We live in a more equal society. Not an equal society – just a society that’s more equal than it used to be. Women are capable of doing anything and everything men are capable of, but even as 2019 nears an end, double standards still exist, and those double standards weigh women down.
In no particular order, I present what I consider to be the most empowering songs for women to listen to whenever society decides to put its two favorite words together and say, “You can’t.”
Because actually, you can.
The Man: Taylor Swift
Swift’s latest album, “Lover,” sets a tone much different from her 2017 release, “Reputation.” While “Reputation” carried a snarky, sinister vibe, poking fun at those who have done Swift wrong, “Lover” places more emphasis on Swift’s current contentment with her personal life. The album focuses on, as the title implies, love.
“The Man,” however, is a track that carries a different tone than most of the other songs on the album, reflecting more of the satiric sentiment of “Reputation.” The song makes many references to how Swift feels limited by being a woman in today’s society, not because she isn’t capable of doing all that men do, but because society shames her for it when she does.
Throughout the song, Swift compares outsider reactions to what men do and how they react when she does the same thing, revealing a jarring societal disconnect. The overall takeaway, though? Women are just as capable as men, and we don’t need society’s approval to be that way.
NASA: Ariana Grande
While “Thank U, Next” might come to mind as Grande’s most obvious girl power anthem, the album of the same title holds many other hidden gems with similar messages. NASA is one of said songs.
The song means more than just a logo on a sweatshirt, because apparently wearing NASA branded everything is a trend now. But that’s another topic altogether. Back to the topic at hand, NASA explores the complex, contradicting feeling of loving someone but also not wanting that individual around.
Grande sings about needing independence and not wanting to be smothered, stating that it’s okay to want time alone and need space. Women don’t need to be loved by anyone but themselves to feel secure at the end of the day.
The title explains the gist of the song: Finding confidence leads to endless achievements.
Between repetitions of the uplifting chorus, however, Sia sings about what’s beneath the armor that makes her “Unstoppable.” Here, she reveals her vulnerabilities, reflecting how it’s impossible to be strong all the time. It’s impossible to always put on armor to deflect the things in the world that might hurt you. Why? Armor is heavy, and it weighs you down if you wear it too often. And with armor comes a mask, a mask which conceals your true, authentic self from the world around you.
The secret, then, to being “Unstoppable” is allowing yourself to be weak when it’s not necessary to be strong.
Like a Girl: Lizzo
Among many other titles, such as “Truth Hurts” and “Good as Hell,” Lizzo’s “Like a Girl” makes the cut as one of the best feel-good songs for girls anywhere. The song reflects the same sentiments as these other hits, emphasizing the power behind being a woman who knows what she has the ability to accomplish.
Not only, in these lyrics, does Lizzo establish women’s abilities as being equal to men’s, but she attributes new meaning to the phrase “Like a Girl.” Putting a positive spin on the phrase “Like a Girl” is nothing new, but Lizzo does so differently. Not only does the phrase, according to the lyrics, parallel strength and ability, but it symbolizes achievement in the face of injustice.
The Climb: Miley Cyrus
It’s not only a Disney classic, but a classic in general. Miley Cyrus, not Hannah Montana, sings about the beauty of a journey being in the journey itself, not the destination. It’s a message we’ve all heard one thousand times over, but it still bears repeating: Enjoy life for what it is, when it is.
Unwritten: Natasha Bedingfield
An oldie but a goodie, Bedingfield sings about the power behind writing one’s own narrative. For women in today’s society, our stories are often written based off assumptions others make of us.
Maybe this one is self-explanatory, but that just makes it all the more powerful. Kesha avoids the subjects of partying and hook-up culture that used to define her music in the mid-2000s. Altogether ditching themes of her old music, Kesha sings about the strength and power of living as an independent woman in a society that tells her she needs a man by her side to be successful.
Scars to Your Beautiful: Alessia Cara
Without a doubt, this song is loaded in positive messages for women, fighting against many different societal expectations.
No matter how often this point is talked about and brought to light, it doesn’t seem to change. Society has certain expectations for women when it comes to looks. There are constructs for what it means to be beautiful, and it’s a tight little box hardly even a fraction of women fit into. But because that box is so publicized, it seems like everything. And, as a woman, if you don’t fit into that box and fit that picture of beauty, it can easily feel like you’re nothing.
Cara refutes this, placing more importance on what lies on the inside, not so much what’s presented externally. She sings about “covergirls,” how they’re expected not to cry once their makeup is painted on. They’re expected not to eat in order to fit a sickly skinny picture of perfection. She says there’s hope beyond the darkness these societal expectations make women feel. Once they find the power to let their inner lights shine, they’ll love themselves more than they can imagine.
Run the World (girls): Beyonce
We’ll keep it short and sweet for this one since it speaks for itself.
Women have been in the background for a good portion of history as men have stood on the front lines of society. Without backgrounds, pictures aren’t complete. They don’t tell a whole story. Women are that background, the part of the picture you might not realize is there until it’s gone. But once you see it, you can’t overlook it. Why? Because you realize that the background has been vital to making the picture beautiful all along.
Music is powerful, and even if society like to refute this point, so are women. That being said, if you’re a woman who ever needs to take a moment to remember everything you’re capable of, listen to one of the songs listed above. These songs are more than just lyrics with instruments playing in the background: They’re messages to live by.
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