By Clara Tehrani
Girl Power. The song that was to become the icon for women’s emancipation in the 90s was not about independence from misogyny in all forms but rather the opposite: these girls taking power in music were not doing so because they were talented musicians, but because they were cute and did what they were told to do in order to sell. Five women stereotypically chosen to represent the subcultures of the time – the sports freaks, the soul-sistas, the posh, the girls-next-door, the trashy – helped discredit feminism by positioning themselves as girls in power when in reality they were just products designed and made to be consumed as such. One slogan placed in the right mouths and suddenly a woman’s display of power was posing, objectifying men and fighting for their own space in the front page of a newspaper – even if for women, in most cases, that meant tabloids.
Before the concept of boys bands and girls bands, the industry took advantage of talented musicians, polished them and profited from them, but from the 90s onwards the talents needed when casting for pop music were seldom more than beauty, charisma, and some good dance moves. Slowly but surely, this lucrative model was absorbed by other genres, including techno which now, for most of the masses, means David Guetta or Paris Hilton.
But every effect has its counterpart. The cult of personality in music has led many artists to keep their identities secret, and let their productions speak. Underground techno is particularly prone to anonymous acts, the clubs are dark, the audience more interested in dancing and enjoying themselves than in staring at an often almost-motionless artist. Projects like SNTS or Headless Horseman have been making a point about bringing the attention to where it’s meant to be – the music.
It so happens that when one of these let’s-put-the-music-upfront projects is called Janice, suddenly the conversation is no longer about the quality of the music but whether it is a man or a woman behind the project. And just the fact that it became a question in the first place shows just how biased the music world still is.
Janice was one of last year’s best gifts to techno. It was music made with soul.
Dark, raw, analogue sounding, sometimes with a dash of distorted trance, others with haunting vocals, each track creating its own particular space. All together, the six tracks released so far, as well as the preview of a live posted on the artist’s Soundcloud page showcased impeccable production skills, and a taste for a polished roughness that is reserved for the most exquisite palates. Powerful tracks that sound like machines that have been tamed to make humans on dance floors go wild.
The project took the underground scene by storm: the first record, Janice 1, released on the self-titled label Janice in October 2016 sold out even before the second record – Janice 2 – was released the following month. Before the year ended, Janice was openly supported by some of the best names, her music spinning in the best speakers in the best clubs.
It could’ve been the crazy ascent, the unquestioned support what made people start to wonder the gender of the artist behind Janice – usually such instant success doesn’t really happen to women who, as Björk claimed, have to work five times harder than men to have a voice in music. It is a better, more comforting explanation than thinking the musing might have been instigated by the quality of the music Janice produces.