Lucy’s Top 5 Songs by Female Artists

Words by Lucy Vanderhoff

1. 20$ by boygenius

Phoebe Bridgers, Julien Baker, and Lucy Dacus are all successful in their own regards, coming together to form “supergroup” boygenius. Their debut album, The Record, released on March 31, 2023, but three singles were released along with the album’s announcement: “Emily I’m Sorry,” “True Blue,” and “$20.” I love each of these artists individually, but their voices together create chaotic and beautiful harmonies and the blend of their already unique styles make a one-of-a-kind indie/rock/folk sound. “$20” is my favorite of the singles already released from The Record, Baker taking the lead on vocals with Bridgers and Dacus finishing her sentences and coming together for unforgettable harmonies. “Mama told me that it don’t run on wishes/But that I should have fun,sing Baker and Bridgers, who, along with Dacus, highlight the feeling of being a child, feeling the big world around you, and wanting to “poke the bear” in their masterful lyrics. 

2. Good Days by SZA

Solána Imani Rowe, known as “SZA,” creates such a stunning and dreamy song with “Good Days,” released December 25, 2020. SZA has such a unique sound, blending R&B (Rhythm & Blues) with rap, pop, and jazz elements to create a seamless and one of a kind blend of genres. SZA’s dreamy, almost ethereal vocals shine in “Good Days.” The carefree, melodic tone of this song is addictive, with lyrics encouraging self-reflection. “Good Days” is SZA’s top track on the charts to date, a well-deserved accolade for a beautiful song. 

3. In Dreams (GemsOnVHS Version) by Sierra Ferrell

A lot of Louisville teens, despite growing up in the “Bluegrass state,” don’t think of bluegrass as a go-to genre. For me, though, up and coming bluegrass singer Sierra Ferrell’s “In Dreams” really hits. Her newest album, Long Time Coming, is distinctly Americana, and “In Dreams” is my personal favorite from the album. The song draws from Ferrell’s experience traveling through the southern United States for years and captures feelings of love and wanderlust. For me, this song paints pictures of mountains, suspended train tracks and sunshine. Ferrell has released multiple versions of “In Dreams,” but my personal favorite is the GemsOnVHS version. While this version isn’t on Spotify, the “alternate version” is. Both of these versions have a more raw and personal feeling, with more acoustic touches. Ferrell is a performer who truly shines live and under-produced, like in these different versions. 

4. Ribs by Lorde

Pure Heroin, Ella Yelich-O’Connor’s (known as Lorde) debut studio album, is full of slow and deep songs, but one stands out – “Ribs.” “Ribs” is one of my favorite songs, the backing vocals and fast pace giving the song an ethereal feeling. The lyrics about friendship and wanting to grow up yet fearing growing old are so relatable. “This dream isn’t feeling sweet,” and “it feels so scary getting old” perfectly capture this duality.  This song has an almost other-worldly feeling, the opening vocals traveling from ear to ear when wearing headphones. Lorde layers her own voice at high and low pitches, which makes this song invoke so much more emotion for me. 

5. Under the Table by Fiona Apple

Upon my first listen, Fiona Apple was not my cup of tea. Her voice is like nothing I’ve ever heard before, a full-throat twangy sound. I thought fellow staffer Noa Yussman was crazy for loving Apple’s unique tune, but the more I listened to Apple’s discography, the more she grew on me. Apple’s songs highlight toxic misogyny, her album Fetch the Bolt Cutters all about liberating yourself from society standards and roles. “Under the Table” tells a story, Apple herself the narrator, about how she is unafraid to speak her mind or call others out, whether it may “ruin the party” or not. “Kick me under the table all you want/I won’t shut up, I won’t shut up,” Apple sings, refusing to give in to societal pressures. 

One particular verse of the song stands out especially to me: “I’d like to buy you a pair of pillow-soled hiking boots/To help you with your climb/Or rather, to help the bodies that you step over along your route/So they won’t hurt like mine.” A lot of Apple’s lyrics are simpler, almost like Apple is just telling a story to the listener, but this verse is more complex. The melodic way Apple sings these lines adds another layer to the complexity of the song, giving it that distinctive, Fiona-Apple soulful feel. 

Honorable Mention: National Anthem by Lana Del Rey

I couldn’t make a list about female artists and not include Elizabeth Grant, better known as Lana Del Rey. Del Rey’s sound blends vintage with modern. Similarly to Sierra Ferrell, Del Rey’s voice sounds like it should be coming out of a vintage record player. Del Rey blends the vintage with modernity to create what some fans have dubbed her own genre. Del Rey’s music touches on themes of female objectification, romanticization, love, lust, and the ‘American Dream,’ among other topics (“Lolita,” “Born to Die,” “Ultraviolence,” and “Cola,” among others). 

In “National Anthem,” Del Rey criticizes the materialism and vanity rooted in American culture. “Money is the reason we exist/everybody knows it, it’s a fact/kiss kiss,” Del Rey sings. She describes “a love story for a new age” as “a quick, sick rampage” with excessive purchasing, consumption and reckless actions. Del Rey’s stinging rebuke of materialism is underscored by a critique of American obsession with money and beauty. “Red, white, blue is in the sky/summer’s in the air and, baby, heaven’s in your eyes,” she sings, an obvious reference to Fourth of July. Del Rey’s voice is passionate and yet sometimes conversational throughout “National Anthem.” This song is an easy favorite for me.