by Macie Spear & Jannet Talat
Lady Gaga – The Fame
Revolutionizing pop music in 2008, Lady Gaga’s The Fame, probed taboo topics of sex, drugs, and money. The committed aesthetic Gaga embodied for The Fame era can be notably distinguished with the meat-dress moment at the MTV Video Music Awards, platinum blonde bangs, and trash pop for the masses. The singles from this album are yet still reverberating in the halls of every sweaty dance club. Shining light on the gay rights movement, this album was less of a release and more of a rebellion.
Lana Del Rey – Born To Die
Combining low, Marilyn Monroe-esque vocals with dreamy instrumentals, Lana Del Rey’s album Born To Die transgressed between diverse genres such as alternative and dreamy shoe-gaze pop. Lana classifies her own music as “Hollywood sadcore” – appealing to a bourgeoisie, heart-wrenching lifestyle. Born To Die reached the weekly top charts of many countries such as Australia, Ireland, and France. The album brings a sense of nostalgia with certain tracks off the album such as “Summertime Sadness” and “Video Games.”
Shania Twain – Come On Over
Shania Twain’s Come On Over is the ALL-TIME best selling album by a woman and that fact, speaks in and of itself. What this album symbolizes to me is riding around in my best friend’s car with her mom blasting “Man! I Feel Like A Woman!” At the tender age of 10, nothing felt more empowering than singing these lyrics, as they shaped my (and other young women’s) youth. Shania’s ability to mix country and pop fluidly/effortlessly leads to a majority of the influence in music today.
Alison Wonderland – Awake
Alison Wonderland is one of EDM’s largest female artists and this album flawlessly showcases her tuneful proficiencies in a predominately male genre. The album starts off strong with a climatic intro “Good Enough” - the track is loud, abrasive, and quite possibly the most perfect introduction to any album. Hailing from Australia, AW features many artists on her album such as Trippie Redd, Chief Keef, and Slumberjack. Not only are Alison’s musical capabilities showcased on this album, but her lyrical suave: “F*ck me up on a spiritual level,” provides the resurgence of a deep, emotional awakening.
Spice Girls – Spice
The debut album by Spice Girl’s, Spice, was known to revolutionize girl bands in the 90’s and forever change the face and swagger of Pop. Five girls formed five different aesthetics: Scary Spice, Posh Spice, Sporty Spice, Ginger Spice and Baby Spice. Each form of Spice was made relatable to young girls, always wanting to test out which Spice Girl you resembled the most. The album went seven times platinum in the United States, proclaiming the hold and craze the Spice Girls had over the teen demographic. Spice had such unparalleled success; it even drew comparisons to The Beatles!
Gwen Stefani – Love Angel Music Baby
Love Angel Music Baby by Gwen Stefani is the first studio, breakaway album since her departure from No Doubt. This album resonates as a coming of age release with tracks like “Bubble Pop Electric” and “Cool.” The album does an exquisite job of marrying many genres together like electro-pop, R&B, and alternative. Love Angel Music Baby is a testament that Gwen Stefani was capable of standing on her own with her solo-project and have it succeed with such abundance. We owe a lot to Gwen for coining the term “Hollaback Girl” and teaching us the correct, perhaps difficult, spelling of bananas.
Norah Jones – Come Away With Me
Norah Jones broke through the music scene with her moody, yet intimate album, Come Away With Me, forever changing the standards of New York influenced folk. Composed with the help of many jazz musicians, the album successfully peaked at number one on the Billboard charts. It is still referenced to this day as one of the best-selling albums of all time, especially climaxing in a time of music piracy. The sounds of Come Away With Me can still be heard in all bookstores, coffee shops, and pleasant elevator rides.
Rihanna – ANTI
ANTI was revolutionary and way ahead of its time when it was released in 2016. Although, it is Rihanna’s eighth studio album, for me it represented Rihanna (for the first time) to the core – the album is sexy, dark, and an absolute fun bop. Rihanna’s confident demeanor and loud energy are perfectly portrayed in tracks such as “Sex With Me” and “Kiss It Better.” The album progresses with shades of independence and nonchalance that every listener takes in slowly and embodies. Each track is better than the next and by the time ANTI is over, you feel like a rejuvenated bad b*tch.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs – Fever To Tell
A quick, fast-paced punk revival – Karen O in Fever To Tell is the front woman we’ve been so thirstily craving for so long. I remember seeing them perform at FYF in 2013 and she was wearing a sparkle suit; her energy was electric and bright like a punk rock Jesus. Fever To Tell is rebellious and empowering in every facet, every guitar chord. Her spunky dynamism, melodramatic voice along with the electronic sound of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs will have you moshing and air-guitaring in general admission.
Kacey Musgraves – Golden Hour
After winning Album Of The Year at the Grammy’s, Kacey Musgraves really won the heart of America with her fourth studio album, Golden Hour and witty personality. The lyricism of each track ranges from being by yourself and content with “Lonely Weekend” to a lovely, sweet homage in the track “Mother.” Kacey’s soft, sultry voice along with her divine, genuine lyricism will have you putting this album on repeat over and over again.
Mary J. Blige – My Life
My Life is undeniably Blige’s breakthrough album. A masterpiece that would aid in revolutionizing the genre and redefine what an R&B artist was supposed to sound and look like. It was a creative and artistic leap for Blige, delivering a deeply personal statement as she wrote about battling drugs and alcohol while also being in an abusive relationship. Way before it was considered commonplace to discuss mental health issues with the public, Blige sang about relatable experiences and her personal relationship with clinical depression during that time. My Life established Blige as a queen in R&B and Hip-Hop, providing a voice for women experiencing similar hardships and giving them hope for a better future.
Liz Phair – Liz Phair
A few years ago, I was walking past a recording studio and heard someone playing an acoustic version of “Why Cant I?” by Liz Phair. Little did I know at the time, but that someone was Liz Phair herself rehearsing for an upcoming performance. I remember thinking to myself, what an iconic song from an iconic album. Phair’s fourth studio album received a handful of harsh reviews from critics as fans struggled to accept this new image of a divorced mom writing about a more traditional version of womanhood as opposed to a rock star lifestyle. Despite those opinions, I will always respect Phair for her brutally honest depiction of relationships, dating, boldly pursuing younger men, and ultimately embodying everything a woman could be.
Ariana Grande – Dangerous Woman
Ariana Grande is undoubtedly a powerhouse vocalist. With talents often compared to the likes of Celine Dion, Mariah Carey, and Christina Aguilera, she is the vocal diva of our generation. Disembarking from her more kid-friendly image, Dangerous Woman represents a shift towards a more mature pop idol. With lyrics like “Ain’t you ever seen a princess be a bad bitch” on "Bad Decisions," we see a young woman coming into her own, exploring different genres, and embracing her independence. This album was a turning point in solidifying that Grande was not only a dangerous talent, but also a dangerous woman.
Billie Eilish – When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?
Billie Eilish’s debut studio album far exceeded the pre-release hype surrounding the star. With an overtly young fanbase and at only 17 years old herself, Eilish created a cohesive sound that captures the hopes and fears of an entire generation all from the bedroom of her childhood home. Generally characterized as pop, I would go so far as to describe this album as the perfect anti-pop. It’s disruptive, shifting between genres and ultimately helping Eilish further distance herself from pop’s status quo. To me this album symbolizes a significant marker in pop music born in a digital era and will undoubtedly inspire what we hear from new and established artists going forward.
Lorde – Pure Heroine
Lorde was 16 years old at the time Pure Heroine was released, which directly influenced its overall themes of youth and teenage angst. While these common teenage issues obviously resonated with her peers, I still found myself in my early 20’s diving headfirst into this album and listening to it on repeat for weeks. Listening back reminds me of the time when you couldn’t turn on a radio station without hearing “Royals” a few times an hour, a catchy bop critiquing how mainstream culture glamorizes wealth, fame, and status. But Pure Heroine has so much more to offer than just the hit single. Tracks like “Buzzcut Season” and “Ribs” offer a vocally striking and lyrically thought-provoking performance that would keep any pop-lover hooked.
Florence + The Machine – Lungs
As soon as I hear the belting, vibrato-heavy vocals of Florene Welch, I immediately envision her leaping across the stage with a lace dress flowing behind her. That’s the consistent energy that Welch brings to this project, and on this album especially. Lungs brings a vibrance to melancholy metaphors but delivers them with theatrical instrumentations of harps and booming drums, further aiding Florence in standing out against her fellow UK songstresses. Featuring so many hit singles, this album will always be my go-to when heading to Florence’s catalog and serves as an iconic starting point to her very successful career.
Diana Ross – Diana Ross (1976)
On her second self-titled album, it becomes very apparent that Diana Ross is not one to be pigeonholed into one genre. This is definitely a combination album, featuring several different producers and touching on a variety of genres on its journey. It’s amazing how beautiful and believable her vocal is on “I Thought It Took A Little Time”, while also featuring tracks like “Love Hangover”, which could be defined as Ross’ entry into the disco market. Regardless of which genre of Diana you prefer, this album gives you a taste of it all and not to mention that it’s impossible to deny how iconic this album art is.
Erykah Badu – Baduizm
“Badu is my last name, ‘izm’ is what should get you high and Baduizm [is] the things that get me high. Lighting a candle, loving life, knowing myself, knowing my creator, loving them both ... Using my melanin. Using my power, to get to where I need to go to do the creator’s work—that’s what I’m here for. And I’m still fly.” – Erykah Badu
To me, this quote perfectly encapsulates what Badu has achieved on this album. An empowered black woman creating a piece of work that penetrated mainstream music and R&B with a genre dubbed as Neo-Soul. With hits like “On & On” bringing Badu to wider public attention, Badu came out victorious by blurring the lines between jazz, soul and R&B and thus inspiring a Neo-Soul movement in her wake.
Janet Jackson – Control
Control is an album full of autobiographical themes declaring Jackson’s independence. Inspired by her feelings that she had no control over her career at the time, this album became her first commercial breakthrough and established that she was no longer living in her family’s shadow. With hit singles like “Nasty”, Jackson’s partnership with Jam and Lewis allowed her to the build the confidence and creative freedom she needed in order to launch into popular music and a career that would ultimately rival her brother’s.
Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
I will forever be devastated that we won’t get another album from the talent that is Amy Winehouse, but I am also grateful that this is the one she left us with. Amy Winehouse’s second and heartbreakingly final studio album delivers a crushingly honest point of view. Winehouse teamed up with Salaam Remi and Mark Ronson to touch on themes of guilt and grief told through her highly emotive singing style. A style perfect for conveying these themes while also incorporating her unique element of sass. Steering away from the jazziness of her first album, Frank, and instead influenced by the soul of 60s girl groups, Back To Black is arguably one of the most influential albums of the last 20 years and undeniably a great gift that she has left us forever reflecting on.
Women To The Front
by Macie Spear and Jannet Talat
Hailing from Orange County, both Jannet and Macie work in the A&R department of Universal Music. In the workspace, Jannet is a professional playlist curator, while Macie is a company-wide event planner. In their spare time, they like to (mostly) eat, go to shows (typical), and are obsessed with Justin Bieber (to a fault). They both share the same A&R roster for artists such as Shania Twain and The Jonas Brothers. They thoroughly enjoy working together and are inseparable Monday – Friday.