“Fight for the things that you care about.
But do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”
– Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Feminist icon, Supreme Court judge, relentless fighter for equality, and, lest we forget, notorious Ruth Bader Ginsburg died on Friday. Like so many of us, I’ve become so calloused to breaking news in 2020. Those who have your news notifications on (I strongly suggest AGAINST this) know that we’ve been threatened by the late night alerts about Ginsburg’s hospitalizations over the past few months. When I got the news on Friday, I had to read the notification on my Apple watch twice. Everything I was suddenly feeling – heartbreak, grief, fear – made me wish that numbness returned.
However, I think of what it’s been like to be a woman in 2020. Ignorance, ease, and not feeling only prevents fighting for equality, getting over our own egos, and breakthrough. I’ve been listening to more music than ever this year, and the releases in 2020 by women not only have been impeccable sonically and lyrically, but also these artists have reminded me of the importance of keeping going and the validity of our voices. I credit women in music to have gotten me this far in 2020, and I’ll keep listening and sharing because I think RBG would have liked that.
So, here are my top five albums by women released in 2020:
HAIM / Women in Music Pt. III
As of September 20, this is the greatest modern rock album to be released. The trio of sisters deliver lyrics of health struggles, sexism, the importance of sisterhood through influences of Lou Reed and Joni Mitchell. From the guitar to descriptions of depression, there is nothing vague about this album. “’Cause now I’m in it / But I’ve been trying to find my way back for a minute,” is from “Now I’m In It”, a track HAIM has expressed in interviews about navigating depressive thoughts versus the heart’s pull of wanting out.
FIONA APPLE / Fetch the Bolt Cutters
From the album title to all the critical acclaim, it should be no surprise Apple’s album made the list. It’s loud, not refined but intentional, and asking for escape – everything a woman has been told not to embody. With the amalgamation of lyrical content and themes (“Fetch the bolt cutters / I’ve been in here too long”) and listening to this album when I run, this album has made me feel more free and seen – pandemic aside. Ever have the craving to salute and communicate with the new woman of an ex? Fiona soothes in “Ladies”, “There’s a dress in the closet, don’t get rid of it, you’d look good in it / I didn’t fit in it, it was never mine / It belonged to the ex wife of another ex of mine.”
DUA LIPA / Future Nostalgia
If Future Nostalgia existed on an alternative timeline, this would be the album we’d be dancing to in a club filled with sweaty people, neon lights, drinks, and mistakes. However, I’ve been dancing to this album in my kitchen for months now (and who am I kidding? I’d probably be staying in without a pandemic). This album is beyond pop; it gives modern disco, bass thumps, snaps and claps, and a just-enough out of this world feel. Frankly, Dua Lipa makes you feel yourself and that’s more than enough. Do you, boo.
WAXAHATCHEE / Saint Cloud
An album about transformation in terms of coming back to yourself, Saint Cloud is a twangy, indie record that processes the newfound sobriety of Katie Crutchfield, who goes by Waxahatchee. Crutchfield sings a lot about wanting on this record that comes through less like begging and more like she is reclaiming what she wants because she knows what she deserves – self-acceptance and self-love. But the reach doesn’t come without a struggle; Crutchfield sings in “War,” “I’m in a war with myself / It’s got nothing to do with you.” Sobriety, self-love, noticing the stories we tell ourselves, and fighting for whatever we value in this life takes, like Crutchfield messages in “Lilacs”, constant watering and attending to.
CHLOE X HALLE / Ungodly Hour
The experience of wanting to get risky tipsy and receiving dick pics have just as a valid place in women’s outward expression as all of the other music mentioned and not mentioned in this post. 22-year-old Chloe Bailey and 20-year old Halle Bailey released an R&B-pop album filled with transcendent vocals and transitions. The Baileys’ lyric writing is fantastic, and it’s important to say that. As we see with so many other women artists, especially young black artists, the presence of sexual agency or awareness of toxicity in music can be erased from public discourse and critical acclaim. When creativity by women is noticed and praised by others, it reiterates sense of self and our importance. Because of a lack of diversity in mainstream music criticism, women in music often fail to get the credit they deserve. Society has historically seen young women of color as not putting out music that’s “award worthy”, but when the biases and microaggression are aside, there is no doubt this record is award worthy for the angelic vocals and devilish lyrics that leave you in purgatory.
This week’s playlist can be found here.
Photo: Mason Poole / Parkwood Entertainment