Pushing boundaries without deserved credit

Black female music artists often overlooked game changers

Hannah Flores, Staff Reporter

The album artwork from Lizzo’s 2019 album “Cuz I Love You.” (Photo courtesy of Atlantic Records)

As a known innovator in the music industry, Beyoncé, and many other black female artists like her, face the struggle of being confined to one genre. This is despite constantly experimenting with multiple genres and even reclaiming styles originated by black artists such as country and rock.

Although artists such as Beyoncé and Rihanna are widely recognized for their talents, they are hardly given credit as “game changers” in the pop world.

Over the course of their careers, these pop icons have inspired major changes in how artists produce their music and promote their work.

Since the dawn of her career in the 90s with girl group Destiny’s Child, Beyoncé has dominated the charts and constantly raised the bar for artists in the pop world. Excelling in all her endeavors, she is never afraid to experiment with new sounds and is praised as one of the greatest artists and performers of this generation.

Although she has received countless accolades for her extensive discography, a pivotal moment in Beyoncé’s career was the release of her sixth studio album “Lemonade.” 

The release came without any warning in April 2016 and regardless of any promo beforehand, “Lemonade” debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200 Chart. The album was also accompanied by an hour long film, paving the way for the visual album. 

Before the release of “Lemonade,” it was virtually unheard of to provide a full length film with the debut of an album. For decades, it was almost custom to release a music video as a promotional single for an album, but never something as in-depth as Beyoncé’s visual manifestation of her most personal work to date.

“‘Lemonade’ is her most emotionally extreme music, but also her most sonically adventurous.” Rob Sheffield,  writer and contributing editor at Rolling Stone magazine wrote. 

As she chronicled her pain through betrayal and infidelity, Beyoncé shared some of the most intimate details of her life while pushing boundaries within the pop genre. 

From the twangy chords of a banjo on the track “Daddy Lessons,” to the stylings of guitarist Jack White on “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Beyoncé’s work encompassed a variety of sounds and displayed her versatility as an artist.

Along with Beyoncé, one of the most prominent artists of this generation has been Rihanna.

Within the last decade, Rihanna has without a doubt been one of the biggest names in pop music. Throughout her discography, it is rare to find a single or album that has not ruled the charts at one point or another.

Named by Billboard as the artist with the most number one hits on the Pop Songs Chart in a 25 year history in 2013, it is no surprise that listeners consider her a prominent voice in the music world.

Rihanna’s eccentric blend of pop and R&B sounds has kept her at the top of the charts since the beginning of her career. Her debut single “Pon De Replay” peaked at number four on the Billboard Rhythmic Songs chart in 2005 when Rihanna was just 17 years old.

Since then, audiences have seen her evolve from a sprightly teenage pop star into a more mature musician. Although her music has changed over the years, she has not lost her ambition and remains a symbol for strong, ambitious black women.

Although her recognition is no surprise to adoring fans, they are finding themselves in a musical drought. Aside from a recent collaboration, “BELIEVE IT”  with hip-hop producer PartyNextDoor, Rihanna’s most recent release was her album “Anti” in 2016. 

“Anti” was described by many as one of Rihanna’s most diverse bodies of work. Brittany Spanos, a staff reporter at Rolling Stone noted that, unlike her previous works, “Anti” did not follow a specific structure or flow. 

Anti’ is first and foremost an experience built on vibes,” she wrote. 

Spanos concluded that unlike other artists who often create a persona, Rihanna is authentically herself. 

Another bold voice that has made a name for herself this past year is Lizzo. Deemed the “Entertainer of the Year” by Time magazine in 2019, she graced many stages from the 2019 BET Awards, to the Grammys and everywhere in between. 

Her enthralling mixture of pop and R&B sounds, as well as rap influence in the flow of her music, has left a lasting impression on her listeners and the charts. From the start of her career, Lizzo has aimed to create a platform for body positivity and self-love. 

Her hit tracks “Juice,” “Good As Hell,” and “Truth Hurts” are all upbeat songs that powerfully convey confidence and self-love, she hopes these messages resonate with her fans. 

Lizzo’s debut album “Cuz I Love You, released in April 2019, has commanded the charts since its release. 

“‘Cuz I Love You’ is all about Lizzo’s quest to embrace her inner strength,” Sheffield wrote.  

Sheffield also notes the diverse sounds that influenced Lizzo’s work. Rock artists like Prince, pop icon Janet Jackson, and even Soul singers like Etta James and Aretha Franklin have had a major impact on Lizzo’s musical style. 

Although Lizzo has been in the industry for years, she is just beginning to make her way to the top and fans enthusiastically continue to show her support, anticipating the new heights she will reach as she continues her career.

“Whether behind the scenes, in front of the mic, building empires, or shaking things up in the boardroom, our melenatated sisters played a major role in moving music forward in the 2010s,” Sydney Scott of Essence magazine wrote.

Over the decades, these powerful black women have inspired change in more ways than one, paving the way for others to become experimental in their sound and changing the face of pop in the process.