“What do our genitals have to do with any of this?” asks Meaghan Smith.
It’s a woman-majority lunch that day, with myself, Meaghan, and Meaghan’s label representative (and my friend) Mary Jelley outnumbering the lone male, Meaghan’s husband and band member (or as she says hus-BAND), Jason Mingo.
The night before, Meghan had performed at the Women in Communications and Technology Annual Awards Gala in Ottawa, which has us on the topic of gender.
“[T]hey were playing these videos of these companies that were stating statistics about women working at companies…some of the statistics were like, ‘and now 15 per cent of our employees are females’ and they’re happy about it because it’s progress. But I’m like 15 per cent? Even if it was 25 per cent, or maybe 30 that’s still not even half!”
Of course the music business is no different than any other business when it comes to gender equality issues. Which may explain why we see music awards often cordon off certain categories into male and female, in an affirmative action type attempt to reduce any gender discrimination. But in some ways, segregating the two only furthers gender differences and can increase the divide by not allowing men and women to be considered equals.
“I remember having this conversation at an awards show where they had ‘Best Female something-or-other’ and ‘Best Male something-or-other’” said Meaghan. “But it’s not our genitals that are singing the song.”
Meaghan herself won the gender-neutral Juno Award for Best New Artist in 2011. In fact, all Juno Awards have been sans-sex since 2003, proving that in modern society, genitals really don’t have anything to do with it.
After winning Best New Artist, Meaghan was informed of the award’s curse: that winners don’t see long-term success.
“That sort of planted a tiny seed of fire in my soul, and I’m determined not to be one of those artists that just gets the Best New Artist and rests on their laurels, and makes the same album again.”
Which may actually be just the trick to stave off any curse.
Dr. Spencer Harrison at Boston University is attempting to answer why winning Best New Artist can harm a career. He’s found that one of the reasons is because it pigeonholes the artist, snuffing out the creative license that got them the award in the first place (still mid-research, Dr. Harrison tells me you can read more on his study via this Forbes’ article.)
“And so I was like: What’s the opposite? What would be the most surprising thing for me to do?” say Meaghan.
The answer: Have a Heart.
The title track off her new record is pure pop—a huge departure from Meaghan’s previous sweet and simply style. Meaghan worked with big-name producer Ash Howes (Dido, Ellie Goulding, Kylie Minogue, One Direction, The Wanted) to get just the right pop sound to stick to your aural cavities, garnering Meaghan her first commercial radio success.
Shortly after, my favourite song from the album “Friends Like You” was picked up for the TV show Working The Engels (airing on NBC this summer).
Expecting her first child, Meaghan said she’ll be touring the album as soon as she can. Although, she’s already experiencing a common working-mom gender inequality.
“They ask me ‘How are you going to manage family and work?’ They never ask [Jason]. Have you ever ever seen a man get asked that question? I never have, but it is a good question. How do they balance it? If you’re going to ask me, you should ask the other partner.”
Since her husband is a member of her band, it’s a particularly valid question. So, how will the new family handle it? Well, let’s just say if there are any Best New Mom curses, we’re sure she’ll bust those too.