I am a huge fan of Kate Nash. I loved the first album from this spunky, outspoken Brit. She’s the kind of woman you want to grab a beer with and whose closet you want to raid. Starting out by garnering a devoted following on MySpace, the singer/songwriter’s first album was a unique blend of piano, folk-tinged indie pop, self-confession and social commentary. So I had high hopes for her next CD. Her second album, “My Best Friend is You,” released in April does not disappoint.
Nash writes all her songs and played piano, guitar and drums on many of the tracks. A departure from her first album, she branches out by channeling influences from 50s and 60s girl groups like the Shirelles and the Ronettes (“Do-Wah-Doo,” “Kiss That Grrrl”) and Riot Grrrl groups like Bikini Kill and Heavens to Betsy (“Later On,” “I Just Love You More”). While most of the album vacillates between bouncy and raw, a few songs (“Pickpocket,” “I Hate Seagulls”) hearken back to the sound of her first album. And be sure to wait after the last song for the hidden title track, which was inspired by Nash’s grandparents and their love for one another.
Never one to shy away from controversial topics, “My Best Friend is You” contends with themes of infidelity, jealousy, suicide, coming out as a gay person, making mistakes and love. But her overarching message is one of female empowerment and self-expression. On the track “Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?,” Nash, a vegetarian and proud feminist, makes it clear that she wants her voice heard:
“I don’t know how more people haven’t got mental health problems
Thinking is one of those stressful things I’ve ever come across
And not being able to articulate what I want to say drives me crazy…
Sometimes when I’m at a busy train station
Somewhere big with the noisy trains like Kings Cross
I feel like putting down my bags and shouting things out because I’ve got something to say”
But the most powerful track is “Mansion Song,” an anger fueled tirade with explicitly shocking lyrics. Nash told The Daily Telegraph she was angry about “fame-hungry groupies” and their antics. Beginning with an explosive monologue with lyrics like, “I wanna be fucked and then rolled over, ’cause I’m an independent woman of the twenty-first century” and “You were just a whole that lacked passion, another undignified product of society, that girl shoulda been a mansion,” Nash comments on women, independence and promiscuity in society.
In an interview with The London Times, Nash recognizes that her lyrics are explicit but signifies a difference between shocking lyrics and the over-sexualization of young girls occurring in some pop songs. Talking about the pop group Pussycat Dolls,
“They do sexualise young children, it’s a fact — look at their name, ‘pussy’ and ‘dolls.’ But even though I say f**k and c**t and cocaine in that song, there’s nothing in there as offensive as ‘Don’t you wish your girlfriend was hot like me’.”
While Nash realizes that parents might be offended she’s determined to not censor herself. She believes that young girls who hear the song and her album will be left,
“…not singing about stealing people’s boyfriends. They’re going to be singing about wanting to be an empowered woman with f***ing morals and brains. And not thinking [chipmunk-bimbo voice]: ‘I wanna be pretty, I wanna be thin, I wanna shag people.’ They’re gonna be thinking: ‘I wanna f***ing do something.’ That’s much better in my book…So, apologies for the swearing, but no apologies for the meaning behind it.”
Society judges women’s worth based on their attractiveness. It continually treats women, including teenage girls, as sex objects, yet punishes them for being too provocative in a tiresome virgin-whore divide. As sex sells, pop stars who bare their bodies sell more records than those strictly making social commentary. Women should be confident in their appearance, but Nash is right. The over-sexualization of young women neither empowers them nor benefits their self-esteem.
Unlike some artists, Nash, who often hires female roadies and sound engineers, takes her job as a role model seriously. She told The Guardian,
“It’s really important to be a strong role model. It’s one of my main things because I feel I’ve been exposed in such an extreme way to a lot of sexism. I’ve become aware of being in a very male-dominated industry where a door opens and it’s like, ‘Oh hello, it’s 12 men and me. Again.'”
At a time when some lament that “dumb and frothy pop will always win ,” Nash is an artist of substance, a fiery goddess demanding attention with her bold lyrics. She continually speaks (and shouts!) her mind. Whether raging against sexism or confessing her own insecurities, Nash continually reminds us to listen to our own inner voice rather than what society tells us. I can’t wait to hear what else Kate Nash has to say.