Elevate Difference

Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution In Music

Having been born in the late '80s, I always felt I missed out on everything cool in music. I wasn’t there to see the birth of punk. I wasn’t there for New Wave. I was too young for grunge, and I was too far away from Olympia, WA for riot grrrl. In the 1990s, I bought Sublime’s self -titled album along with Alice Cooper’s School's Out, and that was the extent of my musical awareness. So I always enjoyed reading about riot grrrl, putting on my Heavens to Betsy CD, and pretending I was more involved in it than I actually was.

Yes, I remember 1991. Sure, I was only five years old, but still, I was there. I expected Marisa Meltzer’s Girl Power: The Nineties Revolution in Music to help me keep up my own personal time capsule, going on the title alone. While the first few chapters do go into depth about riot grrrl’s evolution, the rest of the book moves forward in time from where riot grrrl left off, and this is where Meltzer hypothesizes leaves off as well. Post-riot grrrl, Meltzer traces the evolution of a few obvious late-90s "angry" female artists, such as Alanis Morissette, Fiona Apple, Tori Amos, and Paula Cole, along with all the women from Lilith Fair, but then veers into a weird direction with The Spice Girls.

A lot of this book, in fact, goes into detail about The Spice Girls, and Meltzer keeps attempting to drive home her point that this girl group was actually pretty feminist. Now, this is something I actually was there for (although I try not to think about those dark times). Being a young girl coming of age when The Spice Girls were popular, I never got the impression that they were feminists. Maybe I’m just biased here, but the constant mention of this group kind of rubbed me the wrong way. That being said, Meltzer has some interesting points about them. (The Spice Girls, in effect, got the term girl power out there, and started some little girls thinking about their potential, but calling them feminist still seems like a stretch to me. It was a good, long, head-beating attempt by Meltzer, but by the end of this book, I was not convinced.)

Meltzer also touches upon a few modern day female pop stars, like the young women from High School Musical and Taylor Swift, as she attempts to draw a line from riot grrrl to girl power. This book may be aimed at younger girls in the hopes that it will get them thinking about their own generation of musical trends, and inspire them to look more critically at the media. Girl Power shows a lot of promise for spurring conversations between feminists of different generations, but for anyone born past 1990, Meltzer could leave you feeling bitter and jaded. Then again, maybe it’s just me.

Written by: Jen Klee, February 14th 2010

There is a ton in the book about Lady Fest, actually, so I'm not sure where you are getting your information from. There is also a big section on the Michigan Womyn's Festival.

I can't believe it doesn't mention anything about Lady Fest.

Also, you were listening to heavens to betsy when you were five?? Heavy music for a little kid.