March is Women’s History Month, a time to reflect on the accomplishments and impact that women and female voices have had on the world. For Millennials – those born between 1981 and 1996, per the Pew Research Center – there are certain women whose music has defined the pop mainstream world. From Demi Lovato to Ariana Grande to Selena Gomez, these artists continue to make music essential to the Millennial experience, even as demographics shift and Gen Z becomes the more prominent voice in mainstream culture.
One of the most unmistakable musical presence – and one of the most powerful cultural influences – for the Millennial is Ms. Beyoncé Knowles. After watching her become a star in Destiny’s Child, millennial fans supported Beyonce as she broke out on her own at the start of the century. The early 2000s saw Beyoncé establish herself through albums like Dangerously In Love, B’Day, and Sasha Fierce. In the 2010s, she transcended being a pop star and became an icon of both art and music. 2013’s Beyoncé and the follow-up, 2016’s Lemonade, cemented her status as one of the most important and popular musicians on the planet. Beyoncé’s “unrivaled cultural power” was best summed in in “Formation,” according to Rolling Stone, who heralded its “genius” and “bold tangling of the personal and the political, wrapping the tragedy of Katrina in the glamor of a Givenchy gown and daring you to call it a contradiction.”
When it comes to incorporating “personal” themes into her music, none have the greater “reputation” of doing that than Taylor Swift. Millennials watched as this young singer-songwriter broke out in the Country music world in the mid-2000s before dipping into pop with 2012’s Red. Her 1989 album is considered a generation-defining record. Taylor kicked off her 2020s with a pair of indie-folk-inspired records, folklore and evermore, which were given rave-reviews and shattered numerous commercial and critical records. They also showcased a maturing perspective, one that many older Millennials happily embraced.
These women have done more than make great music. They have influenced Millennial fashion choices, encouraged listeners to be more political, and in most cases, set an example for how to be an activist. From Lady Gaga’s work with the Born This Way Foundation to Demi Lovato’s partnership with the CAST Foundation for her current tour, these stars understand the importance of using their power and platform to give back. For more experiences with those who defined music for a generation, check out our Women’s History Month playlist.