Earlier this week, in her new Rolling Stone cover story, Madonna said something that resonated with women everywhere: “We live in a world where people like to pit women against each other. And this is why I love the idea of embracing other females who are doing what I’m doing.”
This is especially true if you’re a female performer of a certain status. Even Madonna atoned for her feud with Lady Gaga, telling RS, “The only time I ever criticized Lady Gaga was when I felt like she blatantly ripped off one of my songs [‘Express Yourself’/’Born This Way’]. It’s got nothing to do with ‘she’s taking my crown’ or ‘she’s in some space of mine.’”
I am not the kind of feminist who believes that women owe one another absolute praise and acceptance as part of some unified attempt to overthrow the patriarchy. Some arguments are worth having. But within pop music, they’re relatively few and far between. These are big personalities, who really do have opinions on the women they are constantly pitted against. Often, even valid criticism comes out in a way that seems petty or ill-conceived, like Kim Gordon’s recent suggestion that Lana Del Rey off herself, or Azealia Banks’ history of cattiness undermining her valid critique of how Iggy Azalea has appropriated black culture for her own professional gain. (And remember Sinead O’Connor’s five open letters to Miley Cyrus? She doled up some decent advice, but like, why make it so explicitly public? Why not send a closed letter?) When the press gets involved, the whole thing becomes “beef,” a “feud,” or worse, a “catfight.” With that in mind, here’s a rundown of the silliest fights between famous female musicians, along with a grade for pointlessness. May we check them off below and never speak of them again.
Kim Gordon vs. Lana Del Rey
Pointlessness Rating: 5/10
I’m putting this entry first because it’s timely, but mostly because it’s the least pointless feud on the list. In the early edition of Kim Gordon’s new (and excellent) memoir, Girl in a Band, that went out to press, the Sonic Youth co-founder made disparaging comments about Lana Del Rey’s lack of interest in feminism and fascination with dying young. Gordon wrote:
“Today we have someone like Lana Del Rey, who doesn’t even know what feminism is, who believes it means women can do whatever they want, which, in her world, tilts towards self-destruction, whether it’s sleeping with gross older men or being a transient biker queen. Equal pay and equal rights would be nice. Naturally, it’s just a persona. If she really truly believes it’s beautiful when young musicians go out on a hot flame of drugs and depression, why doesn’t she just off herself?
While doing press for Girl in a Band, Gordon clarified her LDR comments, which have been edited in the memoir’s final version. She told HuffPo that she was feeling protective of Frances Bean Cobain, who argued with LDR about her pro-suicide comments last year. Gordon told Mojo, “Does she really think young musicians should burn up in flames? It’s a dressing, a persona. I don’t like the whole self-destructive thing. That video for Ride [a ten-minute short film in which Del Rey plays a young woman in serial sexual encounters, with overtones of prostitution and self-abuse] was so disturbing. I think she’s weird and affected.”
LDR has yet to respond. Don’t blame her for that. What do you say when a legend suggests you take the plunge and kill yourself?
Britney Spears vs. Christina Aguilera
Pointlessness Rating: 11/10
Those of us who grew up in the late-’90s teen-pop boom will remember this non-fight well. Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera came to fame around the same time, doing the same kind of thing. Moreover, they were both former members of Disney’s Mickey Mouse Club reboot. The media and fans of this genre were both accustomed to pitting similar acts of the same gender against each other, as boy-band marketing was also heavy on friendly rivalry. But Britney and Christina did their fair share of shade-throwing throughout the 2000s as well. On the occasion of Aguilera imitating Spears on the Tonight Show this week, Us Weekly felt the need to detail their frenemy situation, in case you feel compelled to see the full history. But here’s a small, weird bit the gossip mag chronicles:
In a December 2003 interview with Blender magazine, Aguilera called out Spears as “distant” during rehearsals for their MTV Video Music Awards performance with Madonna. “Every time I tried to start a conversation with her — well, let’s just say she seemed nervous the whole time,” Aguilera told the mag. “She seems to me like a lost little girl, someone who desperately needs guidance.” Spears, who caught wind of Aguilera’s comments, subsequently slammed the “Dirrty” singer in the January 2004 issue of Blender. Spears noted that she hadn’t seen Aguilera in two years when they ran into each other in a weird encounter. “She comes up to me in a club in front of all these people and tries to put her tongue down my throat!” Spears claimed. “I say, ‘It’s good to see you,’ and she goes, ‘Well, you’re not being real with me.’ I was like, ‘Well, Christina, what’s your definition of real? Going up to girls and kissing them after you haven’t seen them for two years?'” Spears continued ripping Aguilera in the interview and said: “A lost girl? I think it’s probably the other way around. I can’t believe she said that about me. When someone has been rude to you so many times, it’s like, ‘You know what, Christina, I’m really not about the fake anymore.'”
M.I.A. vs. Lady Gaga
Pointlessness Rating: 9/10
Tucked towards the end of M.I.A.’s infamous 2010 New York Times “trufflegate” profile, penned by Lynn Hirschberg, Maya goes on a tangent regarding Lady Gaga that ends in shade about her looks. I mean, really? Is that at all necessary, especially considering how much scrutiny is placed on celebrities’ appearances already?
“I can’t talk about Gaga anymore,” M.I.A. says, after referencing Gaga’s “Telephone” video with Beyoncé. “All I’ll say is, it’s upsetting when babies say ga-ga now. It used to be innocent. Now, they’re calling her name.” Maya feels that Gaga is not original, that she mostly borrows from the Abba playbook, and she gets annoyed when Gaga is compared to Madonna. “You can’t really say that Gaga is culturally a change,” Maya said. “Madonna was truly unique.” Gavras nodded. “And Madonna was pretty,” he said. “Pop stars should be pretty.”
The two would later patch up the beef on Twitter… sort of? It was weird, though few have remembered M.I.A.’s petty comments.
Azealia Banks vs. Iggy Azalea
Pointlessness Rating: 6/10
There are parts of this feud that are absolutely not pointless, like Banks calling out “Igloo Australia’s” racial ignorance after she made a name appropriating black culture. There are also parts of it that are eye-rollingly dumb, like Banks beefing with Iggy mentor T.I. over counting money and XXL Freshman Class covers. It balances out to a solid six in my book. BuzzFeed has the full chronicle of deleted tweets, if you’re interested in the pettier parts. Real stuff below.
Courtney Love vs. Kathleen Hanna
Pointlessness Rating: WTF/10
Even Kathleen Hanna doesn’t get why Courtney Love punched her in the face while she was standing at the side of the stage during Sonic Youth’s performance at the first stop of Lollapalooza 1995. The Bikini Kill leader theorized about the incident to the Daily Beast in 2013:
“You’d really have to ask her what that was about. I was just standing there. I didn’t do anything, say anything, or even look at her. I have no idea if she was jealous of me, of my band, or because I was in a band with Tobi, who dated Kurt before her and they had stayed in contact … I have no idea. She used to be good friends with our bass player, and I thought our bands had camaraderie, even though we never hung out. I was unpleasantly surprised when we weren’t able to be comrades. It’s a rough world out there for female musicians. People always told me she was super-difficult, and I didn’t believe them because that’s what people say about all women. And then she assaulted me and that was really sad. I was a fan and I stuck up for her when people said shit about her, so I was like, “Wow, why is this happening to me?” It was really depressing and I wish it didn’t happen. It’s not fun to be punched in the face, and it was really hard for me that it became a joke heard ’round the indie rock world, because I didn’t do anything to deserve it.”
Love’s defense: Hanna “endlessly stalked” Cobain. “I still don’t like her,” Love told SPIN in 2005.
Lil Kim vs. Nicki Minaj
Pointlessness Rating: 7/10
Admittedly, some of the blame for this feud needs to be attributed to the male-centric hip-hop industry, which functions under the belief that the marketplace only has space for one big “female rapper” (DEATH TO THIS TERM). Kim and Nicki were not always enemies, though. Kim guests on “Wanna Minaj,” a song off Nicki’s 2008 mixtape Sucka Free. But since then, the two New York rappers have feuded publicly; by that I mean that most of the feuding has been on Lil Kim’s part, as Minaj has become more and more successful. She’s released multiple Nicki diss tracks (see below), not to mention trashed Nicki in the press over the years. Meanwhile, Minaj’s all-time classic verse on Kanye West’s “Monster” is thought to be inspired by Kim (“Let me get this straight/ Wait, I’m the rookie/ But my features and my shows ten times your pay?”). Some people say the fight is over; T.I. says it’s complicated, but that dude should probably stay out of this stuff, y’know?
Mariah Carey vs. Jennifer Lopez
Pointlessness Rating: ?/?? (Does this feud even exist?)
A J.Lo-Mariah feud has been rumored for years. Tommy Mottola, Carey’s ex-husband/producer and Lopez’s onetime producer, may be involved. Mariah’s response in the interview below — or, actually, her face — suggests she’s not a J.Lo fan. But honestly, Mariah is super-cheeky and does this kind of thing all the time.
Lopez, however, has no beef with Carey, as she explained to Andy Cohen on Watch What Happens last year:
“I don’t have a feud against her at all. I know from back in the day, I’ve read things that she’s said about me that were not the greatest, but we have never met. Like, we don’t know each other. I think it’s kind of from word of mouth of things that have happened in the past that I’m not really aware of. But I don’t know.” “I would love to meet her and I would love to be friends with her. I think she’s incredibly talented and I’ve always been a fan of hers. ‘My All’ is one of my favorite songs of all time. I just love her. It saddens me to hear anything that’s negative because I’m a fan of hers.”
Katy Perry vs. Taylor Swift
Pointlessness Rating: 9/10
Any beef that involves John Mayer in any way is a waste of energy for womankind.
How this started: Swift was questioned about her 1989 track “Bad Blood” in a Rolling Stone cover story last year. It sounds quite a bit like a diss track, which is a lot rarer in pop than in hip hop. Turns out Taylor’s “straight-up enemies” with another big female pop star, who she declined to name.
“For years, I was never sure if we were friends or not,” Swift says. “She would come up to me at awards shows and say something and walk away, and I would think, ‘Are we friends, or did she just give me the harshest insult of my life?'” Then last year, the other star crossed a line. “She did something so horrible,” Swift says. “I was like, ‘Oh, we’re just straight-up enemies.’ And it wasn’t even about a guy! It had to do with business. She basically tried to sabotage an entire arena tour. She tried to hire a bunch of people out from under me. And I’m surprisingly non-confrontational – you would not believe how much I hate conflict. So now I have to avoid her. It’s awkward, and I don’t like it.”
Also in the RS interview, Swift admits there may have been a personal side to this conflict, which the press then speculated had to do with the fact that Swift dated (and then slammed by name in her song “Dear John“) John Mayer, who Perry was dating at the time. “But I don’t think there would be any personal problem if she weren’t competitive,” Swift added in her defense.
Then Katy Perry tweeted the following, the day after the Swift story appeared on Rolling Stone‘s site:
And then the entire Internet freaked out about it, theorizing to this day.
Ciara vs. Rihanna
Pointlessness Rating: 8/10
This is a fight, between two huge R&B-pop talents doing interesting things, that started over E!’s Fashion Police. Let its pointlessness sink in. I can’t even. Just read this timeline, and watch Joan Rivers call Rihanna a bitch on national TV. Cool cool cool.