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One way womxn across the globe can unite is through music. In English-speaking parts of the world, at least, songs like Beyoncé’s ‘Run the World (Girls)’, Cyndi Lauper’s ‘Girls Just Want to Have Fun’ and Alicia Keys’ ‘Girl on Fire’ have the hearts of many womxn in sync when played, combatting the ongoing pressures of patriarchy and expectation.
In 2018, these pressures obviously still exist, particularly for womxn and femme-identifying people of colour – not least thanks to social media – but music has often been the therapeutic antidote. There is something about a “girl power” anthem that still sends a rush of positivity into the brains of the target audience, and this year has seen some incredible additions to the catalogue.
Thanks to the contributions of artists like Ariana Grande, Janelle Monáe, Christina Aguilera and Ray BLK, we were blessed with inspiring, inclusive, revolutionary bops. These songs seek to help womxn express feelings of anger, pride, and freedom. In a time when #feminism has often become a cynical marketing ploy, these tracks are genuinely empowering.
Here are the best motivational songs released in 2018 with themes of womxnhood and independence, as well as embracing natural beauty and self-love.
Janelle Monáe – ‘Django Jane’
On Dirty Computer Monáe tackles some interdisciplinary constructs of feminism, which embody womanhood, queerness, sexuality, and racism. One exceptional track on the album is the all-rap ‘Django Jane’ in which she talks about the power of a woman and her accomplishments as one. In an interview with The Guardian, the American singer described this song as a response to threats being made to her rights as “a woman, as a black woman, and as a sexually liberated woman”. With lines like: “Black girl magic, y’all can’t stand it / Y’all can’t ban it…” and, “We gave you life, we gave you birth / We gave you God, we gave you Earth”, she puts melanated ladies on the pinnacle of the world.
Ariana Grande – ‘God is a woman’
Ariana Grande has always been an outspoken feminist who has refused to be defined by her sexuality. For example, in 2006, Billboard released a profile about her in which she explained why sexism in the industry is an issue and why she won’t accept it. 2018 was Ari’s biggest year yet, but she’s remained consistent: the main theme on ‘God is a woman’ is sexual freedom and power. With strong graphic representations, symbolism, unusual imagery, and unapologetic sexuality in the music video, Ari makes this song a stimulating package. Bringing an all-women rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper to life at the VMAs, her performance of this song had jaws dropped and wigs snatched.
Ray BLK – ‘Empress’
This song will have you feeling like the queen you ought to be. In an interview with gal-dem, Ray BLK describes the track as the inspiration behind the theme of women’s empowerment on her project, Empress. One of the highlights of this song is during the singer’s vocalisation of: “I don’t want to settle for less / ‘Cause I’m an Empress…” in the chorus. Those words reinforce the idea that women don’t have to settle for partners who don’t match their expectation of who the perfect person is or what an ideal relationship should be like.
Christina Aguilera ft. Demi Lovato – ‘Fall in Line’
Lovato and Aguilera are two artists who have always urged their fans to be the best version of themselves. Sharing words of positivity when the single was released, Aguilera tweeted, “To anyone who’s ever felt silenced and repressed, the truth seekers and bold thinkers… may you liberate your voice and break the mold, never back down, and never fall in line.” Lyrics like “I wasn’t made to fall in line” make this the type of bop you sing passionately to yourself in the mirror – while preparing for a riot.
Ella Mai – ‘Naked’
Ella Mai is an artist who knows how to make soothing R&B songs. On ‘Naked’, the twenty-four-year-old sings about wanting someone who will love her irrespective of her flaws – a feeling everyone has experienced at some point. A good way to enjoy this song will be to cuddle yourself and allow the sound of the strings take you away as Mai sprinkles lyrics of self-love such as “Are you ready to fight just to see what’s lost behind my flaws?”
Anne-Marie – ‘Perfect To Me’
On ‘Perfect To Me’, Anne-Marie sings about being comfortable with oneself. She doesn’t deny her imperfections but celebrates them because they make her who she is. This energy is what listeners can tap into. With a powerful message of self-acceptance, she sings softly, “Love every single part of my body / Top to the bottom / I’m not a supermodel from a magazine / I’m okay with not being perfect / ‘Cause that’s perfect to me.” Listening to ‘Perfect To Me’ can change the mood of every girl who has ever been made to feel “ugly”.
Little Mix – ‘Woman’s World’
With the release of their feminist studio album, LM5, Perrie Edwards, Leigh-Anne Pinnock, Jesy Nelson and Jade Thirlwall continue to use their talents to bless girls with the motivation they need to overcome obstacles in a patriarchal society. With lines like “She’s overworked and underpaid” and “Only want the body and not the brains”, they describe the challenges of simply existing as a woman.
Janelle Monáe ft. Grimes – ‘Pynk’
Since her mixtape days, Janelle Monáe has sonically, lyrically, and aesthetically articulated a vision for the liberation of women and black people. She continues to create music that makes cis men feel jealous about not being women and ‘Pynk’ is a great example of such songs. The 32-year-old fits in an uncomplicated women’s empowerment message into this song as she sings: “Cause boy, it’s cool if you got blue / We got the pynk”. Paying homage to femininity in the music video, she’s not sending a subtle message about the supremacy of sisters aka the colour “pynk”.
Olivia Louise – ‘Best Life’
Olivia Louise is a British singer who’s very passionate and vocal about women’s rights and feminism on social media. On this soulful jam she conjures a girl code for queens trying to live their best lives; a life of success, good romance, and free from the stress that comes with “shit sex and bad guys”.
Listen to Tommy’s playlist below: