I'll be the judge of that.

All the Indie Ladies: Emerging Subcategories of Women in Indie Music


Until this point, my presence at Syvology has largely focused on my enduring enthusiasm for female pop superstars. However, my true specialization lies within another subgroup of musical acts, broadly defined as the “solo alternative female artist” or perhaps the colloquial “weird alt chick.”

In recent years I have been glad to observe within the alternative/indie music world a huge expansion of interesting and unique music made by solo female performers. Honestly, I can hardly keep track of everybody these days. It is slightly overwhelming, trying to be an informed and well-rounded fan, but also extremely fun. So fun, actually, that I knew there was only one way to make it even MORE fun: to stratify the whole lot of them into subgroups using Powerpoint infographics!

Thus, I present below a seven-branched tree representing my view of the alt-lady landscape as it exists today:

chart corrected

Notes on methodology:

1)    For complexity and scope, I have limited this analysis exclusively to solo performers. Clearly there are some major artists that have been exceptionally influential to the core of the alternative female musician subcategory, but I have nevertheless needed to exclude them due to their primary association within a band rather than as a solo act. These include but are not limited to: Stevie Nicks, Karen O, Dee Dee Penny, Courtney Love, and maybe HAIM on a good day.

2)    The possibility exists that I have missed some important ladies due to my own pop-cultural blind spot and/or opinion that they are not very good. For example: one could argue that Liz Phair should belong to the Indie Rock category, but I never listened to Exile in Guyville when it was popular, and when I eventually did listen to it I did not enjoy it, thus I was forced to omit her as an outlier. Further omissions were made due to spatial constraints, such as: Kelela is great, but the Alt-Soul/R&B category is pretty stacked and I’m more familiar with some of her contemporaries.

Like any respectable music blog reader, feel free to rant in the comments; I may engage.

3)    Branch points are not necessarily in chronological order. I tried to position each artist based on how closely they relate to the defined category. Example: Fiona Apple has the longest branch in Vocal-Centric Moody-Alt as she is the purest representation of this cumbersomely-named subset. Conversely, the branch for Grimes spans both “Electro” and “Miscellany” clusters because she veers toward electro with a strong dose of completely original fairy-voiced weirdness.


At a Glance

Given the expansiveness of the graphic, I have included a table below listing my choices for most defining artist from each of the seven clusters, with an accompanying essential song. Peruse at your leisure, learn all the words, we can expressively lip-sync them together on the subway.

table corrected


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