This Womxn's Work: Novation's favourite tracks from female artists
We’re celebrating Women In Music Day by bringing together some of our favourite tracks from female artists of the past and present.
These voices are among the many that have shown variety and creativity, through innovative and risk-taking instrumentation and song structures, or heartfelt and evocative lyrics. Inspiring figures who communicate stories of love, triumph, perseverance and joy in both abstract and direct, hard-hitting ways, these are just a few of the artists that have inspired us.
This is a recent discovery for me. I really love the laid-back style and the beat-tape grooves. The sound Luna has achieved is incredible. As a multi-instrumentalist, she has recorded all the parts, but it sounds like it has been sampled of some old, dusty record.
PJ has been with me for many years. She makes strong emotional music that resonates with me and is full of meaning. It has taste, it has pride, it’s strong. It’s just so good!
I’m a huge fan of Banks because of the combination of the immense production values, the emotion she puts into performances and super catchy hooks. I could have picked any of her songs, but I just really like this one because of how it combines so many of her signatures in one track.
A brilliant track from an amazing album that feels particularly relevant now. Sampa the Great has created a song that feels like a huge uprising, bolstered by the marching kick and snare and sound of brass ringing. She speaks of strength, and self-confidence regardless of looks or status. “No mentor, all my heroes assassinated."
I love Alison Wonderland because she can literally do anything. She plays cello, sings, produces and DJs. Her song ‘Bad Things’ inspires me because, being a woman in music myself, it's so easy to get lost in the bad things in this industry and lose your sense of self-worth.
Sia has been an active and successful artist for longer than many people would know. She has been releasing albums since 1997 and got some notoriety for providing vocals for Zero 7’s work in the early 2000s. Before 2010, she was very publicly outgoing and a pretty crazy performer onstage. Later, she became uncomfortable with the fame that her album ‘We Are Born’ brought her, choosing from then on to appear faceless behind her music. Sia’s lyrics, tone and harmonies make me feel all the feels. I chose this song because I can listen to it on repeat, continuously hearing new individual notes that I love and letting it envelop me with everything she was feeling when she wrote it. I think she is a musical genius.
A very recent discovery for me, Elli Ingram blends a healthy cocktail of hip hop, jazz, soul and funk to create the aural backdrop for her honest and often incredibly relatable lyrics, delivered with a vocal style reminiscent of the likes of Amy Winehouse. With Elli Ingram’s music, I take solace in the fact that the UK soul scene is clearly in incredibly good hands.
Arlo Parks is trending up in a big way, and this track is a perfect example why. Her minimal approach puts her voice, lyrics, and emotion out front.
Esbie inspires me to be my best self every day. She has officially left her day job to pursue a career in music, fighting valiantly against all the odds that being an indie female solo artist comes with.
This track was my first introduction to Jorja Smith back in 2017, when I saw her on Jools Holland. It's an incredibly powerful track about police brutality in the UK, inspired by 'post-colonialism in grime music', and Dizzee Rascal’s music video “Sirens”. The lyrics are so well written and to the point, with a lovely intonation that is hypnotic. It makes me want to pick up a pen and paper and get writing. She makes it look so effortless, both with her singing and rapping. It’s no wonder that soon after releasing this track she became a superstar.
HAIM are one of my many feel-good bands; listening to them is effortless. They remind me of better times at summer festivals, chilled out, sat in a boozy field.
Deyah kicked off 2021 with impeccable vibes in the form of ‘Ultimate Dinner Party’. She flows effortlessly over the laid-back beat with smooth and clever bars, combining the best of lo-fi Hip Hop, R&B, and Neo-Soul. Deyah’s due for great things in 2021 – check her out if you haven’t already!
Lynn Collins’s ‘Think (About It) was always the first record in my funk and soul DJ sets– it’s an absolute floor filler! It’s also one of the most sampled records of all time.
In my opinion, Janelle Monae is the best live performer alive today– a unique voice, with great stage presence and theatrical style. When I first heard her ‘The Archandroid’ album in particular, it sounded like it was the future of music, and I still feel like everyone else is playing catch up. This particular track has been in my head constantly since it was first released. I've loved almost everything that Janelle Monae has released since, but for me, it all started here.
Hearing Siya live has provided several of the finest musical experiences of my life. A daring, fearless, heart-opening musician and composer. I’m thrilled she’s recording. Visit her Bandcamp page and get the lot.
“O Superman” clocks in at 8 minutes and 21 seconds, utterly unthinkable in the days when 3-minute pop songs reigned. Despite few radio stations playing the full track, it went to #2 in the UK charts. As 3-chord punk faded in the 80s, Anderson took that idea and ran in a very different direction, creating a 2-chord song that challenged the mainstream. This was an act of rebellion that I wanted to be a part of. The album “Big Science” is a haunting glimpse of some briefly shared journey, and a reminder of the ephemeral nature of all that seems permanent. Minimalist and surreal– a mixture of traditional instruments, synths, samples and jarring lyrics. It was light years ahead of its peers. It feels as fresh and jarring now as it did nearly 40 years ago.
Whilst working at home, I usually have the radio on in the background. There are a small number of songs, this being one of them, that I can’t help getting up to dance around to. A proper ‘hairbrush as a microphone’ moment! The song knocked Madonna’s “Vogue” off the top spot on the US top 100 chart in 1990, which I figure is quite the accolade!
I’ve known Sabiyha for a long time and she has always had a great voice, but the latest releases have been taken to another level. Powerful vocals, messages about family values, self-respect and catchy hooks are all there – and I can’t wait to see what a full album is going to look like.