Every year, the Billboard Women In Music Awards honor the talented women moving music forward. Awards like Rising Star, Trailblazer, and Woman of The Year acknowledge the successes of emerging and established artists who are making history both creatively and on the charts. On Dec. 6 in New York, Billboard will honor artists including Ariana Grande, SZA, and Janelle Monae among others — all women who continually inspire their fans, their peers, and the industry at large.
In honor of the 2018 Billboard Women In Music Awards, we’ve compiled 50 empowering anthems that represent the breadth of incredible music released by women this year. Many of them reflect the current moment: one that’s undoubtedly been a wake-up call for gender equality. These songs remind us how powerful women truly are and offer messages of unity and independence alongside healing and, of course, dance.
Unsurprisingly, a few of these songs come from the soundtracks of some of this year’s biggest films, including Wrinkle In Time and Black Panther. Chloe x Halle’s “Warrior,” Kehlani’s “Let Me Live,” and Sade’s “Flower Of the Universe” are not only brilliant complements to the journey of Wrinkle In Time’s Meg Murray, they provide her character multiple dimensions as a young woman who deserves to be taken seriously. Jorja Smith’s “I Am,” from the Black Panther-inspired soundtrack, upholds the values of hard work and sacrifice in the face of misunderstanding.
This playlist also champions sexual freedom in Janelle Monae’s “I Like That,” SOPHIE’s “Immaterial,” Hayley Kiyoko’s “What I Need,” and Jessie Reyez’s “Body Count.” Each of these artists tackles gender identity and sexual orientation in ways that demand being heard and celebrated. Songs like Peggy Gou’s instrumental “Shero” advocate for educational equity, while Ariana Grande’s “God Is a Woman,” KIMBRA’s “Top of the World,” and Billie Eilish’s “You Should See Me In a Crown” argue that women are already omnipotent and ready to take charge.=
Songs that further assert independence include Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Party For One” and Clean Bandit & Demi Lovato’s “Solo.” Their titles alone indicate the artists’ journeys in self-discovery and more nuanced relationships to loneliness. Other songs claim bodily independence, including Naaz’s “Pretty,” Lizzo’s “Fitness,” and Tierra Whack’s “Pretty Ugly.” Each artist takes a unique approach to talking about physical appearance and self-love.
Then there are songs explicitly about financial independence, including Cardi B’s “Money,” Leikeli47’s “Bad Gyal Flex,” Tinashe’s “Throw A Fit,” and RAY BLK’s “Got My Own.” The playlist also includes songs about moving on, including Kelly Clarkson’s “I Don’t Think About You” and Mariah Carey’s “GTFO.” Songs like TWICE’s “Dance The Night Away” and City Girls’ “Twerk” are necessary reminders that the simple act of dancing can feel like the ultimate, most empowering gesture.