February 14th: you’ve finally beaten those January blues and this train wreck of a day rolls around. A source of anxiety and dread for singletons around the world, Valentine’s Day can be stressful whatever your relationship status.
But fear not, The Gryphon is on hand to appease those V-day woes by providing the perfect anti-Valentines playlist. For generations, these influential female artists have been using their music to promote equality and social justice, and have inadvertently proven to women everywhere that you don’t need a man (or woman) by your side to be happy or successful. Just sit back, relax, and let the music of these legendary divas wash over you.
‘Respect’ – Aretha Franklin (1976): Unbeknown to many, ‘Respect’ was actually a cover of Otis Redding’s 1965 original version. Franklin transformed the song by modifying the lyrics, minimising the use of horns, and maximising the use of her backing singers (particularly prominent in the iconic chorus). After topping both the pop and R&B charts, ‘Respect’ became an anthem for female rights and the civil rights movement.
‘You Don’t Own Me’ – Lesley Gore (1963): Despite being written by two male songwriters, ‘You Don’t Own Me’ became a symbol of girl-power and independence by completely bucking the trends of the time, when it came to the message of the song. Although this wasn’t true for many of her other hits, Gore devoted much of her life to a number of liberal causes, including those relating to LGBT rights, and women in politics.
‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ – Eurythmics (1985): ‘Sisters Are Doin’ It for Themselves’ was with written the direct intention of becoming a feminist anthem as the lyrics describe how women don’t need a man in their lives, and that a woman can do anything a man can do. It seems that Eurythmics member Annie Lennox truly believed the messages behind the song, as in 2008, she founded the charity ‘The Circle’ which aims to fight social injustices and inequalities faced by women every day. This is only one of many examples of Lennox campaigning for women’s rights and generally proving what an icon she is.
‘Run the World (Girls)’ – Beyonce (2011): Despite controversy over whether Beyoncé actually is the feminist she claims to be, ‘Run the World’ is an undeniable anthem of girl-power, and is the perfect song for any Anti-Valentines, or Galentine’s festivities.
‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’ – Tina Turner (1984): This anti-love song was Turner’s comeback song in 1984, after the eventual divorce from her physically-abusive husband in 1978. Her raw and raspy voice reveals the pain behind her words, but there is also a defiance in the powerful top notes that shows us that ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?’ was clearly Turner’s declaration to the world that she was done with the abuse and was ready to move on with her life and her career.
‘I Will Survive’ – Gloria Gayner (1978): The epitome of a female-empowerment anthem, ‘I Will Survive’ is about getting over a bad break-up, however, over the years the song has come to take on a much deeper meaning and is used to represent making it through any difficult situation.
‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ – Taylor Swift (2012): Despite ‘reinventing herself’ early last year, it wasn’t long before Swift was under fire once again from feminist critics. However, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ is a feminist song, and it spreads an important message to girls (and guys) everywhere about ending toxic relationships and standing up for yourself. If you missed Swift’s ‘transformation’ last year, here’s a quick summary.
‘No Scrubs’ – TLC (1999): Often referred to as feminist icons of the ‘90s, TLC sent a message of female-empowerment and self-esteem to their fans. Although TLC may not have been the most sensible feminist role models, (i.e. when in an attempt to set her ex’s trainers on fire, Lisa ‘Left-Eye’ Lopes caused his house to burn down), they caused a political awakening with their progressive lyrics.
‘Fuck You’ – Lily Allen (2009): The combination of Allen’s sassy lyrics, and the bouncy, syncopated rhythms give the song an upbeat and enlightened feel, guaranteed to make anyone feel better.
‘Set Fire to The Rain’ – Adele (2009): ‘Set Fire to The Rain’ has so much meaning on a variety of different levels, but ultimately, it’s a song about liberation and getting over a heartbreak. And if anyone’s going to be an inspiration in this situation, there’s no-one better than ‘Queen’ Adele who’s taken her heartache and turned it internationally-celebrated singing career!
Of course, there are countless other female artists who could have made this list – see the below playlist for more!
Photo credit: Shatterproof Glass Dolls