As the year comes to a close and all the “Best of” lists have gone viral it has come to my attention that as per usual, women are left out of the conversation when it comes to lists for music. Maybe the people in charge just don’t bother to listen to female artists, or some will argue that this was an awful year for women in music in general. In any case, I’m taking a moment before this year officially ends to pay homage to the ladies of 2015. In case you can’t remember how much influence women still have here are my 10 fave moments of women ruling the music scene in 2015 (in no particular order).
- That time when M.I.A. dropped a timely political video about the refugee crisis LIKE A BOSS. When the video for “Borders” dropped I played it on repeat almost all day. How could you not question our country’s politics after listening to those lyrics:
“Borders (What’s up with that?)
Politics (What’s up with that?)
Police shots (What’s up with that?)
Identities (What’s up with that?)
Your privilege (What’s up with that?)
Broke people (What’s up with that?)
Boat people (What’s up with that?)
The realness (What’s up with that?)”
Asking all this while sitting perched on top of a pyramid of refugees only accentuated the message. Such a powerful visual for a powerful cause. M.I.A. never shies away from the controversial topics that need to be addressed.
- That time when Missy Elliott made her comeback with puppets in “WTF”and the internet lost its mind. I mean, I lost my mind back in February when Katy Perry bought her on stage and the beat for “Get Your Freak On” dropped. It was a little foreshadowing that there would be more to come from Missy this year. But when the video finally did drop for “WTF” I was in Argentina and I still felt a collective “YES” scream across the world from here. YES! for creativity, YES! for dancers, YES! for being a dope female musician in a blinged-out track suit. Oh Pharrell can’t make the video shoot? No problem, we’ll just make some fly dancing puppets. Oh Missy, how we missed you so!
- That time when Erykah Badu dropped a mixtape featuring a collabo with her baby-daddy Andre 3000 called “Hello” and made us reevaluate our relationship goals. When Andre says, “Okay, challenge/Leave your phone unlocked and right side up/
Walk out the room without throwin’ your bitch off balance/
It’s either on or off, ain’t no in between when it’s valid.” It’s his first verse of 2015 and it’s OOF, super deep. I love the entire concept of “But You Caint Use My Phone” being a social commentary on the influence and obsession of our phones in this day and age. So much so, that how we interact with them around significant others is the new test of a relationship. I mean yes, Erykah is my spirit animal so she can rarely do wrong in my book but still, this song reminded us what soul music could be.
- That brings us to the OTHER “Hello” of this year: That time Adele dropped her album 25 and sold more copies than anyone in one week – 3.38 Million copies in the U.S. alone to be exact. Then continued to sell over a million copies two more weeks, breaking other records along the way. BONG. I love it when artists can rely solely on their talents to win big and not make the focus about their appearance. Adele does that brilliantly (in my British accent) time and time again. Kudos to her also for having Tristen Wilds AKA Mack Wilds AKA Michael Lee star as her love interest in this video:
- That time the Amy documentary came out and gave us all the feels…
I can’t talk about Adele without thinking about my other fave British Songstress, Amy Winehouse. I miss her so much at times like this. Luckily, this year we had the release of Amy, which gave us a few more live moments of her on the big screen to hang on to. The documentary gave an intimate look into the back story of Amy’s quick rise to fame and her fall from grace. As sad as it was to watch, I really appreciated the movie for giving an honest portrayal of someone completely overwhelmed not only with her demons but with her unwanted fame. I left with an even bigger respect for Amy as an artist, someone who valued her process and her artistry over everything else. She didn’t care about being a pop star, she just wanted to make authentic music.
- That time when we learned how to say twins in Yoruba with the release of the debut self-titled album from Ibeyi. Two Afro-Cuban Parisian sisters rocked my world with their Yoruba chants over self-made hip-hop infused drum beats. If this is the year of authenticity and showing up as you are, these two take the cake. They sing about dealing with grief, loss of love, and paying homage to our ancestors in ways no 21-year-old should know about yet. Cheers to women that honor every aspect of their culture and their soul. It was an amazing album that bough traditional Afro-Cuban Yoruba music to the mainstream. And kudos to their hat-tip to Jay Electronica in the song “Exhibit Diaz” Can’t wait to see what’s next for these sisters.
- That time Jennifer Lopez hosted the American Music Awards and killed the opening performance, reminding us she is still a ‘Fly Girl’ at 46. And, she looked amazing doing so. I mean come on, did you think I would have a list and not mention her? Have we met? Yes, I ride for JLo regardless but she really killed it! she performed the year’s hits better than the artists themselves. Say what you will about her as a singer or actress, but at the end of the day she is a true dancer at heart and her skills cannot be questioned in this performance.
- That time Florence + the Machine dropped their third studio album and it was even better than the first two… I didn’t think it was possible but then there she was, Florence and her tambourine were back with a vengeance in How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. Songs like “What Kind of Man” and “Hiding” became my living room dance party anthems. I immediately channeled my barefoot, inner-hippie and followed her all the way to Montreal just to catch a peek of her singing about love, loss and her drinking problems. This album was extremely raw and personal. Well done, mate.
- That time Janelle Monae reminded us that #blacklivesmatter with the song “Hell You Talmbout.” It’s been a tomultrorous year in the fight against police brutality, especially on the heels of the non-indictment ruling of Tamir Rice’s case. We are hurting and tired, we scream Black Lives Matter but feel like it falls on deaf ears. Janelle Monae screamed back and let us know we were not alone when she dropped this song along side her Wondaland crew. In it she recites the names of Sandra Bland, Freddie Gray and the many other lives unjustly lost to police. I dare you to listen to this song and not get chills.
- Lastly, that time Aretha Franklin, her clutch and her fur coat, graced the stage at the Kennedy Center Honors and made President Obama cry with her performance of “Like a Woman.” Yes, she was paying homage to Carole King who wrote the song, but we know who made the song a hit. Aretha plays the piano, she drops her fur coat and all without missing a beat. If you forgot what the Queen of Soul looks like, here is your reminder.