In honour of International Women’s Day, we celebrate women from across all walks of life by reviewing songs from many stretches of inspiration too; with different themes, different types of women that deserve the best of salutations. Throughout most of our mainstream music history, most songs about women center around revering them as objects of affection, whether romantic or sexual. Although there is nothing inherently wrong with that, it is time we expand and include narratives from more perspectives; the mother, the career woman, the polymath, the punk rocker, etc – and this playlist will attempt to do just that!
1) Seksis – Anita Sarawak
It’s very hard to go wrong with this Anita Sarawak classic – a feminist anthem against the horrible imposition of double standards on women. Way before the days of internet social justice warriors, the strong vocals of Anita Sarawak came to conquer the discourse with spirited declarations of empowerment. The sassy nature of this song is not without its substance, as she points the many prejudices and stereotypes women have to go through, with lyrics “Bila ku bersuara/kau kategorikan sebagai meleter/Bila kau tercabar/sebelum bertarung pun ku dah kau singkir“
2) Jelita – Kyoto Protocol featuring Liyana Fizi
This heartwarming track invites listeners to ignore the people that judge the dreams of others with the chorus. A catchy opening riff, characteristic of that radio-friendly, pop-punk that Kyoto Protocol wears with pride., coupled with the sweet voice of Liyana Fizi and you get a memorable indie anthem of homely proportions. The music video adds more nuance to the song too, where a little girl’s dreams of being a wrestler is met with adversity by bullies, but she pushes on and succeeds anyway (this music video was made before Dangal), making the moral message clear. Somewhere in between the lyricism and the video is a more subtle portrayal of a mother’s love too, and how important her supporting of her daughter’s dream really is – no matter how unorthodox or difficult.
3) Momma’s Boy – SonaOne
As much as this is better packaged as a Mother’s Day anthem, it’s still suitable in the context of honouring women of all kind. SonaOne‘s wonderful ode to his mother makes one feel like such a prodigal, waste of a child for not being able to write something as great as this for our own mothers. Songs like these are a gentle reminder that the empowerment of women should not only be limited to those who are career-driven, but should also include the veneration of those who choose motherhood too.
4) Assassin – Pastel Lite
Although slightly murderous and macabre in tone, nothing is more of a testament to power than the Assassin metaphor. “I am your nightmare oh, you better be careful boy,I am your enemy, you be sorry that you mess with me”. Pastel Lite strikes fear into the hearts of men who choose to look for trouble; a song for those wronged by a malevolent partner, or an anti-patriarchy anthem for the masses? Why not both?
5) Teruja – Ella
Known more prominently due to Gol and Gincu, Teruja is a well-written song hidden behind generic (but really snappy and catchy) chord arrangements reminiscent of Disney pre-teen TV show opening theme in the early 2000’s. Much like Gol & Gincu is actually a pretty progressive programme, depicting women breaking gender norms across the spectrum (but within the boundaries of what is still palatable to the Malaysian audience), but belied by its sometimes cheesy drama plots, Teruja is not just a simple pop song. The chorus calls for society to question why they are even in “awe” at achievements or breakthroughs made by women and invites a world where these things are commonplace and expected, the same way it is already expected of men to be tough, or steadfast in the journey towards their goals (“Harus bangkit semula/Sampai hatimu memandang ku/Teruja“). With a message like that, it is no surprise that this song would make it to the list.
6) Tamparan Wanita – Elite
“Aku bukanlah selemah yang kau sangka,” meaning that “I’m not as weak as you expected,” could have easily been the anthem for women everywhere as they dance to this catchy and groovy number. Elite, an all-girl pop group has been in the industry for years and their harmonising vocals and impressive choreography made them known as the Spice Girls of Malaysia but, don’t undermine these singers for just producing shallow, contemporary music because there are tunes like Tamparan Wanita that made them more than just a sugar-coated pop group. Whenever you feel disappointed or when someone else pushes you to the ground to make you feel small; it’s this song that lifts and reminds you that you have the power to get back up again and warn your enemies of a woman’s fury!
7) #SUPERGIRLS – De Fam
Anyone would recognise this track just 3 seconds into it since De Fam shot to fame with #SUPERGIRLS and we can’t blame them for the popularity of this (almost overplayed) song. It has everything from bilingual lyrics to notable raps to the appreciative shout-outs to women of all backgrounds such as the single ladies and the working mothers; it’s difficult not to at least tap your fingers to the tune. This record could easily make women of any age stand on their feet, having fun with trying to memorise the lines and be proud that they can sing all their worries away with, “Don’t need to worry bout’ the things they say, you’ve got the power to stand up today!”.
8) Rescue – Yuna
It’s hard not to pretend that Malaysia’s sweetheart wrote this for you whenever you’re feeling down and in despair. This jam is made for any upsetting situation; not excelling a job interview, going through a tough break-up or simply just having a bad day and the chorus is a prompt that you just need to take a breath before moving along again. Yuna Zarai admitted in an interview with MTV Hive that she was inspired to write Rescue for a friend who was going through a rough time and now, she is livelier and happier. Hey, it’s undeniable that Yuna’s upbeat vocals can actually help you up on your feet.
9) Wahai Wanita Seluruh Dunia – Projek Pistol
It’s not a track that one can take seriously but, it should be seen as a form of flattery as the lyrics did suggest it’s a simple love song to all women. Is it the most suitable melody to incorporate the meaning of being women especially on the auspicious International Women’s Day? No. Is it a fitting tune to fawn us for being the femme fatales that we are? Hell, yes! Regardless of race and age, this song could make any woman feel special and be serenaded as if we are the sole muses to this record. So flip that hair (or ‘hijab) cause’ you earn those praises, girl!
10) Ikut Rentakku – Jaclyn Victor
The Malaysian Idol winner is known for her jaw-dropping vocals and her effortless confidence and it’s pretty generous of her to give us the necessary advice in handling relationships; the spirit and poise in choosing a partner who can accept us for who we are. Instead of being molded into the image of another person’s view of a ‘perfect woman’, Jaclyn sang her heart out for all women out there to remember that they should pave their own way and if anyone tries to bound us from being independent then, it’s better to go on the road solo.
This article is written collaboratively by Aina Izzah & Zim Ahmadi.