To be a woman is a beautiful thing, and I am so proud and blessed to be a woman. That being said, to be a woman is not easy. As a woman of color in a business school at a predominantly white institution, there have been hardships. Some days, I feel as though I simply can’t do it anymore. In those times, music has always been a constant.
On days when I am gendered in my work space or when I am made to feel as though I am not beautiful by society’s standards –– music reminds me that I am enough. Through lyrics and melodies, I have found confidence, self-love and beauty in myself.
In honor of International Women’s History Month, I wanted to share a playlist of songs that unleash the divinity of womanhood for me, hoping you will find the same. All of the songs on the playlist are by Black women and other women of color, and I am so thankful to them for providing an avenue of self-discovery and love through their art.
- “Mama” by Raveena
Raveena’s soulful ballad “Mama” is a gift to her mother and an honoring of her Indian-American heritage. She captures the untold dreams of her ancestors and the sacrifices of many immigrant mothers. In her soulful ballad, she longs to learn of who her mother was before, echoing “Mama, who were you / Before your man, ooh / Know you had some of those / Bigger plans, yeah.” “Mama” reminds me of the strength and selflessness of the woman in my life who made me who I am today.
- “Fussy” by MALIA
This soulful song by MALIA is all about self-love and enjoying what makes you happy. MALIA sings “I’m flying so high that I don’t care what you’re thinking of me … I’m so fussy over things that matter to me.” Growing up in a gendered world, my passions and interests have often been judged in comparison to a narrow standard of what is acceptable. “Fussy” denies this compartmentalization, embracing the bliss of allowing oneself to take joy in what they value –– regardless of anyone’s opinion on the matter.
- “Pretty Girl Rock” by Keri Hilson
Some days you need to dance in the mirror screaming “I can talk about it ’cause I know that I’m pretty / And if you know it too, then ladies sing it with me,” and it’s as simple as that. “Pretty Girl Rock” is an anthem that serves to remind us how beautiful we are. It asserts that beauty is personal, something each individual owns for themselves.
- “Put Your Records On” by Corrine Bailey Rae
The song’s opening line –– “Three little birds, sat on my window, and they told me I don’t need to worry” –– references Bob Marley’s & the Wailers “Three Little Birds.” Rae’s “Put Your Records On” encompasses Marley’s call for carefreeness and acts as a celebration of life –– tea in the morning, the scent of the sun, kids playing outside. Her lyrics call for her audience to embrace the natural beauty both within themselves and within life by letting go of day-to-day stressors. While listening, it is impossible to not bob your head and fall into her blissful melody.
- “I Am Her” by Shea Diamond
Shea Diamond is a trans activist who was discovered by Justin Tranter while singing at a Trans Lives Matter Protest. The song “I Am Her” was written while Diamond was incarcerated. In an interview with Billboard, she told the story of how, while working on the song, other inmates would always ask her to sing it for them. The song discusses her feelings of being an outcast as she dealt with incarceration and foster homes in her youth. The song has been an anthem for women’s movements, trans movements and LGBTQ+ movements. The production crosses the lines between soul and rock, guided by the power of Diamond’s soul and rock. The chorus, “There’s an outcast in everybody’s life and I am her,” simultaneously makes me feel understood and invincible.
- “Too Much” by Kehlani
Kehlani’s “Too Much” samples Aaliyah’s “More Than A Woman” and similarly reminds audiences that the godly essence of a woman is not worthy of everyone. I am a firm believer that this song can cure any heartbreak, self doubt and bad day. Kehlani celebrates the sexuality and emotions of women in her music and in public appearances to support women. In 2017, when accepting her Billboard Award, she told women, “Don’t let trauma take away your power.” To me, “Too Much” embodies this –– as it repeats “I’m too much of a woman,” in turn unleashing power.
- “No Scrubs” by TLC
Do I have an unhealthy attachment to this song? Probably. Did nine-year-old me have any business screaming every lyric in the backseat of my mom’s minivan? Probably not. That being said, TLC’s iconic anthem is timeless. TLC was a trailblazer in the R&B industry –– through their lyrics, they gave depth and perspectives to antiquated storylines of women in music. “No Scrubs” is just one of the many successful songs by the group that allow women to embrace their standards and expectations as a norm –– not an exception.
- “Shea Butter Baby” by Ari Lennox, J. Cole
In “Shea Butter Baby,” Lennox powerfully illustrates the inherent beauty of the woman’s body. As she soulfully sings “You lost in the shape of my hips,” she unleashes the prowess and sexual autonomy of women. The track initially earned fame as it was featured on the “Creed II” soundtrack. The song itself is an ode to Black women and speaks to sexual desire and approval of self. Lennox as an artist blends together soul and R&B to create timeless music and develop intimacy with audiences.
- “Independent Women, Pt. 1” by Destiny’s Child
It would not be a playlist celebrating women if Destiny’s Child was not a part of it. “Independent Women, Pt. 1” commemorates the independence and intelligence of women. Destiny’s Child discography is flooded with work that empowers women. The song received initial fame for its feature in the film “Charlie’s Angels,” and was later released and met with immense success on the Billboard charts. For the days when any form of work seems like an impossible feat, the trio reminds me of the camaraderie of women and the capability I hold.
I hope you find the same power and beauty in these songs that I do, and if you don’t, I encourage you to make a playlist for yourself. Discover the music that speaks and releases the complexity and sanctity of being a woman to you.