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11 songs you need to hear this week: International Women's Day edition

Holly Gordon

Producers and hosts across CBC Music have spent weeks upon weeks bending your ears with songs they just can't get out of their heads, but this month we have something a little different. This time around, in celebration of International Women's Day, each song we've picked is sung by an artist who identifies as female.

From Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq's most recent collaboration to Lorde's (overdue) new music to NPR's Tiny Desk Contest winners, here are 11 songs we think you need to hear.

Buffy Sainte-Marie and Tanya Tagaq, ‘You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)’

Each component of this song stands on its own strength and merits. Sainte-Marie's words are crisp and inspiring, a call to action as she belts "Whether you're woman or whether you're man/ sometimes you've got to take a stand/ just because you know you can/ you've got to run, you've got to run!" Tagaq's throat singing is urgent and magnetic, and the steady hum of her vocalization, which toes the line between growl and purr, is the connective tissue anchoring the song in something sacred and primal. As their distinctive deliveries merge in the powwow-style choruses, something enchanting happens: it's an invitation the listener cannot refuse, a call to engagement that isn't just our individual responsibility but an honour and privilege to rise up. In an era filled with challenge and hardship, there is also unlimited opportunity to support, connect, listen, learn and thrive.

— Andrea Warner (@_AndreaWarner)

Lindi Ortega, ‘Til the Goin’ Gets Gone’

Lindi Ortega's 2015 album, Faded Gloryville, had some serious side-eye for the country music industry, but her first new music since that album reveals someone who has found peace within the pressure. The Toronto-born and previously Nashville-based singer recently told Rolling Stone Country that after that last album, "I reached this moment in my career where it was a question of whether or not I would continue to do music." Her time was up at her label, and she thought she was finished — but she decided to keep writing. "Til the Goin' Gets Gone" is a result of that mindset, a stark lament that Ortega's "gotta keep goin', gotta keep on goin' on/ keep on goin' little darlin'/ 'til the goin' gets gone." It's a sharp contrast to the often romantic, boot-stomping noir-country of her previous projects, and with this track will come two more songs and a Townes Van Zandt cover on her forthcoming March 17 EP. Look for an advance stream of it on CBC Music this Friday.

— Holly Gordon (@hollygowritely)

Meryem Saci, ‘Concrete Jungle’

Meryem Saci is stepping out from her spot in the Montreal hip-hop collective Nomadic Massive to release her first solo project, a mixtape called On my Way due out later this year. She just dropped its debut single, “Concrete Jungle,” and it’s a total banger. Saci is a triple threat: she can write like Solange Knowles, sing like Ledisi and rap like Nicki Minaj, so there’s a really interesting hip-hop/R&B/pop/house fusion going on here. Plus, a video is rumoured to be imminent, so watch for that while “Concrete Jungle” becomes your new jam.

— Robert Rowat (@rkhr)


Tank and the Bangas, 'Quick'

And now for something a whole lot different. Tank and the Bangas are a New Orleans outfit fronted by a larger-than-life, colourful, artistic explosion of a woman named Tarriona Ball, a.k.a. “Tank” — a nickname she got from her father. Trust me, this music will hit you with the full force of its uniqueness. Tank flows from spoken word to rapping to singing to scatting. She is jazz. This band is just on its way up, so check out this performance. It was the submission that won NPR's Tiny Desk Contest, and it will leave you wanting more.

— Angeline Tetteh-Wayoe (@MissAngelineTW)

Girlpool, ‘123’

Everything about a Girlpool harmony hits me so hard every time. Even in songs that aren't trying to break your heart, the tone that Harmony Tividad and Cleo Tucker achieve when their voices collide and ascend higher and higher — it's like watching them climb to the top of a tree while you marvel at their freedom, their friendship, the ways in which they urge each other to new heights you've only ever dreamt of. They make me feel lost and hopeful and they remind me of everything that's good in the world. The video for "123" is a fantastic metaphor for desire, love and all the messiness that exists between two people desperate to be just a little bit better for each other than they are. — AW

Lorde, ‘Green Light’

Back with her first new music since 2013, Lorde is proving that the past few years have been used to grow, mature and hone. Now, at just 20 years old, her sound has retained the same edge that we fell in love with on Pure Heroine, but “Green Light” shows that Lorde has stepped into the realm of anthemic bangers — and she is more than welcome to stay there as long as she wants. If you told me two years ago that the dance I would do to Lorde’s music would be anything but a grunge sway, I wouldn’t have believed you. But as you’re about to hear, you might just want to get up and jump around.

— Kerry Martin (@OhHiKerry)

Jay Som, 'Baybee'

Singer-songwriter Melina Duterte is changing the game when it comes to home recordings. The Oakland, California-based artist wrote, recorded, produced and played all the instruments on her new album, Everybody Works, in the comfort of her own bedroom. While most of the songs on the album have a ‘90s alt-rock feel, there are a few smoother, dance-based jams on this effort, including the latest single, “Baybee.” In fact, Duterte is quick to point to Carly Rae Jepsen’s last album, Emotion, as a key source of inspiration, and you can definitely hear it here. Everybody Works will be out on March 10 via Polyvinyl. We have the entire album streaming ahead of its release date here.

— Andrea Gin (@andreagin)

Land of Talk, ‘Inner Lover’

It’s been seven years since we’ve heard Liz Powell’s voice. It was an unintentional absence, a time that included her losing all her music when her computer crashed unexpectedly and, later, retreating to take care of her father, who suffered a stroke in 2013. Now, Powell softly cries out for someone to take care of her on this latest single, “Inner Lover,” from her long-awaited return, Life After Youth. It’s a gorgeously slow-beating number, gracefully allowing Powell to meditate and take some time back for herself. As NPR notes: “It’s a song about self-determination, self-love, self-ownership — the freedom to live and love as one chooses.”

— Melody Lau (@melodylamb)

Meghan Trainor, ‘I'm a Lady’

"Yep I'm a cutie in my own way, I won't play follow the leader."

In her sassy new single, Meghan Trainor is all about the brass. True to her unapologetically female empowerment pop roots, this catchy and dance-friendly tune challenges what it means to be a lady and underscores how women should love themselves as they are. The 23-year-old singer wrote the girl-power anthem for the upcoming animated feature film Smurfs: The Lost Village, where she voices the role of Smurf Melody. Trainor, who penned the lyrics in one evening, thanked her mother, Kelli Trainor, in an Instagram post for helping her write the track.

— Tahiat Mahboob (@TahiatMahboob)

Mary J. Blige, ‘U+ Me (Love Lesson)’

Mary J. Blige's "U + Me (Love Lesson)” reveals her truths and pain. Throughout the song, she details a relationship filled with many "red flags" from the beginning, and ultimately reflects on the end. She shows strength and positivity despite her heartache: "Gotta keep pushing and love myself through the hard times/ gotta keep my patience, still a long way to go now/ there's so much to learn." Her track is therapeutic, a beautiful mid-tempo jam infused with a powerful R&B base.

— Kiah Welsh (@simplykiah)

Little Simz, 'Picture Perfect'

Twenty-three-year-old North Londoner Simbi Ajikawo, better known as Little Simz, can count the likes of Kendrick Lamar and Yasiin Bey (Mos Def) among others as ardent admirers of her work. Her latest single, taken from her sophomore album Stillness in Wonderland, is yet another reason why she is held in such high regard. A prolific artist since her teenage mixtape days, Simz has always proudly touted her independent artist status and “Picture Perfect,” with its dizzyingly rapid wordplay and swirling animated video, is tantamount to a swaggering affirmation of her success despite the pitfalls that surround her. But Simz isn’t all about doing it alone. Over the track's taut guitar riffs and violin strains, she’s intent on imparting lessons from her ascent, issuing the rallying call, “Wonderland is amazing ain’t it?” to those who are on her wavelength.

— Del Cowie (@vibesandstuff)

More to explore:

From Joni Mitchell to Lauryn Hill: 30 women who have changed music