Cory Lomberg never wore a cloak.
Cheeky wordplay wafts from the title of Marie Davidson’s 2016 record, Adieux Au Dancefloor. On the Montreal-based poet and producer’s Cititrax (Minimal Wave Records) debut, she waves a placid farewell to what’s assumed of female-identifying solo artists—specifically those categorized within pop and dance genres. The toxic expectation that women who make music independently should neatly, melodically package their feelings is, as Davidson suggests on “Naive to the Bone,” painfully passé. Instead, she sets a trend of emotional honesty and unmasked pride. “In the middle ages, people used to wear cloaks,” she muses on the consistently quotable single. “It’s 2016/Get real.”
In squashing one expectation, Davidson stomps across another, blurring the divide between speech and song through the use of spoken word. For her, this shift has been a gradual one, from the sing-songy opener of her first, self-titled release to that of Adieux Au Dancefloor. On the former, “Ma Vie Sans Toi,” she hits every high note, French lyrics lit from below by a jingling beat and Omnichord-esque effects.
Without a traditional melody, “I Dedicate My Life” signifies the lengths of Davidson’s self-awareness, as does “Naive to the Bone.” Together, they demonstrate that this record revolves around the liberation of straightforwardness, wherein she shuts out the notion that women—or anyone, for that matter—should waste energy hiding their feelings, who they really are, or who they want to be. “Listen,” she instructs with an air of waning patience, gesturing toward her self-constructed instrumentals: percussive claps, a string synthesizer. “I dedicate my life.”
There’s an undeniable power in refusing to sing, instead insisting on being heard the way you want to be heard: as clearly as possible. This vocal subversion is one of the many qualities that makes frontwomen like Alice Bag, Sadie Switchblade of G.L.O.S.S., and Katie Alice Greer of Priests so crucial. Their speech—and the speech of all female-identifying or presenting people—is inherently politicized. Still, such women are commonly coined “singers” or “songwriters” over what they really are: poets, artists, activists.
Of all bards, Emily Dickinson embodies this sentiment in “They shut me up in Prose,” a piece in which she condemns the popular opinion of her time that women could not withstand the intellectual rigors of writing poetry, and thus should stick to penning prose. More than 1,800 posthumous poems and 150 years later, Davidson clears her throat and continues the battle right where Dickinson left off. She challenges the notion that women need to cushion their voices in order to be heard and does so through electronic music—a genre that hasn’t always taken kindly to femme figures.
“But hey, people change,” Davidson ventures on “Good Times.” “They evolve.” The outrage induced by a woman daring to defy vocal norms can only be exacerbated by her sense of humor. In an interview with The Quietus, she prefaced her upcoming album, Bullshit Threshold, as a continuation of her spoken word work as well as “a commentary on club culture, relationships, social media and everything, really.” Enough said? No, never.