Remember the pop and r’n’b songs that got your toes tapping to the “I’m not going to cry over you, a-hole” beat? It’s tough as hell girl power that made the Spice Girls look kind of lame and candy in comparison. As cheesy as they were, these are some of the songs that made me, in pubescence, essentially see how being wronged by a boy was cause to call the girls to arms rather than an excuse to wallow in bed surrounded by tears and chocolates, listening to “Lovefool” on repeat.
1. Blu Cantrell – “Hit ‘Em Up Style (Oops)” (2001)
Apparently, revenge is better than money. I remember being a teenager and thinking the best way to deal with dishonest men was to break their shit and slash their tires. 10 years later, I’m not sure that my perspective has really evolved much past “Hit ‘Em Up Style” unfortunately. Blu Cantrell is a massive bad ass in the video, and promotes a distinctly beginning of the noughties era attitude of “don’t get mad, get even.” No crooning or crying, just taking back what’s rightfully yours (and being the arbiter of what that entails, of course)—me likey.
2. Britney Spears – “Stronger” (2000)
Confessions, With Kat George: Whenever I’m upset about something a guy has done I watch the video for this song, dance around my room, straddling and kicking my desk chair in various combinations (in a vain attempt to synchronize with Brit). THIS IS THE BRITNEY ON WHICH WE BUILT OUR DREAMS.
3. Toni Braxton – “He Wasn’t Man Enough For Me” (2000)
The antithetical “Unbreak My Heart” b-side (just kidding it’s not a b-side. Do pop stars even have b-sides?), “He Wasn’t Man Enough For Me” is one of those songs that gets up in grillz and says “guess what, turd burger, I did love you, you hurt me but I’m not going to cry over it because, as I already mentioned, you’re a massive turd burger. Oh and also, I’m going to trick you into revealing this to your current gf using my sexi Braxton ways and a hidden security camera.”
4. Kelis – “Caught Out There” (2000)
Yeah, if Kelis was screaming “I hate you so much right now” in my face I’d be scared too. In fact, I am scared just watching the video. Don’t F with Kelis, or any other sassy woman, guy.
5. Madison Avenue – “Don’t Call Me Baby” (1999)
I loved this song: I loved the dance, the sexy, chilled out beats, and the “get out of my face, guy” message. I semi-wish that when creeps in the street call me “baby” some sassy ladies would appear by my side wearing triangle tube tops and tasseled scarves as belts and we’d all break into some finger-wagging synchronized dance routine while I sang “you’ve got some nerve and baby that’ll never do.” Only in a perfect world; sigh.
6. Pink – “There You Go” (2000)
Inspiring bad hair decisions the world over, Pink was, and still is, the mistress of pop music “I don’t need you, fool” attitude. It helps that she looks like she could crack your skull if you crossed her. She embodies everything about my girl power awakening, up there with Gwen Stefani—“There You Go” came out around the time I was just starting to realize that when boys are bad to you, it’s all about how much of an awful person they are, and nothing to do with you personally. I definitely also dyed my fringe bits bright pink too.
7. Shania Twain – “That Don’t Impress Me Much” (1999)
When you’re young and trying to figure out what you want from a man, it’s really confronting to have someone tell you the ideals you imagine are actually all wrong. I remember my mum explaining the premise of this song to me when I explained my confusion—that you can’t want all these “perfect” qualities in a man, but that none of it means diddly squat unless he treats you right. At the time, all I wanted was an older boyfriend with a car, so as you can imagine Shania’s thesis was serious food for thought.
8. Missy Elliot – “One Minute Man” (2001)
Well hello, already sexually insecure man. We are women! We want more! Flacid dicks need not apply! Must have sex for hours! Must lick carpet like a leso!
9. Destiny’s Child – “Independent Woman Part 1”
Even as part of Destiny’s Child, Beyonce seemed conflicted. It was, and still is: “you don’t need a man! Yeah, girls and stuff!” to, “oh wait, yeah you do need a man! Love! Unity! Boiz!”. “Independent Woman Part 1” was an awesome song though, especially the part where the gals buy the rocks on their hands and then ride some neat motorcycles. Because who needs a man when you’ve got a self-bought rock and a killer bike?
10. Christina Aguilera featuring Lil Kim – “Can’t Hold Us Down” (2002)
The precursor to Slutwalk, Christina and Lil Kim said it first—“the man gets all the glory, the more he can score, while a girl can do the same and yet you call her a whore.” Sometimes I find it frightening that women still need to assert these things, but as long as there’s a sense of cohesion (women grouping together to dance against unwarranted ass grabbing in the street) sooner or later we’re bound to make some changes. On the other hand, it’s been almost 10 years and “Can’t Hold Us Down” is just as relevant as it’s ever been.