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A Suitable Girl

Over the last three or so years, we’ve only really heard snippets of how much potential Melbourne singer-songwriter Ali Barter has, mostly in the form of EPs and singles. Her debut album A Suitable Girl, released on March 24, gives us more nineties-style grunge-pop than ever, and solidifies her standing as someone to look out for.

Aside from the general awesomeness of her music, this album stands out for one particular reason: it is bold, brash feminism at its very best. Barter’s vocals are strong but sweet – a clear juxtaposition to the edgy guitar riffs that play out in the background.

In an op-ed Barter penned for Junkee,  she highlighted the disparities between the way men and women are often represented in music.

“While growing up, I learned that a women’s chief purpose in music is to play the supporting role to men. Sure, there were mentions of women in my classes, but it was buried in the extra reading and centred on their capacity to be a muse; to inspire the ‘serious art’ of a man.”

A Suitable Girl‘s single, ‘Girlie Bits’ further highlights this treatment, with its blazing ripostes and uncompromising attitude. Scoring number 58 on Triple J’s Hottest 100 countdown, it is the embodiment of the conflict women face in the industry, and elsewhere (particularly in regards to the insidious sexism that women come across in day to day life).

“Give us a smile princess, it’s better for business/None of this angriness, show us your girlie bits,” she sings.

The rest of the album takes a similar approach. Songs like ‘Cigarette’ are unapologetic in their portrayal of gender roles. She sings about the way a partner valued her looks, but did not treat her as an equal.

Despite this, there is also a softness to the album, highlighting the fact that femininity and feminism are not mutually exclusive. She balances the delicate line between love and frustration, with tender tracks like ‘Please Stay’.

The best thing about the album is that it truly is whatever the listener desires it to be; there’s not one key message. Rather, Barter succeeds in expressing the complexities of music and life, with feminist undertones to boot. It is comforting to see this kind of work making its way into the mainstream music industry, where women haven’t always been looked so kindly upon. It’s an album that is definitely worth listening to, and should be on everyone’s playlist.

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