In a male-dominated industry, female musicians have fought back against a lack of representation, equal compensation, and radio play by forming groundbreaking supergroups. We explore some of contemporary music's most recent supergroup formations in the Americana, rock n' roll, and indie genres.
The issue of gender inequality within the music industry is nothing new. Despite girl groups' groundbreaking contributions to the musical world since the birth of pop, female musicians are struggling to this day for the same amount of radio play, compensation, and representation. As a female musician myself, I can attest to all of these patriarchal phenomena (but that's a whole other story). Bottom line: from major, arena-packing superstars to small, local music scenes, this disparity is pervasive.
Luckily, the mystical powers of womanhood have overcome time and time again the attempted belittlement, oppression, and disenfranchisement of our gender -- the music industry being no exception. Despite the unlevel playing field, all-women ensembles have cemented their place in the history of great popular music from The Andrew Sisters to The Supremes to Spice Girls to Destiny's Child to The Chicks.
So technically, all-female musical groups have been around for a while. However, a new female-led trend has started popping up in mainstream and indie bubbles alike: the supergroup. To be considered a “supergroup”, the members typically need to be already-established musicians who have joined forces to create a unique sound from each members’ distinct voices and talents. We’ve seen this trend before: The Highwaymen, The Band, Cream, Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young. The overarching theme of these groups, however, is their all-male line-up.
All-female supergroups have historically been far less common, but several of note came out of the 20th century. The 1970s bubblegum-funk trio, Honey Cone (Edna Wright of the Blossoms, Carolyn Willis of the Girlfriends, and Shelly Clark of the Ikettes) is considered the first supergroup of its kind. Emmylou Harris, Dolly Parton, and Linda Ronstadt created Trio the following decade, though it could be argued that this group was considered a temporary collaboration as opposed to its own, separate entity. The individual star power of each member was just too powerful to hide behind a new moniker. Finally, the 1990s was overtaken by the driving pop-rock of Kim Deal (of then Pixies fame) and her supergroup projects, The Breeders and The Amps.
Finding strength in numbers isn’t too surprising -- historically speaking, women have often been associated in groups of three or more. From ancient Greek religion to Neopaganism, divine feminine energy itself is often represented in triple form. Through the mid-20th century wave of feminism and the rise of the #MeToo movement in 2006, women have continued to find strength in solidarity. Fighting the patriarchy is a group effort -- one that can easily be weakened by unnecessary infighting and internalized misogyny. The rise of the women-led supergroup is the modern female musician’s response to this historic call for unity. It’s a push back against the idea that women should be pitted against one another. These groups are celebrations of the empowering, exciting, and incomparable artistry that can be found when women work together, and we couldn’t be more thrilled to be living in this new female supergroup era.