Lock-down has given me ample time to digest this year’s music releases and my favourite albums had one thing in common – they were all by female solo artists.

This was quite a turnaround from my younger years, which I mainly spent listening to all-male rock bands!

Manic by Halsey

The first album I bought this year (yes, I still buy CDs) was Manic by Halsey. I‘ve been a fan of Halsey for a while. I find her lyrics honest and relatable and she has a lot to get off her chest.

SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - NOVEMBER 27: Halsey performs during the 33rd Annual ARIA Awards 2019 at The Star on November 27, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)
SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA – NOVEMBER 27: Halsey performs during the 33rd Annual ARIA Awards 2019 at The Star on November 27, 2019 in Sydney, Australia. (Photo by Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images)

Manic was released on the back of Nightmare, a single that came out towards the end of 2019. The song was seemingly a nod towards things to come. Lyrics such as “kindness is weakness, or worse you’re complacent” and “I waited a while for a moment to say I don’t owe you a goddam thing” hinted at Halsey’s angsty and empowered musical direction.

Manic didn’t disappoint. An early track, You Should Be Sad, which was released as a single, is an inspiring break-up song that’s more than simply slandering an ex.

The lyrics “You can’t love nothing unless there’s something in it for you” summarise a theme for the rest of Halsey’s album – female empowerment and reflecting on a toxic relationship.

Musically, this darkness is captured by disjointed chords and unusual key changes on Forever… (Is A Long Time) and Dominic’s Interlude.

Another single from the album, Without Me, also portrays Halsey’s frustration: “And then I got you off your knees, put you right back on your feet, just so you could take advantage of me.”

However, towards the end of the record Halsey acknowledges in Still Learning that she’s still a young woman trying to love herself.

Listen to Manic by Halsey on Spotify

Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa

Dua Lipa’s latest album didn’t disappoint either. With a similar underlying theme of female empowerment, Future Nostalgia is much more upbeat musically than Halsey and, as the title suggests, a throwback to the disco era but with a modern twist.

SANREMO, ITALY - FEBRUARY 7: Dua Lipa at the fourth evening of the 70th Sanremo Music Festival on February 07, 2020 in Sanremo, Italy. (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)
SANREMO, ITALY – FEBRUARY 7: Dua Lipa at the fourth evening of the 70th Sanremo Music Festival on February 07, 2020 in Sanremo, Italy. (Photo by Marilla Sicilia/Archivio Marilla Sicilia/Mondadori Portfolio via Getty Images)

This is a concept Dua Lipa created and it’s significantly different to her eponymous debut album, which she seemed to have less autonomy over with fewer songs she penned herself.

Some of the first lyrics on the album – “I know you ain’t used to a female alpha” and “I wanna change the game” – don’t just set the tone for the rest of the record, they capture Lipa’s opinion on society itself.

The record offers something different such as chic bass riffs on Don’t Start Now and Break My Heart, which are excellent to practise during lock-down. Catchy choruses on Physical and Love Again are also key to the album’s nostalgic feel and success.

The record ends with a personal favourite, Boys Will Be Boys, which once again highlights Lipa’s frustration, if a little more reserved than Halsey’s.

The song features the lyrics “It’s second nature to walk home before the sun goes down, and put your keys between your knuckles when there’s boys around” and the hook “Boys will be boys, but girls will be women”.

Listen to Future Nostalgia by Dua Lipa on Spotify

Those who paved the way

When we reflect on the female artists dominating the airwaves, it’s important to recognise those other, perhaps less well-known musicians who paved the way for this modern take on girl power.

In 2019, artists such as King Princess proved game-changers by releasing albums in which they challenged female stereotypes by wholeheartedly being themselves.

Delving deeper into 2020, artists such as Alanis Morissette and female-fronted PVRIS are releasing albums that promise more girl power to come and an empowering distraction to help me through this lock-down.

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