Body Positive Music

body positive music

I’ve been trying to cook up a body positive music post for AGES and always hit a wall: Only a handful of songs came to mind.

So I chatted up my Facebook and Twitter friends and harvested a few awesome ideas. We’ll count ’em down backwards, Billboard style:

7. Lily Allen – Everything’s Just Wonderful
I do love me some Lily, and she’s definitely into subverting the dominant paradigm … but tends toward the whiny side of body image issues, which is why she’s last on MY list. Still, gotta give the girl credit for calling a spade a spade.

Why can’t I sleep at night,
Don’t say it’s gonna be alright,
I wanna be able to eat spaghetti bolognaise,
and not feel bad about it for days and days and days.
In the magazines they talk about weight loss,
If I buy those jeans I can look like Kate Moss,
Oh no it’s not the life I chose,
But I guess that’s the way that things go

6. Ani DiFranco’s “Evolve”
Ani has many, many powerful feminist anthems in her back catalog and several touch on issues of beauty, body, and sexuality. But my favorite is this snippet from this fairly recent release.

So I walk like I’m on a mission cuz that’s the way I groove
I got more and more to do, I got less and less to prove
It took me too long to realize that I don’t take good pictures
Cuz I have the kind of beauty that moves

5. Prince’s “Kiss”
Prince’s horny-ness knows no bounds. Power to the Purple One for wanting ALL of our kisses, no matter what we look like. (Also in this category: Flight of the Conchords’ hilarious “Ladies of the World“)

You don’t have to be beautiful to turn me on
I just need your body, baby, from dusk till dawn
You don’t need experience to turn me out
You just leave it all up to me
I’m gonna show you what it’s all about

You don’t have to be rich to be my girl
You don’t have to be cool to rule my world
Ain’t no particular sign I’m more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your
Kiss

4. “My Funny Valentine”
Along the same lines as Prince and FOTC, but considerably more tender and less raunchy. I’m partial to Elvis Costello’s cover of this Rodgers and Hart classic, but couldn’t find it on YouTube, so you’ll have to suffer through the dazzlingly talented Sarah Vaughan.

My funny Valentine, sweet comic Valentine
You make me smile with my heart
Your looks are laughable, unphotographable
Yet you’re my favorite work of art

Is your figure less than Greek, is your mouth a little weak
When you open it to speak are you smart?

But don’t change a hair for me, not if you care for me
Stay, little Valentine, stay
Each day is Valentines day

3. Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful”
Sure it’s a bit cheesy, but Chrissy serves up a simple, powerful message. This chorus could be an anthem for women who struggle to love themselves.

I am beautiful no matter what they say
Words can’t bring me down
I am beautiful in every single way
Yes, words can’t bring me down
So don’t you bring me down today

Click to view/hear … embedding is disabled


2. “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue

Oh my, my, do I ADORE this song. Those harmonies still give me goosebumps. I remember being in high school and watching this video over and over, mesmerized by the costumes and the voices and the strong, resonant message. Screw the circus, I wanted to run off and join En Vogue.

This song is about shattering prejudices of all types, and doesn’t focus specifically on bodies, but gets major bonus points for addressing issues of personal style and dismissing image-based stereotypes. Musical bonus points for giving us neeeeearly enough cowbell.

I wear tight clothing and high heeled shoes, that doesn’t mean that I’m a prostitute
I like rap music, wear hip-hop clothes
That doesn’t mean that I’m out sellin’ dope
Oh my forgive me for having straight hair
It doesn’t mean there’s another blood in my heirs
I might date another race or color
It doesn’t mean I don’t like my strong black brothers
Why, oh, why must it be this way?
Before you can read me you got to learn how to see me

1. India.Arie’s “Video”
Pretty much the ultimate. It doesn’t get more affirming and powerfully positive than this, kittens. Listen, absorb, and let the serenity wash over you.

Sometimes I shave my legs and sometimes I don’t
Sometimes I comb my hair and sometimes I won’t
Depending how the wind blows I might even paint my toes
It really just depends on whatever feels good in my soul

I’m not the average girl from your video
and I ain’t built like a supermodel
But, I learned to love myself unconditionally
Because I am a queen
I’m not the average girl from your video
My worth is not determined by the price of my clothes
No matter what I’m wearing I will always be the India.Arie

Click to view/hear … embedding is disabled.

India.Aire image courtesy About.com, Lily Allen image via tidepooler, Ani DiFranco image courtesy Bilerico Project.

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  • Laura.

    these are great! i love the little playlist.

  • Courtney

    Great stuff! They can be kinda cheesy and teeny-boppy, but I love "Mirror" by Barlow Girl, and there's some good stuff by SuperChick too, but I can't think of the song titles right now. Good stuff for really high energy days 🙂

  • WendyB

    All great songs.

  • Sher

    My favorite is Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful". Internal confidence is so sexy 🙂

  • Laura.

    p.s. is it bad that 'fat-bottom girls' is the only song that comes to mind? hmmm, probably not exactly what we're going for here. i'm sure i'll think of something better. . . .

  • Erin

    I love Alanis Morissette's "So Unsexy" because it addressed how we feel about ourselves vs. how we really are:

    "I can feel so unsexy for someone so beautiful
    So unloved and for someone so fine
    I can feel so boring for someone so interesting
    So ignorant for someone of sound mind

    When will I stop leaving baby?
    When will I stop deserting baby?
    When will I start staying with myself?"

  • Oranges And Apples

    Love this post! Particularly happy to be reminded of En Vogue's Free Your Mind! I used to love this song and its video when i first started learning English. It has a special place in my heart!

  • Sheila

    I dedicated my birthday week last year to Bif Naked's "I Love Myself Today" – look up the video. Bif rocks the self-confidence. The song is more about regaining your confidence after a bad break-up, but whenever I want a self-confidence boost, I put it on.

    I love myself today!

  • Rosie Unknown

    Ohh! Love it! I was needing some new music too.

  • Trinity

    Ooh. I like a lot of those. The first song that came to my mind is a male-oriented version but fits the theme. The song is Forest Whitaker by Brother Ali.
    Lyrics:
    "Ayo, Dependin on the day, and dependin on what I ate
    I'm anywhere from 20 to 35 pounds over weight
    I got red eyes and one of them's lazy
    and they both squint when the sun shines so I look crazy
    I'm albino man, I know I'm pink and pale
    And I'm hairy as hell, everywhere but fingernails
    I shave a cranium that ain't quite shaped right
    Face type, shiny, I stay up and write late nights
    My wardrobe is jeans and faded shirts
    A mixture of what I like, and what I wear to work
    I'm not mean and got a neck full of razor bumps
    I'm not the classic profile of what the ladies want
    You might think I'm depressed as can be
    But when I look in the mirror I see sexy ass me
    And if that's somethin that you cant respect then that's peace
    My life's better without you actually"

    Link:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6ScPoBEFl1Y

  • Sal

    Ooh, good one, Trin!

  • please sir

    Great choices! I haven't thought about En Vogue for so long – oh the good times!

  • K.Line

    I do love, Everything's Just Wonderful – I frequently get that verse caught in my mind. And, not that I can pick out any line in particular, but I find Joni Mitchell so body positive – it's such beautiful, strong, female and feminist, poetic and evocative music. So sensuous too.

  • Christina Lee

    now you've got me humming!!!Prince' kiss cracks me up! I love the I am beautiful song by Christina! so unsexy by Alanis too!

  • The Raisin Girl

    I don't normally listen to a lot of "body-positive" music specifically, although I do listen to a lot of girl-power music. "God is a Girl" by Groove Coverage and almost anything by Tori Amos. I highly recommend her for all your female woes. She can take the one thing you're embarrassed to talk about, insecure about, or really terribly torn up about…and turn it into the most beautiful, healing music.

  • The Seeker

    The one that just come to my mind it's Christina Aguilera's "Beautiful" that you talk about….

    Love all those songs, some I didn't know.

    Thank you for sharing, I guess I'm going to put them on my mp3….

    xoxo

  • La Belette Rouge

    This is fantastic! I am going to make an "Already Pretty" song list on my I-pod.

  • jen fu

    Elvis Costello does a kick-ass cover of Beautiful, if Xtina is too cheesy for you!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dywR03B55JA

  • Nadine

    Great songs – I also listen to "Beautiful" when I'm down.

  • pretty face

    Haha, I could barely bear to read your post through 'cos I was just scrolling down to look for Miss Aguilera. I could never have read you in the same way if that song was missing. I am proud of you Sal 😉

    (in my head right now: you are beaaaaaaaaaautiful no matter what they say, OH words cant bring yoooooooou downnnn)

  • Deva

    I love 'Big Girl' by Mika, and I too love 'Fat Bottoms Girls'. And maybe my soft spot is showing but I love 'Hang on Little Tomato' the lyrics are just so right on.

    "And so I hold on to his advice
    When change is hard and not so nice
    You listen to your heart the whole night through
    Your sunny someday will come one day soon to you"

  • lisa

    Fantastic songs. The En Vogue track is giving me 90s flashbacks. 🙂

  • Ashley

    Oh, Sal, you read my mind and don't even know it!. I *LOVE* India.Arie (so few people have even heard of her, so seeing her on your list brought be smiles). I really like her "I Am Not My Hair" song, too. People tend to act like the world ends when I cut my hair or wear it up, so that song really makes me feel good, even though it was totally meant for a different cultural audience.

  • Amanda

    The two songs that come to mind are Euphoria (Firefly) by Delerium and Motion by Plumb.
    Euphoria:
    This feeling emblazed inside
    Every nerve like a firefly
    Hovering above me
    Glow glow glowing divine

    Motion:
    I'm not sophisticated
    I'm not your average girl
    I don't like to wear makeup
    I like my matted curls
    Do I make you feel unstable
    Do I put you in a whirl
    Cause I do not fit your ideal
    Of a beautiful girl

  • oh jolie laide

    I like this mix! I also like Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-Lot and Her Mystery Not of High Heels and Eye Shadow by Jonathan Richman.

  • ♥Jozee

    ah i loved that lily allen song when i first heard it; i think i totally overplayed it though lol now i cringe every time i hear her voice.

  • morethanexist

    Somebody already mentioned Superchick who I like a song that comes to mind is One Girl Revolution. The only other one that comes to mind is my mom's really older Bette Midler CD where the entire lyrics to one of the songs was, "You're Beautiful, you're beautiful, you're beautiful baby!" It was weird the first time I heard it, but it goes along perfectly with some of the other songs you listed.

  • Fashion and more

    Like your new profile picture, or is it new?

  • Allie

    LOL, good. I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought of Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

  • Spandexpony

    Love this post! Have you heard "Who's that girl?" by Robyn? Love the lyrics:

    Good girls are pretty, like all the time,
    I'm just pretty some of the time.
    Good girls are happy and satisfied,
    I won't stop asking until I die.
    I just can't deal with the rules
    I can't take the pressure.
    It's got me sayin
    Who's that girl that you dream of?
    Who's that girl that you think you love?
    Who's that girl?
    Well I'm not like her
    I know there's no such girl
    I swear I can't take the pressure.
    Good girls don't say no or ask you why,
    I won't let you love me until you really try.
    Good girls are sexy like every day,
    I'm only sexy when I say it's okay.

    There's more— check out the video. Unembeddable, but delishioso:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rdyxEps1uXY

    Also like the Brother Ali song which weirdly was stuck in my head all day ("I'm not the classic profile of what the ladies want!" ha!)

  • Spandexpony

    Oh yeah– Tweet's "Oops, oh my" is another favorite self-lovin' classic.

  • ashlie elizabeth:

    I adore India.Arie. She is amazing. Another GREAT song for esteem and general kick-ass girl-ness is Work That by Mary J. Blige. Here is the link! I hope you like it!

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/40520/2

  • The Budget Babe

    what a great list (this must have taken quite some time to compile!!)

    love india.arie, that song gives me CHILLS.

  • hollarback

    She's a brick….house
    Mighty mighty, just lettin' it all hang out
    She's a brick….house
    The lady's stacked and that's a fact,
    ain't holding nothing back.

    She's a brick…. house
    She's the one, the only one,
    who's built like a amazon

    You just gotta ignore the measurements part of the lyrics. The song itself makes anyone feel like a goddess.

  • PorkStar

    Interesting playlist

  • LENORENEVERMORE

    Such an uplifting post Sal!!!
    Adore India Arie! ~XO*

  • Alli

    t.l.c's "unpretty" is good! oh, and i've tagged you:)

  • Melissa

    Excellent choices!

  • The Raisin Girl

    It's a lot easier (for me, anyway) to find body-positive messages for curvy and plus-sized women than just general love-your-body messages in music. "Baby Got Back" is one (although it's a little objectifying), and "Big Girl (You Are Beautiful)" by Mika is another. "Big Girls Are Best" by U2 is one I LOVE. And of course, possibly the original song for women who weigh a little more: "Fat-Bottom Girls" by Queen.

  • The Fashion Inquisitor

    I am loving that playlist and just the whole being self confident message. I am especially a huge fan of Lily Allen =]

  • Missa

    LOVE that Ani lyric. Also, I just saw India.Arie live, she played at the Harmony Festival!

  • Breeahna

    India Arie by far, i listened to her 'Acoustic Soul' album all the way to the beach on my weekend away this week!! I'm so glad you didn't leave her out 🙂

  • claire

    I love the song "I Like Giants" by Kimya Dawson. It really put things in perspective.

    The chorus is:
    So rock and roll is fun,
    but if you ever hear someone
    say you are huge look at the moon, look at the stars, look at the sun, at the ocean and the mountains and the desert and the sky. Say "I am just a speck of dust inside a giant's eye."

    Link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pyJChP-mzqw