Today’s playlist celebrates Bastille Day, a worldwide holiday commemorating the explosive storming of the military fortress, Bastille Saint-Antoine, in Paris on July 14, 1789. This act of rebellion sparked a revolution that ended absolute monarchy in France and left a chaotic political and cultural landscape that created opportunities for some of the country’s poorest citizens – and, yes, even some women. Yet, reactionary forces prevented a profound transformation from taking hold. Like so many revolutions, it fell short of its egalitarian goals, but the ideas of liberty, equality, and [sister]hood that inspired some folks to cut off rich people’s heads are still vibrant reminders of what could be. Kisses! Et vive la France!
Also, we’d be trés remiss if we didn’t mention that the French are gearing for a historic Men’s World Cup final (we’re not taking sides!). So, enjoy that too.
You can listen to the following songs and many more on Unsweetened’s feminist playlist on spotify.
Ibeyi, “No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms”
Many Americans know these two sisters because Beyoncé featured them in “Lemonade,” but this song, with dramatic samples of Michelle Obama’s speech calling out Donald Trump’s misogyny, is a good start in getting to know them a bit better. Lisa-Kaindé Diaz and Naomi Diaz are twins who were born in Paris, and while they’ve spent time in Cuba (where their father was a celebrated member of the Buena Vista Social Club, they spent their formative years in the City of Lights.
Keny Arkana, “Madame La Marquise”
A dark song for dark times, Argentine rapper and activist Keny Arkana takes Paul Misraki’s 1935 song of the same title as its inspiration.
Sandra Nkaké, “Femme Noire”
In this powerful song and video, Cameroon-born singer and performer Sandra Nkaké denounces violence against women and looks to her ancestors for strength, courage, and hope.
Diam’s, “Ma France a moi”
Born in Cyprus and raised in a Paris suburb, rapper Mélanie Georgiades was a dynamic force in elevating the voices of young people in France, particularly those who felt dismissed, oppressed, and exploited. She left the music industry in 2013, saying that fame made her miserable.
La Gale, “Qui m’aime me suive”
Hailing from Beirut and based in Lausanne, La Gale (or scabies!) is hip hop with a raw punk energy. No one is as cool as this woman.
Chilla, “Aller sans retour’
Calling her a “rappeuse,” music pundits have been heaping praise on this rapping, singing phenom from Lyon, who is also an outspoken activist against police violence in France. This is from her latest EP, Karma.
Christine and the Queens, “Girlfriend”
French pop singer Héloïse Letissier says of her new track, “I initially set out to smash against macho culture and macho men. I became obsessed with this idea of the macho man, and still being a woman. What does it mean if I’m this figure, and I’m a woman? Does it make me an aberration? Is it joyful?”
France Gall, “Laisse tomber les fille”
France Gall took this Serge Gainsbourg song about heartbreak and regret straight up the charts in 1964. This one is a warning to her former boyfriend that he’ll soon self-destruct.
Edith Piaf, “Non, je ne regrette rien”
A French classic from a complicated and revered woman.
Grace Jones, “La Vie En Rose”
We’ll end with Grace Jones’ rendition of “La Vie En Rose.” Jones was born in Jamaica, raised in Syracuse, and is internationally celebrated as a groundbreaking artist and performer, but she once called Paris home and that’s good enough for me. MWAH.