Songs For Grown Women, From Kelly Clarkson To Carla Bruni

After my first job MTV working as a music programmer, I can't stop trying to matchmake people with music they might like. So, I wrote a book called Record Collecting for Girls and started interviewing musicians. The Music Concierge is a column where I share music I'm listening to that you might enjoy, with a little context. Follow me on Twitter or Facebook, or leave me a comment below and tell me what you're listening to this week.
Kelly Clarkson "Meaning of Life"
Just turning on a Kelly Clarkson track makes my insides vibrate. It's that strong voice she's got — I think she would bowl me over if she were just singing the alphabet. I'm still completely exhausted after talking all week with women in the music industry about systematic abuse and oppression running rampant and, frankly, I could use some of Kelly Clarkson's voice in my life. She has a great formula going, where she pairs these big pop hooks with her gritty vocals. What's interesting to me about this one in particular is that it calls back, both in song structure and in the lyrics, to the late '60s and early '70s girl group singles. I can almost hear the influence of Motown in the horns, and there's more than a little Diana Ross in her vocals.
Bully "Kills to Be Resistant"
Bully is fronted by sound engineer and former Steve Albini intern, Alicia Bognanno. As if she weren't already enough of a rarity, Bully treads into Sonic Youth territory with their sound; it's dark, fuzzy, sarcastic, and arty. I'm in love with her voice and her words, I love the slow burn of this song and how her voice comes close to cracking as she stretches her voice to go louder in the chorus. That moment when the band drops out and they all sing, "it kills to be resistant" — could anything encapsulate the way I feel right now more? Yes, actually: when she screams in the chorus immediately following it. I'm going to recommend giving a listen to the full album if you liked this song.
Miya Folick "Give It to Me"
Woman screaming into the abyss from the front of a roller coaster is very much my aesthetic right now. The sparse guitars in this track draw out the slow torment buried in every lilt of Folick's voice in this song. When I sing it, I'm imagining demanding that the patriarchy give it to me — it being all the power and money. There's something about the kind of song that demands you open your mouth and hold a note for more than the usual amount of time. I don't think it's any accident that note comes on the "me" in Folick's song.
Chrisette Michelle "Strong Black Woman"
In the same vein as Clarkson comes Chrisette Michelle, with an ode to committed grown folks love. Her intimate take on what kind of support she needs from her partner, and what compromises she's willing to make, to be the titular strong, Black woman are realistic but not without romance. Right now, I'm happy to visualize a world where a man is worth appreciating, because a lot of men have been too much to take lately. Put this one down as a gentle reminder that there are some good ones out there.
Carla Bruni "Miss You"
It doesn't get much more grown than the former first lady of France doing a cover of one of the sexist songs by the Rolling Stones. Try being Carli Bruni: a supermodel, a guitarist, a fashion icon, a woman with immense political power, and a singer. Her particular spin on this classic track emphasizes the rhythm, shifting the focus from bass to bongos and inserting some strings that would have been cheesy in the actual '70s but that serve as an auditory reframing of the era this track comes from in her update. I'm off to put on a black veil and some leggings, because that is now my weekend go-to look.
Bonus track: read my thoughts on Taylor Swift making a feminist move with "Gorgeous" by setting a songwriting trope on it's head.
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