In today’s music industry, there have been a lot of female pop stars, dubbed as “pop girls”, that have entered the scene. But the grueling competition has meant that only a select few have stood out among the rest. This is not to say that every single pop girl needs to be unique, groundbreaking, or innovative of course, as there’s nothing wrong with staying within the formula. But there are those pop stars that have, either through their music or beyond it, impacted their listeners and the general public through positive change and empowerment.
Here are just some of the pop stars we recommend for your all-female playlist.
From her electropop-inspired songs to her wacky fashion statements, there’s no denying Gaga’s influence among her colleagues. Aside from that, she has also constantly reinvented herself every album, from the dance-pop music of The Fame, to the old school country album Joanne, and now to the retro-flavored Chromatica. She has also ventured in acting, notably in her award-winning role as Ally in A Star Is Born. But more than this, her strong activism for the LGBTQ community, her main demographic, is nothing short of admirable and an example all must follow.
Beyoncé started out as a member of the popular ‘90s girl group Destiny’s Child, before eventually going solo with her hit single “Crazy In Love.” Since then, Beyoncé has been known for her explosive performances, powerful vocals, and queen-like presence. Moreover, she has also been a figure for black feminism with her albums Beyoncé and Lemonade telling stories of pain and joy as a proud black Southern woman. She’s had detractors, such as the backlash during her guesting in Coldplay’s Super Bowl 50 halftime show performance where she stood up for the “Black Lives Matter” movement. Nonetheless, she keeps on swinging and proving that she’s definitely a force to be reckoned with, both on- and off-stage.
Known as the good girl gone bad, Rihanna’s influence is undeniable. She’s undergone several changes over the past years and is known for her iconic looks and her no-nonsense yet playful and sexually charged persona. Aside from that, Rihanna is an important figure among domestic abuse victims, helping and empowering these victims in any way she can. Other than music, she is also the founder of make-up brand Fenty Beauty and clothing line Fenty in partnership with LVMH. Her success in both music and fashion has made her an important woman in the field of black excellence.
People may initially know Kesha for her party songs and irreverent image. Delve into Kesha deeper though and there’s definitely a lot more substance than meets the eye (not that her hits “Tik Tok” and “We R Who We R” aren’t great, though). In recent years, Kesha has been known for her ongoing sexual abuse case with her previous producer Dr. Luke. She has become an inspiration for sexual abuse victims everywhere and has also earned the support of several female figures in the process. Her lead single “Praying” from her album Rainbow showcases her message of empowerment amid the situation through her breathtaking vocals. Despite this, she still knows how to have fun with bangers such as “Woman” and “Raising Hell.”
Asian-American representation in the music industry has been quite slow-going, but Hayley Kiyoko has made strides in changing that. As a queer woman of color, Hayley Kiyoko’s mere presence is a statement amid an industry whose majority is straight and white among female artists. Her simply singing about women loving women and showcasing lesbian relationships in her videos without the fetishizing aspect is a huge step for more representation in mainstream media. If you’re looking for more queer-focused media in pop music, Hayley is the one to listen to.
Carly Rae Jepsen
Most well-known for her smash viral hit “Call Me Maybe”, Carly Rae Jepsen has bubbled under the radar since then. Still, despite not having as much general public recognition anymore, she has managed to garner a cult following among the gay community starting from her ‘80s inspired album Emotion. Her songs talking about earnest love combined with dancey disco beats have made her songs a fixture among pride playlists everywhere. Carly has also made her appreciation for the gay community apparent even before the release of Emotion when she canceled her performance at the Boy Scouts of America Jamboree in protest of their gay and transgender ban. If you’re in need of cheesy yet honest love songs to an ‘80s beat, Carly is your girl.
Hailing all the way from London, Rina Sawayama has also been important in the movement to include more Asian voices in pop music. As a proud pansexual in the industry, Rina’s music has covered a variety of topics related to sexuality and other concepts. From her ode to pansexuality “Cherry”, to the mockery of capitalism in “XS”, to the critique of male qualities as signs of confidence in “Comme des Garçons (Like the Boys)”, Rina’s songs are definitely a treat for those looking for topics different from common songwriting tropes. She also dabbles in various genres such as metal, disco, and dance-pop, so you get something new with her all the time.
These are just a mere fraction of the influential female pop stars you can listen to. There are dozens more, you just need to broaden your musical horizons and look beyond what’s popular on the radio. Of course, this doesn’t mean that those with mainstream popularity don’t deserve it. No matter the level of reach a musician has, they can still be influential in their own little way. It shouldn’t be a competition, but rather, peaceful coexistence of strong and talented women in the industry. And as listeners, we shouldn’t treat it as a competition as well and instead, open ourselves to new music from different women with different styles.