For those of you that were teenagers in the weird, surreal haze that was the 1990s, you might have remembered a tiny little music festival called the Lilith Fair. It was originally started by Sarah McLachlan, a Canadian musician who—after growing frustrated and disheartened by the lack of female visibility on indie pop/folk radio airwaves—sought to create a festival that solely featured female artists, bands, and frontwomen.
It had an impressive run from 1997 to 1999, and went through artists like Tracey Chapman, India Arie, and—in its later runs—Missy Elliot and Erykah Badu, to name a few. After a failed attempt to revive Lilith Fair in 2010, McLachlan officially put the festival to rest, and the Lilith Fair became only a distant, nostalgic memory of the yester-years.
Though the festival may be no longer, one can’t help but feel its spirit in all the new quirky, feminist, and unapologetically rebellious artists that have come out in recent years. And if these 10 artists down below—ranging in genre from indie pop to folksy Americana—had been around during Lilith’s prime, there’s no doubt that the Lilith Fair’s magnetic effect would have gone beyond the middle-class, white suburban ideal that defined the riot grrl movements and “grrl power” music scenes of that era.
A soulful, fairy-like wisp of a woman with an oddly ageless voice and raw, vulnerable lyrics. June’s southern drawl is as smooth as sweet tea and embodies a long-forgotten memory of mountain folktales, African roots, and deep Southern spirituals. Accompanied with her music, it produces a strange, eclectic mix that draws inspiration from old Appalachian folk, Bluegrass, and Contemporary Funk. Overall, it’s—as June herself likes to call it—“organic moonshine roots music”. And she might be on to something. Take a listen to her song “Workin’ Woman Blues” down below, and decide for yourself. With a voice as smooth as butter—and rivaling the soulful twang of Jewel—Valerie would have slayed and conquered at Lilith Fair.
Quirky and full of spunk, Deqn Sue creates poppy, electro beat jams that touch upon heavy subjects like racism, feminism, and the political intersectionality that millennial WoC often face. If you’re an Orange is the New Black fan, you’ve probably heard her iconic song “Bloody Monster” in Season 4 (and if you’re like me, you’ve probably been singing the endearingly potty-mouthed chorus religiously). Check her out in this video below, singing her snarky yet catchy song, Magenta.
A Parisian/London singer-songwriter who oozes indie angst and soulful melodies. With her raw and imperfect, yet heavy and lilting voice, Madame So is reminiscent of a young Alanis Morisette in some songs, and the iconic Blondie in others. Coupled by her blunt and angry lyrics, and set against a catchy alt/pop beat, it only further exudes the edgy "don't mess with me" vibe that defines much of female pop punk music. Madame So's sound is a blend of funk, indie-pop, and jagged guitar rifts that sometimes border on the riot grrl sound of the 90s. It's impossible to listen without getting at least a little amped up!
Her song below, "Future", brings to mind the iconic 80s jam “Genius of Love” by Tom Tom Club. Sneaks’ smooth voice, scattered lyrics, and cutesy bubblegum fashion exude artistic femininity and endearing weirdness. There is also an unabashed poetic quality to her music, as Sneaks combines electro beats and repetitious spoken-word to create a stream of consciousness-like storytelling. It is both magnetic and eclectic, and would have most definitely made Sneaks a favorite at Lilith.
A Brooklyn based band composed of teenagers and twenty-somethings, The Skins exudes an eclectic mix of hip hop, alternative rock, and 90s punk in their sound. Their front-woman Bay Li presents powerful and playful vocals that exude girl power and black girl magic. Top that with the band’s high powered melodies and energetic live shows, and you’ve got a band that exudes all the high school coolness you wished you’d experienced in your youth. Check them out in one of their earlier songs, "Killer", below.
A fitting name, as Ibeyi means twin in the Yoruba language. And these twin sisters— Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Diaz—craft haunting, memorable, and simultaneously catchy indie pop music that is inspired by their French-Cuban heritage, and the beautiful culture of Nigeria. They sing in Spanish, French, English, and Yoruba, and are heavily symbolic and artistic in their musical displays. Fun fact: their father happens to be the late Miguel “Anga” Diaz, a famous Cuban Percusionist. Check out their song River below, for some haunting vocals and poignant lyrics.
Beachy, delicate melodies define this duo whose music label —Wondaland— lovingly dubs its "wild childs ."St. Beauty is a female band that focuses heavily on indie pop rifts, breathy vocals, and symbolic lyrics. The beautiful pastel style of Isis Valentino and Alexe Belle, the titular duo, would have also made them total standouts and fan faves at Lilith Fair. Catch their song "Going Nowhere" below.
Because DUH! SZA has really blown up this past year, after her long anticipated mainstream debut album Ctrl, hit the charts and pushed her in the spotlight. And for good reason too. SZA’s songs touch upon the experiences of the quirky black girl in today’s society, giving a voice for many who have been—until now—virtually invisible. SZA is raw, vulnerable, and incredibly tongue in cheek. Her likable personality and memorable songs have made her a fan favorite in many circles. The epitome of the carefree, “Tumblr” black girl, SZA’s breathy vocals, acerbic lyrics, and unapologetic self-love and expression definitely embody all that Lilith Fair sought to stand for.
Otherwise known as the iconic Willow Smith, Wilough (her occasional musical moniker) is a staple of the indie, bohemian black girl, and crafts music that exudes the raw poignant emotion of a teenager finding herself, and giving the rebellious middle finger to the status quo. Wilough is a proud creative, who finds inspiration in everything from spirituality, science fiction, to Adventure Time. Catch her here in the song, and let her voice whisk you away to a whimsical wonderland.
While certainly one of the most mainstream of the bunch, Solange nevertheless holds her own as an amazing and powerful indie songstress. Her latest album “Seat at the Table” forays into heavy topics such as race, politics, and the black experience of this generation. Like SZA, her relatable—and raw—lyrics have attracted the quirky black girls that have struggled to find their place in the ever-changing climate of millennial culture. Her beautiful melodies and catchy beats have also brought in new indie fans from all walks of life, which contributes to her relatability and charisma. At Lilith fair, she would have definitely given her sister a run for her money. (Jk, Beyonce & Solange both eternally and equally slay!) ;)