Conversations about gender equality and inclusion in dance music have become ubiquitous in recent years. There’s a growing consensus among performers and concert organizers that festivals — the most visible showcase of dance music’s up-and-coming talent — regularly ignore female talent. This has led to a push by a handful of organizers to feature more female artists in their lineups.
Take, for example, Moogfest, one of the preeminent electronic music festivals in the United States, whose 2018 lineup consists entirely of female, trans and non-binary performers. Multi-genre events have followed Moogfest’s example: the lineup for the 2018 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival features 165 acts, 55 of which include women. That’s 33 percent, up from last year’s 25 percent. The announcement of Beyoncé as a headliner is not insignificant, either. She is the first female to headline the festival since Bjork in 2007, and the first woman of color to headline the main stage. In February, the PRS Foundation, a UK organization that funds new music, announced via its Keychange initiative that more than 45 music festivals and conferences worldwide have committed to an equal 50/50 ratio of female to male performers by 2022.
Without a doubt, the industry is beginning to recognize the wide-ranging contributions of women to all forms of popular music, including dance. Female artists have risen above ignorant stereotypes and a lack of promotion to create some of the most exciting, radical and nuanced electronic music in recent years. They’re shifting the conversation away from aesthetics and toward a serious discussion of their art.
This month, I want to spotlight and celebrate a diverse group of women dominating this year’s festival stages and creating some of the most captivating sounds in modern dance.
These four artists represent a small cross-section of female innovators. Listen to Women in Electronic Music for more of today’s best dance and electronic music by women.
South Korean-born, Berlin-based producer and DJ Peggy Gou has released a handful of stunning records and highly kinetic DJ mixes, all of which have garnered her attention in underground circles. Her latest release, Once, is a perfect blend of the sounds that feature heavily in her DJ sets — house, ’80s-inspired disco, acid, electro and funk — done up in her own unique production style. Once is also notable for being the first album on which Gou has sung. Her lyrics, in both Korean and English, move from pulsating mantras to upbeat harmonized hooks. With upcoming performances at Dekmantel, Coachella, Hideout, Parklife and Dimensions, features in Pitchfork, Vogue and Mixmag and a recent photo shoot with Louis Vuitton, 2018 is shaping up to be a big year for Gou.
Hailing from Montreal, Marie Davidson is a vocalist, poet and producer. Pitchfork named her third solo album, Adieux au Dancefloor, one of the best electronic albums of 2016. Her just-released New Path EP as Essaie Pas — a minimal wave duo with her husband, Pierre Guerineau — represents a shift toward songwriting and long-form electronic compositions. Davidson’s multilingual vocals sit atop minimal techno, Italo disco and experimental electronica. With most tracks exceeding the six-minute mark, the duo leave themselves plenty of room to slowly build and manipulate a sound that is at once thought-provoking and utterly infectious on the dance floor.
Ukrainian-Canadian bass producer Rezz has been making waves in EDM since 2015. Inspired by BassNectar, Skrillex, Pretty Lights and Zeds Dead, she began DJing at the tender age of 16. She was soon discovered by Skrillex, who ended up releasing her music on his OWSLA label. After a spate of festival performances, Rezz released her breakthrough full-length, Mass Manipulation, on deadmau5’s mau5trap label. A dark, slinky and hypnotic take on bass music, the album eschews the style’s tropes and pitfalls, creating an innovative sound agnostic to genre or trends. Framed by mesmerizing LED glasses, Rezz has been dominating big rooms recently, and in 2018 will perform at Ultra Music Festival, Coachella, and the main stage at EDC. In a crowded genre dominated mostly by men, it’s no easy feat rising this high this quickly.
Honey Dijon is both a devoted student of house music and one of the genre’s most trusted and dedicated evangelists. Active in Chicago’s house scene since her early teens, Dijon found her place in the underground black and gay culture of house music. She now splits her time between New York and Berlin as a DJ, producer and fashion icon, as well as a persistent promoter of dance music culture and a fervent champion of its roots. Dijon often performs with four decks, creating live remixes that show off her enviable record collection. Her skills have earned high praise from A-list producers like Seth Troxler and dark techno innovators like Matrixxman. 2017 saw the release of her debut album, The Best of Both Worlds, as much a loving tribute to the origins of house music as it is a subversion of the genre.