Kate Nash is not your stereotypical pop star. Nor is she your stereotypical feminist. Indeed, she can be said to be part of a new generation of feminist pop stars taking their inspiration from the punk rock stars of the 70s and 80s, distinct in both style and voice and insistent on the notion that in 2010 “you don’t have to suck dick to succeed.”
Rising to fame in 2007 following the success of her number two UK hit single Foundations, Nash was more well-known for her kooky dress sense than any grand feminist pretensions. Three years on, the girl with the fringe has grown-up and her message is clearer. Nash’s latest album My Best Friend Is You is certainly a change from previous album Made of Bricks. With a darker subject matter and a distinctly punk feel, Kate describes this as more of an experimental album, taking her influence from bands such as The Riot Girls and The Shirelles.
It is this eclectic blend of styles that makes Nash so popular with her fans. But even with a unique sound, Nash has faced the trials of being female in a largely male-dominated industry and takes solace in her idols of years gone by. “Being a female musician in the music industry, it has become more important to me to listen to other female artists who have done a similar thing”.
A fan of 60’s girl groups such as The Supremes, Kate discusses the dark side of the genre: “I was on a plane once and I was listening to Stop In The Name of Love” she recalls. “It made me cry. It was the first time I had listened to it and realised how sad it is. They sing these heartbreaking songs with insane smiles.”
The 1960’s influence is certainly present on the album, in particular the slightly avant-garde Mansion Song, in which Nash expresses her views on sexism: “I wrote it on my phone as a text message” she says. Inspiration really does strike anywhere. The song itself contains an almost religious howling in the background and enthrals the listener with its atmosphere. The lyrics are gritty and on first listen, almost offensive as Kate shouts obscenities in that famous cockney dialect.
She also makes a subtle reference to one of her favourite tragic heroines, Scarlet O’ Hara. The character from Gone with the Wind is paid homage to as she depicts the scene in which Scarlet bites into a rotten turnip by triumphantly announcing: “Take a raw vegetable and hold it to your breast!” Nash claims it was being at a festival that gave her the idea for the song. Sick of seeing oversexed young girls sharing tents with strangers, she created the song as a message. Kate explains: “Some girls think it is so exciting to be doing what they’re doing, but it’s not. They’re just used by people who don’t have any respect for them. They could be a lot more interesting.”
Nash is clearly opinionated and firmly believes that girls should be independent in their own minds and actions.“Live your life on your own and feel empowered!” she says, but hastily adds that being a strong woman is not about being oversexed. “You don’t have to do shitty things to feel like you’re empowered.”
So, does Kate see herself as a feminist icon? At even the mention of “that word”, she becomes very shy. “I find the term icon a bit strange, because I didn’t even know.” she says. Nash is definitely strong-willed and has her feet firmly on the ground: “I’m definitely a proud feminist. I think girls and boys should encourage that. People are afraid of it and I don’t know why. It’s about equal opportunities.”