ALTo Picks: Top Five Power Anthems
Rhiannon, Fleetwood Mac, 1975.
Legend has it that Stevie Nicks penned the song about the Welsh witch after reading the book called “Triad” in 10 minutes — leaving audiences spellbound since its release in Fleetwood Mac’s self-entitled album. It’s also the song that sparked rumours of Nicks being an actual witch — lending her to iconic style as the whimsical chanteuse we have loved for decades. In a band where Nicks and keyboardist Christine Mcvie were the queens of their own rock n’ roll’s fairytale, “Rhiannon” portrays the depths of being a powerful woman. This is best seen in Fleetwood Mac’s 1976 performance on The Midnight Hour where Nicks, dripping in black chiffon, starts the song off like a poem and escalates it to a psychedelic explosion of rock ‘n’ roll grit. Why is this the ultimate power anthem? The elegant rock gem speaks to the queen that lives within every woman, but doesn’t dismiss vulnerability.
Not Ready to Make Nice, Dixie Chicks, 2006.
When the lead singer of the Dixie Chicks Natalie Maines spoke out about her disdain towards the impending Iraq war and then-President George W. Bush, it caused the group to be blacklisted. Suddenly, the group went from country music elite to public enemy number one. After laying low for three years. the group released “Not Ready to Make Nice.” With the lyrics “And how in the world/Can the words that I said/Send somebody so over the edge/That they'd write me a letter/Saying that I better/Shut-up and sing/Or my life will be over?” it was obvious they were back with a poignant vengeance. It was an anthem for not just women, though the music video did depict it as such, but for anyone willing to stand up for their beliefs. What is saddest about this situation, and what makes this feel like a female anthem, is that male country artists like Willie Nelson were openly stating the same sentiment towards the war and taking it a step further by creating 9/11 conspiracy theories. The song lyrics stand against the idea that women are supposed to “make nice” and not speak their minds while the instrumentation shows that though country music failed them, they can still do it better than most. What's the best revenge after a breakup? Success.
Run the World (Girls), Beyoncé, 2011.
It’s fair to say that Beyoncé is an entity of her own. From her upbringing in Destiny’s Child, to her alter-ego Sasha Fierce, she’s a music and fashion icon, mother and wife. In this power anthem, Queen B awakens the inner boss lady in all of us — praising the mind, strength, and beauty of the working woman. She chants that female persuasion can build a nation and is not to be disrespected. So ladies, put on your stilettos and go rule the world.
Most Girls, Hailee Steinfield, 2017.
The music video starts off with Hailee talking to some guy who tells her that he likes her because she isn’t like “most girls.” She looks offended and leaves the guy to sit by himself. That’s when the music starts and Hailee does what she knows best — stealing our hearts with her coolness. Her song celebrates differences between girls with lyrics like, “Some girls/feel best in their tiny dresses/Some girls/nothin' but sweatpants/ looking like a princess.” It’s a catchy song, but most importantly it reminds us that being like “most girls” should be taken as a compliment. She questions phrases like “you’re not like most girls.” Because why wouldn’t you want to be like most girls? After all, “Most girls smart and strong and beautiful/Most girls, work hard, go far, we are unstoppable.” Hailee’s song tells girls (and even women) that embracing yourself and adopting a positive outlook on life is the way to be like most girls. In her music video, she emphasizes this by dressing up as the party girl, the girly girl, the sporty girl, the artsy girl and the quirky girl. Really, there’s no one right way to be a girl. Through her lyrics, she tells her listeners that whatever kind of girl you are — you’re just like most girls. And that’s a beautiful thing to celebrate.
Video, India.Arie, 2001.
In a time when it was common to see rail thin, tall white females in every aspect of the media, India. Arie declared that she was not going to take part in that narrative. And rather than declare those women as her nemesis, she chose to create a video about female empowerment. “Video” is a female anthem because of the message that one doesn’t have to conform to the archaic ideas of what is “feminine.” It gives the listener the choice to define their own worth. I found this song sometime after the initial release when body image issues were prevalent in my friend group during our teen years and I needed something to keep me sane. The lyrics “I'm not the average girl from your video/And I ain't built like a supermodel/But I learned to love myself unconditionally/Because I am a queen” came to my aid when I couldn't stand the person I saw in the mirror. Looking back on the lyrics and comparing them to other self-love tracks of this generation, it’s refreshing to hear Arie’s anti-us-versus-them mentality. Where songs get it wrong now is declaring one more right than the other. Fat vs Thin. Blond vs Brunette. Feminine vs Non-feminine. This song does none of that. For me, this song is one of the most important pieces of music in the early 2000’s. It’s a declaration of self-love that lets listeners know, without placing blame, that beauty standards aren't what's important. These are things we know, but sometimes we just need a reminder.