10 Empowering Tunes for Women Everywhere
by Sage Romano
There are all kinds of ladies, so there are all kinds of girls’ nights out. For some, it means dressing to the nines and hitting the nightclubs. For others, it’s pedicures on the couch and a few tried-and-true rom-coms. And for others, it’s jeans, boots, burgers, and beers. But regardless of what constitutes the perfect ladies’ outing with your best girls, chances are there’s an anthem or two to go with it—that song that gets everyone dancing on the couch, singing along in the car, and swaying on barstools. And there are countless female artists who have obligingly written and recorded songs that shoot right to the heart of womanhood. Such songs’ themes have evolved from the empowerment anthems of the women’s movement of the 1960s and ’70s to ones of raw sensuality; but all of them, individually and collectively, give a girl that irrepressible urge to shake a tail feather and, occasionally, maybe punch the nearest male in the head. Below, a chronological collection of a few of the best X chromosome–centric songs.
“These Boots,” Nancy Sinatra, 1966
Described by one critic as perhaps “the finest bitchy kiss-off in pop history,” Nancy Sinatra’s husky, double-bass single served as the soundtrack to a lot of boot-centric endeavors, not the least of which was Sinatra’s performance of the song for U.S. troops in Vietnam. But it’s always had a special place in the hearts of women everywhere, especially when it comes to their dealings with certain kinds of men. Even Megadeth’s cover of the song makes for good walking music.
“I Will Survive,” Gloria Gaynor, 1978
It was the height of the disco era when Gaynor had her mainstream breakthrough with the glorious, affirming single “I Will Survive,” which rose to number one on the pop charts in the United States. And truly, this might be the classic post-breakup song. The journey from hopeless, doting love to mistrust, wisdom, and finally freedom is detailed in the narrative lyrics and delivered in Gaynor’s powerful and soulful voice.
“Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” Pat Benatar, 1980
This first single from Benatar’s second album, Crimes of Passion, is part Joan Jett–style rock ’n’ roll and part true pop. It vibrates with the sort of sexual confidence that women were beginning to feel at the end of the ’70s, just as they were starting to hit their stride. That kind of fearlessness is an essential component to any good girl-rock song.
“Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” Cyndi Lauper, 1983
Maybe it shows my age, but this was my first favorite song; I had a snappy little dance number I did to it and everything. Unsurprisingly, this does not distinguish me in any way from millions of other girls who came of age in the ’80s. And, also unsurprisingly, the song still resonates, kicking up the high heels of grown women everywhere.
“Bitch,” Meredith Brooks, 1997
Some might consider this yoni-centric ditty a bit coarse, or more accurately, annoying and played-out. Others might only reluctantly admit that they like it. But I’ll bet at least 90 percent of females over the age of twelve and below the age of sixty-five bust at least a little move when this song comes on.
“Superwoman,” Alicia Keys, 2007
Keys has blazed a path for anthems written for the modern woman, and “Superwoman” is the trailhead. It doesn’t boil with the sensual energy that some other modern girl-power songs do (like Kelis’s “Milkshake,” for example), but it pays an inspirational tribute to the multifaceted lives of contemporary women and their ability to manage so many roles with grace and panache. It’s the pat on the back that everyone could use more often.
“Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)” Beyoncé, 2008
When this insanely danceable tune was unleashed on the world, there was no way to know it would ignite not only a dance craze but a rallying cry for matrimony-deprived women everywhere. You want to see a bachelorette party spontaneously combust? Play this song—and play it loud.
“Better Things,” Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings, 2010
Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings might not be on everyone’s radar, but Jones’s gospel-trained voice backed up by the brass of the Dap Kings, combined with the wonderful, dusty production that makes her brand-spanking new records sound like they were recorded and mixed in 1964—well, it’s just the most perfect sound ever for stories of moving on and moving up after a bad breakup. “Better Things,” from her I Learned the Hard Way record, is but one of many likeminded songs.
There are so many more songs by notable women artists like Joan Jett, Tina Turner, Christina Aguilera, Olivia Newton-John, and so on. No matter who your girls are or what your idea of a good time is, there’s always room for another song that will get you up, make you feel amazing, and make you dance your fine lady-butt around your living room regardless of whether anyone is watching or not.