Sunday, October 9, 2011

Underrated Women of Pop 2011 - Beth Ditto (25)

25. Beth Ditto

The journey to electro-pop has been an unlikely one for Beth Ditto. Born in the South, Ditto and bandmates Brace Paine, Kathy Mendonoca and Hannah Billie found indie success as the band Gossip, whose "Standing in the Way of Control" was both a 2007 hit and a theme song for the alternative movement. Then Ditto struck out on her own, journeying into the electonic realm. From there she churned out "I Wrote the Book," a skilled, understated bit of grade-A electronic dance-pop that doubled as a master class in effective Madonna homage right at the time a certain overzealous megastar was getting it all very very wrong. In fact, Ditto was so open about her references (not least in the music video, an unabashed "Justify My Love" shoutout) freeing her and her work to be seen and admired for her own style and originality. Perhaps the most striking thing about Ditto doing electronic dance is her voice, at once high and deep, feminine and powerful, light and controlled, with a timbre that had a great deal to do with Gossip's appeal.

We're still waiting to hear about further solo projects, though "I Wrote the Book" took a while before finally impacting the Billboard Dance Chart, though it peaked outside the top ten. Ditto didn't win any friends in pop circles when she picked an unfair and icky fight with Katy Perry in 2009, but she seems smart enough to avoid repeating such missteps, and, for that matter, to be the kind of knowing, super-skilled outsider pop artist a la Kelis or Gwen Stefani.

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