This Women’s History Month, us here in the music department at KCSB wanted to highlight some of the amazing female talent that exists across all genres. Whether it be soulful vocals, belting ballads, or screaming feelings, women put together some pretty amazing music. That’s why we gotta celebrate that and put all of you on to some talented female voices – some of which you may recognize, and some of which you may not – all to spread awareness of the gifted women who make or have changed the music industry forever. Trust me, you won’t want to skip over this one.
- “Helpless” by Buffy Sainte-Marie
To start off, I wanted to highlight one of my favorite Native American female artists. Buffy Sainte-Marie was at her peak in the 1960s folk scene, some of her songs have been covered by people like Joni Mitchell, Donovan, and Joe Cocker. Sainte-Marie has many tracks dealing with Native American struggles in the United States. However, she has just as many songs- one of them being “Helpless”- which deal with universal issues in a beautiful and gentle manner.
- “La Bikina” by Celia Cruz
I had to highlight Celia Cruz- AKA the Queen of Salsa- for this cover of a song that I grew up listening to when the mariachis serenaded my family’s table at restaurants. I rediscovered this song after watching the Luis Miguel bio-pic, and I fell in love with the chord progression and the lyrics. However, I have to say that I much prefer the Celia Cruz version to that of El Sol’s. Women just know how to do it better. Try listening to this and not wanting to get up and dance!
- “Cuerpo Y Alma” by Esperanza Spalding
Another insanely talented Latin American woman- Esperanza Spalding. Spalding has clear influences of bossa nova, jazz, and traditional Latin American rhythms in her work. Her voice is absolutely heavenly, and the lyrics are stunning, delivered over perfect melodies. The instrumentation of this track also amazes me,- although Spalding’s voice takes center stage, the bass, piano, and drums certainly shine in their own right.
- “Show Some Emotion” by Joan Armatrding
Joan Armatrading’s voice is as close to perfect as it gets. This is another track where the vocals are executed equally skillfully. I love the message in the lyrics of this song, which encourage people to lean into their emotions instead of suppressing them. As women, society often tells us that our emotions are invalid “exaggerations”, but I think we would all be better off if we stopped numbing ourselves for the sake of other people’s comfort.
- “Como Dios Manda” by La Santa Cecilia, Mariachi De America de Jesus Rodriguez De Hijar
This is another mariachi love song that I grew up listening to at family gatherings. However, I never quite heard it delivered by such a powerful, female voice. La Santa Cecilia is a contemporary LA-based, Mexican-American band, which mixes traditional Mexican sounds with the genres of rock and roll and blues. However, in the album this song comes from, the band focuses on traditional Mariachi ballads, with Marisol Hernandez’s vocals breathing a new life into the tunes.
- “Only When I’m Dreaming” by Minnie Riperton
As its title might suggest, this song is unbelievably dreamy. The vocals and lyrics, combined with the orchestra-like instrumentation choices, allows the listener to sink into Minnie Riperton’s colorful and flowery world. This is an often overlooked record which transcends the genre of soul into something completely unique and revolutionary for the time period in which it was released.
- “Asa Branca” by Roshina De Valença
Roshina De Valença is a Brazilian bossa nova guitarist who was at her peak in the 1960s Rio De Janeiro club scene. She unfortunately had to abandon her career as a musician because she suffered brain damage after a heart attack. However, the formidable catalog of songs she produced in the time she was active leaves behind a powerful legacy. This particular song is my favorite of hers, because it takes the listener on an incredible journey. De Valença’s fingerpicking technique is immaculate, and the incorporation of vocal harmonies and horns toward the middle of the song is insanely exciting.
- “Intro” by Yaya Bey
The first song off of Yaya Bey’s most recent album Remember Your North Star, this song is a great introduction to this incredible album that actually just got added to our music library! A very emotionally driven album, it covers “themes of misogynoir, unpacking generational trauma, carefree romance, parental relationships, women empowerment and self-love,” making an album that you won’t want to miss. “Intro” eases us in with a calmer song showcasing that women empowerment theme off the bat, with a beautiful piano melody playing all throughout the song.
- “Bubbles” by Jamila Woods
Yet another song from an album recently added to KCSB’s music library, HEAVN by Jamila Woods. The album starts off with this little intro song called “Bubbles” that right off the bat places us in an ethereal scene where she uses a metaphor to discuss the experience of a Black girl trying to navigate through life, trying not to let what’s around them tear them down, or, “bust up my bubble,” as they strive for excellence in everything they do. This song really sets the tone for the rest of the album, which highlights the problems of the Black experience in America, and all of the struggles that come along with it. This album is truly a work of art, and this song does a great job of kicking the vision off with a powerful start.
- “Pele” by Luedji Luna ft. Mereba
A beautiful song by Brazilian artist Luedji Luna, employing the help of one of my favorite female R&B artists right now, Mereba, this song was an instant delight to listen to. With most of it being in Portuguese, it is a fresh sound that we may not be as used to in the United States, but oh is it good. In traditional R&B fashion, this song talks about a desire for love from someone who isn’t picking up on the signals being thrown at them, as Luedji and Mereba fiend for this love that they believe would fulfill all of their wants and needs. What I especially love about this song is the faint strings in the back that accompany a consistent bass line throughout the song. These, on top of the calming drum beat and percussion helps you really feel the emotion that is being expressed in the song.
- “Afrodite” by Akira Ræ
Akira Ræ, an up and coming R&B artist from Chicago. “Afrodite” is a really uniquely written song that flips between Akira talking with her friend about a guy who is trying to woo her, and her talking to the guy directly. She talks about how crazy it is that this guy who barely knows her thinks she is his Afrodite. However, she makes sure to emphasize she does know her worth, she does know what she deserves, she just thinks this guy is a little crazy. Even though the song talks about her stringing him along as he aimlessly follows her, it finishes with a funny little end to the conversation with her friend in which the friend wonders what she is going to do, to which Akira responds, “I don’t know, but I kind of like it.”
- “Daydream” by Raquel Rodriguez
Raquel Rodriguez is a Mexican-American, Los Angeles born R&B/Soul artist who has had the pleasure of performing with and/or opening for amazing artists such as Gwen Stefani, Anderson .Paak, PJ Morton, Snoop Dogg, and Lizzo. Even though she has done so, she somehow has not broken through, even though she is immensely talented. I was immediately drawn to this song due to the funky guitar distortions and her beautiful voice. Any song that mixes that funk and soul influence with modern R&B will always be a favorite of mine, and this does just that.
- “Night Drive” by Ginga Soul
A soothing song about living carefree as you drive with the windows down on a beautiful night, this song, aptly named, is perfect for those peaceful night drives. The combination of chimes, particular guitar strumming, and a calming electronic piano helps create this nonchalant atmosphere. With such a unique tone, Ginga Soul’s voice accompanies this track perfectly, making it a must add to the night time playlist.
- “Girls Night Out” by Babyface ft. Doechii
Although this song is by Babyface, it is from his album also called Girls Night Out, in which he works with both established and up and coming female R&B artists such as Ari Lennox, Kehlani, Muni Long, and on this title track, Doechii. In almost all of the songs in the album he pretty much takes a backseat and lets the female artists do their thing, acting as if it is their song, with Babyface as a feature. This song in particular is just a fun must add about going out with the girls and fucking shit up. In this day and age of female empowerment, living that confident single life, and realizing that men ain’t shit, “Girls Night Out” is a necessary add to that girls night party playlist.
- “Revelations” by Yoko Ono & Cat Power
My most feminist trait is that I genuinely don’t think the Beatles were that good and I also think Yoko Ono is epic.
- “Targets of Men” by G.L.O.S.S.
G.L.O.S.S.’ entire discography consists of only about 15 minutes of music stretched across two EPs and they’re still one of the most memorable hardcore bands I’ve heard over the past decade or so. Completely unrelated but I wish I had a predator missile and the coordinates of every terf in the goddamn world.
- “Birthday Cake” by Cibo Matto
The album is literally called “Viva! La Woman” so obviously it’s feminist as h*ck. Like so many others I first discovered Cibo Matto through playing Jet Set Radio Future as a kid. I owe so much to this song because it was the first piece of experimental art I can remember that grew on me after initially rejecting it.
This song is awful → Why can’t stop thinking about this awful song → This awful song is actually pretty catchy → EXTRA SUGAR EXTRA SALT EXTRA OIL AND MSG
- “Villains!” by thirdface
This one’s off another damn near perfect record from a female fronted hardcore group. The album’s namesake “Do It With A Smile” is presumably ripped from the closing refrain of this song (Back into it now, You have no choice, Do it with a smile), a sort of taunt acquiescence to the wage slavery that vocalist Kathryn Edwards describes through shrieks earlier on in the track.
- “Beautiful Soul” by Jessica Bailiff
Super underrated drone-y post-rock/shoegaze. Wikipedia calls Bailiff’s music “slowcore” but I don’t really hear it, although it’s slow I guess. And one more time: Happy Women’s History Month!!!
- “kaho loses her marbles and sleeps at norm 4 nights in a row” by Kaho Matsui
Kaho Matsui is a Portland based electronic artist who, in her own words, makes “computer and recording works for girls,” under the umbrella of IDM. This song is awesome groovy inventive stuff. RIYL Ilkae.
- “Locust Valley” by Women
Women is a band that didn’t actually have any woman members, although the lead singer/guitarist, Patrick Flegel, does have a drag queen solo-project where they go by Cindy Lee. Women’s only real qualification for being in this playlist is that they’re called “Women.” Both their self-titled album and Public Strain are top 10 albums all time for me, though.
- “Think (About It)” by Lyn Collins
Lyn Collins worked closely with James Brown and the J.Bs in the ‘70s to help cement funk and soul in the American subconscious. It must’ve worked, because you can hear traces of “Think (About It)” almost everywhere – at least in the 3345 songs that it has been sampled in.
- “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” by The Emotions
There’s no mincing words here, “I Don’t Wanna Lose Your Love” has probably one of my favorite choruses of any song ever. The Emotions ability to be in sync, on point, and in harmony is simply unmatched. I could honestly probably just listen to the chorus with no backing on repeat for at least a few hours on end and it wouldn’t make it any less infectious.
- “Rocky Mountains” by Wendy Carlos
Wendy Carlos is a pioneer, plain and simple. She was the driving force behind the popularization of the synthesizer through her work with the Moog. For her album “Switched on Bach” she became the first transgender person to win a grammy. She was most well known for her work on film scores, particularly for Stanley Kubrick. Unfortunately her work is not widely available on streaming, but I think “Rocky Mountains” paints a perfect picture of her ability to use the Moog to create profound, and eerie, soundscapes.
- “Postman” by Hollie Cook
Hollie Cook is a great (and underrated) voice in the contemporary reggae scene. Cook’s music pays tribute to the classics while still being original through her distinct instrumentation and vocals. “Postman” presents a great blend of strings, synths, and steel-pan with a throwback reggae beat.
- “Tainted Love” by Gloria Jones
I most associate this song with when I used to work at a restaurant. Sometimes when I would get off late, or after particularly bad shifts, I used to blast this on the drive home. I don’t really know why, truthfully I think it’s just an empowering bop. Usually I’d follow it up with The Supreme’s “Where Did Our Love Go” to emulate the B-side of Softcell’s covers of these two songs.
- “Situation” by Yaz
This song makes me feel like I should be wearing those mirrored cyclops sunglasses that make you look like robocop. Alison Moyet provides her strong personality and unwavering vocals to this song, which together play a major part in making it so iconic.
- “Super Moon” by Molly Tuttle
If you are a big fan of the bluegrass/americana revival, you are likely a big fan of Molly Tuttle. Tuttle is a skilled bluegrass-picker who has been putting out solo work for going on 5 years now, and is only just getting started. This upbeat instrumental piece is a great slice of her incredible bluegrass guitar work paired with a sort of indie flute and cello instrumentation.
- “Bomb (Girly-Sound Version)” by Liz Phair
This song is so silly! Liz Phair is super cool! This song was recorded on a four track tape recorder in her childhood bedroom, you can hear it in the shittyness of the recording, and she sent her tapes to Matador records in ’92. The next year she produced Exile in Guyville, the album that launched her career. I think it’s cool to look back at her old tapes ’cause you can really see how talented she is regardless of the influence of a label.
- “Truth Spoken Here” by Dorothy Ashby
You don’t usually hear harp as the main instrument driving a song, it’s usually in the back of an orchestral piece. Dorothy Ashby challenged this idea and became one of (if not the) best jazz harpists. She is so incredibly talented. I play her on my show all the time. The album this is on, Dorothy’s Harp, is amazing and very diverse; it includes bossa nova, funk, a Glen Cambell cover. Check her out!
- “It’s Too Late” by Carole King
Carole King is an incredible female composer and musician who wrote songs for Mariah Carey, the Beatles, Aretha Franklin, and so many other popular artists. This song is probably my favorite song off the album Tapestry, her second studio album that won the grammy for Album of the Year, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year in 1971. Accumulating that many grammys for one album is such a crazy feat. This album came at a transitional period for King, as she had divorced her husband who she previously wrote all of her songs with and moved from New York to Laurel Canyon. She is still releasing music now, 50 years later. I love her, she is so cool.
- “The the Empty” by Le Tigre
Le Tigre has a lot of fun high energy songs that incorporate feminism in their lyrics. Some of the members were originally in Bikini Kill, one of the most famous riot grrrl bands that emerged from the feminist punk movement. I think this song is pretty silly and fun but still conveys a great sense of frustration. This song talks about something all women frequently experience: having to deal with men who believe they are the smartest person in the room when really they’re just narcissistic and unoriginal, hence “The the Empty”. Le Tigre packs this song full of energy and still manages to have fun with a topic as mundane as this one.
- “Vou Recomeçar” by Gal Costa
My uncle, who had a radio show for UChicago when he went there (and was one of the main reasons I joined KCSB!), now owns a record store in Chicago and is exposed to tons of music. He sent this album to my parents a while back and I rediscovered it a few years ago in their CD collection. All summer I played this album while driving to my job at the local state park along the narrow windy roads. It encapsulates the feeling of summer so perfectly. Gal Costa passed away this November, though her amazing voice and experimental Bossa Nova sound will remain relevant for years to come.
- “おつかれSUMMER” by HALCALI
The album this song is on, Halcali Bacon, is the first album by a female hip-hop artist to enter the top ten on the Oricon charts in Japanese history. The whole album is super unique but this song in particular has such high energy and is so fun to listen to. The name Halcali is a combination of the names of the two girls in the duo, Halca and Yucali. My show co host, Ava (Zeytoon) introduced me to this album and we both play it on our show all the time because, like us, Halcali is just two girls.
- “Nameless Faceless” by Courtney Barnett
Courtney Barnett’s voice is so distinct, she has this kind of lazy drawl that pairs really well with her rambling stream-of-consciousness style lyrics. I chose this song in particular ’cause it’s more punky and talks about fears when walking alone at night. The rest of this album is really good as well, check out “I’m Not Your Mother, I’m Not Your Bitch.”