I don’t want to get all TLC on everyone’s ass (a la No Scrubs) but I think it is time.
When I had a bad breakup in 2019, I made myself a playlist called ‘Bad Bitch’. I filled it with songs by female artists. The unofficial rule was that I could only fill it with empowering feel-good songs. I also ruled out any songs about men. And songs written or sung by men.
I love this playlist. I still do. It leaves me feeling strong and happy. I run to it, listen before a night out. I’ve used it to soothe my worries. In 2019 it served as proof that I’d narrowly escaped a long-term relationship with someone who was just the worst.
In truth, some days it’s been the only thing keeping me from crying in the shower, or on the subway.
Sometimes the sting of rejection is too much.
Sometimes a powerful woman whispering in your ear is enough to pull you back from the precipice.
That wonderfully curated set of songs saved me, reminded me of my worth. These women are a towering beacon of strength and power. They’d had their issues, and they’d kicked the shit out of them.
And so I started to realise the power of a really fucking good playlist.
What’s in a Playlist?
Well, let me tell you. One song on its own is a vibe. A whole record can work wonders. But nothing can prep you for the awesome power of a collection of songs that all sing from the same hymn sheet.
There is something about that collective force that you just cannot deny.
If you’re strutting about town, working out, or just dancing in private (preferably naked, for the empowerment you understand), good tunes can give you the boost that you need to feel bloody amazing.
And you absolutely deserve it!
But even better is the fact that it doesn’t have to be all female empowerment songs from Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. In fact, not one of my playlists contain their songs. That’s no judgment on these wonderful women, it’s just not my bag.
Playlist Worthy Powerhouses
The very best song on my ‘Bad Bitch’ playlist, the one that cheers me up every damn time is one likely to shock.
‘Super Trouper’ by ABBA.
Now, I know this is technically a love song, but I don’t actually see it that way. Nay nay.
I see it as a beautiful tale of someone who’s working so hard, and feeling the burnout. A shadow of her usual self, she needs that spark back. And this is the journey back.
This is the bit that always gets me:
“So I’ll be there/when you arrive/the sight of you will prove to me I’m still alive/and when you take me in your arms, and hold me tight/I know it’s going to mean so much tonight.”
Ugh, I could cry right now. Because this is how it feels when you are diminished, lacking in energy, and then you find yourself. Standing in the crowd, feeling suddenly full of life and energy. And it feels so fucking good to be back!
So all that you can say is…
“Tonight super trouper lights are gonna find me/shining like the sun/smiling having fun/feeling like a number one”
To me, this song is an effigy to the love you can feel for yourself. Of realising your worth, and recognising your power as it comes back to you.
And it is a damned fine Karaoke tune.
But there are other worthy songs that I would be remiss to mention.
Doja Cat’s ‘Go To Town’ is a tremendous overview of a woman’s sexual desire, and her will to get it how she wants.
Hayley Williams ‘Over Yet’ combines electro frivolity with a disco edge and some super wise words. It is pure unfettered beauty.
“It’s the right time/to come alive baby if you wanna try” Hayley Williams
And may we never forget Lizzo’s killer anthem ‘Truth Hurts’ was my absolute ride or die when I was hurting back in 2019.
It reminded me of all the superb women in the world who have put up with a lesser man’s shit. It reminded me that, no matter what someone puts you through, none can take your shine away. Be proud of who you are and push through the pain.
They weren’t worth your time anyway.
Curating Your Personal Playlist
Now, I am not here to tell you how to curate your own playlist. But I have become a bit of an expert on super-charged feminist anthems. And unexpected self-love tracks.
So, I want to make sure everyone in this joint knows just how to get the most out of Spotify, Tidal, iTunes, or old school CD-mix.
First of all, throw out the ones you know already. The ones you have heard a million times that don’t, to use the Marie Kondo vernacular, spark JOY!
You want wall-to-wall bangers, none that you half like. None that you think you’ll find yourself skipping. Be honest.
If you are putting in current tracks, they must either soothe your soul or boost your energy. Only then can you add them. And, of course, nothing that will remind you even the tiniest bit of bad times.
Conversely, find new music! Branch out, be brave. This is the key to curating a playlist that will pull you forward, rather than allowing you to dwell!
Ask for friendly recommendations or scour the new music sections of record stores. Flick through the new and recommended areas of your favourite music-streaming App. Or search under ‘Moods and Activities’, though sadly I don’t think the ‘angry break-up’ section exists.
That reminds me, I must to write to Tidal.
After that, comes a dangerous one, love songs.
A tricky one to navigate if in the throes of a breakup, but! These can be some of the finest self-love songs you can ever own — providing you choose wisely.
Avoid the ones that remind you of people, and go for tunes where the object of interest is vague. There are so many of those. As I’ve already mentioned, ABBA are epic for this! Ezra Furman’s ‘I Can Change’ also inadvertently became a self-love song for me last year too.
Next, go deep. Back to that teenage cavern, the songs that lit you on fire. Bring a few of those to the party.
The telltale sign of a good blast from the past is if it pulls you back to a really good party or road-trip you took. If you threw shapes in your bedroom — and definitely if you can still belt out all the words — in it goes!
Finally, you cannot go wrong dabbling with a little bit of The Gossip. If you want my advice, throw ‘Move In The Right Direction’ in there. It is an absolute tune, and is guaranteed to pull your from a mood.
It never fails to lift my spirits.
One last thing, I have focused on female singers here because personally, this works for me. To hear those wonderful women with hearts exposed and lungs on fire gives me thrills.
I hope it does for you too.
But of course, if you have some powerful male voices in your thrill-list by all means add them in! My personal favourite is currently ‘All My Friends’ by LCD Soundsystem.
In fact, if pushed to add another, nothing will give the thrills like Alkaline Trio’s ‘Sun Burns’. Breathtaking.
Don’t judge me. I like silly names, and things that rhyme.
Incidentally, the fact that the phrase “bad bitch” turns up a lot in the songs on the former playlist was a total accident. Promise.
Playlists are important. In the age where we are more likely to listen to streamed music, it is wise to curate what you are listening to.
The more you curate those playlists, the better the algorithms work to provide you with a surfeit of fresh musical beauty. You might even wind up finding some excellent self-care songs to add to your playlist.
And remember to keep taking those love songs and making them about self-love.
That right there is powerful shit.