Girl pop sensations Kate Nash, Laura Marling, grow up

Feisty and talented, Kate Nash and Laura Marling were girls when they first hit Britain's music scene, but both have concentrated on the passage to womanhood in their newly-released second albums.

Britain has made a habit of plucking future pop stars from the playground lately, as kids not old enough to drink have entered the charts, often after appearing on one of the country's many television talent shows.

Now 20 and 22 years-old, Laura Marling and Kate Nash are already veterans in an industry full of baby faces.

Nash was 17 when she released her first album of folk ballads recounting the growing pains of a shy and melancholic girl.

As for Marling, music magazines dubbed her "the new Lily Allen" after she sang and joked in her "so British" accent, about past flings and flirtations, on a first album that came out when she was 20.

"It's a scary thing, exposing yourself being so young and getting successful and being celebrated by some people and hated by others, there are a lot of extremes going on," Kate Nash told AFP.

"The way I dealt with it," Nash explains, was by "taking some time off and getting back to reality, like moving into a new flat and passing my driving test... watching films and going to exhibitions."

"I tried to keep my feet on the ground," says the young woman who has worked with members of Radiohead and Damon Albarn's former band Blur to set up the Featured Artists Coalition, a group of musicians determined to make their voices and opinions heard.

"In general in the industry artists had never really had a voice, when laws can be made and deals can be changed," Nash said. "It's important to be right at the forefront with the labels and the managers, the politicians."

For the new album "My Best Friend Is You", out this month, Nash took inspiration from 1960s feminist groups and "Riot Grrrl", a wave of women-led punk rock bands in the 1990s.

Nash's lyrics have also got a harder edge this time, with songs touching on themes such as the passage to adulthood, relationships, homophobia and the representation of women.

"I am a girl and I am a woman so I write from that perspective," Nash says, taking issue with magazines that tell girls "how to dress and how to treat their bodies and how to get a man."

"I stand for something that's a bit different: you can be who you want to be and be individuals and don't worry about what the magazines are telling you to do."

"Mansion Song", a long poem in the middle of the album, is a protest against people who seek to prove themselves solely through who they sleep with, without self-respect or sense of independence.

A feminist message also drives "I Speak Because I Can", Laura Marling's second album that was released in March.

In a voice reminiscent of Joni Mitchell, Marling sings subtle lyrics that explore the female condition: as a lover, as a young girl living in fear of her father, as an abandoned wife.

"I'm fascinated by womanhood and the transition that I assume everyone goes through in life - from girl to woman - and the responsibilities of that throughout history and the way that has changed," Marling told NME magazine.

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