20 Songs to Celebrate the Superwoman in You
Whether it's keeping the household together to breaking through the glass ceiling in the workplace to pushing for progress on Capitol Hill and making an impression on the red carpet, women have made major contributions to our lives. With March marking Women's History Month, the Boombox looked through the catalogs of some fearless females in hip-hop and R&B to pick songs celebrating women.
From the classic tunes that remind men to treat their ladies right to the dance-worthy anthems that prove girls do run the world, these are the tracks that have served as the soundtrack for superwomen everywhere. They even topped the charts at times, scoring another big win for girl power. More than a few of these songs have graced your playlist and if they haven't, we've just given you a female empowerment pack.
While the music industry, like many others, is dominated by men, these women demonstrate they have the power to change the world through their powerful words and voices. Check out 20 Songs to Celebrate the Superwoman in You.
Recorded after the American Music Awards in 1995, "Freedom" was a collaboration among many of the biggest African-American female singers and rappers of the '90s. Originally off Joi's 1994 album, The Pendulum Vibe, the song was an ode to many iconic females throughout history including Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Rosa Parks, Coretta Scott King, Shirley Chisholm and Angela Davis. Looking back on their women, the artists who participated in the track show that a fighting spirit lives on into the present.
Released in 2002, as a follow-up to her hit, "Fallin," Alicia Keys explains what men should do in order to treat their ladies right on "A Woman's Worth." The mid-tempo ballad reflects on all the good things she would love her man to do for her. "Dinner lit by candles, run my bubble bath / Make love tenderly to last and last," she sings. If he treats her right, she'll be sure to take care of him. It's all about compromise on this track, and we love Alicia for creating a solid blueprint to share with any man who's out of touch.
While many of these songs are meant to hype up the ladies, Lauryn Hill's "Doo Wop (That Thing)" is a bit more cautionary. She warns all women about falling for the guys who care more about their player status, luxuries and the superficial things in life and less about treating a lady with respect. L. Boogie informs her sisters that they can hold their ground and not let a trifling man get in the way of their success on this 1998 critically-acclaimed song.
The moment Aretha Franklin steps onto the stage, everyone pays attention. She has a voice that commands your respect. And on her 1967 version of the Otis Redding classic track, "Respect," she gave women the words and the courage to demand the right treatment. As soulful as the song is, the message is simple yet quite powerful. If a man wants some loving from his lady, all he has to do is show her some good, old fashioned respect.
While some know the Whitney Houston version, Chaka Khan's "I'm Every Woman" is the anthem that not only speaks to just about every female out there but is also one that just puts us in a good mood. The 1978 track was definitely a hit at the discos and didn't only appeal to the ladies in clubs but the men as well. This jam centers on the grace and a fire in every woman, making them capable of achieving anything.
When Janelle Monae and Erykah Badu combined forces on "Q.U.E.E.N.," we knew it would be an instant hit. Released in 2013, the song might spell out the title of a female leader but actually means something more than just female empowerment. The ladies encourage women to stand up for themselves and embrace who they are. The title actually stands for "Queer, Untouchables, Emigrants, Excommunicated, and Negroid," proving that Janelle and Erykah are reaching a wider audience with their positive message.
When Eve first stepped foot on the rap scene, she was known as the first lady of the Ruff Ryders. However, when she decided to move into the spotlight, the Philly spitfire proved that she didn't necessarily need too much help to bring attention to her solo career. And that's thanks to tracks like 2001's "Who's That Girl," off her sophomore effort, Scorpion. She's confident on the mic with a strong flow and lyrical command. With this song, she inspires women not to worry about what the haters think and stay focused.
Mary J. Blige has one of those voices that you not only admire -- we all wish we could sing like Mary -- but also applaud for sharing gems about life. Her 2001 song, "No More Drama," is an emotional effort touching on the daily struggles that people endure -- whether they're the average Joe or the biggest of celebrities. The accompanying video touched on a topic that is still a bit taboo today: domestic violence. A woman gathers the courage to leave her significant other and live a safer life. If that doesn't inspire you, we don't know what else will.
Put two strong females into a studio and what do you get? If it's Nicki Minaj and Rihanna, then it's the song "Fly." Off the rapper's 2010 album, Pink Friday, she delivers bold lines about overcoming adversity. Whether it be tough obstacles to dealing with haters bringing you down (in Nicki's case, it's her skeptics), the song encourages you to rise above that and fly. While she's called this a "female empowerment song" in the past, Nicki also says that it can apply to both guys and gals.
While Kelis says that "Milkshake" can mean whatever we want it to mean," the song has been undeniably catchy and sexy since 2003. Not only does it have an infectious beat, but it's also a track that meant more than getting down on the dance floor. The hit celebrated female sexuality in a big way because it gave women the power to admit that being sultry and having sex appeal doesn't need to be an insecurity -- no one has time for that. If your milkshakes bring the boys to the yard, more power to you.
Before TLC hit the scene with their outspoken tracks, Salt-N-Pepa were one of the first girl groups to really speak their minds on record. Their 1993 track, "None of Your Business," off the Very Necessary album, hits all the right marks. The ladies preach about minding your own and stop judging others, which is liberating to hear. They touch on the fact that women should be able to make the same sexual choices that men do. While there are a number of songs on this list that touch upon the topic, this track is one of the first to push boundaries.
If there was anything bigger than finding out that the '70s hit show, Charlie's Angels, would be remade, it was the fact that Destiny's Child would provide the theme song for the film. And their song, "Independent Women, Pt.1," was right on point. Right after hitting play on this track, just about every lady feels like she is a super hero and can conquer the world.
Beyonce proves that her girl power attitude extends way beyond the Destiny's Child era. Her 2011 single, "Run the World (Girls)" produced some memorable live performances but the calling card here was how she made women feel like more of a king than a man could ever be. "This goes out to all my girls that's in the club rocking the latest / Who will buy it for themselves and get more money later," she sings. The singer may be a proud wife and mother, but that doesn't mean she -- or any other woman in her position -- aren't championing independence.
Yo-Yo broke into the rap game in the early '90s as Ice Cube's protege. However, she didn't stay in his shadow too long as her 1991 debut album, Make Way for the Motherlode, was a winner, earning the No. 5 spot on the Billboard Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums. "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo," a song off the effort, was definitely one of those razor-sharp songs that showcases how unafraid she is to speak her mind ("I rhyme about uprights upliftin the woman / For that are superior to handle by any male").This is one that'll keep men shaking in their boots. You can look, but don't touch.
Like some of the tracks on this list, Santigold's "Girls" is inspired by the females of a particular generation, which in this case is today. This is for all the women who are free-spirited and fly, driven and opinionated, smart and sexy, with a great sense of style to match. The bouncy effort, which sits on the soundtrack of the HBO series of the same name, fits perfectly with the New York City swag that Santigold as well as the females in the video showcase. The spunky lyrics ("So legit I don't quit when I fall") and its anthemic quality serve as a solid soundtrack for that girls' night out or to hype you up when you're feeling less than stellar.
In 2001, India Aire put out a simple acoustic soul tune called "Video." While it was an easy one to groove to, the message in the lyrics was more powerful than one could imagine. Writing straight from the heart, India inspired ladies -- young and old -- to love and accept the features they were born with. If you have curly hair, don't wish for it to be straight. Embrace those curves and stop yearning for a smaller waist. That's the gist of her message. Even if we aren't the supermodel in the magazines, we are always queens.
From the moment they dropped 1992's Ooooooohhh... On the TLC Tip, TLC set the precedent for strong females who speak their minds. With hits like "Unpretty," "No Scrubs" and "Red Light Special," T-Boz, Chilli and Left Eye tackled everything from body insecurities to female sexuality. On 2002's "Girl Talk," the group warns men to treat their ladies right, otherwise the world will know about his wrongdoing. Although there are other tracks that speak to the idea of female empowerment, this one shows how women can be there for one another and have each other's backs without being catty.
Being the youngest in one of the most iconic musical families in history must have been tough for Janet Jackson. From living up to expectations since she had super talented brothers like Michael Jackson to being the baby in an already famous family, she had a lot of people watching her. And in 1986 her third album, Control, she let loose, speaking out about how much she wanted everyone to let her be free to do as she pleased. The title track of the album pays homage to that idea. The singer lets everyone -- even her family -- know that she should be able to live her own life. Thanks, Janet, for giving us a soundtrack to blast at those annoying family members.
Known for her uncensored views and no-holds-barred songs, M.I.A. takes on female empowerment with her 2012 tune, "Bad Girls." Despite the reckless nature of the hook, the singer crafts a song for women to use as their bragging ammo. We can do anything a guy can -- only better. And if you're not getting it on the track, then you'll see it in the video. Women are covered head-to-toe in the visual, drifting through the desert in throwback car. With this clip, she drew attention to the fact that Saudi Arabia didn't allow women to have a driver's license. And although the visual did offend some, it also inspired others to get the law abolished.
The '90s are widely recognized as the golden age of hip-hop. While the music was great back then, there were few women who made their mark in the genre during the beginning of that decade. However, Queen Latifah and Monie Love put on for the ladies in a major way with the 1990 hit, "Ladies First." If you thought a woman couldn't spit a sweet 16, this track will prove you wrong. "Strong, stepping, strutting, moving on / Rhyming, cutting, and not forgetting / We are the ones that give birth / To the new generation of prophets because it's ladies first," Latifah rhymes. No matter what women experience (even the pain and struggle of childbirth) they get through it and move forward.