From Ariana Grande's self-love anthem to Sukhnidh Kaur’s ode on consent, music in 2018 has been all about making a statement.
The death of ‘Queen of Soul’ Aretha Franklin in August this year left music lovers, all over the world, heartbroken. Her passing also raised two essential questions. One, the deep and powerful impact music has had on society, regardless of physical and metaphorical boundaries. And not to forget, the undebatable contribution of women musicians across the world who renditions have been inspired by the events and developments of the times we live in.
R&B and gospel-style singing of the 60s have been replaced by varieties of pop and rock in 2018. But that has hardly stopped pop culture’s leading ladies from making their voice heard.
From music on the current socio-political climate to self-love anthems, here are the top women musicians who made a statement through their music this year.
Short, blonde hair and a voice as fierce as her thoughts: these are some of the defining characteristics of the American pop star, who has secured a special place in the heart of her fans. Whether it is with her music – that speaks universally to all music lovers – or the way she lives life, like running a “label-less” household, the songstress, born as Alecia Beth Moore, has been breaking norms left, right, and centre.
In March 2018, she kicked off her Beautiful Trauma World Tour in support of her seventh studio album, which is filled with songs reflective of the modern times. Out of all the tracks, What About Us – considered a powerful ballad about the disillusionment and the American government – stands out, a song which P!nk has performed at a number of awards shows this year.
“Seventy-nine cent to your dollar. All that bullshit from white-collars.”
If the name Janelle Monae sounds alien to you, it is about time you hit play on the 2016 Oscar-nominated film, Hidden Figures. A talented presence on-screen, the 33-year-old is also an accomplished singer-songwriter and the above lyrics are from her single, Americans, which was released as part of her third studio album Dirty Computer in April, this year. Once again a political satire, the closing track of the album calls out the conservative system while laying out the dream for an all-inclusive America of the future.
Typically, country music is known for being light-hearted, rhythmic and fun. So when 35-year-old Carrie Underwood came up with her sixth studio album, Cry Pretty, she dropped quite a few jaws. Filled with powerful, politically-charged ballads, two songs – Love Wins and The Bullet – particularly created ripples. While the former talked about a divisive world, the latter turned the attention to the aftermath of gun violence.
Pop queen Ariana Grande is already an inspiration for thousands. This year, she released a single that clearly tugged at the heartstrings. Clearly prompted by a series of unfortunate events – the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, the untimely death of her ex Mac Miller, and her split with SNL star Pete Davidson – Thank U, Next, Grande’s latest single, has already crossed 100 million views. And it’s being touted as the self-love anthem of the year.
It won’t be much of a stretch to call 2018 the year of Lady Gaga. First, she starred in the critically-acclaimed musical, A Star is Born, opposite Bradley Cooper, that has already started garnering Oscar bids. And now, speculation is rife that the Poker Face hitmaker might be working on a brand new studio album. While we cannot wait for her next, this year, all music lovers can talk about is the soundtrack of her movie. A delightful journey through the world of music, addiction and more – Lady Gaga has truly made a statement, especially with the song, Shallow.
Canadian singer-performer Alessia Cara is just 22, but she is already making her presence felt on coveted platforms – like this year’s Grammys – with music that makes a difference. For Cara, the year began with the Best New Artist recognition and a nomination for her track 1-800-273-8255 (also featuring Logic and Khalid) at the 60th annual Grammy awards. An anti-suicide anthem, the song takes its name from the suicide prevention hotline and is an emotional rendition, truly in tune with what society really needs.
Cara is also working on her second studio album, The Pains of Growing, another impactful collection from the young powerhouse.
Even as the #MeToo movement was taking off in India, social media became abuzz with debates and discussion on the impact and consequences of the anti-harassment movement. The authenticity of many stories was called into question as the spotlight shifted to the concept of “consent”. Answering all these queries, LGBTQI activist and musician Sukhnidh Kaur presented to the world what she calls her “one-minute masterclass on consent”. The rhythmic track went viral in no time, educating and entertaining people at the same time.
Cuttack-born singer Sona Mohapatra rose to prominence when she performed the socially-relevant song Rupaiya on actor Aamir Khan’s chat show, Satyamev Jayate. There has been looking back for this singer, as she charted her way through the mostly male-dominated music industry, making her presence felt with her powerful music. Earlier this year, Mohapatra stood her ground when her song Tori Surat – revisiting the poetry of Sufi mystic Amir Khusro – was called out.
Despite the criticism, the music video – a part of Mohapatra’s project Lal Pari Mastani – moved fans as she danced around “in unique earthy incarnations of the feminine divine from different cultures.”