ven Coachella’s history, the news that its three 2016 headliners -- Calvin Harris, Guns N’ Roses and LCD Soundsystem -- consist of mostly male artists isn’t surprising. With apologies to LCD Soundsystem’s Nancy Whang, that’s often the case in the American musical patriarchy.
But a rundown of the dozens of acts that will appear in the desert this April reveal a roster that, unlike last year, is rich with big-ticket female creators.The lineup, announced Monday, will showcase a relative bounty that includes the magnetic beat music of Grimes, whose recent album topped many year-end polls, future-pop singer Ellie Goulding and the brilliant songwriter Sia, who is responsible for some of the best pure pop songs of the past half-decade. Australian rocker Courtney Barnett, a surprise Grammy nominee in the best new artist category, will spin her skillful lyrics and huge-riffed music on the big stage.
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The shift stands to reason. These days women run the commercial pop charts, where sales numbers are the only barometer that matters. There, Taylor Swift, Adele, Beyonce and others dominate the conversation. But at marquee festivals like Coachella, where commercial success is often less a consideration than critical buzz, female artists have been woefully underrepresented.
The nadir came last year, when the field was dense with dudes. Only 26 of the nearly 160 artists performing at Coachella were fronted by women. At Bonnaroo in Tennessee, only 20 of the 100 scheduled artists were fronted by women. Across the thriving festival circuit, that trend continued.
Which leads us to this year’s roster, which features at least three dozen female-fronted acts -- an increase that may not qualify as a quantum leap but a definite improvement. Like the whole of the fest, they make music that includes experimental pop, EDM, folk, R&B, old-school soul, indie rock and beyond.