I don't know why I'm suddenly filled with empathy for the career paths of Amy Grant, Sarah McLachlan and the like, but there it is. Most particularly, I feel empathy for high-earning women and the nearly inevitable aftermath that follows episodes of major success. Without a doubt, the deck is stacked against women in the entertainment industry to an almost absurd extent.
While enormously talented female singer-songwriters such as Grant, McLachlan and Alanis Morrissette suffer the aftermath of precipitous career declines, absurdly over-the-hill male acts such as Aerosmith and Kiss--or even Rod Stewart--continue to go out and rake in the cash with no basis of album sales to speak of. Concert draws such as Roger Waters, Bruce Springsteen and Peter Gabriel enjoy the luxury of going out after lengthy absences to find their audience undiminished. (Just wealthier, perhaps.)
Gosh, it seems like despite everything else that's happened in the world, popular music is truly the last bastion of old-school economics. Rumor has it that people sometimes hit their stride in their late thirties and forties...at least, that's what a little bird told me. In music, that seems to work well enough for men, but women in the business at that age--while still musically at their peak--have to branch out into "spokesmodel" gigs. Apparently Grant has been hired in such a capacity by the life insurance industry.
In the mid-to-late 1990s, McLachlan led three major Lilith Fair tours through North America's sheds. I dutifully tagged along once with my girlfriend at the time and one of her friends. I particularly enjoyed McLachlan's set. Two years earlier, I'd seen Grant at the Wisconsin State Fair. I never saw McLachlan again after that year, but purchased some of her subsequent albums and DVDs. I saw Grant again in 2006, with orchestra at Ravinia (McLachlan would go on to give a similar concert there in 2012). I've seen her a few times since.
My assessment is that both women have been doing their best work in the last two to three years. During that time, McLachlan saw the failure of a Lilith revival in 2010 and a parting of ways with her longtime manager. Grant continues to mostly give concerts in Midwestern exurbs and semi-rural areas, having become a stable of performing arts centers that also feature the likes of Menopause, the Musical.
I note that Morrissette, who opened Summerfest in 1996, is now playing theaters. It should be emphasized that few artists make it through multiple decades without career peaks and valleys, even drastic ones. Still, especially in the financially conservative entertainment business of the last decade, it seems that certain male properties have been bred and nurtured to a disproportionate extent, while too often, women seem to wither on the vine.