Florence + The Machine: a ritual in womanhood

An insight into female rage and being cottage-core by one of Britain’s finest rock n’ soul bands.


Thomas Hawthorne/The Republic

Florence and the Machine perform at the 2019 FORM Arcosanti music festival near Camp Verde, Arizona, on May 10, 2019. Form Arcosanti 2019

Anupama Choudhury, Arts Reporter

 The pandemic brought about the arrival of several things on the internet ranging from Dalgona coffee to regular screenings of “Contagion.” One such thing was the rise of internet aesthetics triggered by a sense of swelling nostalgia among the masses, brought about by people sitting at home, scrolling through Pinterest.  

Of these, one of the most discussed aesthetics was the cottage-core lifestyle, peppered with meadows, wreaths of flowers and a yearning for the simple life.  

The latter stages of the pandemic also saw a spotlight on films and TV shows that highlighted female rage. Keeping this in mind, it is no surprise that Florence + The Machine, a British indie rock band, saw a sudden surge in popularity.  

 Florence + The Machine is best described as the band that every little girl has fantasized about being part of at least once. The founding members, Florence Welch and Isabella Summers dreamed about their band when they were teenagers and defined it as a “private joke that got out of hand,” according to an interview with The Herald in 2009 

Personally, I believe her music blew up, especially in the past couple of years, because of her recurring theme of coming back to nature, reminiscent of the core thought behind the cottage-core ideal.  

In her song “Mother” from her album “How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful,” she sings from the perspective of a big, tall tree, witnessing the end of the world as she turns into a dryad and leaves to join her brethren. Her song “Shake It Out” brings out the irrepressible urge to set a church on fire and discard all notions of civility for the sake of self-preservation.  

Further, she taps into the concept of female rage and the idea of women reclaiming their own narrative with a fury that was last seen in books like “Gone Girl.” Her song “King” from her last album sums up her identity as “I am no mother/I am no bride/I am King.” 

In her synesthetic performances, Welch lifts her host of believers with her, elevating those watching and those performing with her, to something higher and bigger and better. Each word echoes through the arenas. Collective sighs and melodies in a rhythmic motion make their way through each individual present. 

Amidst the fake flowers and braided wisteria, there is a sense of guttural harmony, a deep-rooted knowledge that there is peace in the chaos surrounding us, which is the ultimate aim of cottage-core life. 

Escapism lies at the heart of cottage-core living. There is perhaps no method more perfect to attain it than through Welch’s lyricism. In a song called “Daffodil” from her latest album “Dance Fever” (2022), Welch sings: “Made myself mythical, tried to be real/Saw the future in the face of a daffodil”. This is just one example of how Welch looks toward nature in her metaphorical songwriting.  

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Welch relishes her moments of tapping into the crevices of the female mind, specifically female rage: Almost all her songs touch upon the concept of reaping revenge, wreaking havoc, and claiming what one is owed.  

One of her best-known songs is “Howl” from her debut album “Lungs” (2009). The pain and the unbounded anger in the song mirror that of its namesake, Allen Ginsberg’s poem “Howl” (1956).  

Stadiums filled with thousands of attendees scream out in unison: “A man who is pure at heart and says his prayers by night/May still become a wolf when the autumn moon is bright.”  

It is no wonder that the band’s audience is primarily female—women in the audience come prepared for worship at the concerts, and the atmosphere is more that of a seance than a performance. The fans thrive on the message of her discography: to leave behind the mundane urban life and live in a sisterhood where passion is unbridled, rage is celebrated, and nature is the only God to answer to.  

Fans can be seen online using her lyrics to express their own emotions. For instance, Twitter user @entnoot uses the lyric “Oh, drunken gods of slaughter/ You know I’ve always been your favorite daughter” from the song “Cassandra” to caption their post containing a poster that they had created.  

Her influence spreads even beyond music. The lyric “You make a fool of death with your beauty” from her song “Hunger” (2018) serves as the title of a book by Nigerian author Akwaeki Emezi according to a review from the New York Times. This is a book crafted by loss, vengeance, survival, and bravery, and celebrates a woman finding herself. Welch’s lyrics perfectly encapsulate the heart of the novel.  

Much of her work draws inspiration from Choreomania, also known as the dancing plague, a social phenomenon that cited public fits of dancing and coincided with the plague in Europe.  

Parallelly, their song, Choreomania, became a means for women to let go of their innermost frustrations by dancing wildly and freely, either at live events or while streaming her discography.  

Unlike her appearance, Welch is a rockstar to her core, not some pre-Raphaelite muse, and is bound to transport a listener to a more feral and liberated dimension.