Women’s History Month is the perfect time to celebrate the contributions from women of our past and present, and to inspire the leaders of our future. Creating a female empowerment playlist is the ideal move for not only this month, but all year-round. Here is a compilation filled with classics and underrated gems honoring created by some of our favorite women in music.
“Nasty” – Janet Jackson (1986)
Inspired by her own experience of being harassed in the streets of Minneapolis, Jackson expressed these frustrations on this hard-hitting dance track. She established herself as a true powerhouse with these career defining lyrics: “No, my first name ain’t baby/It’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty.” The sheer confidence and no-nonsense attitude this track embodies is difficult to recreate. Being the trendsetter she is, Miss Jackson inspired women everywhere to stand up for themselves and write their own story.
“Grown Woman”– Beyoncé (2013)
There are a plethora of Beyoncé songs that fit perfectly into this list, but “Grown Woman” is by far the most underrated. Appearing as a bonus video on her 2013 self-titled visual album, this song captures the true essence of the superstar. Chronicling her youth filled with talent shows and rehearsing in her backyard, the track showcases her grit and self-assurance in her abilities. The infectious African-inspired drums and vocal harmonies will make just about anyone feel unstoppable.
“9 to 5”– Dolly Parton (1980)
This major crossover hit was written for the comedy film “9 to 5,” starring Jane Fonda, Lily Tomlin and Parton herself. Filling the background noise with typewriters amongst the easily recognizable piano chords, this track aimed to bring awareness for better treatment for women in the workplace. Parton sings about the feelings of irritation regarding working women not getting the proper respect they rightfully deserve. The lyrics, “Your ship will come in/And the tide’s gonna turn” exhibit the motivation we all need to keep fighting.
“Q.U.E.E.N”– Janelle Monáe feat. Erykah Badu (2013)
“Even if it makes others uncomfortable/I will love who I am”, portrays the true spirit Monáe and Badu effortlessly have in this funky track from Monáe’s second studio album, “The Electric Lady.” Monáe addresses those critical of her music style, the way she dresses and her outspoken nature. “Q.U.E.E.N” is a celebration of not only women, but anyone who finds themselves not fully embraced by society. In true Monáe fashion, she would rather jam than pass judgement on others.
“Just A Girl”– No Doubt (1995)
Playing a huge role in No Doubt’s breakthrough, “Just A Girl” dives into Gwen Stefani’s own perspective on people treating her differently because of her gender. Stefani talks about how women are pressured to fit into society’s standards as she sings: “Don’t you think I know exactly where I stand?/This world is forcing me to hold your hand.” Listeners connect to Stefani’s powerful words and most likely have experienced similar events, making it the perfect song to rock out to.
“None of Your Business”– Salt-N-Pepa (1994)
Pushing their way through the male-dominated rap scene, Salt-N-Pepa were true pioneers in regards to the way female rappers freely express themselves today. “None of Your Business” is the perfect example of Salt-N-Pepa’s unapologetic way of encouraging women to take control of their own bodies and liberate themselves. The incredible flow and anti slut-shaming lyrics paved the way for later songs known for tackling the judgements people have on women embracing their sexuality.
“Human Nature” – Madonna (1995)
“Express yourself, don’t repress yourself” happens to be a common message displayed in Madonna’s artistry. Arguably one of Madonna’s most unique sounding compositions, “Human Nature” was written as an answer to her critics regarding her controversial image and sexually charged work. This R&B influenced track reassures us that Madonna is not apologizing for speaking her mind.
“I’m Every Woman”– Chaka Khan (1978)
This wouldn’t be a women’s empowerment playlist without this anthem from the Queen of Funk herself. Acknowledging the strength and connectedness of all women, the soulfulness of Khan’s voice makes this track feel like heaven. Whitney Houston’s 1992 cover for “The Bodyguard” soundtrack also serves as a fantastic version made to have everyone attempt the diva’s otherworldly vocal stylings.
“No Scrubs” – TLC (1999)
Known as arguably the group’s most popular song, Chilli, T-Boz and Left Eye bring in their expertise as successful and independent women. It’s a testament for women everywhere to not give their love to someone who doesn’t have their life together. The message is simple–know your worth.
“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” – Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin (1985)
Lastly, there is no way we can leave out words of wisdom from the late Aretha Franklin. Even though songs like “Respect” would be an obvious choice for this list, this duet should be talked about more. The unusual collaboration between the soul of Franklin and synth pop of Annie Lennox backed by a soaring choir makes this track unforgettable.
For women all around the world: “Sisters are doing it for themselves/Standing on their own two feet/And ringing their own bells.”
Rylee can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @NevadaSagebrush.