It is frequently argued that the 1990s were characterised by ‘the cult of the disconnected fragment, the fashion for a free-floating identity politics, in which we are all at liberty, apparently, to be who we want to be’. 1 Indeed, given the 1980s' commitment to self-expression and self-identity, and the challenges made to traditional representations of femininity by such artists as Annie Lennox, Madonna, k.d. lang and Tracy Chapman, the question arises as to whether women performers were finally freed to ‘be themselves’. While this brings up problems surrounding definitions of selfhood and the framing of women as culturally imagined rather than born, 2 the turn of the decade did seem to suggest that the unitary categories which had earlier characterised ‘identity politics’ (female/male, gay/straight, black/white) had been replaced by cultural forms that challenged single determinate meanings. 3 As my analysis of, for example, k.d. lang's album Absolute Torch and Twang illustrates, popular music (in common with other cultural forms such as film and television) was ‘increasingly understood in different ways by different cultural and subcultural groups. 4