Female artists from Ariana Grande, Cardi B and soul icon Aretha Franklin put female empowerment at the forefront of their lyrics.
Girl power anthems are coming in loud and clear.
Female-fronted songs with empowering themes of womanhood and independence, as well as embracing natural beauty and self-love, are currently the most listened to songs on streaming services, music experts say — with powerhouse songstresses such as Ariana Grande, Cardi B and the late queen of soul Aretha Franklin resonating with women listeners now more than ever.
Grande put on a stunning performance of her new hit “God is a Woman” at MTV’s Video Music Awards last week, bringing an all-women rendition of Leonardo da Vinci’s “The Last Supper” to life with 50 diverse female dancers sitting at a long table.
And the 25-year-old singer earned her third No. 1 album spot on the Billboard 200 chart this month for “Sweetener,” which features the single. She collected a whopping 126.7 million on-demand audio streams for the album as of Sunday, the largest streaming week for a pop album by a woman. The record is a rallying cry for strong women with songs like “Success,” where Grande sings about owning your ambition with lyrics like: “It feels so good to be so young/And have this fun and be successful.”
When Grande initially launched the video for the track “God is a Woman” in July, she tweeted it out and dedicated it to all women. “To my fellow goddesses who work their asses off every day to ‘break the glass ceiling,’ this is for you. I respect you and am endlessly inspired by you,” she wrote, adding: “Be yourself unapologetically and always know how celebrated you are.”
Fellow musician Cardi B — known for preaching lyrics of self-confidence and self-worth, as well as unapologetically embracing success with songs like “Like It” and “Best Life” — broke the Billboard record for having the most songs on the Hot 100 list (13 songs) simultaneously in April with her album “Invasion of Privacy.”
Experts say the current climate of the women’s movement post #MeToo and #TimesUp is playing a major role in helping these songs hit the right note with listeners.
“We are in a time where we have to band together and be one in that feeling of solidarity,” Tianna Lewis, head of pop programming at music streaming service Pandora, told Moneyish. She added that women respond to songs that they can relate to — whether it’s Demi Lovato’s “Confident,” a song with lyrics about self-love that asks, “What’s wrong with being confident?” or Rachel Platten’s popular “Fight Song” about regaining control over your life despite challenges and setbacks.
And a number of breakthrough female musicians who came before have set the standard for current artists today. Carole King released her first solo album “Tapestry” in 1971 that has sold more than 25 million copies worldwide, catapulting it to the 36th-best selling album of all time. The record includes hits like “Beautiful” about knowing your own worth and self-acceptance, and the ballad “It’s Too Late” about realizing when to move on from an unsustainable relationship. It won four Grammys, including Record, Album and Song of the Year. The story of King’s music career went on to become a Tony-winning play “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical” on Broadway in 2014 and is still having a successful run on the Great White Way. And the late soul icon Aretha Franklin, who passed away on Aug. 16, captivated countless listeners with her legendary hit “Respect,” which became an anthem for the civil-rights movement and women’s liberation with lyrics that demanded change and the refusal to back down. And King wrote “Natural Women” for Franklin, a song about discovering a sense of self and the power of womanhood.
Similarly, Madonna went on to tackle progressive women’s issues early in her career during the 1980s, such as going pro-choice with her song “Papa Don’t Preach” about teenage pregnancy. The Material Girl also encouraged women to embrace their sexuality with button-pushing music videos to her singles “Justify My Love” and “Human Nature.” And before branching off as a solo artist, No Doubt frontwoman Gwen Stefani took down misogynistic stereotypes about women being weak and dependent in her ‘90s hit song “I’m Just a Girl” featuring lines like, “What I’ve succumbed to is making me numb.”
Moneyish asked Spotify to rank the top most-listened to songs based off some of today’s hits and its Girl Power Playlist.
“What ties these songs together is their bold, unapologetic stance,” Spotify trends expert Shanon Cook explained. “Lyrics like ‘we run the world’ [from Beyonce’] and ‘this girl is on fire’ [from Alicia Keys] let the listener know these female artists aren’t messing around, and know their value.”
Here are Spotify’s top 10 girl power anthems:
Cardi B – I Like It
Ariana Grande – Break Free
Rihanna – Bitch Better Have My Money
Rachel Platten – Fight Song
TLC – No Scrubs
Beyoncé – Run the World (Girls)
Demi Lovato – Confident
Aretha Franklin – Respect
Ariana Grande – God is a woman
Alicia Keys – Girl On Fire
Kesha – Warrior
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