Maybe I’m just watching more music videos than usual, but lately it seems like female artists, from this year’s Grammy nominees to recent Soundcloud discoveries, have been killing it with a strong aesthetic. Whether it’s Beyoncé and St. Vincent, who are up for Best Album and Best Alternative Album next week, or artists with cult Tumblr followings like rapper Kari Faux, I think women are coming out with not just great music, but style.
What I love about these artists, no matter where they fall on the spectrum of popularity, is that they look like they’re having a lot of fun. In Beyonce’s “7/11” video and Kari Faux’s “No Small Talk” video, a kickback with the ladies is turned into performance art. I don’t think I’ve related to any music video more than seeing Kari Faux and her friends hanging out by the indoor pool of a Holiday Inn Express–esque hotel.
I love seeing the high- and low-brow mixes in a lot of these scenes because it mirrors how many of us approach style and pop culture. I'm not so much into the idea of having a certain brand as I am into having a tightly curated look that reflects my specific taste. If Bey is wearing Forever 21 AND Versace, I feel like that gives the rest of us a little hope. Starting with the Queen Bee, here are five female artists whose style I am crushing on right now.
At 33, Beyoncé is the most nominated woman in Grammy history. Even though she doesn’t have a Rihanna–like presence in the fashion world and she’s not best buds with Balmain's Olivier Rousteing or anything like that, fashion doesn’t have to be your thing in order to be considered a style icon. Beyoncé seems to genuinely enjoy clothes the way a lot of us do: It’s not a defining feature, but it’s something to take pride in and have fun with. One minute she’s a vintage noir goddess at the Met Gala, the next she’s wearing a sweatshirt that says “KALE” in Ivy League font. She’s Beyoncé first, and whatever her look is second. I think that’s something to aim for.
Until last year, Charlie XCX, a 22-year-old hailing from the underground warehouse raves of London, was a mostly faceless name attached to mega hits like Icona Pop’s “I Love It." Her sound is both dark and saccharine, but 100 percent pop. A collaboration with Iggy Azalea (“Fancy”) brought her into family-sing-along-in-the-van territory, and her solo hit “Boom, Crash” went to number eight on the Billboard Hot 100. She’s the best representative in pop music of a more niche Tumblr Girl look with her colored fur coats, '90s platforms, and always strong eyebrow/lip game.
I would imagine Courtney Love dressing like Charli XCX if she had been 20-something today. The goth lite/party girl look is kind of the 2015 equivalent of Love’s' 90s baby-doll dress and tiara ensemble. She’s not high fashion in the sense that she’s not the muse or face of a brand or designer, but she’s an arbiter of aesthetics for that other VIP circle of fashion critics: teen girls.
St. Vincent, similar to Bjork, is where art and fashion and music are all equally represented. She’s getting the acclaim she deserves with a Grammy nomination for Best Alternative Music Album. I have a particular affinity for Annie Clark being, also, a suburban Texas gal who’s capable of being pretty strange. I admire her ability to be a total chameleon, so much so that it’s difficult for me to recall exactly what she looks like because it changes each time. She can look like a pale, blonde ballerina when performing in 3.1 Phillip Lim, an art school student with violet gray hair, or a disco moon queen on her eponymous album cover.
When someone receives a lot of hype (AKA being called an “industry darling” more than two times), I tend to want to ignore them. It’s not out of elitism, but more out of being annoyed by the hyperbole associated with the attention. Yet with FKA Twigs, a 27-year-old singer-songwriter, producer, and danger, I was in from the beginning. Her voice is flute-like against dark, heavy trip-hop beats; her lyrics reflect a depravity that sneaks up on you, like when she spits out “higher than a motherfucker” in her song “Two Weeks.” She’s just so damn talented, and I’ve found myself coming back again and again to her albums and videos when I need to recalibrate (in whichever direction) the light and dark.
As evidenced by the video for “Pendulum,” bondage is clearly a big source of inspiration for her, and she has a look that’s both unmistakable (the intricate curls, the heart-shaped face) and malleable enough to be a high-fashion muse. She’s already gotten her i-D cover and a big spread in the January 2015 Vogue. I’m excited to see what 2015 brings for her.
I think I watched Kari Faux’s “No Small Talk” video at least five times consecutively when I first found it. Her white tennis dress, Burberry print bucket hat, and slinky gold chain may well be my spring 2015 look. She’s a 22-year-old rapper from Little Rock, Arkansas, who deftly balances irreverent pop culture references with smart rapping and good production. Faux’s even got Childish Gambino remixing one of her songs (“No Small Talk”).
Like other rappers sprung from the social media they grew up on — think Kitty (formerly Kitty Pryde) or even Rae Sremmurd — Faux’s aesthetic is nerdy and fun, but still with a cool kid sensibility. Favorite looks so far from Rap Game Daria include: her rainbow pinstripe pants from the Gambino video, this flannel jacket/white bandeau combo, and her turtleneck/red bowler hat outfit in “On the Internet.”
Who is your style inspiration of the moment?