International Women’s Day 2017 – A Soundtrack

As each IWD comes to pass, I find myself more enamoured with the women in my life – friends, family, and acquaintances I admire from afar. They’re as reliable a support network as I could ever dream of having and my primary day to day inspiration. From friends who use their talents to promote the causes we share a passion for, to a mother who became my best friend in adulthood, my early 20s are proving to be happily woman-centric.

We are resilient, warm, and unapologetic (or working on it, if you’re me). We listen and we strive to cultivate an intersectional approach to not just our feminism but our lives – because really, they’re one and the same. We’re often too humble, admonishing our own instinctive lean towards modesty, but we are always learning to recognise our shortcomings and blind spots. To be emotional, and let that define us if we like, but also realise that it’s optional. We notice that as women we carry an innate hesitance to just say without disclaimer, to be perceived attaching authority to our opinions, and so we are driven to make a living from doing just that. Our arts and our sciences are essential, but they are not as effective a tool as our day to day solidarity.

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I was raised by a woman, but I was also raised by music. My dad was very musical, and I’m sure I absorbed some of that, but it played a smaller role in my mum’s life. This meant that after his passing, while my mum had her favourites (The Monkees, Meatloaf, and Al Green off the top of my head) I was in the musical driver’s seat. From a very young age I sought out the sounds and thoughts of those worlds away from me, feasting on any genre I had access to. In terms of what I liked, the requirements were about as loose as they are now: whether it was a beat that facilitated the many hours I would spend self-choreographing round the living room (this also hasn’t changed), lyrics that made sense of my confused preteen feelings, or opinions that I had never been exposed to, I wanted it all.

And so, while I attempt to carve out a place for myself as a writer, the most precious form of expression to me will always be music. I’m competent in a couple of instruments, but I’ve never had the guts to put my words to them, so my respect for those who do – and who do so successfully – is boundless. It’s a privilege to be able to indulge in the arts but some genres were also borne out of necessity, an avenue for minorities and working class people to escape the confines of poverty and oppression, giving a voice to the experiences of themselves and others like them.

That’s why it seems fitting to recognise International Women’s Day with a compilation of my favourite tracks celebrating womanhood. Some I have loved my whole life, while some are more recent discoveries. Some are widely respected and critically acclaimed, while the inclusion of others could almost certainly be effectively torn apart in longform by VICE. No matter, because the flavours of womanhood are limitless.

Please do let me know if you have any tracks to add, for I’m always on the look out.

Queen Latifah – U.N.I.T.Y.

 

Starting off with a classic. Queen Latifah defiantly touches on misogyny, cat calling, domestic violence and her experiences as a black woman at the hands of men in her community.

 

Bikini Kill – Rebel Girl

 

No feminist music collection can be complete without recognising the riot grrrl movement, particularly if you grew up on punk rock. ‘When she talks, I hear the revolution/In her hips, there’s revolutions/When she walks, the revolution’s coming/In her kiss, I taste the revolution.’

 

 

Christina Aguilera – Can’t Hold Us Down

 

This was, if my memory serves me, the very first song to put feminism on my radar. I adored Christina and remember using pocket money to buy a copy of Stripped, which I kept on rotation in our living room stereo for years. At such a young age I couldn’t fully comprehend the microaggressions being referred to on this track, on-the-nose as it is, but the overall message is one that stuck with me. ‘So what am I not supposed to have an opinion?/Should I be quiet just because I’m a woman?/Call me a bitch ’cause I speak what’s on my mind/Guess it’s easier for you to swallow if I sat and smiled.’

 

 

Against Me! – Transgender Dysphoria Blues

 

From one of the most important punk rock albums of our time. Laura Jane Grace’s coming out as a trans woman didn’t transform the scene which likes to think of itself as more progressive than it is, but hell did she have an impact. As well as being a bloody great band, Laura’s activism for trans and feminist causes means that Against Me! is more punk than you could ever dream of being. Should be required listening for anyone claiming to be intersectional. ‘You’ve got no cunt in your strut/You’ve got no hips to shake/And you know it’s obvious/But we can’t choose how we’re made/.’

 

Jhené Aiko – Spotless Mind

 

I’m a huge fan of Jhené, and this track really speaks to me in terms of self acceptance and emotional growth. Combined with the video, it reassures me that as a woman I have the right to be whoever I want to be, in as many different ways as I like and in as many different ways as I can’t yet predict. ‘Shame on me for changing? Shame on you for staying the same.’

 

Kimya Dawson – I Like Giants

 

A voice and style immediately recognisable to those of us who went through a Moldy Peaches phase – or saw a few minutes of Juno – this is a typically lovely track about perspective and self worth. A reassuring rub on the shoulder in sonic form. ‘I like giants, especially girl giants/’Cause all girls feel too big sometimes, regardless of their size.’

 

 

Beyoncé – ***Flawless

 

Well obviously. With feminism woven into all of her output these days, I could really pick any Yoncé track from the last two albums – but this is certainly the most blatant, with an excerpt monologue from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in case you didn’t get the message the first thousand times. It’s Bey’s world and we’re living in it. (This is also why she won’t appear on the playlist I put together alongside this post – if it’s Tidal or bust, I’m out.)

 

Paramore – Ain’t It Fun

 

This track’s message might not be overtly feminist (check out Anklebiters which definitely fits the bill), but of this list it’s probably closest to my heart for how it continues to help me embrace emotional resilience. Its dry-witted musings never grow stale or irrelevant, and I dare say that my generation (specifically girls of the alt-music persuasion) would be very different had we not grown up in Hayley’s shadow, despite her missteps along the way. It’s unfortunate that she stands relatively alone as a woman of her level of success in the genre, but she is phenomenal. ‘Ain’t it fun living in the real world? Ain’t it good being all alone?’

 

 

Salt-N-Pepa – None of Your Business

 

Another early ’90s classic, this track calls out the double standards of perceived promiscuity before ‘slut shaming’ appeared in a single think piece. It even features a message of support for sex workers, even if lacking in nuance. ‘If I want to take a guy home with me tonight, it’s none of your business/And if she wants to be a freak and sell it on the weekend, it’s none of your business.’

 

Sleater-Kinney – #1 Must Have

 

Another band to grow out of the riot grrrl movement, this track sees Sleater-Kinney decry the watering down of feminism in the name of capitalism and marketing – a grievance which is no less relevant today, nearly two decades after its release. ‘And I think that I sometimes might have wished/For something more than to be a size six/But now my inspiration rests/In-between my beauty magazines and my credit card bills.’

 

Lauryn Hill – Doo-Wop (That Thing)

 

A treasure of hip hop and neo-soul, it seems apt to end with Lauryn Hill and this anthem for female confidence. Detailing the difficulties of relationships and the additional burdens carried by women, Hill insists: ‘Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem, baby girl.’

 

 

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I Dance to Purple Songs [playlist]

One of my favourite things to do is make themed playlists (tip: my Spotify library is a riot, don’t even bother), especially when they’re for other people, and especially when I think I’ll be expressing something or other with this little collection of tracks I spent hours selecting and agonising over. I also really wanted to do enough of something to at least be able to convince myself that I had been mildly productive on this sleepy Sunday, but I have a bad habit of second guessing myself when it comes to blog themes (I’m still working on how to be somewhat interesting). I’ve been doing a lot of writing lately, both for publications and to be stored away on my hard drive never to be seen by human eyes again, and all I’ve really wanted to discuss is music. Which is the case most of the time, really. So I spent the afternoon throwing together a playlist of, well, my favourite songs right now. I did toy with a few theme ideas – themes make things a hell of a lot easier – but nothing sparked my imagination much, and the internet doesn’t need another ‘Songs to listen to when you’re surrounded by mush on Valentines Day’ playlist which consists solely of Beyoncé songs. Because mine would. I promise.

I also really like the way this kind of playlist can act as a screenshot into someone’s life at that moment, because these songs aren’t suggestions in the hope of winning cool points nor do they need to adhere to tone or cohesion. They’re the tracks someone keeps going back to as they go about their life, and it’s definitely a fun way to get inside someone’s head when you’re lucky enough to be surrounded by people who are as passionate about music as you are.

That, of course, is far too straightforward a thing for me to do, so I’ll also be using this to talk about my synaesthesia a little. “Synaesthesia is a condition where a sensation in one of the senses, such as hearing, triggers a sensation in another, such as taste. For example, some people with synaesthesia can taste numbers or hear colours.” (Thanks, Google.) I’ve been a synaesthete for as long as I can remember and it’s a cool little personality tidbit that I give heavy credit to for my creative writing flare. The main strand of synaesthesia I experience is day/name/number/object/pretty much anything you can think of > colour (though it goes a lot further, and I’m still discovering them even at this age as ‘not things everyone does’) and so I’ll also note what colour each of  these songs is to me. I have yet to figure out if my enjoyment of music is in some way linked to the colour I see it as. I will use HTML codes, because I am a woman of the times.

Catch the embedded playlist at the bottom of the page!

1. Your Graduation – Modern Baseball

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Yes, yes, I know, groundbreaking choice of Modern Baseball track. It took me a long time to get into this band the way so many people are, and I couldn’t see the attraction much beyond this song, but about a month ago it clicked and now I can’t get enough of  their stuff. I’m really excited to see them play Stereo again.

 

2. Sloppy Seconds – Watsky

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Watsky has been, far and away, not just my most listened to artist this week but of the year so far. He is a master of words in a way I could only dream 0f, and his tunes range from damn great to damn fun. This was actually the first track of his I was told to listen to and it popped back into regular rotation for me recently when a couple of lines really caught my ear in a way they hadn’t before. Show me someone who says they’ve got no baggage/I’ll show you somebody who’s got no story/Nothing gory means no glory, but baby please don’t bore me.

3. Don’t Threaten Me With A Good Time – Panic! At The Disco

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I have been asked recently if they new Panic! album is good and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to say. I don’t know if it’s good. Brendon’s lyrics are passable at the best of times and his voice is so good that it’s almost difficult to judge the songwriting independently of that, but I know I have listened to it more than I have since Pretty. Odd. was released. This track is huge, that sample works works perfectly and it definitely satisfies the twelve year old inside me who is still covered in Fueled By Ramen stickers.

4. Dance For You – Beyoncé

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I said the playlist wouldn’t be entirely Beyoncé. It’s no secret that I’m a huge Bey fan, but this has been one of my favourites for a long time and I never grow tired of the way the chorus almost hits you in waves. That beat makes me want to take all my clothes off.

5. Losing Myself – State Champs

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One of the few pop punk bands formed after 2003 that I still listen to, State Champs really do the by-the-numbers thing well and this is always the first place I go when I give the newest album a spin. We attract what we’re ready for.

6. Freakish – Saves The Day

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A classic, of course, but it popped up the other day and it was like I was hearing it for the first time. I knew I had grown out of Saves The Day when they bored me senseless on that Brand New tour, but… this chorus just gets me, in all the glory of its emo.

7. Crumb – Lafawndah

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I was given Lafawndah’s Tan EP to review recently and was very pleasantly surprised. Some of the sounds on this are crazy good and this track in particularly is delicious for the rhythm-orientated part of me.

8. Driveway Birthday – Milk Teeth

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I’ve been digging the lyrics to this a lot lately when I’ve felt down and didn’t feel it could be battled with a one man Nicki Minaj dance party. Awesome band.

9. Junk – Eyedea & Abilities

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I’m still getting to grips with the E&A material but keep returning to this one. Definitely not background music, it demands your attention in all the best ways.

10. Same Ol’ Mistakes – Rihanna

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I’ve really been loving ANTI, and this song is a good example of the moody haziness of the whole album. The production alone makes it worth a listen.

11. We Don’t Believe What’s On TV – Twenty One Pilots

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Again, the album this appears on (Blurryface) is one I’ve been really into recently but this one keeps reappearing on my day-to-day playlists. I don’t care what’s in your hair, I just wanna know what’s on your mind. I struggled to decide between this and Doubt as the Twenty One Pilots feature.

 

So there you have it. I encourage everyone to make similar ‘this is what it sounds like to be me right now’ playlists!

 

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