As a girl who adores music, important and influential female artists have always been a huge part of my life. And I’m not alone. Throughout the years, women have made countless contributions to music as writers, artists, and producers, and today are seen as a as vital part of that industry. On a personal level, female artists have helped inspire me. Their songs encourage me to be the person I want to be, and empower me to do and say what I feel regardless of societal norms. In honor of National Women’s History Month this past March, here are some of the female artists who have meant the most to me.
I discovered Haim after reading an article in Teen Vogue and then listening to their song “Forever” (their only song at the time). They quickly became my favorite band and to this day, remain one of my very favorites. Formed in 2007 by sisters Este, Alana, and Danielle Haim, the trio’s alternative rock and R&B infused sound really continues to capture my attention. After working with Vampire Weekend producer Ariel Rechtshaid to create their 2013 LP Days Are Gone, they have started work on their sophomore album. Aside from creating empowering music, the Haim sisters are also incredibly vocal with regard to their political views concerning women’s and human rights. Using the power of their popularity on social media, Este, Alana, and Danielle encouraged fans to vote in the most recent election, march, and continue to fight for what they believe in.
2. Amy Winehouse
When people think of Amy Winehouse, it is often as a great talent whose scandalous and outrageous lifestyle career was cut short due to alcoholism and eventual overdose at 27. However, despite her tragic addiction issues, Amy Winehouse is above all else an undeniable and rare talent, and one who will always be remembered as an unforgettable and iconic female figure in music. Amy is personally my favorite female solo artist, especially for her eclectic sound, taking influences from jazz artists like Sarah Vaughan and Frank Sinatra, as well as R&B singers like Macy Gray. Songs like “Tears Dry On Their Own,” “You Know I’m No Good,” and “F*** Me Pumps,” describe the importance of being independent and less reliant on men.
3. Alexandra Savior
California-based dream pop singer-songwriter Alexandra Savior (born Alexandra McDermott) began posting YouTube videos of herself while still in high school, and received early approval from Courtney Love. In 2013, Alexandra was signed to Columbia Records, and taking inspiration from artists like soul legend Otis Redding and art pop songstress Fiona Apple, began writing and recording with Arctic Monkeys frontman Alex Turner and British producer James Ford. She describes her sound as “feminist angst,” a combination of angst and empowerment. In June 2016, Alexandra released her debut desert rock single “Shades,” catching the attention of many listeners and slowly gaining more fans. After releasing three more singles (“M.T.M.E,”,“Mystery Girl,” and “Mirage”), she announced the April 7 release of her debut LP Belladonna of Sadness. Like Haim, Alexandra uses social media as a way to be vocal politically, sharing her opinions, and encouraging her fans to go out and vote. Recently, Alexandra publically protested the initial travel ban at LAX.
I got into the Madrid-based all girl quartet consisting of singers Carlotta Cosials and Ana Perrote, guitarist and bassist Ade Martin, and drummer Ámber Grimbergen around a year and a half ago. Their Arctic Monkeys and Strokes inspired sound, along with angsty, empowering, and “loud and proud” vocals is what attracts a lot of their fans. In many of their songs, such as “Davey Crockett,’’ “Chili Town,” and “Trippy Gum,” this sound is extremely evident and pellucid. In 2016, they dropped their debut LP Leave Me Alone and since then have been slowly gaining momentum: going on a world tour, designing their own clothing line for Urban Outfitters, and giving empowering speeches across the globe. Not many people know who Hinds are now, but they soon will.
5. Regine Chassagne (Arcade Fire)
Not many people associate Arcade Fire with founding member Regine Chassagne, as she only sings lead vocals on a few of their songs. However, Regine’s numerous contributions to Arcade Fire are a big part of what helps to make Arcade Fire the stellar band they are. Chassagne embraces her Haitian background and culture – in songs (“Haiti,” “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains).” for example – and on occasion, will bring Haitian dancers and musicians and instruments on tour to perform with the band. Regine makes it clear that one needn’t be front and center in a band in order to impact the music – a simple yet big idea that resonates with me.
For many years, Solange was mainly known as Beyoncé’s little sister, despite making her own music and trying always to forge a unique path. Fifteen years in, Solange is finally being recognized by the industry and public as her own talent. Classified as a neo and psychedelic soul artist, some of her most well known songs include “Cranes In The Sky” (a Grammy winning song produced by Dev Hynes), “Don’t Touch My Hair,” and “Losing You.” In 2016, she released A Seat at the Table, a well received record that touches on Solange’s life experiences as a woman of color, as well as more personal struggles with alcohol and relationships. Her sweet and innocent yet unique powerhouse voice really helps to bring her stories and songs to life.
7. Christine and the Queens
France based “freak pop” songstress Christine and the Queens (born Héloïse Letissier), has been making music since 2008. However, it wasn’t until more recently that she really made a name for herself in both the alternative music world, as well as the LGBTQ community. Letissier, a pansexual woman, writes many songs about human abnormality and people’s discomfort in their own bodies. For example, her song “iT,” is about a woman who desperately wants to be a man and doesn’t want anyone to challenge that choice. (“ I’m a man now…/And I won’t let you steal it, I bought it for myself/I’m a man now”) Other songs like “Titled” discuss feeling out of place and quirky, and encourages listeners to accept their quirkiness. (“I’m actually good/Can’t help it if we’re titled”.)
8. Sky Ferreira
Sky Ferreira’s bold appearance and wild lifestyle made headlines when she was a teen model and actress. However, after releasing quirky indie-pop singles like “One” in 2011 and “Everything Is Embarrassing” (produced by the brilliant Dev Hynes) in 2012, she began receiving much-deserved recognition for her talents as a songwriter and vocalist. In 2013, Sky released her debut album Night Time, My Time, which conveyed inspiring messages of independence and individualism in catchy, surprisingly emotional songs. Her second LP, currently titled Masochism, is expected sometime in 2017.
9. Suzanne Vega
Best known for her hits “Tom’s Diner” (a track that really accurately depicts a morning in New York City, Suzanne Vega’s alternative rock sound and soft voice attracts listeners, and her lyrics engage them. Of all the women mentioned on this list, Suzanne Vega is the least current, yet the simple “first person” observations and messages present in her music continue to resonate and demand attention.Thirty years after the release of Luka, this anthem continues to be seen as a call to action protesting issues of domestic violence. Raised on the upper west side of Manhattan in the late 1960’s, Suzanne and her parents often attended political rallies on Columbia University’s campus. So it is no surprise that Suzanne remains actively involved in politics, taking to social media to encourage followers to vote a as well as fight for issues such as gender equality and women’s rights.
10. Dua Lipa
UK- based Dua Lipa’s powerhouse vocals (influenced byMarina and the Diamonds) and catchy singalongs (shades of Charli XCX) make her a stand out among new pop artists. Early collaborations with Miike Snow frontman Andrew Wyatt and Grammy Award-winning producer Emile Haynie led to an opening slot on Troye Sivan’s 2016 tour. Songs like “Blow Your Mind (Mwah)” and “Hotter Than Hell” reflect her emergence as a free and independent woman and who isn’t worried about approval from a man, and while “Be The One” and others are simply fun and catchy jams.