Singer wonders what'd happen 'If Women Ruled the World'

September 25, 1992|By Knight-Ridder News Service

Joan Armatrading claims she's no feminist. But in concerts, she's singing a song titled "If Women Ruled the World."

"I've never been a feminist, never not wanted to have men around, never said 'let's get rid of the men' or 'all men are beasts,' " says the 41-year-old Caribbean-born songwriter. "But every war, it seems, is ruled by a chap. I wondered if a woman foreign minister was strategizing, talking to another woman foreign minister. . . . I just think there would be a very different outcome."

Ms. Armatrading has just toured Europe and is now fresh into five-week U.S. trip promoting her album "Square the Circle" (A&M).

Definitions of "feminist" notwithstanding, Ms. Armatrading's emotional, husky alto and her lyrical pinpointing of the crossroads of love and loss usually inspire her midsized -- but passionately loyal -- audiences to rise from their seats and dance in the aisles. Not the reaction "If Women Ruled" got at the tour's kick-off gig in England, where Ms. Armatrading is a rock-pop icon.

"The men booed," Ms. Armatrading says. "That was a surprise, but it hasn't happened since. Everywhere we play, people are totally for it."

For years, the singer's American anthem was "Show Some Emotion," the now-familiar title track of her third album. However, in interviews over her 19-year career, Ms. Armatrading has been reluctant to claim as her own the real-life experiences, relationships and emotions that inform her writing.

Case in point: the new album's title cut, "Square the Circle."

Ms. Armatrading: "It's somebody trying to say something and they can't come out and say it, because they're worried about the implications. It sort of means, just get the thing out and everything will be all right, don't worry about it."

And what exactly is it that Ms. Armatrading -- or, rather, the person she represents when she's singing -- can't come out and say, because of the implications?

"Oh, the backup singers on the song, the girls, they kept asking that, too. They suggested I write a sequel that would be coming out and saying it."

Saying what?

"Oh, anything."

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