Women pop music stars need to change the subject.

Lately, I have been in a musical rut. It seems like a lot of singles released by women these days is chiefly concerned with one subject, and one subject alone: relationships with men. One indicator of this is the content of the top 20 songs sung or rapped by women on the Billboard.com. With titles such as “Love the Way You Lie,” or  “Your Love” it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see what follows.

Though Rihanna is only featured on the song “Love the Way You Lie,” she delivers a chorus that paints the portrait of a woman in a violent relationship. While Katy Perry’s “California Gurls” is a song that hails one’s home state, it does so by luring men to come to the West Coast because they’ll “fall in love” with daisy-duke and bikini wearing women. Perry’s other song “Teenage dream” is yet another song about a relationship with a man that describes a woman who was “a wreck” before they met and who is now finally “complete” with him. And another nail in the coffin is Nicky Minaj’s “Your Love” that talks about a woman so in love with a man that she would “die hard like Bruce Willis.”

Our romantic relationships are undoubtedly a part of our lives, but what about the other parts? I need music to run, study and commute to that gets me in the zone for those activities without dragging me into that last or next romantic relationship. The message in music conjures up so many emotions and it would be nice to hear these successful women talk about feelings associated with perseverance, goal attainment and struggle overall. Because it is hard out here for a young woman of color writer, student and law school applicant. I have to believe that the intensity that shows up in their romantic situations doesn’t only rear it’s head there.

But, alas, power to the mp3 player. I am no longer at the mercy of my local radio station or music video TV network to give me the update on music. My access to new media has meant that I can largely eclipse the play list set for me by the powers that be. And while things like Billboard and the marketing teams that support many mainstream artists still have incredible sway on the less informed, I have sway over my shit too.

So, in the interest of a subject change, I am starting a playlist for LSATing and commuting that helps me remember my passion for my professional dreams and goals. Off the top of my head, this is what I have come up with: Goapele’s “Closer,” India Arie’s “Strength, Courage and Wisdom” and Jill Scott’s “Sweet Justice,” Jill Scott’s “Try Again.” Got any suggestions?

Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/anna/ Anna

    yes! amel larrieux – get up fa shooooo

  • http://feministing.com/members/vivica/ Vivica

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the new Janelle Monae album. I can’t get enough of it! It took me a little while to warm up to it, but now that I have, it’s on constant rotation. She sings a few songs about love, but it’s revolutionary love. :)

  • http://feministing.com/members/abbywankenobi/ abby_wan_kenobi

    Try “Better Son/Daughter” by Rilo Kiley.

  • http://cabaretic.blogspot.com nazza

    In all fairness, I think the default setting of most pop songs is romance and relationships. As for variance in that ancient theme, men probably have a bit more leeway in that department

  • http://feministing.com/members/osh1mama/ scotch

    Her songs discuss issues of race, gender and Otherness through a 4-part sci-fi concept album series. While one aspect is about an android defying the law by falling in love with a man, it is more about self-empowerment in the midst of oppression.

    Many Moons: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LHgbzNHVg0c
    Tightrope: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pwnefUaKCbc&feature=channel
    Sincerely Jane: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p1J1RFKHCx0
    Cold War: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lqmORiHNtN4&feature=av2n

  • http://feministing.com/members/shannonhaswings/ Shannon Gerlach

    Ani DiFranco. The entire Living In Clip album rocks my socks off.

  • http://feministing.com/members/emckend/ Eva

    I’m still trying to get into Janelle Monae but I think it is crucial to find alternatives and I am so happy that this post addresses this disparity. We live in a society of 24/7 relationships. It’s like nothing else matters. It’s time that there is more music that speaks to everyone’s reality, including single people too. Thanks Rose!

  • http://feministing.com/members/time4ubuntu/ time4ubuntu

    India.Arie: I am not my hair (feat. Akon), I Choose, A Beautiful Day

    All three are incredible, upbeat and totally inspiring.

  • brittneyeast

    I love “Superwoman” by Alicia Keys. (really good for justice workers/military woman)

    Short Skirt long jacket, Cake ( somewhat problematic with chosing womens’ clothing, but still pretty cool)

    Get on your boots, U2 ( great verses!)

    Mysterious Ways U2 (makes me feel like a Goddess)

    Chicken n biscuts (yeah it equates women to food, but if you like country, you’ll enjoy it)

  • brittneyeast

    chicken n biscuits is by colt ford

  • http://feministing.com/members/strutter/ Heathre

    X-Ray Spex – Germ Free Adolescents (album)
    Tori Amos – Girl (song), American Doll Posse (album), Bliss (song)
    Arch Enemy – Revolution Begins (song)
    KT Tunstall – Suddenly I See (song)
    Christina Aguilera – Here To Stay (song)
    Pink – Sober (song)

  • http://feministing.com/members/leeraloo/ Leeraloo

    I support the Janelle Monae love wholeheartedly. She’s a great performer, and definitely putting some stuff out there that you (unfortunately) don’t hear much on the radio.

    Also, Robyn has some good stuff, as well as Florence and the Machine (her music’s been pretty omnipresent on film trailers and commercials, mostly with “Dog Days Are Over,” but some of her other music is terrific and not nearly as overplayed – although this is coming from an American; I’ve heard that she’s almost as ubiquitous as Lady Gaga over in England). Alphabeat is a group that’s pretty good, although not entirely female (and they are VERY poppy). There’s the Bird and the Bee (also, just 1/2 female – Inara George is the singer). I will say that these are all mainly pop groups/artists, and songs about love merely come with the territory. But I don’t think any of them have love songs as bland or generic as the junk we often hear on top 40 radio.

    If you’re looking for some folky, slow, pop-ish music, try Laura Marling. Very quiet and earthy and soulful.

    Also, check out Fatboy Slim and David Byrne’s concept album, “Here Lies Love.” Yeah, it’s written and produced by two guys, but the vocalists are almost exclusively female (and amazing – you could probably find some great artists to listen to on that album alone). Also, it focuses on Imelda Marcos and her childhood friend/nanny/surrogate mother Estrella. Very interesting stuff, and most definitely not all about love for a guy.

    Others: She and Him; Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings; St. Vincent. Maybe a bit less on the pop side, but great nonetheless, and not all love-obsessed all the time.

  • http://feministing.com/members/sjewell/ Sarah Jewell

    It makes me so happy to see that other people list India.Arie as their happy/motivation music. Love, love, love

  • http://feministing.com/members/trivia42/ Ashley

    Idina Menzel, Brave and anything by Gwendy Joysen.

  • http://feministing.com/members/stella/ Esther

    Marina and the diamonds, her whole album is brilliant; and of course florence and the machine! (although some her songs involve the loving)

  • http://feministing.com/members/krauseen/ Erika Krause

    I just wrote something about how crappy top 40 songs are in my blog. Check it out!

  • http://feministing.com/members/abbywankenobi/ abby_wan_kenobi

    “Let teh Beat Control You” by Tilly and the Wall

    “Mariella” by Kate Nash

  • http://feministing.com/members/mkvel/ mkvel

    I have been feeling this way about women pop stars for so long. In fact, I had a whole radio show in college dedicated solely to music of strong, talented women. These are some of current favorites:

    Hardcore Girls by Rye Rye
    Stillness is the Move – Dirty Projectors
    Ramblin’ (Wo)man) – Cat Power
    Rabbit Heart (raise It Up) – Florence + The Machine
    Bulletproof – La Roux
    To Where – Grass Window
    Just about anything from Gossip

  • http://feministing.com/members/martina/ Martina

    I think you’re barking up the wrong tree. Pop music isn’t known for substance.

  • http://feministing.com/members/minandstormy/ Jenny

    Fiona Apple’s song “Extraordinary Machine”
    M.I.A….. pretty much any of it….

    And I concur on X-Ray Spex

    I don’t listen Beyonce- but what about that one song that repeats out of car windows EVERYWHERE-
    “alll the single ladies, alll the single ladies”

  • http://feministing.com/members/lauramae/ Laura Ewton

    I completely agree. I had my first serious relationship with my first love end a couple months ago and there are days I just want to escape love songs or songs about relationships and listen to a song that’s about life, not love but it seems to be near impossible to find. I think it’d be great that women pop stars starting writing about things other than relationships, give women some depth! You see this every now and then. I’ve been listening to Taylor Swifts new album and she talks about her success with her band in Long Live and it’s such a great and inspiring song. We need more of those!

  • http://feministing.com/members/popdetroit/ dtown

    You might want to check out Rai Knight, up-and-comer from Detroit. She had a track called ‘New New’ that weren’t nothing about love, just about persistence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OelDxGAeGWI