This being the week of International Women’s Day, we managed to get an exclusive playlist from Manchester singer Mica Millar – formally of Red Sky Noise, who’s picked us a playlist of powerful songs from powerful women to celebrate.
Her own single Girl came out on the day, and was inspired by the stories shared at her kitchen table with the women close to her. Of it, she aims to empower women everywhere with the track, explaining “other women’s stories can be like looking at a reflection of your own life, and when we can relate, there’s something really special about the connections we make.”
Listen to ‘Girl’ here, and then check out the exclusive playlist below. It’s in full on Spotify via the link at the bottom of the article.
1. Aretha Franklin
Track: Something He Can Feel
I recently discovered this song performed by Aretha Franklin and I’ve been sharing it with everyone ever since. Despite it not being an Aretha classic (it’s actually lifted from the 1976 motion picture ‘Sparkle’ and was composed by Curtis Mayfield). This song just does absolutely everything a big Soul tune should do in my opinion! It’s sexy and full of attitude and emotion and it’s sung and performed to perfection. It gives me goosebumps and all the feels every single time. If you haven’t heard it before, have a listen…you can thank me later 😉
2. Nina Simone
Track: Mississippi Goddam
I’ve chosen this track as it’s of such cultural significance in terms of the Civil Rights Movement. So impactful in fact, that it was banned in several Southern US states at the time it was released. The song, I believe was written in response to the murders of Emmett Till and Medgar Evers in Mississippi amongst other racially motivated murders across the US.
Nina Simone’s expression of activism through music is something that I have the deepest respect for, ideas put across with her distinctive vocal tone that makes this song powerful, inspiring and chilling in equal measure – a stark reminder of where we’ve been and how far we still have to go.
3. Shawn Colvin
Shawn Colvin is hugely underrated for her songwriting. Her lyricism is beautiful, poetic and honest. She is one of the best songwriters of all time in country infused folk music in my opinion. I love the way she paints visual pictures with her lyrics and in particular, this song is one that I find incredibly visual and nostalgic – it takes me back to the kitchen in the house I grew up in when I was little, my dad would play it while he was cooking and it gives me that homely, comforting feeling of family.
4. Carole King
Track: Aretha Franklin – (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Natural Woman is one of my favourite songs of all time. It was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin. Carol King has a huge back-catalogue of incredible songs and her work has been a huge inspiration to my own songwriting. Aretha Franklin’s vocal performance on this song is one I think so many vocalists take inspiration from too – just outstanding!
5. Natalie Cole
Track: This Will Be (An Everlasting Love)
One of my favourite Soul songs of all time. It’s one that always lifts your mood whatever time of day. I remember hearing the tonality of the backing vocals in this song and when I’m writing backing vocal arrangements or working with my backing singers, it’s something I often reference – I love those shouty, powerful lines that just hit you in the chest!
6. The Emotions
Track: Best of My Love
This song is another one that I always find so uplifting, and again, the backing vocal arrangements and tonality are just stunning and so important to the overall sonic of the record. Something that I’ve taken inspiration from in my own productions for my album.
7. Little Simz
Little Simz won ‘Best New Artists’ at the Brit Awards this year and as an independent artist myself, I found her acceptance speech incredibly inspiring. She said, ‘I’m an independent artists, and to be here tonight receiving this award, is such a blessing…I wanna say, anyone that is watching this at home, I am living proof that if you work hard at something no matter where you come from, no matter your background, no matter your race, you can do something extraordinary”.
I’m a huge believer that in life, you get out what you put in. I think believing in possibilities is half of the battle. There’s an anecdote that I love about a jar of fleas… Fleas can jump really high, but if you put them in a jar for long enough, they’ll learn they can only jump as high as the jar will allow. Baby fleas, born in the jar will loose their ability to jump higher than the jar will allow, even when it’s removed.
I think it’s so important to observe others, living out their beliefs and their dreams and putting in the work to achieve something that’s important to them. If we base what is possible upon our immediate surroundings, I think it gives us a false impression of what life can be. I loved how her speech aimed to break down those ideas and show people that their dreams can become a reality. I have a lot of respect for Little Simz both for her art and creativity and for her work ethic and self-belief.
8. Carla Marie Williams
Track: Beyonce – Freedom
I had the privilege of interviewing Songwriter Carla Marie Williams earlier this year as part of a panel for BIMM Manchester. Carla co-wrote ‘Beyonce – Freedom’ and is also the founder of an organisation called ‘Girls I Rate’. She won the ‘Campaigner Award’ at Music Week’s Women In Music Awards 2021.
Girls I Rate’s mission is to bring women in the music and creative industries together, with a particular focus on creating opportunities for black women – these are areas I think are both crucial and should be given a lot more focus.
As a woman, I’ve found it particularly challenging to meet or be introduced to other women in an industry so oversaturated with men – every time you ask for a recommendation for someone who can do X, Y or Z, it’s very rare you’ll be given a woman’s name (unless asking for women specifically which I’ve now started to do a lot more) – particularly in areas that are more dominated by men or traditionally seen as male roles like music production, sound engineering, musicians etc.
Girls I Rate is an organisation that has my full support and has provided me with some great opportunities to meet other like-minded women.
Track: Tems – Free Mind
Tems is an artist who is making such powerful music. A really unique sound and voice. This song is on repeat. I also recommend checking out her track ‘Damages’.
Track: H.E.R – Hold On
As a songwriter, vocalist and guitarist, H.E.R is just outstanding. This song and ‘Don’t’ from her 2021 album ‘Back of My Mind’ are two of my favourite songs of last year.