
I just love how gay this is for a pop song. It’s beautiful. Like Taylor Swift for all the girls who like girls.
Jessica Mauboy – ‘Running Back (Feat. Flo Rida)’
Finally, I think it’s important to give a nod to an artist who has had such a consistent career in commercial pop music, Jessica Mauboy. There’s a lot of talk about how representation is important within independent and alternative music communities but to see an Indigenous woman thrive in the overwhelmingly white Australian Pop industry is something that I don’t think should ever be ignored. I still know every word to her debut single and it’s still a bop.
I want to finish by saying there are so many other important and significant artists who are breaking barriers in the Australian music industry right now. Bands like Camp Cope, Kardajala Kirridarra, Kira Puru, Mojo Juju, Cry Club, The Nah, Sportsbra, Ziggy Ramo, Emily Wurramara Divide & Dissolve, Dispossessed, Arafura, Stella Donnelly, Feels, Bec Sandridge, Sampa The Great, Jesswar, Imbi The Girl, Alex The Astronaut, Moaning Lisa and so many others are out there proving that Australian music right now is thriving and diverse and they are all working hard to push through the white-bro culture that defined our music industry for such a long time. Support these artists as they continue to push boundaries.
at King Street Crawl Sunday September 2
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