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After a two-decade hiatus, Joni Mitchell emerged as the queen of songstresses in the best year yet for women artists

After a two-decade hiatus, Joni Mitchell emerged as the queen of songstresses in the best year yet for women artists


Joni Mitchell has learned to walk three times. The first as a toddler; the next as a wheelchair-ridden 9-year-old recovering from post-polio syndrome; and once more after she survived a nearly fatal brain aneurysm in her early seventies in 2015.

The polio, as it turns out, weakened her left hand and forced her to develop alternative tunings on guitar which might explain the haunting, melodic sound that’s won 10 Grammys. Then came a 20-year musical hiatus.

Perhaps these are the clouds, or life’s illusions, that 80-year-old Mitchell mused on in her Grammy performance of “Both Sides Now” this year, which also won a Grammy for best folk song in 1970. 

The aneurysm reduced Mitchell’s life’s work of singing and playing to memories that she spent years relearning, often by watching her hands play guitar in videos of previous performances. In the most female-dominated Grammy ceremony in history, Joni Mitchell’s comeback demonstrates the impact her introspective songwriting has had on generations of today’s pop stars. From Lana Del Rey’s melancholic dark pop to indie pop stars Lucy Dacus and Phoebe Bridgers. emotionally intelligent songs, which Mitchell paved the way to, are gaining popularity. 

“In today’s music landscape, there’s a growing appreciation for songs that offer emotional depth and complexity,” said José Ruiz-Resto, the program director of music business at the University of Florida and a four-time Latin Grammy winner. “Mitchell has given way to many other artists as a master of lyricism, and set a high standard of songwriting in the industry early on.” 

Mitchell is “regarded as one of the greatest songwriters of all time,” said Ruiz-Resto, adding that the “poetic lyrics, intricate melodies and emotional depth,” has influenced “countless artists and genres from folk, rock, pop and jazz.” 

Shifts in musical chart-toppers reveal changes in listeners preferences, and a big shift lately includes more love for personal, introspective storytelling. Lana Del Rey’s stardom began after her song “Video Games,” praised for its authentic feel, went viral and was named song of the decade at the Q Awards in London. Good lyricism also helps explain Taylor Swift’s massive fan base. As just one example, look at Reddit, where scores of fans describe how coming across lines they could relate to feels like discovering gems and “makes you want to keep going back.” 

At the Grammy ceremony,…

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