A recent article by the Irish Times highlighted that over the past two years there have been no female Irish artists in the Top 10 of the Irish charts. On top of this, less than 25% of the Top 100 have been Irish women. The article quotes music consultant and gender activist Linda Coogan Byrne, who believes the root of the problem is the lack of female representation behind radio desks. With the industry being predominantly white male DJs, female artists, even those getting thousands of streams on digital platforms, are finding it hard to get a look in. We have a crazy amount of talent in this country, which we’ve caught a glimpse of this year through Irish Women in Harmony’s cover of Dreams. This, along with Soulé, Ruth-Anne, and Lea Heart, were the only female acts to reach the Top 100.
While the rise of hiphop was a defining influence in music over the last few years, 2020 shows more uncertainty in what way music trends will head. While hiphop is still very much prevalent and growing today, this year we’ve seen a lot of changes in the industry. There’s the revival of rock’n’roll thanks to Miley Cyrus’s covers and pending album, 80s style funk and disco reemerging with albums such as Dua Lipa’s Future Nostalgia and Kylie Minogue’s DISCO, and not to mention the ever increasing popularity of indie bedroom-pop artists like Clairo and girl in red from their songs trending on TikTok.
It’s safe to say none of us know what or where this decade is going to bring us musically, and with the vast and diverse talent we have in Ireland amongst our female musicians, there’s no reason they shouldn’t be making the charts. Here’s just a few unreal artists who’ve released music recently, and who I think we should be listening to right now.
Following the release of their debut studio album ‘In Waiting’, queer icons Pillow Queens are on track to becoming rock sensations. The four-piece band from Dublin, currently in their fourth year, have already supported bands such as IDLES, and have taken to the stage at Other Voices and Electric Picnic in 2019. The Queens take inspiration from both pop and punk styles, and their music is reminiscent of The Cranberries, but with a little extra… spice. The new album, which touches on topics like love, growing up, and spirituality, features the much loved single ‘Gay Girls’, which I think could definitely break into the charts if given half the chance.
Limerick’s Denise Chaila is about to take the hip hop world by storm. The rapper and spoken-word poetreleased her first official EP Dual Citizenship in 2019, followed by her debut mixtape GO Bravely in October of this year. The anthology is a beautifully written account of Chaila’s experience with self worth and identity, racism, and mental health; all while somehow incorporating some nerdy references about Merlin and Batman. Nice. The opening song ‘Chaila’ was part of Other Voice’s #Courage2020 campaign in the National Gallery, and also features in Littlewoods’ Autumn advertisement – it is a certified banger. Although we didn’t get to experience it this year, I suspect we would’ve seen her added to the Longitude lineup. Fingers crossed for 2021!
Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, better known as CMAT, is one of Ireland’s newest stars after launching her solo music career during lockdown earlier this year. The 24-year-old from Meath has a class wardrobe and an even better sense of humour which transpires into her lyrics. Listen to Another Day (kfc) if you don’t believe me. Her style is the perfect blend of pop and country, and is just super catchy to be honest. Although she only has three singles out right now, this is definitely just the beginning of something big, I can’t wait to see what she releases next.
Another artist to break out recently is Offaly-raised, Tolü Makay, who has been doing BITS this year. During lockdown, she collaborated with fellow Irish musician Zapho on Collide, the debut release of Oiche Event’s new music production platform The X Collective. She went on to release her first album in October, titled ‘Being’. Taking inspiration from artists like Erykah Badu and Nina Simone, the album is filled with a mix of smooth, soulful tracks and beautiful spoken word pieces, encouraging self love and acceptance. And as if all this wasn’t enough, she also features on Irish Women in Harmony’s new Christmas original, and was named Spin1038’s ‘One to Watch’ artist just this week!
21-year-old, Kildare born artist April Lawlor is just simply… Class. She’s gone from self-producing covers on Soundcloud to gathering over one million Spotify streams on her dreamy debut EP New Conditions. After touring Europe last year with Alec Benjamin, 2020 has seen her write and produce not only one, but two EPs, with her latest release Luna coming out in October. Having previously name-dropped Gus Dapperton and Lana Del Rey as inspirations, her music style is both familiar but unique; bedroom pop with indie and R&B elements. She’s just announced that she’ll be playing the UK’s Barn on the Farm festival in June, with hopefully many more festivals to come.