FANGIRLS: SCENES FROM MODERN MUSIC CULTURE - HANNAH EWENS BOOK REVIEW
It's rare you come across a book that you can't believe wasn't already written, but Fangirls: Scenes From A Modern Music Culture by Hannah Ewens is definitely one of them.
In summary, Fangirls tells the story of, funnily enough, fangirls. By this, we mean the young women that are seen as crazed fans of music artists, ranging from The Beatles in the 60s to Harry Styles in 2017. Let's face it, fangirls are the backbone of the music industry. No artist is truly successful without a hardcore group of fangirls not only listening to them but promoting them and supporting them both financially and emotionally. The book adds more depth to the concept of being a 'fangirl', and the impact this label has on these women and the way they're perceived.
You may think on the surface that Fangirls is just the story of crazed fans and the ridiculous things they'd do for their favourite artists, but to suspect this about the book is actually playing into its argument perfectly. There are moments of the book that are incredibly profound and emotional. An example of this was the particularly interesting segment, if difficult to read, was about the 2017 Manchester terrorist attacks at an Ariana Grande concert. Ewens brings to light the argument that media outlets and politicians seem to listen over - young women were the target. The discussion around this is incredibly insightful and even features quotes from the ex-Chief Crown Prosecutor for north-west England.
Another particularly interesting feature of the book was the interviews with fans from different genres of music and generations. I was especially pleased about the variety of different music genres represented within the book. When you think of fangirls, you think of the classic pop fangirls. However, this book shows voices from fans of everyone from Courtney Love to Beyonce to My Chemical Romance. It showed the different ways in which fans supported their idols and the variety in how heavily involved they were in being a 'stan'.
Not only was finding all these fans an incredible testament to Ewens herself, but it was great to hear different voices throughout.
What was especially brilliant though, was that without saying it implicitly, these interviews tell us: these girls may all be different in any other aspect, but the love they have for their idols is the same.
One thing about the interviews, and the book in general, is that it would have been great to see more about K-pop. Maybe K-pop in the west came a little too late for when it was written, but K-pop fans really have brought 'stanning' to a new level and it would have been interesting to get a bit of insight with these amongst the others.
Perhaps when it comes to this review I'm biased though since this is a topic that I've been incredibly passionate about even before I really knew what my argument was. As a fangirl myself since my early teens, I had always been wondering why I, or the bands and artists I love, just weren't taken seriously. I even wrote a post about it a couple years ago, which isn't my best work but gets the point across.
However, Fangirls takes fangirls seriously. It was such a relief to see someone like Ewens, who herself was involved in the music scene as well as an accomplished writer, taking on this topic that nobody has really talked about in a non-academic setting. It makes me feel that maybe I shouldn't look down on my teen years, and I hope others might read this and either don't judge their own pasts as heavily or don't judge those who are experiencing it now.