If P!nk's visit to Dubai has fired an interest in other female musicians, look no further. We've made a selection of those who've inspired us, are wild, are spooky and who, pure and simple, totally rock out.
Though it can't be recommended as a healthy lifestyle, Courtney Love just wouldn't be the rock queen she is today without her little extremes of living: heroin addiction, crazy love story, manic dress sense. She's moved on from being the music world's most infamous widow — a heavy crown she inherited from Yoko Ono — spent torturous years in and out of the scandal sheets, and has emerged a slightly crushed, careworn butterfly.
Her rock heritage gave her credibility — she came from the Seattle grunge scene on the tidal wave of Nirvana and the Smashing Pumpkins, having already befriended many on the British alternative scene as a teenager — but her smudged eyeliner, I-applied-make-up-while-drunk lipstick and incongruous dress sense, which screamed "little girl", made her a star in her own right.
At the helm of Hole, she gave a female voice to the male-dominated grunge sound with albums like Pretty on the Inside and Live Through This (which was released only a week after her husband Kurt Cobain committed suicide). Although classified as hard rock, Hole often bridged the gap between rock and pop with Love's sophisticated, yet accessible, lyrics coupled with a heavy punk guitar sound.
Love's life (and loves) have always made her a target for paparazzi; since her daughter with Cobain, Frances Bean, appeared in the public eye, the interest in Love has skyrocketed. Naturally, everyone wants to know what the daughter of a suicidal music legend and a rock trainwreck is like.
But Love's moved on from her constant admissions to rehab for drug use, arrests (for braining a concertgoer with a microphone stand, and breaking windows at a boyfriend's house), and thankfully it's been a while since she bared her chest on live television.
But it was a new-look Courtney photographed for the cover of a coming US Harper's Bazaar, slimmed-down and in control. She's now vaunting the merits of a microbiotic diet and detoxing, which she credits with helping her lose 45 pounds. And perhaps most importantly, she's regained custody of Frances Bean, who was being cared for by Cobain's mother, on the orders of a judge, after Love overdosed in 2003.
This Canadian munchkin can't decide if she wants to be a skater-girl, a rock balladeer or a pink-punk-pop princess. The only good thing about pop-punk is when it mocks everything (the punk) at the same time as sounding sunny and delicious (the pop). Avril Lavigne doesn't mock things — she complains, which is altogether less endearing and intelligent. "I'm really bored, it's getting late. What happened to my Saturday?" she sings on her Under My Skin album "Monday's coming. The day I hate." Vitriol, indeed.
It must be nearly impossible to grow up as a musician with any dignity — very few people listen to the same music at age 22 as at age 16. So it's fair to allow Lavigne to evolve, and if she takes whatever rock ethic she had to cheerleader camp, there's surely another tomboy waiting to take her place, and her skater boy, too.
The Anaheim, California, native is living proof that brilliant rock stars can be gorgeous, sexy and clean-living. Gwen Stefani, musically-oriented from a young age (her first stage performance was an excerpt from The Sound of Music) came of age in an era of folksy earth-mothers and grunge princesses (yes, Courtney Love, you.) So she turned to the mother of all hot rock chicks for inspiration. "I didn't know where I fit in," said Stefani in a 2001 interview with Rolling Stone. "All the women around me were in bands like L7 or Hole. They were angry, and I didn't feel like that. And the other ones were these folky girls. There wasn't really anybody, until I discovered Blondie. She was sexy, and she wasn't ashamed to be rocking out, and to me, that's having it all."
It's not just a hair colour that Stefani and Debbie Harry share. She's feisty without being furious — just think of Stefani's kung-fu kicking, punch-throwing dance moves — and she manages to be both fun and original whilst retaining her rock credibility.
That credibility — built up during more than two decades as the energetic, loopy-voiced frontwoman of No Doubt — has remained even though her sound as a solo performer has moved towards a melee of r'n'b, electro-pop and revisited '80s new wave.
How did Stefani gain her credibility and hold onto it? She's never been a guitar-wielding, drug-using maniac like Love, the quintessential rocker. Stefani came from a stable childhood, where a love of music and fashion was nurtured carefully; she joined her brother Eric's band, No Doubt, and though he later left, she stayed on in what has been a long-term music success story. If the allure of Stefani (and No Doubt) is not about the usual in-fighting (Stefani dated Tony Kanal, No Doubt's bassist, for seven years, but they continued to work together amicably after their break up), rehab and failed marriages, what is it about? How has Stefani become so successful — and respected — while eschewing the typical rock-star life?
One word: music. Stefani's intuition when it comes to what will catch fans' attention and her ability to be at the forefront of musical developments is finely tuned (she's been collaborating with Jamaican dancehall artists, a current musical trend, for several years, for example). And her songwriting honesty is refreshing — the mega-hit Don't Speak is about her break-up with Kanal; she questioned her identity underneath her public persona in Magic's In The Make Up and spoke of her fears about going solo in What Are You Waiting For?, and has also quietly chronicled her relationship with husband and Bush frontman Gavin Rossdale.
And there's no doubt that her amazing looks add to her star status. Her hair has not been its natural brown colour since she was in her teens, and she's rarely seen without her trademark scarlet lips — making rock music finally high-maintenance.
What's commonly known about Alanis Morissette? That she's a rather shouty, angst-driven purveyor of feminist alt-rock? Correct. That she was a teen pop star in the mold of Debbie Gibson and Tiffany?
Surprising, but also true — although she's come a long way since the days where she starred in a "horrible" film called Just One Of The Girls (playing future Friends star Matt LeBlanc's girlfriend).
Don't doubt the power of reinvention. But even while her third album, Jagged Little Pill, was scoring rock-chick points around the world with its raw, bruised energy, Alanis had to defend herself against accusations that she lacked credibility.
Following her high school graduation, and with her teen-pop years behind her (she was dropped by her Canadian label after one successful album and one commercial failure), Alanis headed to Toronto, Nashville and Los Angeles to look for musical collaborators. By this time she certainly was no ingénue: with several years of eating disorders and therapy behind her, she already had a lot on her mind and was ready to sing about it. Further negative emotion — stemming from a mugging in LA — emerged in the shape of panic attacks. Collaborations were initially fruitless, however, until she met Glen Ballard, and began recording Jagged Little Pill.
The blistering album made Alanis a best-selling female artist at the age of 21. It was "very overwhelming, very exciting, hugely defining. Literally every two seconds I was being given an opportunity to really define who I was, and I wasn't entirely sure who I was," said the singer.
With songs like You Oughta Know and Ironic, Alanis became the voice of scorned women everywhere, but there were some who questioned the former pop-tart's credentials as the poster girl for Generation X. Still, the "supreme female rock star of the Nineties (as described by MTV's Carson Daly) has proved that she's here to stay, with Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie and Under Rug Swept, her follow-up albums to Jagged, which performed moderately well. She also proved her acting chops (with roles in Kevin Smith's Dogma, off-Broadway plays and the Cole Porter biopic De-Lovely) and even gave a rare shot of her sense of humour with a YouTube take-off of the Black-Eyed Peas' My Humps.
Debbie who? Don't worry — you know who she is, but many people simply call her by the name of her band, Blondie. The bottle-blonde 'do that Harry always sported drew regular catcalls from New York's male population in the mid-1970s, so when she formed a band with her boyfriend Chris Stein with Harry at the fore, Blondie seemed an obvious choice for the name.
But from the word go, Harry proved the only thing blonde about her was her hairstyle. She defied the conventions (which unfortunately still exit) placed on women in the music industry — she wasn't a sweet and folksy, and she wasn't a hard-as-nails, dishevelled punk either. Thank goodness for Debbie Harry: you can be feminine, sexy, loud and edgy all at once, after all.
Although she's made a lifelong career out of her throaty warble, it's for 1979's Parallel Lines that she's best known. The album brought her worldwide fame on the back of the lead single Heart of Glass, but it's probably the album cover — one of the most iconic band pictures ever taken — which defined Harry as the leading figure of the band. As the guys snicker in the background in their new wave, skinny-tie suits, Harry glows — and almost glowers — the fearsome angel of the New York punk rock scene.
Parallel Lines was perfect punk-pop (the kind of I-love-you-but-it'll-never-work-out song Avril Lavigne would kill to have). Three-minute bursts of catchy guitar hooks and drum machines were grounded by Harry's incredible voice — shatteringly high one moment, husky and secretive the next.
Somehow, it wasn't surprising when this movie wildchild (she has over 40 titles to her name) turned to music in 2004. Roles in films including Cape Fear (for which she was Oscar-nominated), Natural Born Killers, Kalifornia (with her then-boyfriend Brad Pitt) and What's Eating Gilbert Grape? established her as an actress who can bring left-field, dysfunctional characters to life. With her edgy, sassy-yet-vulnerable appeal, a blistering performance onstage would be expected.
Reviews of her live performances with Juliette Lewis and the Licks centre around the antics of the front woman, with fan descriptions like "the one woman who can single-handedly bring back true rock and roll", "savage" and "the energy of the whole show blows you away," pretty much explaining why so many music fans are turned on to the Licks — their concerts, led by Lewis screaming, sweating, performing feats of crowd-surfing, are pure, high voltage rock of the kind that is rarely seen these days.
Goth rock was rarely so accessible to the mainstream as when Amy Lee's cold, operatic vocals hit radios in 2003. Although Evanescence was quickly dismissed by critics as the girl's Linkin Park, fans disagreed and the band found massive success on the back of Bring Me To Life, the first single from their album Fallen (the song was boosted by its inclusion on the Daredevil soundtrack). But — in a series of unfortunate events which proved the prophetic truth behind the band's name — their happiness quickly faded with fallings out, lawsuits, and, crushingly, the departure of the Lee's best friend and band co-founder, Ben Moody. They haven't spoken, she says, since the night of their Grammy triumph in 2004 where they were awarded Best New Artist. "I don't hate Ben," she told Blender magazine last year. "I just don't ever want to speak to him again. He was truly kind of poisonous. Some people just aren't good for you — it doesn't mean they're Satan, but you can't have them in your life."
Truly the vocabulary of the goth she really is — silver skull chains, black velvet coats and blood-red fingernails included. Yes, she does film music videos in cemeteries (for a Justin Timberlake-hatched celeb-starring Johnny Cash remake), and yes, she has lived in a converted church — with her cats. But now she's in the spotlight (a rare feat for a female alternative-rock vocalist) Lee's got a refreshing new angle on female musicians, wanting to be anything but the "fake, cheesy, slutty female cracker-box idols" — and that includes not using sex appeal to sell her songs.
The vision of her on the cover of the album that brought Evanescence all that attention in 2003 — a close-up of her face only — also seems sadly prophetic. Since Moody's departure in 2004, all of the other original members have left, and Lee has replaced them with musicians borrowed from other bands. Although Lee has said the band is "alive and well," she is essentially running the band single-handedly these days.
Hynde was something of a rarity in the days of punk and new wave in London of the late '70s: the strong female leader of a band. And in the 30-odd years since, she has endured — despite the departures of other members, the Pretenders exists to this day (they recently played a show in Dubai).
But it wasn't always so easy for Hynde, who moved from the US to London to try her luck at music journalism before working in Vivienne Westwood's SEX boutique in Soho. She left both jobs fairly quickly, trying unsuccessfully to find a band for herself. Friends with many on the punk scene, including the Clash's Mick Jones, the members of The Damned and Malcom McLaren, founder of the Sex Pistols, Hynde was frustrated as every lead went to a dead end.
Finally, a demo tape Hynde had recorded caught some attention and she joined up with Pete Farndon and Martin Chambers, eventually forming the Pretenders. Her musical vision, unique voice and honesty soon made her a popular icon for young women at the time.
Hynde's popularity and notoriety has continued until today, while the music has sometimes taken the backseat to her vocal protests against animal abuses. Like P!nk, she's a member of Peta, and has notably lent her voice to a campaign against Kentucky Fried Chicken.
But she's still making musical contributions, with duets with Ringo Starr, Incubus and Sheryl Crow, and Brazilian musician Moreno Veloso.
Meg White is the minimalist of the bunch, in every way — not just her restrained onstage style of white (naturally) and red (although she is seen offstage in more colourful clothes). As the rhythm section of the tidy two-member team that is The White Stripes, she describes her drumming as "primal".
Meg didn't take up the drumsticks until 1997, when, newly married to Jack White (the pair are not siblings, as they would have had the press believe), she tried out the drum kit in the house. "Jack had a set of drums upstairs, so I began playing with him," Meg recalled on US radio.
"It was childlike because I had no idea what I was doing. I had no idea it would get this big."
And their sound is big, surprisingly so for a "two-piece blue band from Detroit," says Meg. "For a long time people had the idea in their heads that a two-piece couldn't headline anything."
That two-piece is built on that huge noise produced by Meg and Jack, a stripped-down blues-rock founded on Meg's "simplistic" drums, Jack's guitar melodies, and a whole world of magical storytelling. It's obvious that Jack's the draw here, an intense, strangely old-fashioned Pied Piper. But it's impossible not to notice Meg, if only for the fact that she does her very best not to be noticed. She rarely gives interviews and is known for being shy.
But the chemistry between the two (who divorced in 2000) remains one of the defining factors of the White Stripes, as they play off each other onstage or fascinate fans with their arcane lyrics and enigmatic expressions.
When P!nk, a.k.a Alecia Moore, first burst onto the pop charts in 2000, she wasn't a typical rock chick: her first hit, There You Go, had a strong r'n'b flavour and mass appeal — not the way rock stars usually start out.
But the 22-year-old had certainly paid her dues. Having aspired to rock stardom since childhood, when her father (a Vietnam veteran who would greatly influence her songwriting) would play guitar and sing for her, Moore put in time in high school bands before joining R'n'B girl group Choice.
After the band split up, Moore remained with her record label, and after working with singer-producer Babyface, launched her debut album Can't Take Me Home. It kicked off themes which would dominate her later, more personal work — especially that of being an outsider and a "tough girl" — a rock chick attitude in an R'n'B package.
This incongruous image is partly what led Moore to take creative control on her second album — calling it Missundaztood. She wrote most of the tracks with 4 Non-Blondes alumnus Linda Perry (who interestingly has also written material for Courtney Love and Gwen Stefani). Although her record company was initially nervous about changing her sounds, their fears were allayed when the album and its singles — such as Get The Party Started and Just Like A Pill — headed up the charts. "I don't follow a formula," she has said. "I don't go into the studio to write a radio hit."
Since then, she's remained on the charts — and touring the world — with her bad girl image cemented in everybody's minds.
Have your say:
Do you agree with our choice of rock chicks? Who else would you add — and who would you leave out? And what do you think are the qualities of a true female rocker? Let us know in 100 words or less at firstname.lastname@example.org