2016 has been a shit year in so many aspects. We’ve lost so much. Women in particular have had a challenging year-but I truly believe that if women take a stand and support one another that we can rise to any occasion. Being confident in yourself and lifting other women to do the same is one of the most effective ways that we can come together to be stronger. Lets do this.
I was inspired to highlight all of the amazing music that has come out this year from talented and inspiring female musicians once I realized how much of my recent playlists have comprised of women. All of these women are known for their incredible voices, their songwriting, and their positive energy that they bring to an industry that criticizes women left and right. Coincidentally, most of them are mainstream pop singers-therefore the subject of alot of media scrutiny. The themes and the messages that they explore in these records all cry out for the same things-confidence, independence and the need to overcome. I have found inspiration in all of them in times that I have needed a spot of confidence in my own life.
Albums are listed in order of release.
- Rihanna – Anti
When it comes to confidence, sexuality and catchy hooks-Rihanna is the expert. On her eighth studio album ‘Anti’-which she served as a songwriter and executive producer on- she blends elements of reggae, R&B, dance and hip hop in a style that is signature Rihanna. She brings in influence from her Barbadian roots in songs like “Consideration” and “Work” and goes right into left field with a soulful, hypnotic cover of “Same Ol Mistakes” by alternative rock band Tame Impala. Her unique voice has grown and improved dramatically since her first record and ‘Anti’ is a perfect example of her strengths. This is a fantastic album to wind down to at the end of the day.
2. Sia – This is Acting
If you find yourself struggling with your demons, your past, or your identity, ‘This is Acting’ is a healthy dose of medicine that is sure to penetrate your shell. Sia articulates her personal battles to become herself in spite of her past and those who may get in the way of personal growth in an album full of powerful vocal performances and brutally honest lyrics. Right from the first track ‘Bird Set Free’ she muses about empowering herself through her music-while the soaring ‘Alive’ is a passionate proclamation that she has survived-and thrived. Though most every song maintains the irresistible hooks that she is known for, the lyrics remain some of the most genuine in her genre. Things turn to the lighter side on songs like “Cheap Thrills” and “Move Your Body” in a roller coaster of emotions.
Standout tracks: Alive, Unstoppable
3. Gwen Stefani – This is What the Truth Feels Like
Unfortunately for Gwen, her strength as a songwriter has always come from heartbreak. That emotion is what drives ‘This is What the Truth Feels Like’ through songs like ‘Used to Love You’, ‘Me Without You’ and revenge tracks ‘Naughty’ and ‘Red Flag’. Fortunately, the musings of a jilted ex are outweighed by the feeling of being happy and vulnerable again with a new love. Many of the strongest songs on the record talk about bouncing back from betrayal and trusting someone again-subjects that she approaches in an relatable and optimistic way. Things get a little weird when she tries her hand at rapping halfway through, but if you get past that, this is one of Gwens strongest albums of her solo career.
Standout tracks: You’re My Favorite, Send Me a Picture
4. Meghan Trainor – Thank You
Anyone in need of a confidence boost can take a cue from Meghan Trainor. This young artist takes constant flack for her figure, but she has something to say about it. The entirety of ‘Thank You’ is an homage to self love and to love in general. With a fantastic blend of infectious hooks, foot stomping beats and rock solid vocals, Trainor shines from beginning to end. ‘Watch Me Do’, ‘Me Too’ and ‘I Love Me’ boast a confidence that is spectacularly refreshing for a young woman-while tracks like ‘Kindly Calm Me Down’ and ‘Better’ explore the importance of supportive and healthy relationships. Things get a little silly towards the end with a cheery dedication to Trainors mom-simply titled ‘Mom’, and a goofy tribute to dancing Dads (‘Dance Like Your Daddy’). Overall, ‘Thank You’ is a beacon of positive energy that is genuinely uplifting and contagious.
Standout tracks: Watch Me Do, Kindly Calm Me Down, Better
5. Tegan and Sara – Love You to Death
I recently fell in love with T&S’ seventh album ‘Heartthrob’ right before ‘Love You to Death’ was released. It carries very closely along the same themes and follows their recent foray into dance/pop music. The result is a unique blend of indie-alternative and mainstream pop that is a departure from their roots, but a successful one. One constant remains-and that is the vulnerability of their songwriting. Every song rings out about love, loss, longing and accepting your own role in these. Complicated relationships are a common theme, and these girls sing about them with honesty and little bravado.
Standout tracks: That Girl, Stop Desire
6. Lady Gaga – Joanne
As a woman at the forefront of spreading love and acceptance, ‘Joanne’ shows us a side of Gaga that is stripped off her flashy stage persona and electronica/pop style that lets us see the real her. Everything about the album speaks of coming out of the other end of loss and heartbreak-the loss of her aunt Joanne (the inspiration for her albums ‘cowgirl’ persona) and of a longterm relationship. She expertly weaves back and forth between the highs of independence and self worth-to the difficulty of dealing with tragedy. Although the sound of this record will come as a surprise to fans and skeptics alike, it sports a confidence that comes from her recent venture into jazz music and focuses less on production value and more on vocal capabilities. This is a welcome surprise for everyone.
Standout tracks: Diamond Heart, John Wayne, Perfect Illusion
7. Alicia Keys – Here
From the first few minutes of listening to this album all that I could think was “this has SOUL!”-and it does. Keys blends her signature soul flair with hip hop, blues and slam poetry that speaks to “truth” in every song. “Truth” is something that has become evidently influential in everything from her personal style to her musical inspirations. The best way that I can describe the experience is “groovy”.
Standout tracks: The Gospel, She Don’t Really Care
I’m sure that I missed a few-but these are the ones that I listened to the most this year. How about you?