Mixtape: A trip through genres with the ladies


By Sunflower Rangel, Commentary Editor

Sometimes we get stuck in our ways when it comes to listening to music. We get stuck in a genre, or a decade. There’s quite an assortment of genres and decades throughout this playlist, but there is one common factor. All these artists are women. Some of my favorite ladies to sing along to. Hopefully, these songs will will help you expand your music library a little.

“I Follow Rivers” – Lykke Li

Lykke Li represents alternative music in this playlist. “Alternative” is kind of a catch all term for music that can’t be plopped into a specific category. There’s something funky about it that limits the categorization. Li’s strange yet enjoyable sound fits that description perfectly. Not gonna lie, the first time I heard this song was on “Glee” in sixth or seventh grade. Its lyrics and strange instrument melding slid through my mind many times before I found the original. Li’s choice of instruments is what really places her in the alternative category. A mix of synthesizers, African drums, and tambourines that are most prevalent in “I Follow Rivers” create a wonderfully dreamy mood. As for Li’s voice, her range and use of vocal layering in her songs is very reminiscent of Sky Ferreira and Banks.  

“California” – Grimes

Grimes has a sound that is completely her own and a little difficult to describe. She started out singing backup for a friend and realized how much she enjoyed it. She learned to use GarageBand and began creating her own music under the name Grimes in 2007. “California” is the second track off her fourth studio album, “Art Angels.” She said in an interview with Siruis X that “It’s actually a hate track for Pitchfork…for the music industry. For the indie blogs. I’m just very tired of the ‘Grimes is so sad! Grimes is protesting and ranting and having a terrible time!’” Grimes writes all of her own music and everything is a statement. As for the sound of her music, it is most often described as electronic. She has been compared to the likes of Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux, and Enya. She summarized her sound in an interview with the Guardian, “By sounding a little like everything you’ve ever heard, the whole sounds like nothing you’ve ever heard.”

“That Old Black Magic” – Peggy Connelly

Ms. Connelly is classic ‘50s jazz. Her only album, “That Old Black Magic” was recorded in 1956 and is very hard to find these days. Her song of the same title opens with some light scatting and she sings about how her man’s kiss keeps her under an “old black magic” spell. The addition of a saxophone solo in the middle of the song keeps the old jazz feel alive. It’s definitely the kind of song that could pop up in an episode of Mad Men. Many autobiographies of Frank Sinatra agree that Connelly was a serious girlfriend of his during the mid ‘50s. So one could speculate that this song could be about Sinatra’s spell over her.  

“U.N.I.T.Y.” – Queen Latifah

This is one of the most feminist songs ever. Released in 1993, as part of her album “Black Reign,” it tackles issues of catcalling/street harassment, domestic violence, and slurs against women. In the first verse of the Grammy winning song, Latifah tells the story of walking down the street on a hot day, wearing cut-off shorts when some guy touches her butt and calls her a b****. She raps back, “Since he was with his boys, he tried to break fly / Huh, I punched him dead in his eye / And said, ‘Who you calling a b****?’” Using that profanity represents women in the rap and hip hop taking back those slurs, to become empowering. It was so well received that many radio stations would play the song without bleeping out the swears. It also won her the Grammy for best rap solo performance in 1995.

“Dangerous Type” – Letters to Cleo

Letters to Cleo is an alternative rock band that was most popular during the ‘90s. The band has had many members over the years but Kay Hanley has always been the lead singer. So for the purposes of this article, I’m going to categorize it as “girl rock.” This might be a cheat song because it was originally a Cars song but I prefer the Letters to Cleo’s version and The Cars doesn’t doesn’t have any female members. The band recorded the song for the soundtrack to the 1996 film, “The Craft.” Hanley’s singing and personal style is just like that of Gwen Stefani and Courtney Love during the ‘90s. Hanley has also popped up in “10 Things I Hate About You” and the season finale of “Parks and Recreation.” Letters to Cleo provides some get up and dance, rockin kind of music.

“Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You” – Lauryn Hill

Well, I guess there’s a little theme of song covers here. Oops. Originally, it was a Frankie Valli song, released in 1967. There have been around 50 covers of the song from 1967 to 2016, but one of the most popular is Ms. Lauryn Hill’s remake from the album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.” She was even nominated for a Grammy in 1999, although she didn’t win. Hill’s range of musical styles include R&B, hip hop, reggae, and soul. “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill” is an iconic album and even if the title doesn’t ring a bell, I’m sure you’ve heard a few songs from it. The album was nominated for 10 separate Grammy awards and won five of those in 1999. She hasn’t released anything since, but continues to tour. She even has a stop in Portland in November.

“Hanging On The Telephone” -Blondie

Although I had probably heard it during my childhood, I was first introduced to this song when I heard it in the movie, “Electrick Children.” It was a cover by Flowers Forever and played a central part in the storyline. Even Blondie’s version is actually a cover of The Nerves’ original song, released in 1976. Blondie’s cover was released two years later and is a prime example of new wave or post punk. Debbie Harry is one of the most well known female lead singers of all time and is still active to this day. In 2006, Harry was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. New inductees to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame are selected and and voted on by previous inductees, so that’s some high praise. “Hanging On The Telephone” is quite a short song at only 2 minutes and 15 seconds, but you can dance to every second, especially the bass solo. This song definitely doesn’t leave you hanging.