By Leighton Ginn
It’s an odd thing that Coachella has not had a female headliner since Bjork in 2007, as there have been many worthy candidates.
Some publications have begun to hit Coachella for the lack of female headliners, but it seems unfair to single out the one event.
Since Bjork in 2007, female headliners at similar festivals have been Florence + The Machine (Lollapalooza 20-15, Sasquatch 2016 and Austin City Limits second weekend in 2015), Lady Gaga (Lollapalooza 2010), Sleater-Kinney (Sasquatch 2015), Bjork (Sasquatch 2007 and ACL 2007), Alison Krauss with Robert Plant (ACL 2008). It should also be noted that Bonaroo has never had a female headline its festival.
In these festival’s defense, many of these are built as alternative and rock, and there are not as many acts that are on the level of the Red Hot Chili Peppers or Arcade Fire or Black Keys, who have been mainstays at Coachella.
It could be genre, because maybe a Taylor Swift and Katy Perry is not an act the Coachella goers want to see there.
Or it could be that these acts don’t see a benefit to playing Coachella. Swift and Adele had sold out multiple nights at big venues in Los Angeles, so it appears playing Coachella wouldn’t seem to make financial sense.
Katy Perry and Rhianna have been regulars at Coachella as spectators, so one would assume there have been conversations to have perform.
Coachella had Madonna play in 2006, but she elected to play in the Sahara tent, and used it to kick off her tour. The Sahara tent has become the EDM tent. I would guess if Goldenvoice has its choice, the Material Girl would have been on the main stage. It was billed as Madonna’s first Festival performance. And who knows, maybe she will return to Coachella as a headliner since she’s still going strong.
There are also some acts that would be great at Coachella, but maybe their catalogs are not deep enough yet. HAIM, who have been festival darlings, come to mind.
Having said all that, Coachella has had its opportunities to have a female headliner and whiffed.
Two that come to mind were the Yeah Yeah Yeahs in 2013, but went with Stone Roses and Blur as split headliners on that Friday night.
The other was Florence + The Machine in 2015. AC DC, Jack White and Drake were the headliners that year, so that’s not as easy a call, but 2015 was a huge year for FATM.
And because Coachella has been diversifying its lineups, acts that didn’t seem like a good fit in the past would seem to make sense now.
So here’s my list of candidates to be headliners at Coachella.
Adele: Obviously one of the biggest acts in the world, Adele would be a slam dunk.
When she announced tour dates in 2015, April was wide open for a possible date at Coachella 2016, but it didn’t happen. Instead, Adele had sold out eight dates in August at Staples Center.
Truth of the matter is, Adele is so big, she might be used as an act for a Fall date at the Empire Polo Grounds as a follow up to Desert Trip.
Ellie Goulding: She’s obviously a huge act and has been very popular the times she’s played Coachella.
Lady Gaga: She has a new CD out and will be coming off a Super Bowl performance.
She’s one of the biggest acts in the world and her eclectic songs and presence would be a perfect fit.
Beyoncé: A huge act, this could be a major chapter in Coachella history.
Beyoncé performed in 2010 with Jay Z.
Then again, it’s been seven years. If Beyoncé hasn’t headlined since then, why now?
Lana Del Rey: Another hugely popular act, who had a huge turnout when she played 2014. There was surprise when she wasn’t in the 2016 lineup. So there’s a chance…
Alabama Shakes: Their 2015 appearance was one of the most buzziest acts in that lineup. Brittany Howard is on her way to becoming an iconic singer. Only question will be depth of their catalog for a headliner. But there’s no question they would be a great band to market as a headliner.
St. Vincent: One of the most respected acts who has a deep history. No one has given her a chance yet to headline, but her self titled “St. Vincent” won the Grammy for Best Alternative Album, making her the first female solo act to do so in 20 years.
Chvrches: Until this year, I didn’t think of Chvrches as a headliner. But Lauren Mayberry was magnificent as they took to the main stage and drew huge crowds.
Their catalog continues to grow with great songs. The only thing preventing them from headlining 2017 is they just played 2016. Unless they have a new CD, this is probably unlikely as a headliner in 2017, but a good possibility for the future.
HAIM: Darlings of the festival scene, their catalog is just not that deep yet. They might be another CD away from being a possible headliner. But the talent and songwriting is there, and they are terrific live.
Nicki Minaj: Coachella has successfully expanded with hip hop and EDM, so Minaj would be a natural to headline. She’s one of the biggest acts in the world, and seems like a perfect fit.
Florence + The Machine: I think she is long overdue to headline Coachella. This also seems unlikely because she played the festival recently. It would only seem to make sense if she releases a new CD.
Gin Wigmore: I caught her twice in the span of a year. She might be a dark horse to headline, but she was great the two times I caught her, and she has a deep catalog of great music.
But she hasn’t played Coachella, and I think she’s due.