I found my first real sources of creative inspiration and confidence from female musicians. From secretly downloading a Lady Gaga album (The Fame) onto my iPod nano in 2008, or carefully selecting No Doubt and ABBA CDs out of my parent’s collections, music was something I could discover without permission (or needing to ask if I could leave the house first.)
Through these artists I listened to, I discovered some of my first role models. Women I wanted to be like, the kind of auras I wanted to exude, the feminity I wanted to celebrate, and the personalities I aspired to have. I was 11 years old and shy, so listening to “Beautiful, Dirty, Rich” on repeat was like staring into a glittering future of prosperity, power, and confidence. I can see why my parents were scared.
Although I still love a lot of the artists I listened to from that time (yes, even the semi-embarrassing ones,) I decided to highlight just a few of the female artists from my youth that truly inspired me for Women's History Month. So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite female pop artists from the early 2000s.
My experience with Lily Allen’s 2009 It’s Not Me, It’s You album is something of infatuation. I instantly fell in love with the themes throughout this album. I was unfamiliar with a world where calling out social stigmas, laughing in the face of my fears, calling the world unfair, and saying “fuck you” were allowed, much less celebrated. Listening to this album really did help boost my confidence, especially my favorite track on it: “The Fear.” It’s a song that feels wistful and unafraid, shameless and vivid. It helped set the precedent for a lot of the albums I’d come to admire in the future.
Marina and The Diamonds
Before MARINA, there was Marina and the Diamonds. I first heard them while my neighbor had MTV on at her house. Marina’s song “Oh No!” came on, and my life was forever changed. She sings about meta stuff like “TV taught me how to feel now real life has no appeal," but also about not needing a relationship, making real change, and knowing exactly who she is. If you’ve heard The Family Jewels album before, you’ll know it’s similar to Lily Allen’s in its confident and unapologetic themes. These are albums that celebrate femininity rather than shut it down or try to over-sexualize it. It was just the right amount of alt-queen for my kid brain. “I Am Not A Robot” is another highlight.
Florence and The Machine
Again in 2009, Florence's album Lungs stuck with me, particularly the transcendent "Dog Days Are Over” many people are familiar with. It’s all-encompassing in its simplicity and poetic lyricism.
Yes, the aforementioned queen of monsters has made this list. I’m almost scared to put her on here because I know some people are intense, diehard fans, and I know I’m not that, but I did love her a lot at the time. So much personalized creativity, confidence, and endless pop hits.
I have to admit, I have not been the biggest fan of most of her other albums, but I love the 2013 Pure Heroine so much. Lorde is someone that is a little closer in age to me than the others and a lot of the topics she covered I was dealing with at the same time. She was relatable to me and philosophical and I loved that about her.
Taylor Swift and Kesha are honorable mentions. Although my music taste has evolved into new obsessions with St. Vincent, Mitski, and many more, I’ll always hold a special place in my heart for these female artists and their songs for raising me.