Maybe it’s the fact that many artists of this generation now feel secure enough in having established their music careers to be free to pursue pregnancy and having children, but 2021 has felt different compared to the past where seeing musicians who were pregnant felt rare. We ran a piece on all of the things wrong with that previous sentence recently, but the assumption that the career of an artist is over once they have a child is long outdated. You don’t need to hunt far to see the likes of Cardi B performing in two recent music videos with her glorious baby bump on show, showcasing sensuality, sexuality and shape in both Lizzo’s ‘Rumours’ and Normani’s ‘Wild Side’.
Elsewhere Little Mix members Leigh-Ann Pinnock and Perrie Edwards have similarly been refusing to slow down. The girl group, who are celebrating their 10th year in action, collected their Brit Award for Best British Group earlier this year whilst promoting their latest album Confetti and ‘Kiss Me (Uh Oh)’ – their recent collaboration with Anne-Marie – all complete with full bumps.
There is almost an unspoken expectation that, in an industry that so values sex appeal as a primary marketing ploy, there is no place for performing whilst visibly pregnant, yet that assumption undermines any value of the art itself and instead places it onto bodies. Who would buy into the work of a pregnant person after all, when there is a spherically visible indication that the artist is unavailable?
Halsey has evidently been navigating the implications of these questions and the restraints of life in a patriarchal society in their new album If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power. First starting to tease their fourth collection in July, the striking album cover depicts a new parent holding their baby, sat on a throne; the accompanying caption on Halsey’s Instagram post stating that:
“This album is a concept album about the joys and horrors of pregnancy and childbirth. It was very important to me that the cover art conveyed the sentiment of my journey over the past few months,” they continue, having been pregnant themselves at the time of writing and only recently giving birth to their son Ender Ridley Aydin. “Me as a sexual being and my body as a vessel and gift to my child are two concepts that can co-exist peacefully and powerfully. This cover image celebrates pregnant and postpartum bodies as something beautiful, to be admired”.
The accompanying visual – an hour-long film directed by previous collaborator Colin Tilley and released as an IMAX experience – similarly reflects upon autonomy during pregnancy and birth as well as the “dichotomy of the Madonna and the Whore” in a more pop-fronted way than FKA Twigs’ 2019 album Magdalene. In structuring the project, visuals and release around their pregnancy, Halsey has made a statement that the value of marginalised genders in the music industry is not countered by their pregnancy or parenthood but can, in fact, be solely rooted within it.
Halsey – ‘I am not a woman, I’m a god’
The lead track from If I Can’t Have Love, I Want Power, ‘I am not a woman, I’m a god’ makes good on the promise of production from soundtrack collaborators and Nine Inch Nails members Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross. Quite a wildcard choice for a pop star like Halsey, their industrial touch is omnipresent in the thumping beat, pulsing undercurrent and whirring synths. Permeating the pop sentimentalities of the song with rock, it feels both poignant and fresh.
daine – ‘SALT’ feat. Oli Sykes
daine’s meteoric rise shows no signs of stopping anytime soon. One of the unequivocally buzzed about new artists of last year and one to watch for 2021, this year’s earlier release ‘boys wanna txt’ showed a lighter, poppier side to daine’s sound, but new single ‘SALT’ shows her at her abrasive and moody best. Teaming up with Bring Me The Horizon’s Oli Sykes – who reached out to collaborate via Instagram after happening across her music online – and with Lonelyspeck on production, ‘SALT’ mixes nu-metal, emo and electronica for a full-throttle concoction.
CHAI – ‘miniskirt’
They only released their latest album Wink a few months ago, but CHAI aren’t ones to dilly dally when it comes to dropping tracks. Leaning into the more vibey and synth-led side to their sound, ‘miniskirt’ meanders across pattering percussion and throbbing bass notes before dipping into dreamy psychedelia and alluringly sultry guitar riffs.
Amber Mark – ‘Foreign Things’
Amber Mark has already dropped three singles this year and shows no signs of slowing down with the release of new track ‘Foreign Things’. Plucked from her upcoming debut album, she has said the track is “about the excitement of new experiences. The thrill of newness. This marks the start of my journey towards self discovery” – and sonically, it channels that same sense of hope. The track is propelled by a coercive groove, picking elements of soul and disco for a sound that is full, bright, rich and as lush as her vocal.
Joy Crookes – ‘When You Were Mine’
The follow up to her recent releases ‘Skin’ and ‘Feet Don’t Fail Me Now’, ‘When You Were Mine’ is a buoyant ode to Joy’s teenage years and the first throes of young love. Bolstered by brass (and who doesn’t love a bit of brass?), the track carries echoes of Amy Winehouse in its nostalgic pop sound; decorated with light keys, brisk drumming and a robust bassline, Joy’s signature throaty vocal serves as the perfect anchor.