Happy International Women’s Day! In preparation for this day I’ve spent the past few weeks thinking about how I wanted to commemorate the day. One day as I was scrolling through a Spotify playlist at work, the song “Bitch” by Meredith Brooks came on and it hit me: I’d recount all the songs by women that were influential in my youth and helped shape who I am today. So, here it is – I hope you enjoy this musical journey.
“Girls just want to have fun” by Cyndi Lauper
I remember dancing around the house to this song with my mother, screaming the lyrics at the top of our lungs. Shortly after my infatuation with the song, my father re-wrote the chorus to say, “Girls just want to be nuclear physicists”. He always encouraged me to explore science, math and, above all, anything I was passionate about. I didn’t become a nuclear physicist, but I still sing his lyrics every time the song comes on.
“Material Girl” by Madonna
I was pretty young when I was first exposed to Madonna. I was at my dad’s research station in Chapleau, Ontario and one of the summer students had her on tape. I used someone else’s stereo to record a copy of the tape on tape, and I spent the summer dancing to “Material Girl”.
“Bitch” by Meredith Brooks
In 1998, my family had just moved to the Peterborough area and Meredith Brooks’ song “Bitch” was huge. It was the first time I’d heard a song that reclaimed the word ‘bitch’ and I loved it. I’d felt at a young age that I didn’t quite fit, and this song represented the ability to be more than just one thing, to be contradictory things at the same time, in fact. I remember falling asleep on the couch one night while trying to stay up late to watch an awards show Brooks was performing at, and my parents had to wake me so I didn’t miss the song.
“You Oughta Know” By Alanis Morissette
The album Jagged Little Pill was one of my secret loves when I was younger. I’d listen to pop songs with my friends and put on Alanis when I was at home by myself. This song was angsty female rock at its finest, and my angsty female heart was won over.
“Man! I Feel Like A Woman” by Shania Twain
Shania Twain was the first country artist I ever was interested in. Her song “Man! I Feel Like A Woman” was quickly a favourite and introduced me to the world of country music.
“Wannabe” by the Spice Girls
And, actually, literally every other song by the Spice Girls. And the movie. Girl power! Equalization between the sexes! Need I say more?
But really, I grew up with the Spice Girls and they continue to be very near and dear to my heart. Although I loved the song “Stop” and danced along like everyone else, for me “Wannabe” sparked a new perspective on the importance of friendship.
“Independent Woman” by Destiny’s Child
Destiny’s Child also had a number of songs I could have selected, but this one was always a favourite. Not only is it a bop, but it’s also about one of my favourite movies of the time, “Charlie’s Angels”.
“Can’t Hold Us Down” by Christina Aguilera ft. Lil Kim
Christina Aguilera was another singer I grew up with (I even liked her more than Britney Spears). “Dirty” was my dance jam and made me feel like women could be sexual beings, “Beautiful” made all of us see the beauty within (and cry, let’s be honest), and Christina’s voice in “Lady Marmalade” was incredible (not to mention all the other incredible female singers on it). But “Can’t Hold Us Down” delivers verse after verse of strong female empowerment and I’m here for it now and always.
Women & Songs
All of the Women & Songs albums, but especially the first with songs like “Constant Craving” by k.d. lang, “Tom’s Diner” by Suzanne Vega, “Dark Horse” by Amanda Marshall…seriously, I still listen to this album to this day whenever I have a bath. I’ll never give it up.
“U + Ur Hand” by P!nk
This song was popular when I was going to bars with my girl friends in university and it reflected something we experienced every time we went out: men grabbing us as they pleased when we walked by, waited for a drink, or just existed in public space.
“Follow your arrow” by Kasey Musgraves
Kasey Musgraves is a new-found love of mine, and this song certainly tops the list.
“Girls Chase Boys” by Ingrid Michaelson
The music video is just as great as the song: it’s a gender bending, stereotypes defining quirky track that I spent an entire summer listening to when I lived in Ottawa.
“Try” by Colbie Callait
I loved Colbie Callait when her first album came out and couldn’t get enough of this track. In a world in which we often feel like we have to be constantly doing something, progressing, learning, or growing, it’s a nice reminder that we don’t always have to be trying.
“Good as Hell” by Lizzo
This song is one of those feel-good songs I put on whenever I need a confidence or energy boost. Some of the best lyrics include:
“Boss up and change your life
You can have it all, no sacrifice
I know he did you wrong, we can make it right
So go and let it all hang out tonight”
“Girl in a country song” by Maddie and Tae
Not only are the lyrics funny, but the music video is equally hilarious. When this came out I had it on repeat.
“Ain’t Your Mama” by Jennifer Lopez
I heard this song a few years after ending things with a boyfriend who took from me way more than he ever gave. At the time, I was with somebody new (who I’m still with today) and I had started to drop back into my old habits of giving too much – always making dinner, doing all the clean up by myself, expecting less from my partner. This song reminded me that I’m not responsible for “taking care” of my partner simply because I’m the woman in the relationship.
“Praying” by Kesha
One of the most difficult songs to listen to, yet so moving.
“Where You Are” Moana Soundtrack
Moana is the movie I’ve been watching on repeat basically since it was released. This song is my favourite on the soundtrack, especially the Grandma’s part.
“Girl” by Maren Morris
This is a new one and I’ve just started to listen to it, but I love Maren Morris’ voice.
Here’s a list of some other songs by women, about women, or feminist in a sense:
- “Run the World (Girls)” by Beyoncé
- “Female” by Keith Urban
- “Put Your Records On” by Corinne Bailey Rae
- “I Luh Ya Papi” by Jennifer Lopez
- “How Far I’ll Go” by Auli’i Cravalho (Moana soundtrack)
- “Love Myself” by Hailee Steinfeld“Girl on Fire” by Alicia Keys
- “T shirt” by The Beaches
- Anything by Sixpence None The Richer or The Cranberries