- 08 Mar 22
Here’s some of the artists who’ve shaken up social norms with their songs of empowerment, inclusion, protest, reflection – and celebration. Their powerfully resonant work feels all the more intensely relevant on International Women's Day...
1. Nina Simone
There's no better place to start celebrating International Women's Day. A revolutionary in every sense of the word, the iconic singer, pianist, composer and Civil Rights activist Nina Simone used her voice – and platform it afforded her – to challenge racial discrimination. In her 1966 track ‘Four Women’, she addresses the experiences of black women in America – exploring concepts of beauty, and the legacy of slavery.
2. Loretta Lynn
Rising from humble roots as the daughter of a coal miner, the Kentucky singer-songwriter and mother of six went on to become one of the biggest names in country music. She faced the wrath of conservative America for her 1975 single ‘The Pill’, which promoted the benefits of birth control – and led to her being crowned “the poet laureate of blue-collar women” by People Magazine.
3. Joni Mitchell
The Canadian artist emerged in the late ‘60s with a defiantly free-spirited approach – and over the course of her career, total independence remained paramount, with Mitchell writing, producing and creating the artwork for many of her classic albums herself. Her passion for innovation has resulted in millions of album sales, as well as a reputation as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the 20th century. An international women's Day favourite.
4. Patti Smith
As one of the most influential figures of the New York punk scene, the singer-songwriter and author’s legacy is extraordinary – and extraordinarily powerful. Continuously bucking trends to create dazzlingly unconventional music, Smith’s embrace of an androgynous image also helped to challenge societal views of gender and beauty.
5. Kate Bush
The legendary English artist has made a career out of re-writing the rulebook – becoming the first woman to achieve a No.1 in the UK with a self-written song, the first British solo female artist to top the UK albums chart, and the first woman in pop history to have written every song on a million-selling debut album.
6. Sinéad O’Connor
Since the release of her debut album at the age of 20, the Irish singer has been hailed as a trailblazer for both her phenomenal voice, and her fearless stance on issues like women’s rights and the crimes of the Catholic Church. Despite courting controversy in the ‘90s, she’s been increasingly recognised for bravery. As Bette Midler recently tweeted: “Turns out she was right about… everything.”
7. Fiona Apple
A natural fors any International Women's Day celebration, the New Yorker has weaved her own unique interpretation of feminism into her music, drawing on life experiences, and processing raw emotions through captivatingly original sounds. Her latest album, Fetch The Bolt Cutters, delves into her complex relationships with other women.
Blurring the boundaries between politics and art, much of Mathangi ‘Maya’ Arulpragasam’s genre-defying music has been informed by a childhood shaped by the Sri Lankan Civil War. The anthemic ‘Bad Girls’ embraces themes of empowerment, as well as the unapologetic rebelliousness that defines all of M.I.A.’s songs.
Before her tragic death last year, the innovative producer and musician had established herself as one of the highest-profile trans women working in music – leaving behind a phenomenal legacy that includes the Grammy-nominated Oil Of Every Pearl’s Un-Insides, and collaborations with Charli XCX, Madonna, Vince Staples and more.
10. Janelle Monáe
As well as exploring cinematic science-fiction concepts in her work, the singer, rapper and actress has used her voice to address some of the most pressing issues facing marginalised communities today. She describes her latest album, 2018’s Dirty Computer, as “a homage to women and the spectrum of sexual identities.”
- Lifestyle & Sports
- 08 Mar 23