You can’t belt one of these out without feeling empowered. Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Feminist Broadway Songs.
For this list, we’ll only be choosing the girl-power anthems that originated on stage, whether that be on Broadway, Off-Broadway, West End and so on. So, as much as we love “Frozen”’s “Let It Go,” that’s a song for another list.
#10: “Get Down”
“Six the Musical”
Henry VIII’s wives decide to overthrow the history books with this ultimate HERstory remix. Since “Six” is structured like one giant concert, nearly every song is an anthem we’re sure you’ll want to bust out, from the opening number, to songs like Catherine of Aragon’s “No Way,” and the Beyonce-esque “Get Down” sung by Anne of Cleves. One thing that’s never up for debate is that these ladies are gaining control and being fierce while doing it. The historical Anne was married to ol’ Henry VIII for a short while - apparently because he found her uncouth - but things couldn’t have worked out better for Anne, who got the ultimate settlement in the form of a ton of property - where she could live her best life. All we gotta say is: ladies, let’s get in REformation.
#9: “The Schuyler Sisters”
What, you thought there’d only be one Beyoncé reference on a list like this? Taking inspiration from the trio Destiny’s Child, this equally independent group of women show how unique they are and speak their minds. The Schuyler siblings are alive in a time of action and change - and Angelica’s got some ideas for improvements. “Hamilton” is all about telling the lesser-heard stories of historical figures, and nowhere is this more evident than with the strong female characters, who can match wits with any of the men they meet, and who show their contributions to history are definitely more than who they ended up marrying. Can we get a “work!”?
#8: “Cell Block Tango”
Okay, so we’re not condoning murder, but we are celebrating the strong, unapologetic women in this iconic number. Throughout “Cell Block Tango,” the six ladies of Cook County Jail explain how they found themselves there - all having righted a wrong, albeit taking drastic measures to do so. The simplicity of the setting and costumes, paired with the choreography, really highlight the way sexuality is used as a power move in this scene, and nothing feels more empowering than watching these women perform as an ensemble. Don’t say you weren’t warned; don’t screw them over, or you’ll have it coming.
#7: “I’m Here”
“The Color Purple”
Life has been cruel to the young Celie, but luckily she’s surrounded by strong women to show her the way. Sofia won’t be pushed around by any man and says “Hell No!” to anyone who dares to try. As Celie matures, she also learns this valuable lesson, and the audience goes with her on a journey of self-acceptance, independence and becoming proud of who she is. “I’m Here” is a huge turning point for our leading lady, and a heck of a way to wrap up her story, with an underlying message we all need reminding of now and again.
#6: “It Won’t Be Long Now”
“In the Heights”
Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights” showcases interweaving stories of characters who are trying to figure out whether they want to put down roots or set sail for new horizons. There are several strong, self-sufficient women with big dreams in the show, such as the powerful Vanessa, whose beauty attracts many an eye. Whether it’s her love life or career aspirations, she knows what she wants, and she’s always keeping one eye on the prize and aiming to prove those who underestimate her wrong. Things might be moving slower than ideal, but her optimism never falters, which is something we can all try to emulate now and again.
#5: “Right Hand Man”
If you want to know what a Renaissance feminist looks like, this is it. Nick Bottom is always finding himself in scrapes but, due to traditional gender roles, he refuses to let his wife help. Bea wants to prove that anything he can do, she can do just as well (if not better), but he’s far too stubborn and won’t be persuaded otherwise. She sings quite a compelling song, and even if Nick isn’t convinced, we certainly are. Even so, when “the you-know-what hits the fan,” it’s Bea to the rescue.
#4: “Me and the Sky”
“Come from Away”
There isn’t one moment of this show that doesn’t have us in complete awe, but Beverley Bass is the unsung feminist hero everyone should know about. The song is based on the remarkable story of the real first-ever female American Airlines captain, starting from her burgeoning interest in flying, up until the tragic events of 9/11, the aftermath of which is explored in “Come from Away.” Bass always knew she wanted to be a pilot, but faced plenty of obstacles on the way up, including a lot of workplace sexism. “Me and the Sky” is a gripping and incredible story that celebrates a huge step for women, and will leave any listener totally inspired.
#3: “So Much Better”
“So Much Better” comes at a point in “Legally Blonde” when Elle discovers that her personal achievements are far more satisfying than her relationship with Warner ever could be. Until now people only saw her for her looks, but in this moment, everything changes, and it’s so much better. Elle is on a roll and continues to constantly defy expectations while remaining totally true to herself. “Legally Blonde” is full of moments that make you want to cheer, especially as Elle’s triumphs and what she’s learned along the way culminate at the very end as she’s finally found her way.
#2: “Defying Gravity”
What is right is not always popular and what is popular is not always right; that’s a lesson Elphaba quickly learns as she’s continually misjudged for her appearance and also learns that the appearances of others - namely the Wizard - can be deceiving. In this show-stopping number, Elphaba decides she’s done with trying to fit in and she can no longer live her life trying to please others. Though she has to risk going it alone, she just has to trust her gut and have the self-belief that she’s making the right choice. “Defying Gravity” builds to a powerful crescendo both musically and through its lyrics, with a strong message to believe in yourself and trust your instincts - if you do that, nothing and no one can stop you.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are some honorable mentions:
“I’d Rather Be Me”
“Watch What Happens”
“I Am Changing”
#1: “Don't Rain on My Parade”
This song has cemented itself in popular culture as a powerhouse anthem for women. “Funny Girl” sees its leading lady constantly told what to do and what not to do, and once the first act comes to a close, Fanny Brice has decided to take the risk for happiness - her risk, no one else’s. Fanny has a choice to make and naturally, everyone else wants to have their say too. She knows what she wants, and heaven help anyone who tries to get in her way. If you ever need to feel empowered, turn this song on blast and just belt your heart out.