From Angel Olsen to Solange, the words, sounds, and themes from women in music this year were immensely vulnerable, politically-conscious, and pave the way for musicians of the approaching 2020s to experiment further.
Several tracks heavily dominated mainstream airwaves and radio stations this year— some with utterly catchy choruses (a la “Old Town Road”) and some that abandon the idea of a traditional melody at all whatsoever (i.e. “bad guy”). The ten songs featured in this list experiment with traditional and unconventional musical structure maybe ones you missed, and touch upon what it means to be alive in the last year of this technologically advanced decade.
When initially compiling a list of my favorite tracks of the year, I aimed to represent a wide array of genres, themes, and artists. I realized after forming a list that all of my chosen music, whether from artists of the utmost mainstream world or from niche, indie realms all shared a commonality— they were by solo women artists or female-fronted bands.
As a fellow female musician, I’ve always found it frustrating to see “women in music” as an actual category since “men in music” has never existed in the world of music journalism and criticism, and probably never will. However, listening solely to women of 2019 can be a refreshing exercise for times when one craves listening to ideas, themes, and artists that are often overlooked or don’t receive large amounts of radio play.
Whether they were fiercely empowering anthems, introspective indie-folk tunes or alternative songs that made clever commentary on pop culture, here are ten tracks from women this year that made me think, reflect, cry, dance— and think about — all over again.
“The greatest” — Lana Del Rey
With tragic lyrics that capture the essence of nostalgia and longing, and Lana Del Rey’s signature cinematic quality, the eleventh track on her critcally-acclaimed LP, Norman Fucking Rockwell analyzes an exhausted generation. “I’m facing the greatest / The greatest loss of them all,” Del Rey sings in one of the most memorable verses, “The culture is lit and I had a ball / I guess that I’m burned out after all.”Amid muddled and distorted electric guitar solos, Del Rey’s hushed, wispy voice also sings of the current state of Planet Earth before mentioning Kanye West. She then points out that David Bowie was onto something when he first sang about life outside of the world we inhabit. “Hawaii just missed a fireball,” Del Rey sings as the song concludes, “Kanye West is blonde and gone / “Life on Mars?” ain’t just a song.” In exactly five minutes, the alt-pop icon’s lyrics touch upon newsworthy and memorable elements of 2019, while paying homage to places on the East and West coast that she once frequented.