Every woman has their favourite empowerment song – one they turn up loud in the car and belt in the shower. When hearing it, you feel like you can achieve all your goals after those few minutes of boogying and therein lies the power of a great #girlboss song.
Unsurprisingly, musical theatre delivers a huge list of songs that also celebrate resilient, strong women. As we near the end of what has truly been an unconventional year for the arts industry, these songs seem to resonate more than ever.
So, in honour of all you remarkable artsy women out there, grab your BFF, a glass of wine, and your favourite slice of pie as we turn up the volume for The Ultimate #Girlboss Playlist!
“Defying Gravity” – ‘Wicked’
This Musical Theatre classic will ensure that nothing can bring you down! Arguably Idina Menzel’s signature song (besides a little Disney ditty we’ll address later), “Defying Gravity” serves as the first act finale of the musical ‘Wicked’. A favourite within the musical theatre community, this powerfully resonating song explores the importance of self-acceptance and following your own path.
Performed as a duet between Elphaba and Glinda as they bid their farewells to each other, “Defying Gravity” is the moment our green-skinned protagonist assumes the role of the Wicked Witch of the West. Elphaba takes charge of her destiny, deciding to ‘literally’ rise above the shackles of the Wizard’s power to liberate the animals of Oz. It is a rousing and triumphant melody befitting of any Broadway-themed playlist (not least a #girlboss one!)
“I Say No” – ‘Heathers’
The musical ‘Heathers’ has quickly become a cult classic among theatre fans. While maintaining the dark comedy of the 1989 film, the musical amps up the levity with its catchy, humorous songs. One of its best, however, is also one of its most serious.
“I Say No” was written for the 2018 West End production and stands as an integral part of the musical’s narrative. Protagonist Veronica finally comes to understand just how dangerous her boyfriend JD is and confronts him. In firmly standing her ground and saying ‘no’, she aims to put an end to the traumatic series of murders they have committed and covered up as suicide. The pain Veronica feels in ending the relationship is communicated beautifully through the lyrics. She doesn’t want to break up with JD, but she knows it is for the greater good of everyone, including herself. In sacrificing her relationship, Veronica becomes an empowered individual, one that is worth celebrating (with all the candy in the candy store).
“I Have Confidence” – ‘The Sound of Music’
One of the most important lessons a woman can learn is to believe in themselves. This is perfectly reflected in this uplifting tune from the seminal classic, ‘The Sound of Music’.
As Maria prepares to commence her governess duties of the Von Trapp children, she is plagued with thoughts of self-doubt. The song acts as an internal monologue of sorts, whereby Maria argues with herself about her capabilities. Ultimately she resolves her anxiety by finding that she has confidence within herself! For anyone struggling with anxiety or self-doubt, this uplifting song can offer a great little confidence boost (no pun intended). Turn it up and embrace your inner Maria!
“The Schuyler Sisters” – ‘Hamilton’
“You want a revolution? I want a revelation!”
A pinnacle of #girlboss musical anthems, this Destiny’s Child-inspired number from ‘Hamilton’ never fails to rouse your spirits. Sang by the eponymous Schuyler sisters, Angelica, Eliza, and (of course) Peggy, the lyrics express their desire for female representation within both the Constitution and American society. As far as character introductory songs go, this is by far one of the catchiest and most poignant. Work!
“Naughty” – ‘Matilda’
Taking matters into your own hands works for both the young and the young at heart. Well, that’s what a young Matilda Wormwood establishes during the mischievously fun song, “Naughty”.
Tired of being mistreated by her family, particularly by her father Harry, Matilda swaps his hair oil for hydrogen peroxide. She admits that the act is a ‘naughty’ one, but sometimes you have to be to set things right. This playful number reinforces the notion that taking initiative is imperative in many situations – a key lesson for every #girlboss out there.
“Astonishing” – ‘Little Women’
“Astonishing”, similar to “Defying Gravity”, serves as the closing number of the first act of ‘Little Women’. Protagonist, Jo March is a young woman ahead of her time who aspires to be a novelist. She has no desire to settle for the norm of married life, instead wishing to fulfil her potential in a man’s world.
In many ways, Jo is the quintessential #girlboss – a diligent worker with an unquenching thirst for professional success. While she respects the decisions of her sisters in wanting to become wives and mothers, she sets herself apart with her worldly intellect. Jo’s desire to be nothing short of ‘astonishing’ perfectly encapsulates the rhetoric of many women aiming to become the best version of themselves.
“I’d Rather Be Me” – ‘Mean Girls’
Like the 2004 teen classic film, the musical ‘Mean Girls’ explores the high school experience of Cady Heron as she begins to associate with the popular clique, The Plastics. In the wake of this popularity, Cady’s friend Janis feels forgotten. However, she resolves to not succumb to peer pressures and instead stays true to herself no matter the cost.
“I’d Rather Be Me” is an anthem of defiance. Janis’ desire to stay true to herself enables her to speak her mind freely – resulting in some unflattering commentary about The Plastics. Janis proudly sings about her going against the social norm, thus adopting a true #girlboss attitude.
“What Baking Can Do” – ‘Waitress’
Now to add some sugar (and butter) to this playlist. Jenna is a talented baker and waitress at Joe’s Diner who recently discovered she is pregnant. Trapped in a loveless marriage, she begins an affair with her doctor. With a mixture of feelings about her situation, Jenna pours her emotions into her pies, allowing her to create some decadent masterpieces.
“What Baking Can Do”, much like the activity describes, offers a light and airy tune with rich, textured lyrics at its core. While slightly more solemn than some of the other songs on this playlist, it is no less poignant. Every #girlboss needs something a little sweet at times, and this is the perfect piece of pie.
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” – ‘Funny Girl’
A classic by every measure of the word, “Don’t Rain on My Parade” from ‘Funny Girl’ stands as a triumphant salute to hard-earned success. Fanny faces many obstacles throughout her journey to Broadway and marriage to Nick, but she refuses to let them dissuade her from her ambitions. Her motivation propels the song to extreme heights of celebration.
“Don’t Rain on My Parade” remains as popular today as it did when it premiered in 1964. An anthem of sorts, its message of resilient positivity has ensured its legacy in the Broadway songbook. Anyone looking for just a touch of extra motivation need only put this song on to find it.
“You Can’t Stop the Beat” – ‘Hairspray’
While not technically a song about female independence, the closing number of ‘Hairspray’ is one the show’s most universally uplifting ones. A pulsating beat accompanies the characters of Tracy, Link, Penny, Edna and Seaweed as they sing about overcoming their critics to achieve their goals.
No other song in ‘Hairspray’ best showcases the frivolity of the show than this one. It is a celebration of individuality as well as societal acceptance – something for which every listener can relate to in some small way. Crowds may come for the feel good message, but they’ll stay for the catchy ‘never-ending’ beat.
“Ring of Keys” – ‘Fun Home’
In ‘Fun Home’, “Ring of Keys” is sung by a young Alison Bechdel as she sees a butch delivery woman walk into a diner. It is a moment of both confusion and clarity for Alison, as she feels drawn to the lady before her, but unsure what to make of her feelings.
The song’s brilliant lyrics illustrate the childhood innocence we all have as we try to navigate the world around us. Alison continuously stops mid-sentence as she strives to articulate how she feels. It is a poignant piece of storytelling which will resonate with anyone who has had to come to terms with their identity.
“Ring of Keys” serves as a pinnacle moment in the narrative whereby Alison first senses her sexuality. Its empowering message of self-identity and awareness is one that will remain with you long after the last note.
“So Much Better” – ‘Legally Blonde’
When sorority president Elle Woods follows her ex-boyfriend Warner to Harvard Law School in hopes of winning him back, little did she expect to find her true calling in life. The feel-good musical based on the 2001 film of the same name demonstrates the power individuality can have on your goals.
After being rebuffed by Warner and laughed at by her college peers, Elle focusses her energy on her studies. Her smarts land her a lucrative first-year internship. Realising that this kind of success is what she has been searching for, Elle openly rejoices that it is ‘so much better’ than being with any man – namely Warner.
Elle Woods has become a strong example of a #girlboss in recent years, one of which many look up to. The pure elation she feels when she succeeds is guaranteed to be shared by all who see ‘Legally Blonde’. Your #girlboss playlist will be ‘so much better’ with this song on it.
“Let It Go” – ‘Frozen’
For the past seven years, no other Disney song has been played quite as often as this ballad from ‘Frozen’. Another song made famous by Idina Menzel, “Let It Go” emphasises the importance of self-acceptance – no matter the opinions of others. As she sings, the Queen of Arendelle, Elsa, finally accepts her ice powers and builds herself an ice fortress…as you do.
Although the song may suffer slightly from the scourge of over-playing, its message still resonates. With a triumphant orchestral composition, “Let It Go” will make you want to achieve whatever you have been afraid of doing – whether it be climbing a mountain or making a fresh start. Or even building a snowman.
“Me and the Sky” – ‘Come From Away’
Now for the story of a real life #girlboss. ‘Come From Away’ is a truly remarkable show; telling the story of the small Canadian town Gander and how it hosted approximately 7,000 travellers who were diverted immediately after the September 11 terrorist attacks.
Various locals and travellers’ stories are showcased throughout, but one of the most poignant comes from Captain Beverley Bass. “Me and the Sky” tells of her journey – from being an airplane-obsessed child to eventually becoming the first female captain of an American Airlines plane. Filled with pathos and empowering sentiment, “Me and the Sky” is the perfect song to motivate you to keep going. It can be difficult to sit through without welling up, but it is absolutely worth it. We salute you, Beverley.
“Six” – ‘Six’
Our final addition to this ultimate playlist, is from a musical gaining significant traction in the theatre world. ‘Six’ tells the stories of King Henry VIII’s six wives, in a Spice Girl inspired love letter to all women proving themselves in a man’s world. Each wife sings a signature song telling her life story. which culminates in a competition of who suffered the most at Henry’s hand. The performances are filled with levity, clever lyrics, and kickass girl power that audiences soon forget that each lady is connected by marriage to one man.
With an all-female cast (and band), no other contemporary musical quite celebrates women to the extent of ‘Six’. Its eponymous closing number is its true magnum opus – each wife rewrites their story to showcase their strength and legacy. They each place themselves as the centre of their individual stories, rather than the king they had each wed. No #girlboss playlist would be complete without this absolute joy of a song. These ladies sure do put the ‘her’ in ‘herstory’.
Which musical number do you think should be included on ‘The Ultimate #Girlboss Playlist’? Girl Power! Listen to our Ultimate Musical #Girlboss Playlist below on Spotify!