I am an unabashed fan of strong female artists. Tori Amos will forever be the queen of music, but Alanis Morissette is right up there in the pantheon for me. The seething angst of her first (and decidedly most famous) song “You Oughta Know” debuted right around the time I turned 13. I still have every word of Jagged Little Pill memorized from beginning to the “hidden” track at the end. At the same time, R&B artists like Brandy and Aaliyah had just started dominating the airwaves of our local pop stations. I loved all of them.
Having those role models who were building careers as solo artists helped me form my own sense of independence. I was lucky to have come of age in that very particular period of time, when it was uber cool to be a strong, smart, independent woman who wasn’t going to take any shit. My God, who doesn’t miss the 90s — especially right now?
It just so happened that last week, both Alanis and Brandy dropped new albums. These ladies have been doing it for themselves in a tough industry for more than 25 years now. They’ve paved the way for a new generation of women to have their voices heard. One of my favorite new albums is by Becca Mancari, a woman from the new generation of strong female artists. The album is called The Greatest Part. I hope you enjoy all of this great new music!
Alanis Morissette, Such Pretty Forks in the Road
Release Date: July 31, 2020
Why I Like It: I will admit to not really enjoying much of the music Alanis has put out since 1998’s Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie. But of course, I can count on two hands other female solo artists who have managed to put out an album as brilliant as Jagged Little Pill in their entire careers, so clearly Alanis is talented beyond belief and that’s why she’s still in the game. In fact, this year is the seminal album’s 25th anniversary and that makes me feel pretty old.
It’s been eight years since Alanis has put out a new album, though, and her usual this time is hitting a little different. It’s still pretty soft rock, but something about her introspective vibe seems to connect more. Some of it might have to do with the fact that, in the past decade, she got married and now has three children, so there’s a lot more to process. Another interesting tidbit — her co-songwriter for this album, Mike Farrell, used to play and write with Morrissey.
- “Smiling” — The album opener sounds a lot like “Uninvited” musically, but this one is about “me, the ceiling-less brave explorer / lured to the ends of overwhelm” keeping on the journey of life even if you crash. It originally appeared in her Broadway musical Jagged Little Pill. “Such pretty forks in the road / On this continuum I’ve been bouncing / Life flashing promise before my eyes”
- “Reasons I Drink” — I’m not sure she shares any of the actual reasons she drinks in this song, but it is surely relatable. And it has the catchiest piano-driven melody. “These are the reasons I drink / the reasons I tell everybody I’m fine even though I am not / these are the reasons I overdo it”
- “Her” — Sometimes we all need a dose of Big Mama Energy. Who can we, as women, go to when we give it all away and need to refill ourselves? The women of religion have got us. “And even though She knows me well / it doesn’t mean it’s easy to pull me out of my self-imposed hell”
- “Nemesis” — She could have written this song for all of us trapped in the unexpected changes the pandemic has thrust upon the world. Not that change is always bad…but it is always scary. “Change, you are my nemesis / Transition, I hold my breath / This about-face, I’m excited, I’m excited yet / I’m filled with despair, anticipation and dread / This metamorphosis closed the door and opened a window”
Release Date: July 31, 2020
Why I Like It: This is also Brandy’s first album in eight years. B7 was the first album Brandy had full creative control over, and she co-wrote and co-produced it over the span of three years. The album starts out rather quietly and doesn’t really warm up until about halfway through, but once the music starts pumping, it doesn’t stop. Mostly, the best songs are collaborations with other artists. Brandy’s teenage daughter Sy’rai, and her rapper alter ego Bran’Nu make awesome appearances on the album.
- “I Am More” — A rocking anthem for any lady who finds herself being in a relationship with someone that isn’t just two-sided. “I can’t be the other woman / Histress or a sidepiece order / I need more ’cause I am more”
- “High Heels” — This is the song where Brandy’s alter ego and daughter shine. I love the heck out of it. “High heels / I feel good out here / I’m one in a zillion / I’m real and care less if they know / No fears, that’s all I can pray for”
- “Baby Mama” — An earworm of a song dedicated to all the independent single mommas out there, like Brandy herself. “Every day I breathe, its for my little mama / I’m every woman and a baby mama.” Chance the Rapper’s verse revering single mothers could have been a little more woke, but it was still great because vibrators are always a good option.
Becca Mancari, The Greatest Part
Release Date: June 26, 2020
Why I Like It: The Greatest Part is Becca’s second solo album, partially inspired by her coming out as gay in a fundamentalist Christian family and church. Even though all that happened 10 years ago, it took this long to catch up with her. Being a queer person in today’s world is in some ways easier than it ever has been. However, even if it is easier for us to love ourselves, it doesn’t erase the problems our identity creates for other people (even if those problems are mostly imagined). The trauma that comes when others are forced to face your reality is not kind, nor does it happen on a tidy timeline. So I can appreciate what she’s doing here.
Her dreamy indie sound is reminiscent of other current female artists like Soccer Mommy and HAIM (both of which have also put out fantastic new music this year. Look them up). She’s currently in the band Bermuda Triangle alongside Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes and Jesse Lafser. Oh, and she was featured as Consequence of Sound’s June Artist of the Month. These lyrics can be repetitive, but they mean something, and that says a lot.
- “First Time” — You never forget what its like to deal with your parents disappointment and disapproval, but you do eventually find your way out. “I remember the first time my dad didn’t hug me back”
- “Like This” — A groovy rhythm to set this message to: Bad things happen to good people all the time.
- “I’m Sorry” — Becca told COS: “Most of this record is about family and about what anger and pain does to your body and mind. It feels like the process of healing where you have to go through all the stages, and this stage for me was anger and what holding onto it can do to you. I know for me I was so angry at times that I felt like I could not even feel my spirit attached to my body anymore, but even though I was hurting my own body by holding on to bitterness… It almost sometimes feels “good” to be angry. But I’ve learned that holding on to that anger for too long and you will start to disappear.”
- “Stay With Me” — Sometimes you need people to help you get over. “Using God as a weapon / How do you handle it?”
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