“Under My Thumb” Book Review

This book is so relevant to my interests. Briefly, it’s a collection of essays by female music critics, each one exploring the songs or artists that should be difficult for them to love: lyrics that glorify violence against women; artists that have a misogynistic track record.

Yet these critics concede that, despite all that, they can still listen to, for example, Eminem’s explicitly aggressive rap; Iggy Pop, even after he’s made dismissive comments towards and about women. David Bowie and his groupies. Guns N’ Roses, despite their infamous robot album cover. The list goes on. It makes you notice that women really have been left out of the foundations of music. When they are mentioned, it’s just by way of a footnote. Some of the other examples were obvious: Phil Spector, creator of the Wall of Sound and simultaneously a murderer and abuser. AC/DC, bragging about their prowess. Others were, in my opinion, a bit of a reach: “Like a Rolling Stone” is apparently about a socialite brought low. I always thought it was about a man. (Perhaps that says something, too.)

The book’s title comes from the song of the same name, which immediately sets the tone because “Under My Thumb” is probably one of the most iconic songs about dominating a woman. The book’s tagline is “Songs that Hate Women and the Women Who Love Them.” It’s bold – brash, even. And indeed, initially it was off putting, even for me as a female music critic myself. The more I read, however, the more I settled in and got comfortable. I realized how much I, too, identify with these other women. You’re existing and trying to create a space for yourself in a world that will tell you clearly that you’re not wanted. (Or that you’re wanted for only a few things.)

And they’ve found a way to navigate the tension between being a fan of this content, while acknowledging its troubling nature. It was inspiring.

My rating? 5/5 stars.

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