A nun, a witch, a schoolgirl, a waitress, an ice queen, and some convicts walk onto the stage– they sing you songs that speak to your situation no matter how far removed you may be from theirs.
Wherever you are and whatever you need right now, we hope you deeply enjoy our list of songs from musicals that celebrate women. It’s as beautifully diverse as we are, and oh so powerful.
Fair warning: emotional highs and lows up ahead.
1. Cell Block Tango, CHICAGO
“Pop! Six! Squish!” In few other contexts is singing trigger words this fun. Sarcasm and jazz take the gore out of the murder stories in this sensational sequence, but not the warning: Mess with us and you’ll have it coming.
2. Burn, HAMILTON
At the intersection of the adages “Behind every successful man is a woman” and “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned”, you will find this emotional mess of a song. Part romance, part cautionary tale, and part seething threat, Burn is mad love. Mad love for Burn.
3. Don’t Rain on My Parade, FUNNY GIRL
If not just to hear the inimitable Barbra Streisand croon this straight to your soul, play the song and be one with every woman’s battle to win in this damn world. Fanny may have been singing this in defense of her love and actions for a man, but Don’t Rain on My Parade is defiant to the core, putting words and music to the show-stopping brilliance of a woman unstoppable.
4. Take Me or Leave Me, RENT
If your jam is anything Beyoncé, then this is the song you need to sing at your pivotal diva moments (or every morning, while drawing your eyebrows on). “Take Me or Leave Me” was the song and message between Maureen and Joanne amidst a heated argument, so belt it out with all the passion you can muster, baby.
5. She Used to be Mine, WAITRESS
Broken, messy, lonely – we all feel like Jenna sometimes (or most days). While you can’t pinpoint the moment the exuberant girl grew into a jaded woman, a good grieve is in order. This song may get you over a hump or just hold your hand while you’re neck-deep in a less-than-ideal everyday situation. Either way, make sure to get to the part where she reminds you “to fight just a little”.
6. Let It Go, FROZEN
Admit it, you just want to put on a cape, yank it off, throw your head back, and sing your heart out. Go ahead, let your inhibitions go and sashay down the hall, street, or wherever you are – the stares never bothered you anyway.
7. You Learn to Live Without, IF/THEN
This song is an ode to the resilience of women, our quiet strength. And while the overall sentiment is that the words are sad because they’re true; well, Idina Menzel singing them kinda makes things better.
8. Big, Blonde, and Beautiful, HAIRSPRAY
Its pop equivalent is Meghan Trainor’s All About That Bass but with far less references to men because this one is all about self-love – big time. It may be sung by a full-figured middle-aged African-American woman, but here’s to hoping that even a scrawny Asian teenager picks up some body image positivity cues from this empowering number.
9. Schuyler Sisters, HAMILTON
Politics, economics, religion, and the trappings of society may divide us; but women, to this day, are one in our fight to be heard. Changes we spark are ones that burn bright. Let the Schuyler sisters reignite your passion and remind you that history isn’t in the past – we’re making it.
10. If You Knew My Story, BRIGHT STAR
From a musical inspired by an amazing true story, this song is a beautiful plea to listen to each of ours. “Tell me I’m not alone” the elder Alice Murphy dares the audience, albeit rhetorically. Deep down, we all know we aren’t. But inviting people into our world makes the madness almost wonderful.
11. Naughty, MATILDA
“In the slip of a bolt, there’s a tiny revolt…” With all the spunky optimism of Annie and wisdom beyond her years, the pint-sized heroine has a message for us: When your back’s against the wall, or even when you’re just feeling small, take the bull by the horns and change your story – even if it takes being a little naughty.
12. The Life I Never Led, SISTER ACT
Regret is the anchor of this song; and like most of us, Sister Mary Robert dwells on it for a good long time. But hope rises like the crescendoing energy of a gospel choir at sermon; and in an uplifting turn, trepidation finally gives way to gritty courage.
13.Defying Gravity, WICKED
You knew this list could not not include this phenomenon of a song. Sung in a moment celebrating individual triumph and an unlikely sisterhood, Defying Gravity quietly condenses its message in the line “I’m through accepting limits, ‘cause someone says they’re so.”
Whether that “someone” is a man, THE man, other women, or even yourself, take a note from Elphaba and know that no force, not even gravity, can BRING. YOU. DOWN.