It’s easy to assume that power pop is one of the most male-centric styles this side of heavy metal. At first glance, it seems like the genre has always been based on “boys” singing to/about “girls,” and there’s no denying that the most celebrated practitioners are overwhelmingly male. But once you scratch the surface, the distaff side of power pop becomes quite apparent.
Female-fronted power-pop acts have been part of the scene from the start. In the ’70s, they included high-profile bands like Blondie, who brought some CBGB attitude and a gender switch (“Denis”) to Randy & The Rainbows’ 1963 hit “Denise,” and The Heaters, an L.A. band led by two sisters, whose “Put On the Heat” is one of the great lost power-pop gems of the era.
Women made their way to the forefront of the power-pop realm more in the ’80s, with tracks like The Go-Go’s’ “We Got the Beat” and The Bangles’ “Hero Takes a Fall” becoming ubiquitous on the radio. Of course, for every Bangles or Go-Go’s, there were a dozen equally ingratiating but lesser-known bands, like Bonnie Hayes With The Wild Combo (“Girls Like Me”) and The Shivvers (“Teenline”).
These days, power poppers tend to be farther from the mainstream, but there seem to be more women in the mix than ever. Whether we’re talking about the garage-rock giddiness of Shannon & The Clams’ “The Cult Song,” the four-on-the-floor momentum of The Sugar Stems’ “We Only Come Out at Night,” or the reverb-soaked stomp of The Pink Tiles’ “Time for Love,” there’s no getting around the fact that the 2010s became the best decade yet for gender parity on the power-pop front.
From the stalwarts of the ’70s to the bands of the moment, here’s a handy guide to power pop’s feminine side.