With the ongoing onslaught of attacks on our bodies, our sexual lives, the environment, education, and democracy, music is a source of inspiration and energy. Here’s a re-cap of the 2018 Unsweetened Playlist for a Feminist Future to help you get through the day AND to motivate you to take action for a feminist future. We are celebrating the things that are great in this country and calling out the things that aren’t. It is a work in progress. We will add music to it regularly with varying themes and time periods.
You can listen to the entire list here: Unsweetened: A Playlist for a Feminist Future on Spotify.
We kicked off the playlist with possibility even though we recognized that it is difficult not to feel beat up and hopeless with the current administration. This playlist is packed with revolutionary artists, like Tori Amos, Bikini Kill, Dolly Parton, Helly Luv, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Shea Diamon, using their voices to highlight struggle, tell important stories, and create community.
Our second playlist was dedicated to the Grammys and featured SZA and Kesha, but it highlighted what was already an epic collection of feminist music.
Appalachia’s working class people responded to economic and social exploitation by the coal, timber, and textile industries with protest music.” From punk to string bands, Appalachian musicians are raising their voices against sexism, racism, worker exploitation, and environmental degradation. Check out the music from the hollers by Hazel Dickens, Loretta Lynn, Bessie Smith, Sam Gleaves, and more.
In this playlist Meeghan Kane showed us the striking music that is happening right now — Afrofuturism. Afrofuturism as a science fiction genre is perhaps best described as “the future as told by people of the African diaspora” that “intersects science fiction, technology, and ancient African mythologies,” as well as themes of black liberation, black power, and mysticism. Check out some boundary pushing artists including Grace Jones, Missy Elliott and Da Brat, Ebony Bones, THEESatisfaction, and Jorja Smith.
We celebrated Black History Month with the voices of artists with pan-African roots, who are raising their voices in a quest for change. In this time of hate mongering, people in power are using wide sweeping generalizations to erase people’s history and culture. These songs by musicians like Melky Jean, The Noisettes, Big Joanie, Amythyst Kiah, Ibeyi, and Tati Quebra-Barraco weave history with the present and musical traditions across continents and remind us of painful histories while filling us with hope.
In honor of International Women’s Day this week, we’ve added songs that feature women, trans, non-binary, and queer-identifying artists from around the world – folk who are rallying for social justice and radical political change. Check out Hurray for the Riff Raff, Sampa the Great, The Spook School, Otoboke Beaver, and Oumou Sangaré
The St. Patrick’s Day playlist featured an amazing mix of musicians with Irish roots performing traditional ballads and punk anthems as well as electronica and reggae to help you celebrate Irish culture and history with a feminist flare. You’ve probably heard Sinead O’Connor and The Cranberries, but you should check out The Wharves, Cruising, Soulé, and Bonzai.
In March, we featured spirituals, or religious folk songs closely associated with the enslavement of African people in the American South. These songs gave people hope during slavery and supported the efforts of civil rights activists. Mahalia Jackson, PJ Harvey, Eartha Kitt, Rising Appalachia, and Big Mama Thornton sing a few of these hymns of uplift and protest as well as cries for salvation and freedom.
To support teachers striking in West Virginia and Oklahoma, we dedicated this playlist to the them. With your long hours of tying shoes, drying tears, stopping fights, giving praise, instilling pride, and fostering ambition, not to mention educating young people in math, science, history, political science, japanese, art, and so much more, you deserve a living wage. These songs sung by The Staple Sisters, Alabama Shakes, Hazel Dickens, Adia Victoria, Hello June, and Sweet Honey in the Rock are inspired by the protests of people fighting for better lives. We hope they inspire you too.
April is National Poetry Month so we recognized the powerful link between poetry and music. Even though we parse the two into distinct categories, poets and musicians themselves blur the lines, taking inspiration from each other – stealing and sharing lines, lyrics, and rhythms. For the love of both poetry and music, this week we are highlighting artists like Alicia Keys, Bjork, Kimya Dawson, Lana Del Ray, Natalie Merchant, Regina Spektor, and The Butchies.
April is also Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Tanya Tagaq, Rhiannon Giddens, Milck, War on Women, Queen Latifah, and The Raincoats all say – Stop the Violence – without shame.
Following up Part I of our National Poetry Month feminist playlist, we closed out the cruelest month with a celebration of sounds by folks who look to poets for inspiration. Check out Olivia Newton-John, Lucinda Williams, Camera Obscura, Celia Cruz, and Laura Mvula.
We kicked off May with a feminist Cinco de Mayo celebration. Le Butcherettes, Mariachi Flor de Toloache, Alice Bag, and Natalia Lafourcade encourage us to celebrate Mexican and Mexican-American culture and heritage AND to raise our voices to acknowledge the families affected by our abysmal immigration policies and the violence against Latinxs in this country and across the border We included songs by Le Butcherettes, Mare Advertencia Lírika, Natalia Lafourcade, Carrie Rodriguez, and more.
Mother’s Day is a celebration of mothering with anti-war origins. As a response to the Civil War, Julia Ward Howe, an activist and suffragist promoted a Mothers’ Peace Day beginning in 1872. Howe called for women “to gather once a year in parlors, churches, or social halls, to listen to sermons, present essays, sing hymns or pray if they wished—all in the name of promoting peace.” Women like Kentucky teacher Mary Towles Sassee and Anna Jarvis from Philadelphia also organized celebrations of motherhood, friendship, and peace. President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring the first national Mother’s Day on May 9, 1914.
The holiday has taken on new meanings with its commercialization. For many, Mother’s Day is an emotional holiday, whether you celebrate your mom because she is your brightest light or you avoid social media on these days because your mom was not your caretaker in any sense of that word. Some moms have kids that have the means and emotional health to take them to brunch and buy them flowers and others will continue to do most of the supporting on this and every other day. Some mothers gave birth to their children and some love and take care of people that came into their lives in other ways. It’s complicated and beautiful and hard.
These songs are mostly celebrate moms, but they each touch on different ways mothers impact our lives and our hope of a peaceful future where motherhood remains a choice.
This playlist includes the Shirelles, Madonna, Jeannie C. Riley, Neko Case, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Ani Difranco, and more.
May is Asian Pacific American Heritage month. This week we pay tribute to the Asian and Pacific Islanders who enrich the feminist music scene. From pop to punk and hip hop to rockabilly, these artists defy stereotypes and shows the ways the personal is political. Check out Mitski, Thao & the Get Down Stay Down, The 18.104.22.168’s, Kimie Miner and more.
This week, we continue to pay tribute to the Asian and Pacific Islanders who enrich the feminist music scene. These badass musicians show us the ways music empowers, challenges social norms, and liberates. Happy Asian Pacific American Heritage month!
Fanny, Azar Swan, Shilpa Narayan, Deer Hoof, Shilpa Ray, Shonen Knife, and more are featured on this playlist.
We’re gearing up for summer with a playlist that celebrates our bodies and challenges patriarchal systems that make us doubt ourselves and our beauty. We hope this serves as a bold reminder that your body is beautiful and all bodies are already beach ready. And please hold onto the following thoughts and sounds as we head into the midterms – primaries are just around the corner. There will inevitably be toxic cishet men trying to tell us who we are and what we should look like. Shut them down. You’ll find star power from the likes of Salt-N-Pepa, Lizzo, Cupcakke, Tacocat and more.
Happy Pride! Pride began as a political demonstration to voice LGBTQ+ demands for the freedom to love as one chooses and equal rights. In the documentary, What Happened, Miss Simone? the interviewer asked Nina Simone what freedom meant to her. She said ”I’ll tell you what freedom is to me, no fear.” With states like Mississippi and Oklahoma allowing businesses to bar members of the LGBTQ+ community, the Trump administration actively working to stop the hard-won progress made for LGBTQ+ people, the administration’s decision to leave the UN’s Human Rights Commission, and more, it’s hard to feel fearless. But we know folks are strong. We hope this playlist inspires those who need it to love passionately, celebrate joyously, and take action seriously. Check out Lily Allen, JD Samson & MEN, Against Me!, Tegan and Sara, Conchita Wurst,, Adult Mom, Shamir and more.
Happy Caribbean American Heritage Month! In honor of the many folks of the Caribbean diaspora making this country actually great, we’ve chosen a few artists to celebrate. Give this feminist playlist a listen to start your weekend off right. Listen to Calypso Rose, Nitty Scott, Rihanna, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Ivy Queen, and more.
We’d heard from a lot of friends that they are having difficulty feeling patriotic this 4th of July. Putting this playlist together, we are reminded that protest is patriotic. Speaking truth to power is as American as BBQ and apple pie. Happy Independence Day! Click through for music from La Santa Cecilia, Snow Tha Product, Mona Haydar, Rising Appalachia, the Dixie Chicks, and more.
This playlist celebrated 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! This playlist included Ibeyi, Keny Arkana, Diam’s and more.