Image Credit: Florence + The Machine (Picture: Autumn de Wilde / Press)
By Georgia Austin
The coronation of Florence Welch.
Florence + The Machine’s latest song, King, ends the band’s recent silence in the music charts, slamming the double standards for female artists within the music industry. Florence tackles the torn identity she feels between her success as an artist, and a woman wanting to start a family.
“King” sheds light on a vital problem for women both inside and outside of the industry: why must women choose between successful careers or having a family? She sings:
We argue in the kitchen about whether to have children
About the world ending and the scale of my ambition
And how much is art really worth
The very thing you’re best at is the thing that hurts the most.
Florence censures the disparity in how much women and men have to sacrifice in order to have children in the industry. She also calls attention to her success as a female artist, being the thing that hurts her relationship the most. The song’s music video, directed by Autumn de Wilde, matches the chilling lyrics with Florence donning a hooded cloak, as she snaps the neck of her lover and floats above what appears to be an all female cult.
In the song’s press statement , Florence commented:
As an artist, I never actually thought about my gender that much, I just got on with it. I was as good as the men and I just went out there and matched them every time. But now, thinking about being a woman in my 30s and the future, I suddenly feel this tearing of my identity and my desires. That to be a performer, but also to want a family might not be as simple for me as it is for my male counterparts. I had modelled myself almost exclusively on male performers, and for the first time I felt a wall come down between me and my idols as I had to make decisions they did not.
With this in mind, “King” holds a much broader meaning than the issue of having children as a woman in the industry. Identity, primarily but not exclusively relating to gender, is at the forefront of the song’s chorus: “I am no mother, I am no bride, I am King.” For Florence, this was never solely a question of motherhood, but a lack of identification she feels between herself and the roles society has laid out for her. She is fluid, “But a woman is a changeling, always shifting shape/ Just when you think you’ve figured it out/ Something new begins to take.”
So what does Florence decide?
As for choosing between her career or having a family, the song’s ending seems fairly conclusive: “I was never satisfied, it never let me go/ Just dragged me by my hair and back on with the show.” Her career remains her priority, but she claims her identity. By neutralising the gendered term ‘King’, Florence owns her truth and crowns herself in that “golden crown of sorrow.”