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Add This To Your Playlist: Week Ten- Girl Power

I find fault in the fact that the vast majority of the music I listen to is written, produced, and performed by male artists. While I love all of their music styles and voices and would not want to trade that experience for anything, I have found that I tend not to listen to the genres of music in which women are the dominant figures. I’ve come to wonder if this is a guilt that falls on me as a listener for not seeking and supporting more female artists, or if it is simply that the music industry is more prone to promote male musicians in almost any genre outside of pop music. This is something I struggle with as a woman myself wanting to find more women musicians that speak to me, but like in any industry, the relation of feminine sex-appeal to advance one’s career runs rampant within the music industry. This often dissuades bigger name female artists from discussing hard-hitting or controversial subjects in their songs for fear of breaking this idolized goddess image whereas there seems to be more leeway with male artists. While you may not hold the same opinions, I think it is an interesting conversation to be had. In light of that, I chose to feature songs only by women this week in hopes of expanding your music libraries as well as my own.



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Song One: “Born Again” by Tiffany Young


Tiffany Young has been someone I have been following for quite some time now, but she has officially opened a new chapter of her life as an American artist. You may know her better under her other name Tiffany Hwang, or simply by TIFFANY under which she released her first solo Mini Album I Just Wanna Dance. Tiffany is a member of the eight-member Korean girl band Girls’ Generation (or SNSD) and is best showcased in her outstanding powerhouse vocals. Originally from California, she was discovered by SM Entertainment at just 15 and subsequently moved to South Korea where she underwent training to debut as an idol. After having worked with Girls’ Generation since 2007, she decided to re-debut in America as a soloist, performing her songs in English.


“Born Again” takes in this concept of her reinvention and reintroduction to the music scene into her reflections on a new form of love. Tiffany ties in a sense of vulnerability into her lyrics as she affirms that she “used to feel so hollow, shallow, vacant.” This sense of purposelessness haunted her until she found someone who was able to fulfill her needs and allow her to be herself without all of the outside glamour. She then goes on to say “Your love is like a higher power,” meaning that what she feels for this other person is restorative and healing, but also that it is intoxicating in the way only a deity could be. She feels the pull so much towards this person that she claims “Roses for the dead and I want danger.” Here she is finding a bolder side of herself through this divine experience of love.



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Song Two: “CRZY” by Kehlani


Kehlani is an American singer, songwriter and record producer. She first got her start as a part of the teen pop group Poplyfe and has since built her own career as a solo artist. She has collaborated with several other big-name artists including Chance the Rapper, Macklemore, and Hayley Kiyoko. Her music generally falls in the genres of r&b and hip hop, but her debut album SweetSexySavage also showcases her talents in the pop genre.


“CRZY” is a song about Kehlani’s struggles with her journey through her life and her career, reflecting upon her values that tend to diverge from those of the materialistic culture often promoted by those living the rockstar lifestyle. She begins her song by saying “Everything I do, I do it with a passion.” Kehlani is a driven woman and she wants her audience to know it. She isn’t the kind of person to sacrifice the integrity of her work just for easy money; however, this doesn’t mean that money isn’t important to her. She acknowledges the fact that a lot of people don’t understand her and her motivations, so she tells them “I go crazy.” Her love for her life is so strong that she constantly reaches toward the extreme. Through her demeanor and her actions, she demands respect in everything she does, and there’s something respectable about that, isn’t there?



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Song Three: “Giants” by Facing West


The next musicians I have to applaud are the sister duo Caitlin and Sidney from Facing West. I actually found out about their music because they followed me on Twitter. I looked at their page and found a video of their acoustic version of “Giants” and I was completely sold. I immediately went to Spotify and added it to my library. This pop duo originates from a town just outside Denver, Colorado. They draw their musical inspiration from their family and their community, as they were encouraged to busk on the streets and have since found their comfort in harmonizing with one another.


While Facing West often does covers of other songs, “Giants” is a rather impressive original track. This song explains that you should never underestimate a pair of badass girls. The lyrics paint the picture of fearlessness, as they declare that they are not to be messed with. In fact, they even say that they “consecrate the pain.” They take the idea of epic trials and expand it to their duty to put these metaphorical giants “in the grave.” They use this metaphor here to claim that they will not let anything stand in their way or hold them back from achieving what they were meant to do. Through this song, they take their destinies into their own hands and are unapologetic about the consequences of their actions.



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Song Four: “No Tears Left To Cry” by Citizen Queen


Now I’m sure almost every one of you is familiar with the Ariana Grande hit “No Tears Left To Cry.” It was practically inescapable on the radio when it first came out in early 2018. Though the Ariana Grande original version has been sensationalized, Citizen Queen, a five-girl a cappella group from Los Angeles, has done a cover of the song that showcases their unique vocalizations and tight harmonies. They currently have only covered songs, including “Lost in Japan” originally by Shawn Mendes and “The Evolution of Girl Groups” which is a medley of iconic songs from all-female groups ranging from the 1930s to the present. Their group consists of Cora Isabel, Kaylah Sharve’, Hannah Mrozak, Kaedi Dalley and Nina Nelson.


“No Tears Left To Cry” has become an anthem for many girls over this past year as it celebrates moving on from sad and dark times and looking forward to better days. Admittedly, I could have taken or left the original song; however, Citizen Queen added something to the experience. Perhaps it comes from my appreciation for a cappella, but I particularly enjoy the ways in which the girls’ voices blend. Grande states that she has “No tears left to cry” because she has officially decided to stop feeling down due to some guy that didn’t treat her right. She claims that her “state of mind” has been changed so that she’s looking at her life for the good she can find in it. Instead, she is prioritizing what she loves, including “vibin’” with her friends and “turnin’ up” to fun and punchy music. Although there is not much of a unique viewpoint represented in these lyrics, she is still trying to get across that it isn’t worth it to spend your life crying over boys, and she’s right.



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Song Five: “Moderation” by Florence + The Machine


While “No Tears Left To Cry” may have been an anthem for every other girl, “Moderation” is my current anthem. Florence + The Machine has been making impactful music since 2009 upon the release of their album Lungs. This English indie rock band consists of vocalist Florence Welch and keyboardist Isabella Summers. Florence + The Machine has gained attention from their dramatic concepts as well as Welch’s strong and distinct vocals. As of this point in their career, the band has been nominated for six Grammys.


From the very beginning of “Moderation”, Welch demands “Want me to love you in moderation. Do I look moderate to you?” These lines struck me in particular because of the polarity of them. So much of dating culture now relies on the casual. Dating and sex are now “casual”. For people like Welch and myself, this can be a difficult situation to navigate. This comes with the discontentment of being a person who gives all of themselves to the people they care about. For most, moderation keeps them safe and keeps them from getting their hearts broken. If there is little investment, there is little to be lost. What these people are negotiating is a low-stakes game of comfort. This song is about wanting more than that. Welch tells her listeners that “All the feeling was all or nothing, and I took everything I could.” This line really spoke to me because it expresses the frustration of wanting to be the type of person who can play games and weave in and out of relationships like everyone else, but in reality falls in love far too easily and becomes attached to the other person. She then talks to her younger self and how she used to beg for love to be in her life, but now has come to realize that “You wouldn’t want it if you knew what it was.” 



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Song Six: “Alles was zählt” by Namika


If you’re not married to the English language, you should check out the music from German singer and rapper Namika. Her family is of Riffian origin from the town of Nador in Morocco, however, she herself grew up in Frankfurt. To honor her family’s history, she titled her first album, released in 2015, Nador. Since then, she has released her second album Que Walou in June of 2018. Namika uses her unique talents to rock the hip hop and pop scene.


“Alles was zählt,” which translates in English to “All that matters” is a song about priorities. Namika talks about how she struggles through the day at work and is weighed down by all of the responsibilities of the day-to-day. She can’t fathom how that has become her entire life. She asks herself “Is that everything that matters?” After much soul-searching, she realizes that the emptiness she feels in her life stems from the absence of this important person and she reflects on how much she truly misses them. She then asks the question “Tell me, when the heart stops beating, who will calculate the worth?” This is such a hard-hitting question because while she can put a monetary value to the work she does and can count the hours she spends in a day, she cannot measure the significance of her feelings in numbers. It is not something tangible, yet it is the most true and valuable thing that exists to her.

Song Seven: “Johnny” by Yemi Alade


Yemi Alade is an artist I have great respect for in her image and style. She has claimed the title “Mama Africa,” and rightfully so. Reigning from Nigeria, Yemi Alade is known as one of the most influential Afro-Pop artists, singing her songs in a mixture of English and her native language of Igbo. Although she’s been around since 2005, her career took off after she won the Peak Talent Show in 2009, a competition show based in Nigeria.


“Johnny” is a song about faithfulness, or perhaps the lack thereof. In this song, Yemi laments the loss of the man “Johnny” who was once her own love but has since seemed to move on to other women. She is lost not knowing what to do when Johnny chooses to “follow Cynthia” instead of her. However, from the looks of things, Yemi is saving herself the trouble as Johnny admittedly got a girl named Uche pregnant and then asked to marry another girl, Nene. Even still, Yemi finds herself stuck on Johnny and continually searches for him, but can never find him since he’s always around with other girls. Finally, she’s had enough, saying “You telling me this, you telling me that,” obviously never able to keep his story straight. She even compares him to Pinocchio since he keeps coming up with increasingly unbelievable excuses for his absent behavior. Yemi, you should just move on. He’s not worth it.


I think it’s important for girls growing up to have female artists they can look up to. Growing up in a household that played primarily classic rock, I never had that experience. There is a unique perspective that women in the music industry possess that cannot be found anywhere else, and having access to that can help to shape the emotional education of young girls. Girls need role models, not just women who have become the 21st century equivalent of the pin-up girl. While a sexual agency is important, sex and beauty culture should not be the only takeaways from modern female pop artists.


Junior English-Creative Writing Major at Hofstra University. Music and cat enthusiast.
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