As part of an ongoing series, POPDOSE explores the positive portrayal of women in pop culture. Last year, we discussed how British teen pop star Cher Lloyd was strangely repackaged for US audiences. The hot topic also came up in our conversations with Gabriella Cilmi, Crystal Bowersox, Brittany McDonald and Orianthi among others. Joining the conversation is Noelle Johnson, a singer/songwriter from Sequim, Washington on the breathtaking Olympic Peninsula. Not only is her single ‘Beautiful Soul’ a timely and positive message, it’s also one of the best songs we’ve heard this year. I personally keep it on near constant iPod rotation. This is a song to be shared with all of the women and girls in your life — not to mention anyone who is into Mumford & Sons, Of Monsters and Men and the Lumineers.
We absolutely love the video for “Beautiful Soul.” Was it inspired by your own journey, your friends, the media or a little bit of everything?
NOELLE JOHNSON: First of all thank you so much for a chance to chat with you guys! I’ve been checking out your blog and am LOVING what you’re putting out. Beautiful Soul was definitely inspired by a bit of everything. Everyone I know, including myself, deals with body image issues. It’s something that’s very common but is an issue that leaves people feeling very alone. My goal for this song is to remind people that no matter how we feel about ourselves or how we look, we are all worth so much and therefore are beautiful. So much emphasis is placed on outward beauty that we often forget our worth and value are defined by who we are, not what we look like.
A large portion of our economy is built on an industry that tries to convince women they were born “not beautiful enough” (fashion, cosmetics, drugs, plastic surgery, etc.) while selling cheap food that makes it worse and expensive diets to make things better. How do you combat the daily onslaught of negative body image and self-worth messages?
I try to stay healthy by eating really well and exercising regularly. It’s a battle that I have to fight daily. I try to ignore negative and self-deprecating thoughts and focus on doing what I can that makes me feel good about myself. It takes a lot of effort and I definitely haven’t mastered it yet! But you know, I think that every person in our culture is in a way at war with themselves because of our immersion in corporate advertising and pop-culture icons telling us what “normal” is.
Scantily clad women far outrank equally near-naked men in pop music (let alone pop culture). Do you have any favorite artists who are getting it right?
All of my favorite artists are known for their music and not for how much skin they show. Some of them include Regina Spektor, A Fine Frenzy and Ingrid Michaelson. So I consider someone to be getting it right when they show real talent in songwriting and performing. Don’t get me wrong, I love fashion too! But my fashion isn’t scantily clad, and I consider it secondary to the music.
In a recent interview, Gabriella Cilmi told POPDOSE about the racy FHM shoot that inspired her to cut ties with her management and reinvent her image. What happens down the line when an agent, producer or media person tells you “If you strip for the camera, it will show women how empowered you are by your sexuality.”
Stripping in front of a camera is something I will never do. I think baring my entire body for the world to see has nothing to do with being sexually empowered, but rather it gives power away! As an artist, I want to set a different kind of example for young women in our culture. I believe that sexual empowerment is an inherent right that we all have and it comes more from discovering and identifying who you are, what your passions are, what your vision is, and loving yourself for those things more than it does from sharing your body with as many people as possible.
(Spoiler Alert) In the video, did the green blouse really need to die? Wouldn’t Goodwill have been a better — and more eco-friendly — answer?
I actually do most of my shopping at Goodwill! I’m obsessed with it! The reason we burned the green dress in my music video was for the intense symbolism. In the video, the main character wants nothing more than to fit into this “perfect” green dress and she feels she’s not good enough because she doesn’t “fit”. Burning the dress is a symbol of her letting that go and really loving who she is, regardless of her size or shape, really claiming her power.
What’s next for you? Touring? More music?
Why, Popdose, I’m so glad you asked! I’ve recently put my solo project on pause because I’ve decided to join up with some of my best friends. I’m currently in the studio working with my new band: Dungeness. It’s a collaborative group of artists from my label Dungeness Records. We’re working on our first EP and it’s a really exciting project in that we’re pushing into a territory very few have explored. Our genre is called Folktronica, and it’s all about finding a dynamic and powerful intersection between the worlds of Electronic/Dance/Dub and folk music instruments, as well as telling stories that talk about what happens when people from cities long for things from the wild places.
One of our taglines is: “Dungeness creates a high-energy Folktronic blend inspired by nature. And robots.”
The sound we’re working on is going to require a pretty big stage presence and we’re super excited to share it with the world…as soon as we can!
Here is the first single by Dungeness the band, a trippy folk affair titled “Take Me Back“
We can’t wait to hear more from the band. Thanks again for sharing “Beautiful Soul” with the world and for taking the time to talk with us!
Thanks again for the interview and You guys are awesome. Keep it up.
Get the rest of the ‘Beautiful Soul’ EP for free here — donations very welcome of course!