OPINION: Women In Music - 2015

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It’s always great when you hear a new album or song, or discover an artist that speaks to you. 2014 was a pivotal year for this, particularly for female artists. What stands out for us about these artists is not only their talent and dedication to the craft, but also their personalities and unique edge. One of them went to college to study Marine Biology, one got a full academic scholarship to UCLA and another can do a great impression of a munchkin from the Wizard of Oz. These girls have so much confidence and charisma and they aren't afraid to be themselves; not just with how they look and what they wear, but also how they present themselves and the sort of message their songs carry. I've been lucky enough to interview some of the girls in our top five and can confirm that they're just as funny, alluring and aspiring as you would think. So many incredibly talented women in the music industry were discovered, and we're definitely excited to see what new treats they've got in store for us in 2015.

NJOMZA

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Njomza is a lady to look out for. She’s been singing her whole life and always knew this was something she wanted to pursue. Originally from Kosovo but now living in Chicago, Njomza is the first lady signed to Mac Miller’s REMember music label. Starting off with covers on Youtube, she wanted to make her own body of work and started working with local producers. Then, she began recording with a production team called THEMpeople and a few months later, the project 'Gold Lion' was ready.

She did a cover of Mac Miller's song “I’ll Be There” off his Best Day Ever record and Mac and his team saw it on a fan site. That same week, Njomza met them when they went to play at a venue near where she lives and ever since, they kept in contact and she sent them demo’s. Then they decided it would be great to work together. Since then, she's been in the studio, writing material. Njomza writes her own stuff and everything on 'Gold Lion' was from real life experiences, which she tries to put in her music as much as she can. 'Gold Lion' was a big step for her and now that she’s working on her next project, she’s choosing to take her time to make sure it’s perfect before she releases it.

She performed at SXSW after her first show in Chicago, which is something she wants to do more. She would have loved to sing with Janis Joplin, but in the future, she'd hope to work with people like James Blake and Drake. She’s definitely one to watch, and it seems she’s going to have a promising career, with 2015 being the year where she will establish herself more solidly. Powerful and confident, her words to live by are “just do whatever you want and do whatever makes you happy.” She’s got a few dates over the next couple of months, and you can find out when and where on her site: http://www.njomza.net/

SZA

SZA is the first lady of TDE and the 24 year old has dropped three EPs so far, See.SZA.Run, S and Z. She went to college and this is where she studied Marine Biology, before taking a series of other jobs to make money (she worked as a bar tender at a strip club for a while!) Then, she accidentally met Punch (TDE President) and so it began...

Growing up with a Muslim dad and a very conservative mum, SZA had an upbringing that is crucial to the music she makes. She was forced to be creative and had an overactive imagination, spending lots of time alone but she spent a lot of her time listening to great music. Classic jazz and artists like Miles Davis and Ella Fitzgerald were key but for SZA, it wasn't always clear that her career would be in music. She thought for a long time she would go into marketing or some sort of office job, and the stability was something that appealed to her when she considered these types of jobs. Music always seemed a bit tougher to her and singing was more of a hobby than a career option. It was only when she started getting positive responses that she kept going... then she realized just how much she loved it herself.

Collaborating with her TDE family members, SZA now firmly feels like apart of them and although it took her a while to get past feeling nervous, she has settled in well. We're expecting SZA's debut album "A" to be released soon, which she's already said will be similar to the alluring EP "S". This will be an album where she has complete vocal freedom and we expect it to be as successful as her three previous releases, which have had great positive reactions from critics and fans alike.

avriel-epps

King avriel

Yep, the lowercase A is on purpose! Intelligent, beautiful and ready to take on the world, King avriel is a rare artist. She's been writing since she was young and when she decided she didn't like preschool, her mom taught her how to read and write at home when she was just three years old. She started to write stories before she even started elementary school and from then, she knew writing was what she wanted to pursue. She did some modelling, dancing and acting when she was younger and she was famously the voice of Timberly from Hey Arnold! When making music, the storytelling is the main thing for her. The narration and details are important and she tries to paint a picture for the listener, which was showcased properly when she released her record 'Thesis' last year, which has received positive reviews.

Real name Avriel Epps, her stage name was inspired by feminist scholar bell hooks, who purposely has her name in lowercase to put the emphasis on her work, not her individual identity. King avriel signifies that everybody can be king and that it's a collective identity, "whereas avriel is an individual identity and it shows the difference in importance." When talking about her ideal collaborations, she would love to write a song with Beyonce and work with Frank Ocean and Kanye too. She mentions her dad as one of her idols, as he used to be a guitarist in a reggae band and he pushed her to start writing songs. She also loves what TDE is doing and is a big fan of Kendrick, especially his honest, raw story-telling. For her, most of the stuff she writes is really autobiographical and almost everything in her music draws on things she's gone through in life. Song-writing is therapeutic and cathartic for her, and helps her sift through different issues.

She once sneaked into a Kanye listening party and walked up to Jay Z, pretending to know him. She explains what happened, "I'm like oh my gosh, how are you?" I give him a little kiss on the cheek and he's like "I'm good, I'm good how are you?" pretending like he remembered me. That was a pretty awesome moment for me cos I was like 17 and from then on I knew I could do anything if I decided to do it."

FEFE DOBSON

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She's an extremely talented singer/song-writer and has been making music for a long time, so she's not really someone new to watch. She's just someone who we're looking forward to hearing more from in 2015. She released her song and video 'In Better Hands' in 2014 and this was different from her past work. She's written a lot of heartbreak songs previously, songs about relationships not working but this was a different take on love and she wanted to express her happier feelings.

Fefe is Canadian but has been travelling since she was 16, so she's had a huge range of experiences and been all around the world to various places, like the UK, Germany, Paris, Australia, etc. She started in the music industry when she was just 12 years old and recalls that she was just trying to figure out who she was. "I was just kind of a punk ass kid, just tryna write what I was feeling at home, just being a kid, writing about what I knew." Fefe takes great pride in creating a perfect marriage when she's working on her music and the visuals that go with it. For her, it's important to create a picture for people to understand where her mind is at.

Her latest album is called 'Firebird' and we're still waiting on a release date for it, but the album is almost ready to go. Two singles have been released from it 'Legacy', and 'In Better Hands', and Fefe is really looking forward to getting the rest of it out for everyone to hear. She enjoys listening to classic rock bands and loves old school stuff like The Doors and Lou Reed. Musical inspirations range from Fleetwood Mac to Michael Jackson, and she is a true appreciator of good music, with a strong collection of vinyl's. Fefe loved 'American Hustle', particularly because of the soundtrack and the clothes. All those sorts of things give her inspiration for her music videos, which are always full of life and usually eccentric themes (she's the one who can do a great Munchkin voice from the Wizard of Oz).

Lana Del Rey is someone Fefe counts as an ideal person to collaborate with and one of her most significant collaborations was with Yelawolf, her fiancee, who did a remix on her 'Legacy' track. A collaboration in the future is something that may happen with just the two of them down the line, as they're always playing guitar and singing around each other. Having a few glasses of wine really helps her when she's trying to write songs and it allows her to not be afraid to be honest. We're looking forward to hearing the rest of her honest music when 'Firebird' drops!

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FKA twigs

Currently based in London, FKA twigs has been one of the most talked about new artists for a few months. She moved there after growing up in Gloucestershire and took up work as a backing dancer in music videos. Originally Twigs, she had to add "Formerly Known As" to the name after another artist complained about her using it. But at 26, FKA twigs released her debut album 'LP1' in August last year, and received great praise from critics. She was nominated for the Mercury prize and describes herself as "a bit eccentric."

She won a scholarship to a private school and although suffering from some financial troubles when she was younger, she always made sure she was well presented and active at school. Dancing has always been a big part of her life (she appeared in a Jessie J video dressed as a puppet) and her song Video Girl was inspired by her work as a backing dancer. Other previous jobs before she began to get recognized included working at a nightclub in London and being a cabaret singer, but she was always writing and knew what her plan was: to be a singer. In 2012, she was ready to go and had written the material for her EP before getting a record deal.

She appeared on Jimmy Fallon's talk show and this is where she made her US debut and now, her music videos have been viewed by millions. She's mysterious, mesmerizing to watch and incredibly bold, seeming wise beyond her years as she talks about success and says "I'm well aware if I walk down one street in New York, I'll hear people say: 'Oh my gad!' And if I walk down another street: nothing." (full interview is on http://www.theguardian.com/music/2014/nov/30/-sp-fka-twigs-interview-lp1-two-weeks-video-girl-robert-pattinson) But she is selling out tours and making a name for herself. She sees herself as appealing to people who want something different and is embracing all that is happening for her right now.