5 Feminist Albums That Got Us Through July

Illustration of WILLOW, left, Doja Cat, and Charlotte Day Wilson by Ada Buchholc

Summer is in full bloom. Although the season is typically associated with being “in the streets,” and having an epic hot girl summer, the latest crop of album releases reveal that people are still very much in their feelings. What else would people be after more than 16 months of pandemic isolation? WILLOW sings about every imaginable emotion, Doja Cat rhymes about her sexual desires, and Snoh Aalegra, in typical Snoh Aalegra fashion, croons about having a broken heart. If you’re worried about being too deep in your feelings, these feminist-tinged projects will make you feel less alone. Happy listening! 

Doja Cat, Planet Her

Doja Cat - Need To Know (Official Video)

{Kemosabe Records/RCA Records}
Release Date: June 25, 2021

Though Planet Her is Doja Cat’s third studio album, it feels more like a debut. Maybe it’s because this is the first time she’s released a project without controversy accompanying it. Maybe it’s because Dr. Luke, who allegedly abused Kesha, isn’t as heavily featured on this album as he was on her previou albums. Maybe it’s also because Doja Cat’s boundless artistry shines through. Above all else, Planet Her proves that Doja Cat can master any genre. She takes listeners on a bountiful journey through afrobeats, dancehall, pop, rap, trap, and R&B while creating a feminist world in which her emotions and sexual desires are unabashedly prioritized. The album opens with “Woman,” an afrobeats track with a catchy hook, in which she playfully raps and sings about a woman’s power and how easily society is threatened by it (“Don’t ever think you ain’t hella these niggas dream girl/ They wanna pit us against each other when we succeedin’ for no reasons/ They wanna see us end up like we Regina on Mean Girls”). The song sets the tone for the rest of the album as Doja Cat continues to celebrate women and their sexual prowess in songs such as “Need to Know” and “Naked.” Planet Her centers the power of women, but it’s also a testament to Doja Cat’s undeniable talent as she easily marks her territory.

Justine Skye, Space and Time

Justine Skye - Intruded (prod. by Timbaland) [Official Music Video]

{Nynetineth}
Release Date: June 25, 2021

The newly independent Justine Skye carves out her own sound on Space and Time, but the album  falls short of making her standout within today’s R&B landscape. Instead, the album heavily relies on ’90s R&B. Though Space and Time is produced by futuristic hitmaker Timbaland, the album doesn’t fully define Skye’s sound. “Intruded,” the album’s lead single, interpolates Ginuwine’s “So Anxious.” “Innocent,” which features Justin Timberlake, samples the beginning of Aaliyah’s “If Your Girl Only Knew,” and “We” samples Ginuwine’s “Differences.” Though Timbaland-produced albums tend to be full of samples, it’s a disservice to Skye because it overshadows her undeniable talent. Despite this, Space and Time’s upbeat dance tracks, including “In My Bag” and “Mmm Mmm,” really stand out. Her voice seems to fit perfectly on both songs, and it’s on these tracks where Skye shines brightest. However, Space and Time mostly struggles to form Skye’s identity as an artist.

Snoh Aalegra, TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES

Snoh Aalegra - DYING 4 YOUR LOVE

{Artium Recordings}
Release Date: July 9, 2021

TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES isn’t as good as Snoh Aalegra’s 2019 sophomore album, Ugh, Those Feels Again, but it doesn’t need to be. Throughout this album, Aalegra uses her signature soulful voice to croon about being content with heartbreak while also reminiscing on happier moments she shared with a partner. However, the L.A,-based singer’s third album doesn’t push her artistry beyond the soulful sound she’s showcased on previous projects. However, Aalegra, with the help of The Neptunes and Tyler, the Creator, does experiment with dreamy production, making her love songs even more serene. “In Your Eyes,” produced by The Neptunes, sees Aalegra expertly expressing her emotional candor over a more upbeat track. On “Tangerine Dream,” Aalegra flaunts her voice with stacked harmonies, and she even employs a higher pitch toward the end of the song. “Dying 4 Your Love,” a highlight on the album, features what fans have grown to love about the R&B singer: intensely vulnerable lyrics backed by laid-back production and Aalegra’s purely soulful vocal style. TEMPORARY HIGHS IN THE VIOLET SKIES doesn’t further Snoh Aalegra’s sound, but it does remind listeners of why they fell in love with it.

Charlotte Day Wilson, ALPHA

Charlotte Day Wilson - If I Could (Official Video)

{Stone Woman Music}
Release Date: July 9, 2021

On her debut album, Charlotte Day Wilson uses her lower-pitched voice to sign about the highs and lows of being in a relationship. Throughout the gloomy album, Wilson sings about the love and longing associated with being in a very intense relationship that’s engulfed in trauma and pain. On “I Can Only Whisper,” she sings, “I can only cry tonight/ I wish I was with her/ Yea, we’d be getting by tonight.” She expounds upon that feeling on “Mountains,” a gospel-tinged track, when she sings about the confusion of not feeling loved by her partner: “I, I love holding you, touching you/ Cause you help me deal with the pain/ So, how could you turn into demons you/ Once said you’d keep away?” ALPHA is a spiritual experience, and Wilson’s powerful vocals instantly make listeners feel the bliss, confusion, and sadness that accompanies any relationship worth its salt.

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WILLOW, lately, I feel EVERYTHING

WILLOW + Avril Lavigne - G R O W feat. Travis Barker (Visualizer)

{MSFTSMusic/Roc Nation Records}
Release Date: July 16, 2021

WILLOW is deep in her rock bag, a genre that suits her more than others. More importantly (and as the album’s title suggests), WILLOW feels everything. Punk-rock music becomes her space to express every nuanced emotion she no longer wants to hide. On the album’s lead single, “Transparent Soul,” which features Travis Barker, WILLOW sings about being unable to fully trust someone (“Smile in my face then put your cig out on my back,” she sings in the first verse”). On “Don’t Save Me,” a standout track, she sings about wanting people to help her with her inner demons, though she doesn’t want to admit she needs help (“I don’t really think that I can do it all alone/ But I tell them, don’t save me”). On “Grow,” which features Avril Lavigne, WILLOW sings about the work she needs to do in order to heal from past pain, but she also understands the need to be gentle with herself while going through the process (“I hope you know you’re not alone/ Being confused ain’t right or wrong/ You’ll find that you’re you own best friend”). The guitar is a crucial element throughout the album, with a sound that provides a sonically-pleasing catharsis for all of the complicated feelings that WILLOW expresses (just listen to the instrumental break on “Don’t Save Me”). lately, I feel EVERYTHING is a deeply introspective album that sounds exactly like the type of project to be created during quarantine as feelings become hard to ignore during isolation.

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by DeAsia Paige
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DeAsia is a freelance writer covering music, culture and identity. Her work has been featured in publications like VICE, The Nation , Blavity and Hufington Post Black Voices. To read more of her work, follow her on Twitter.