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  • Giavanna Gradaille

Songs to Celebrate International Women's Day - Vol. 2

*Top row from left to right: Numcha via Instagram, Debbii Dawson via Instagram. Bottom row from left to right: Sofía Valdés via Instagram, shiv via Irish Independent.*

It’s International Women’s Day once again! Well, it is tomorrow - March 8th. But I like to post a day early to get everyone just as jazzed up as me. The theme for International Women’s Day this year is Inspire Inclusion. We achieve this by celebrating diversity; we praise the contributions made by women of all backgrounds and walks of life. Here at Pop Passion, we do this by amplifying the voices of the incredible women making an impact with smaller audiences and platforms. Last year, I played it a little safe and stuck to women artists based here, in North America.

This year, I wanted to expand my horizons (and hopefully yours) by including women artists in the global community. While a lot of these artists are beloved in their own circles and spaces, I thought it was high time to show the rest of the world what they’ve been missing out on. The criteria for the reviewed songs are the same as last year’s:

it had to fall under the pop genre (or a sub-genre of pop), it had to be released in the last three years, and the artist/band/group had to represent women we do not hear enough from. Now, let's jump right into the songs and start showing our appreciation!

Bebi Monsuta - "Cvnt"

“Cvnt” by Bebi Monsuta is the voguing anthem that prepares listeners for any and all runways that lie in their future. The queer Afro-Indigenous trio mean business with this electronic and house fueled bop. Through a high-energy melody and repetitive verse-like mantras filled with empowerment, they remind listeners to stand on business. Because if we don’t, we’re doomed to be “so basic [and] that’s so tragic”. Not standing on your own principles also makes us susceptible to being taken advantage of - which is the last thing we want. The NYC-based rapping trio continuously mixes genres and styles while repping Black, Caribbean, Japanese, and Portuguese-Brazilian, cultural roots within their expansive music. Listeners can always expect something bold and innovative from Manami, Akira, and Aphi. If you find yourself wanting to become apart of the bebimon nation, you should check out the rest of Bebi Monsuta’s discography.

JessB - "Come Find Me"

“Come Find Me” by JessB inspires listeners to take their own self-discovery journeys. This exhilarating fusion of dancehall, Afro-beats, and mid-tempo reggaetón showcases the versatility of the rising Aotearoa artist. The single opens with glittering synths that beckon listeners to “find” themselves alongside our nonchalant rapper as it builds towards the bridge. Once it’s there, JessB changes pace and lays down deterministic lines: motivating both herself and whoever’s listening to continue to “grow [and…] shine” regardless of the presence of good or bad “spirit[s]”. Longtime fans of JessB have been with the Auckland rapper of mixed Kenyan and Pākehā descent since their netballer days with Central Pulse. Past that, the queer artist has been honing in on their craft in the hopes of gaining more visibility for women in man-dominated genres.

Numcha - "cup of tea"

Numcha’s “cup of tea” centers on the self-realization that we are the whole meal and should be treated as such – not as the beverage that accompanies it. The Thailand-based indie-pop star and storyteller provides an introspective on romantic relationships: imploring that you should not have to “change [your] world” in order for someone to reciprocate your feelings. Tentative guitar riffs and drum notes with sparkling synths expertly capture the complexity of the song’s mood. Transforming from a quiet rage to full-blown self-acceptance right before listeners. But most importantly, the song supports the mini rocker in us all. If “cup of tea” left you hungering for more, you'll be thrilled to find it’s the last track on Numcha’s latest EP hewantscoffeebutiamtea.

Nemahsis - "i wanna be your right hand"

Nemahsis’s “i wanna be your right hand” emphasizes her objective of echoing the voices of those who have ever had to negotiate individuality for general acceptance. But this need for acceptance can drive us to have bouts of self-doubt and insecurity. Forcing us to prove our worthiness (to ourselves and others) through acts of service. Within the context of the song, our Toronto-based artist explores how this manifests in a romantic relationship. In spite of the inner chaos that’s being experiencing, we go out of our way to ensure our partner never suffers from our personal struggles - appearing fine externally. This contrast is brilliantly accentuated through an optimistic melody and paired with lighthearted choreography in its’ music video. Nemahsis is a Muslim Palestinian-Canadian artist with a compelling work of art that spans back to 2021 when she made her debut with the single "what if i took it off for you?".

Debbii Dawson - "Eulogy for Nobody"

“Eulogy For Nobody” by Debbii Dawson marks the commencement of liberation for former recluses. Dawson dazzles both lovers and skeptics of country-pop with this folksy single. Delicate guitar strings envelop the song as the lyrics paint the picture of someone confined within the “four walls” of their own mind - burdened with the emotional weight of the past, present, and future. The acute vulnerability comforts listeners who have also denied themselves any space to simply “be free”. Assuring them that when they’re ready, life will be waiting to “take all of” them as they are. Listeners might best know Dawson from her appearance as the fan favorite breath-of-fresh-air on season 17 of America’s Got Talent. Her slowed rendition of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen” charmed the judges and audiences alike. Over the past summer our singer-songwriter released her debut EP Learning, featuring “Eulogy For Nobody” as the opening track.

Sevdaliza - "Good Torture" with Elyanna

“Good Torture” with Elyanna by Sevdaliza is heavily reminiscent of mid-80s sophisti-pop. A transfixing yet controlled tempo unveils the story of a passionate love affair that has since waned. Bossa nova jazz sets the mood as Arabesque melodic arrangements embrace listeners. The combined vocal prowess of Sevdaliza’s English and Elyanna’s Arabic illicit a deep-rooted longing that anyone who has lost love is familiar with. Demonstrating how intimate experiences can be universally felt, shared, and transcend language. While Sevdaliza, the Iranian-Dutch artist, is known for defying artistic boundaries - this song marks her continued change from her electronica heavy discography. Meanwhile the Palestinian-Chilean artist, Elyanna, continues to carve a place for herself in the western pop sphere by incorporating Arabic and folk melodies into her music; destigmatizing both along the way.

shiv - "Mother"

“Mother” by shiv invokes the second-wave feminism phrase “the personal is political” and has transformed it into an auditory experience. The soulful vocals of shiv are surrounded by neo-soul instrumentation that’s driven by standout saxophone notes. The song details the unhealthy relationship between "Mother" and "Father", narrated from the perspective of their child that’s unfortunately caught in the middle. But there’s much more than what initially meets the ears here; the relationship is an analogy for the devastating long-term effects of colonization. Here colonization takes on the exploitive masculine character while the colonized country adopts the defenseless feminine character - making the locals the child, unable to intervene and forced to observe. The Zimbabwe-born and Dublin-raised DJ turned artist, shiv, began their music career in 2019. Since then, she’s released two EPs: 2020’s Me 2 Me and 2021’s The Love Interlude; and has even begun producing. For those itching to get more lo-fi hip hop and neo-soul in their lives, make sure you peruse shiv’s discography.

Sofía Valdés – “Barbed Wire”

“Barbed Wire” by Sofía Valdés is the perfect farewell to past connections that have helped shape the people we’ve become. Airy guitar chords drive this single, but elevated violin stings carry Valdés’ softened vocals and create an ambient soundscape. Although the particular connection discussed here is bursting with melancholy, our artist manages to swept listeners off their feet. “Barbed Wire” is the closing track on the Panamanian artist’s latest EP Silvia. The EP serves as a homage to their late great-grandmother and the first part of a larger album currently in the making. Yet, the body of work stands as a completed concept on its own. Displaying the transmission of intergenerational resilience; and how mental and emotional strength can help us address the same sociocultural problems our ancestors faced.

I think here in the United States, we tend to suffer from tunnel vision. We’re so caught up in the events happening within the confines of our own borders – both geographically and mentally – that we accidentally ignore what unfolds in the peripheral. I’m grateful that holidays like International Women’s Day allow us to collectively reassess how we can effectively champion and support the voices of women in the international community without stifling them. In order to properly navigate this inclusion, we have to be willing to envelop ourselves in the stories of other women. So, here’s to the women in pop that continually invite listeners to engage with their own experiences while providing a safe space for those in need of one.

Written by Giavanna Gradaille

*copyright not intended. Fair use act, section 107.


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