From Helen Reddy...
The over-40 crowd associates the term 'female anthem' with I Am Woman, co-written by Helen Reddy in 1972. A tribute to the women's movement of the seventies, I Am Woman earned Reddy a Grammy for Female Pop Vocal Performance and remains the most overtly feminist song ever to hit the pop music charts.
The lyrics reflect the emerging consciousness of the times:
I am woman, hear me roarIn the decades since the release of I Am Woman, both the women's movement and the music industry have come upon hard times. Both have splintered, become fragmented, and lost ground. Though women's issues still revolve around many of the same themes, artists and audiences have shifted away from the idea of a single, all-encompassing 'female' viewpoint.
In numbers too big to ignore
And I know too much to go back and pretend
'Cause I've heard it all before
And I've been down there on the floor
No one's ever gonna keep me down again
Oh yes, I am wise
But it's wisdom born of pain
Yes, I've paid the price
But look how much I gained
If I have to
I can do anything
I am strong
I am invincible
I am woman
Nowadays, few women identify themselves as feminists. Yet several of the top female artists performing today embrace that term. More subtle than Reddy's full-frontal declaration of fierce independence, these artists promote empowerment through songs that encourage women to own their sexuality, expect men to treat them right, and embrace their personal worth and value.
One self-declared 'die-hard feminist' is Shakira, who in 2009 released She Wolf, described by Rolling Stone magazine as an album "largely about the difficulty of women satisfying themselves in a world where men are in charge." As Shakira explained in her interview with Rolling Stone, "We live in a society that represses women's subconscious dreams....You know, women have to make enormous efforts through life, much bigger than men." The album's title song centers on a woman driven to fulfill her sexual needs, likening her urges to a "she wolf in the closet, open up and set her free."
From Pat Benatar...
Women's sexual and social power is a common theme that has evolved since the women's movement of the 70s.
Rather than singing about the broader challenge of being a woman as Reddy did, female artists have focused on the personal narrative with songs that acknowledge a woman's self -worth while telling a lover not to take her for granted.
In 1980, rocker Pat Benatar released Treat Me Right and sang:
One of these days you're gonna reach out and findBy the mid-80s, a string of hit singles and albums established Benatar as a feminist icon..
The one that you count on has left you behind....
Treat me right
Open your eyes, maybe you'll see the light.
...To Liz Phair
Another female performer to take up the feminist mantle was Liz Phair, whose 1993 release Exile in Guyville recognized that the future of feminism lay not in complaining about the gender gap but in revealing the inequities of male-female relationships. Although some critics felt Phair "got increasingly poppy and increasingly soppy" on subsequent albums, a decade later on the self-titled Liz Phair, she continued to explore self-realization in the context of relationships. In the hit single Extraordinary, a woman's determination to make a man fall in love with her falters when she realizes he isn't worth it:
See me jump through hoops for you
You stand there watching me performing....
Who the hell are you?
I am extraordinary, if you'd ever get to know me...
I am just your ordinary
Average everyday sane psycho supergoddess.
...And Hip Hop's 'Queen'
Rock was not the only genre influenced by feminism. As hip hop and rap evolved and challenged rock's dominance in the music industry, emerging women's voices expressed socially conscious viewpoints. One of them was 19-year-old Queen Latifah whose 1989 debut album, All Hail the Queen, included the feminist anthem Ladies First (featuring Monie Love):
I break into a lyrical freestylePage 2: Will Beyonce Be Next to Claim the Female Anthem Title?
Grab the mic, look into the crowd and see smiles
Cause they see a woman standing up on her own two....
Some think that we can't flow
Stereotypes, they got to go....
Who said the ladies couldn't make it, you must be blind
If you don't believe, well here, listen to this rhyme.