Singer Neneh Cherry Inspired By The New Brand Of Feminism In Pop Culture


Swedish singer Neneh Cherry may not be a familiar name to many younger music fans today, but she has clearly not lost her touch. The London-based singer-songwriter who grew up in New York City and is the daughter of a Swedish textile designer and a Sierra Leonian drummer, broke her 35-year gig drought back in the big apple early January.

Her step-father is African-American jazz musician Don Cherry, and her step-brother is another well-known name to all you 90’s kids out there Eagle Eye Cherry.

Neneh is famous for her breakout 1988 hit ‘Buffalo Stance’ and more recently her 2014 collaboration with fellow Swede Robyn on the track ‘Out of the Black’. Aside from her music, she became synonymous in the 1980s for her gender politics stance in her lyrics and everyday life, something which has not died down at all.

She has recently been part of demonstrations for Sweden’s Feminist Initiative party which made a stir in Europe by becoming the first feminist party in history to win a seat in the European Parliament. In an interview with Village Voice before her recent comeback show, Neneh talks about the updated state of feminism and how excited she is at the way it is being talked about in pop culture.

“It’s definitely on people’s tongues and it’s definitely been an active conversation and feeling and emotion,” she said. Having an 18 year-old daughter is probably one of the reasons she is looking into the current wave of feminism as a good thing.

There are many women, even within the feminist community, who look at the current celebs touting the movement, and brand them as bad role models. One of the most notable would have to be Beyonce, whose sexuality on display on stage and racy lyrics have come under fire. Yet her “feminist” sign at the 2014 VMA’s was arguably the biggest most visible display of where feminism is today, and if it at least starts a conversation then it cannot be a bad thing!


For Neneh, being a musician, she has great insight and opinion into how women are portrayed in music videos and why she feels there needs to be more powerful women making statements against this.

“We need to take charge of our shit!” she says while recalling in the interview a music video that featured a kidnapped girlfriend in white lingerie waiting to be rescued and another with numerous scantily clad women who were in cages.

“How can we, us — women in the year 2014 — even be letting that happen?” Excellent question. How on earth can ‘Blurred Lines’ be such a big hit with its pathetic portrayal of women as nothing but sex objects? Well perhaps Robin Thicke’s dismal album sales of ‘Paula’ which showed an 84% sales decrease from Blurred Lines shows that we the audience need to use our spending power more wisely.

Although there are many freedoms women enjoy today, the fight is still not over, and in fact where progressiveness has prevailed in the past, there are people actively trying to undo that in legislatures all around the world. The fact that Republicans are the majority in Congress and the Senate here in the US should be a cause for concern for all young women and we need to be actively involved in our communities to raise awareness of our rights that are slowly being chipped away.

“Being alive, in a way, is always political, I feel,” Neneh says. “Even if you’re not choosing to make political choices, you are affected. And I think the things that happen around you — if you’re a creative person, the shit that goes on around will maybe stimulate you to voice certain things, or the anger or the hurt of something will be good fodder for the things you make.”

Her 1989 debut album ‘Raw Like Sushi’ which contained the hit ‘Buffalo Stance’ laid the ground for her rebellious nature, one that is something to be admired, not admonished. Many of us know how the music industry manipulates artists, especially women, into becoming someone they may not be, just to sell units. But right from the start Neneh refused to be part of that machine.

“We were really just committed to doing what we felt was right and not watering it down,” she recalls, referring to herself and collaborators including her co-producer and now husband, Cameron McVey. “Not bending over to fit in to what someone in a record company thought it should look like.”

And to her credit the song went to the top of the UK and US charts, and is still being played 27 years after its release. Her life has “feminist” written all over it and if there is one thing we can learn from her career, it is that standing out from the crowd and being different will benefit you much more in the long run, in all aspects of life, as opposed to following the mold of society and being part of the status quo.

Here’s to a new generation of women who want feminism part of their pop culture!



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