Sunday marks the birthday of Solange Knowles, she who is forever destined to be known to the majority of the general public as Beyoncé’s younger sister. It’s a thankless task having an über-successful sibling, especially if you’re a perfectly respectable artist in your own right. Solange, to her credit, has followed her own path admirably, blazing a career path that’s based around working with an eclectic roster of collaborators and generally not trying to match or outdo her sister. For this reason, we’ve always found her more interesting than Beyoncé, and we got to thinking this week about similar artists, those are arguably more interesting than their famous siblings. Here are our selections.
Beyoncé is the globe-bestriding pop colossus, with the power marriage to Jay-Z and the apparently limitless commercial potential. But if like us you’re of the opinion that despite its popularity, her music (whisper it quietly) isn’t all that, you may prefer the work of younger sister Solange, whose records a) have not sold sold bazillions of copies, but b) have nonetheless been consistently more interesting than Beyoncé’s output. She’s worked with a eclectic variety of artists, including Midnight Juggernauts, of Montreal, Chris Taylor of Grizzly Bear, Chromeo — none of which we can see Beyoncé doing in a pink fit, frankly. (Sorry about the mislabeling of the video, by the way — we are well aware that the song is of Montreal featuring Solange, not vice versa.)
Sure, Maggie isn’t exactly obscure, but it’s still Jake who’s the better known Gyllenhaal sibling, largely due to Brokeback Mountain — and since both emerged with Donnie Darko, it’s tended to be Jake who’s commanded both the headlines and the more lucrative roles (even if said lucrative roles are in masterpieces like Prince of Persia). However, it’s Maggie who’s had by far the more interesting career, from spectacularly good performances in Secretary and Sherrybaby to her recent appearance in a film about, um, the invention of the vibrator.
Angus tends to get all the attention — a school uniform and a way with a killer guitar solo will tend to do that — but it’s Malcolm Young who’s AC/DC’s main songwriter, and it’s his rhythm guitar playing that’s underpinned the band’s sound for the best part of 40 years. Fun fact: his first band, formed in the early 1960s, was called… The Velvet Underground.
Fuck yo’ couch etc etc.
Moon Unit Zappa
For years, the most famous thing about Moon Unit Zappa was her star turn on her father Frank’s track “Valley Girl” (above), along with, y’know, the fact that her name was Moon Unit. But while Dweezil is the best-known progeny of Frank Zappa, touring the world with his Zappa Plays Zappa project, his younger siblings have had more diverse and interesting careers. Over the years, Moon Unit has worked as a stand-up comic, been a VH1 VJ, and published a novel (which is, as her website makes clear, “NOT about me or my dad”). See also her younger brother Ahmet Zappa, who’s a successful novelist.
You may not know of Kevin’s brother, but you’ve almost certainly heard his music — he’s been a highly successful soundtrack composer for the best part of 20 years, and his scores and songs have featured in a number of films, along with plenty of network and cable TV shows. The less said about The Bacon Brothers the better, mind.
One Lopez sister is a journalist and TV presenter who once won an Emmy Award for “Outstanding Morning News Program.” The other is Jenny from the block. We know who our money is on for the title of “more interesting.”
The older brother of Killing Joke singer and general musical polymath Jaz Coleman is a theoretical physicist who works in something called “theoretical condensed matter physics.” We’re not entirely sure he’s more interesting than his brother, but he’s just clearly just as hyper-intelligent and talented (and the two collaborated a while back on a physics-themed music project called Music of the Quantum, which looks fascinating, if somewhat esoteric).
Anyone who saw his breakout performance in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and/or his frankly terrifying turn in The Killer Inside Me should be in no doubt as to Casey Affleck’s acting abilities, and there’s also the fact that he directed the enduringly bizarre I’m Still Here. Happily, both the film industry and movie aficionados appreciate his talent, but to the general public, he’s still Ben’s little brother. Sigh.
Maria Anna Mozart
Young Wolfgang apparently idolized his older sister as he was growing up — she was a talented pianist and harpsichordist, and also a prolific composer. Of course, the opportunities for women to pursue music in the 18th century weren’t exactly thick on the ground, and once she reached marriageable age, she was forced to stop performing — sadly, none of her compositions survive today. She’s remained an enduringly fascinating character, though, inspiring everything from novels to band names.