Raging against the patriarchal machine: angry songs for angry people

by | 23 Nov, 2018 | Feminism, Music, Punk | 0 comments

When I heard that there was going to be a book released exclusively about women’s anger (Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly) at first, I was worried this would basically be my autobiography albeit with a slightly snappier title (my autobiography’s working title is currently “Fuck this shit and gimme a Twix” but sometimes I change Twix for Bounty). I’m only half way through the book thus far but I’m already getting to understand and embrace my inner wrath which is making me both calm and angry at the same time. I don’t normally need any help to feel pretty miffed but if I ever do, there are some go-to songs that get me in the mood for a good ragin’ and here are my faves:

Alanis Morrissette: You Oughtta Know

I’ve started with the obvious song by the obvious artist. Morrissette was the 90s shouty rock pop goddess who had one of THE most successful albums of the entire decade- Jagged Little Pill. And the song that catapulted her into mainstream success was this acerbic and unashamedly bitter break up song You Oughtta Know which expresses all those thoughts you have after a nasty breakup, but society tells you is unseemly to give voice to. It’s a much more realistic side of the narrative than Adele’s Someone Like You- where Adele graciously wishes her ex well in his new love endeavours despite her heart caving in, Alanis wishes everyone nothing but ill and tells them all to go to hell. My kinda gal.

Favourite line: “And every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back/ I hope you feel it/ Well can you feel it?”

Hole: Violet

No one wears their trauma and rage on their sleeve quite like grunge supremo Courtney Love and this song is one of many that could be picked for an ‘angry song’ list. Hole do anger so well- sad anger, defiant anger and just, well…. Fucking livid anger. There is a specific female element to the anger in the song Violet though…. The release of pain from recognising the abasement of women in relationships and that what is sold to us as romance and intensity is often just exploitation and control. There is often a mixture of resignation and challenge in Love’s lyrics and this song is no exception as she portrays romantic entanglements as a power play between men and women.

Favourite Line: “Go on take everything/ Take everything/ I want you to”.


Shangri-Las: Remember (Walkin’ in the Sand): After punk, my other big musical passion is the 1960s so there must be at least one homage to this decade in any given list. But, finding angry female music in this era is quite tricky as a lot of the mainstream female-sung songs are typically quite soppy and submissive. But, anger doesn’t have to be overt shouting and fist-waving and with that in mind, there are a lot more angry songs than you think. One of my favourites is Remember (Walkin’ In the Sand) by the American pop girl group The Shangri-Las. The Shangri-Las were like a musical version of Hollyoaks- all adolescent melodrama and heartbreak as demonstrated by their most famous song Leader of the Pack. Remember takes an age-old narrative of girl meets boy and then boy fucks off and leaves girl regretting everything she invested in said boy. Yes, it’s sad but it’s angry sad. And sometimes that’s just the ticket.

Favourite line: “Oh what will happen to/ The life I gave to you/ What will I do with it now?” CHILLS.

 Bikini Kill: Double Dare Ya

Bikini Kill are no strangers to expressing the spectrum of female anger, but this song in particular is a call to arms and a challenge to reject those systems that keep women down. Using the old playground summons of the double dare, Hanna and co. tell us to be who we are, do what we will and reclaim our autonomy and liberation.

Favourite line: “RIGHTS/RIGHTS/YOU.DO.HAVE.RIGHTS!” Bloody hell, I wanna go and smash some patriarchal shit up.


Natalie Imbruglia: Big Mistake

The underrated and rarely correctly pronounced Ms Imbruglia has more than just completely-overplayed-so-now-I-can’t-bear-to-listen-to-it Torn in her repertoire, her 1997 album Left of the Middle was full of awesome tracks and the angriest of the lot is her second single from the album- Big Mistake. This song builds up Imbruglia’s vocal intensity until she is shouting that whilst she has no intention of offering forgiveness she still wants to see the person who trespassed against her down on his knees and begging. Only then will she feel some sense of satisfaction and maybe some balance will be restored.

Favourite line: And you lie by my feet/ What a big mistake/And you cry over me/ I can’t wait.


Irreplaceable: Beyoncé.

And of course, I thought we’d finish this off with a bit of Queen Bey. Her magical powers have meant that I can no longer hear the phrase ‘to the left’ without internally (or sometimes externally) launching into a rendition of this song. Beyoncé methodically gives her boyf the heave-ho making sure to retain property which is rightfully hers whilst simultaneously setting up for some other lad to come around and take his place. If you don’t deliver the goods, Beyoncé throws you out with the rubbish. Sounds fair.

Favourite line: “Keep talkin’ that mess that’s fine/ But could you walk and talk at the same time?” Burn.


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