Music created by women for women isn’t new, of course. Female artists have always used their industry platforms to boost each other up. From Aretha Franklin's “Respect,” to Dolly Parton’s “Just Because I’m a Woman,” solo women musicians have consistently challenged the patriarchy. Lil’ Kim dominated the mid 90s and early 2000s with her career as a female rap artist with tracks designed to empower women. What makes the female solo artists of 2017 so special is the audience they sing for. 2017 has been a prominent year for the nuance feminist movement and as we move further and further into the late 2010s, feminism has become a part of pop culture. We live in a time period where information can travel faster than ever, revitalizing the feminist movement and, in turn, revitalizing empowering music created by women for women.
We can see the evolution of feminist music reflected in the prominent female artists of our generation. In Beyonce’s 2003 debut Album, Dangerously in Love, the main themes being what the title implies. Romance take a forefront in much beloved songs like “Crazy In Love.” And while this song will truly never go out of style, it offers little to listeners other than the sensationalized love stories. This album gives us a taste of what the future of feminism holds for Beyonce, however, gifting us with the empowering piece “Me, Myself, and I,” that suggests that women don’t need a knight in shining armour to save them when they can be their own saviors.
Beyonce’s music evolves with the growth of feminism. She starts to further advocate the power of women with “Single Ladies” and “Run the World (Girls),” both of which boost the roles of women, both anthems of independence and controlling our own destinies. The release of Lemonade in 2016 pushes Beyonce’s evolution of feminist music to new heights, the album perfectly encapsulates how women can be vulnerable, sexual, and powerful with tracks like “All Night,” “6 Inch,” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself.” Today, Beyonce’s music matches the heavily emphasized message that women are more than their love stories, exemplifying all of strong qualities women possess.
Mirroring a similar evolution as the Queen Bey herself, fellow iconic solo female artist Rihanna shows her growth in time. Teasing us with “You Don’t Love Me” in her 2005 debut album, Music of the Sun, the song sets forth the mood that one-sided relationships are not to be settled for. Rihanna showed us her music progressing with the times. Her single “Good Girl Gone Bad” portrays her fed up with the treatment of her boyfriend, taking the initiative to leave and find her own happiness. Fast forward to 2016 and Rihanna’s show-stopping album, Anti, features tracks like “Sex With Me” and “Needed Me” that show narratives that women can be sexual and engage in casual hook-ups without getting their hearts tangled in the mix. Her music embraces the independent culture of women and normalizes women expressing sexuality.
While we have watched our favorite artists grow into the new feminist wave of music, other female artists debut their solo careers jumping head-first into this movement. Dua Lipa’s first ever single, “New Rules” took the charts by storm. Released in July of 2017, the song puts a woman’s self-worth above a toxic relationship. Lipa debuted in the U.K. as the top single and stayed there for two weeks. Months later, her empowering single still hangs around in the top forty in the U.S. charts, reminding us that guy isn’t always worth the hurt and we have to prioritize ourselves. Similarly, as Bebe Rexha’s career continues to grow, her featured song with G-Eazy “Me, Myself, and I” topped charts with its lyrics boasting independence: “I don’t need a hand to hold, even when the night cold, I got that fire in my soul.” Demi Lovato joins with her empowering album entitled Confidence and her 2017 single “Sorry Not Sorry,” both of which challenge the common misconception of a woman’s self-confidence is an assertion of superiority.
Female solo artists have expanded their music to reflect the feminist movement making feminism more mainstream now than ever before. Our favorite female artists create more openness for women to expand outside of the sphere of patriarchal standards. Pop culture is used to magnify relevant social issues and women’s issues are no exception. Now music accurately represents women as multifaceted; as sexual, and emotional, and whatever else we want to be.
After all, “who run the world? Girls.”
Illustrations by: Maddie Mortell