Emmy continues great year for female music artists


June 18, 2010 Updated Aug 18, 2009 at 10:10 AM EDT

With women dominating the pop charts and this year's Mercury Prize shortlist, Hong Kong-born singer-songwriter Emmy the Great is the latest performer riding the new wave of talented female artists.

While Amy Winehouse, Lady Gaga and Lily Allen grab headlines with flashy behaviour, the commercial and critical success of Florence and the Machine, La Roux and Little Boots demonstrates the extent of current female talent.

"I guess it's because right now everyone wants pop stars to be flamboyant and to live in an imaginary aesthetic world that they create with their music," Emma-Lee Moss, who goes under the stage name Emmy the Great, told AFP.

"It's a lot easier for the women to be like that.

"There's something we can tap into that there doesn't seem to be a lot of male singer-songwriters doing.

"There's someone like Patrick Wolf perhaps, but there seems to be more girls being outrageous -- and people want their popstars to be outrageous," the singer added.

The arrival of the Spice Girls in 1996 created an explosion of girl-groups, but there was always the suggestion that the male managers and industry executives were ultimately profiting and controlling the agenda.

The current crop of female artists, while not seeing themselves as part of a unified movement, now command the same respect as their male counterparts due to their songwriting abilities and strong personalities.

Moss claims this is nothing new, and it is simply that the public have caught up.

"There's the same amount of talented male and female artists at any one point but focuses change," said Moss, whose latest single "Edward" was released earlier this month.

"Even if now it were all about boy bands, Florence and the Machine and La Roux would still exist."

Emmy the Great's debut album "First Love", released in February, combines acoustic songwriting with darkly honest lyrics.

This led to her being categorised in the "anti-folk" genre: the American movement defined by traditional acoustic melodies contrasted with incendiary, subversive lyrics -- a label which perplexes the singer.

"That's an American thing that's past, like saying we're part of the 1977 punk scene," Moss claimed.

"I think they created that to describe me and people I know but they misappropriated the word."

The shortlist for the Mercury Prize, one of Britain's most prestigious music awards, also demonstrates the cross-section of styles at which females are excelling.

Florence and the Machine and her brand of indie soul will vie against electropop queen La Roux, mystical folk performer Bat For Lashes, Celtic songstress Lisa Hannigan and rapper Speech Debelle for the annual prize for the best British or Irish album, to be awarded on September 8.

Moss, who moved to England aged 12, cites Kate Bush and Jenny Lewis as major influences, but reserves particular praise for an icon outside of the musical sphere.

"I've just fallen in love with Michelle Obama," she admitted. "I literally want to be her child and nuzzle against her bosom.

"She's just formidable, she's so incredible. It's a bit sad, she out-qualifies her husband and was his boss when they first met. She's intelligent, a real woman but all they talk about is what she's wearing."

Despite its obvious obsession with surface appearances, it could be argued that the music business creates a more even playing field than other walks of life.

"In every area of the world women get judged more on their appearance," she said.

"If you've got an annoying girl and an annoying boy in a band, people go: 'that girl's fat.' But in music everyone gets judged on what they wear and I think boys are just as aware of this."

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