This Women’s History Month we’re celebrating the females that are sometimes behind the scenes making big things happen in the music industry. Masters like Carole King, Dolly Parton and Missy Elliott helped pave the way, garnering hundreds of hits between them while bringing out the best in the artists they’ve worked with, paving the way for the modern female writers and producers of today.
We’ve compiled a playlist of 10 tracks that were written or produced by contemporary women who‘ve been instrumental in shaping the sounds of now.
WOMEN BEHIND THE HITS:
1. “Nervous” – Shawn Mendes (co-written by Julia Michaels)
Songwriter Julia Michaels has a way of bringing out the vulnerability in her male collaborators, like she did with her friend and former tourmate Shawn Mendes when she helped him express his romantic jitters on the slick and soulful “Nervous.” When settling in to write together, Mendes and Michaels talked deeply about life and love and came up with three songs in just two days. “Nervous” shows off their instant chemistry in the studio.
2. “Diamonds” – Rihanna (co-written by Sia)
Before Sia broke out big with her own solo career, she was penning hit after hit for A-list artists. In 2012, she proved her genius by crafting one of the best-selling singles of all time: Rihanna’s “Diamonds.” Sia claims she wrote the lyrics in a mere 14 minutes, but her producer claims it was only 12 minutes. Rihanna instantly fell in love with the demo, and her version stays true to every one of Sia’s vocal inflections. In fact, Sia herself thought Rihanna’s voice was still her’s upon hearing the final take.
3. “I Do” – Cardi B, featuring SZA (co-written by Nija Charles)
Cardi B’s hard-hitting “I Do” is something of a bold mission statement for the Grammy-winning rapper. And it came together with the help of a powerhouse female team that included Cardi and SZA, as well as in-demand songwriter Nija Charles, who crafted the song’s powerful hook. Murda Beatz’s beat and the lyrics just flowed out. She’s said her goal was to channel that moment when you wake up, get dressed, and feel ready to conquer the world. She certainly nailed that feeling, and so did Cardi.
4. “thank u, next” – Ariana Grande (co-written by Tayla Parx and Victoria Monet)
Ariana Grande’s massive self-empowerment anthem “thank u, next” sparkles with the confidence and compassion of a strong woman. For this surprise hit, which became Grande’s first single to top the Billboard Hot 100, she shares songwriting credits with Grammy winner Victoria Monet and singer-songwriter Tayla Park. Monet and Park can actually be heard on the track, providing sweet but subtle backing vocals.
5. “Despacito” – Luis Fonsi (co-written by Erika Ender)
Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee took Latin music to nearly every corner of the globe with their world-dominating 2017 hit “Despacito.” While the song helped bring attention to the duo’s homeland of Puerto Rico, it was Brazilian-Panamanian singer, songwriter, and composer Erika Ender who crafted some of the song’s most memorable lines. Ender eventually became the youngest person to be inducted into the Latin Songwriters Hall of Fame and has said that her role on “Despacito” was to help keep the rather steamy song in good taste. It’s a good thing she did. Here are Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee with “Despacito.”
6. “This Is What You Came For” – Calvin Harris + Rihanna (written and produced by Taylor Swift)
Calvin Harris and Rihanna’s “This Is What You Came For” was an instant club hit, and when the song dropped in April 2016, writing credits went to a Nils Sjoberg. At the time, Harris was dating pop superstar Taylor Swift, but following their breakup just a few months later, he revealed that Swift was actually Sjoberg. She had written the song and also recorded backing vocals on it, but wanted to keep the collaboration a secret so their relationship wouldn’t overshadow the song. Swift now has the official songwriting credit, and it remains one of Harris’ most successful singles. Here is Rihanna With “This Is What You Came For.”
7. “LOVEHAPPY” – The Carters (co-written by Nija Charles and NOVA Wav)
When Hip Hop’s royal couple invites you into the studio, you drop everything. This was the case for 20-year-old Nija Charles along with Grammy-winning songwriting and production duo Denisia Andrews and Brittany Coney (better known as NOVA Wav), when they were summoned by Beyoncé and Jay Z. “LOVEHAPPY” was the final track on The Carters’ 2018 album, ‘Everything Is Love,’ and details the ups and downs of the couple’s marriage. And Charles didn’t even know the song made the album cut; she found out via Twitter after it was released.
8. “Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus (written by MoZella)
Miley Cyrus’ huge 2013 ballad “Wrecking Ball” was her heart-wrenching statement to then-fiancé Liam Hemsworth regarding their rocky relationship at the time. It seemed like the pain was all Miley’s, but the song itself came from the pen of songwriter Maureen “MoZella” McDonald, who herself was going through a crushing breakup. MoZella’s line “I came in like a wrecking ball” brought the whole song together and helped give Miley her first No. 1 hit.
9. “Girls Like You” – Maroon 5 (co-written by Brittany Hazzard)
Maroon 5’s “Girls Like You” is one of the band’s most heartfelt tunes, and it can be partially attributed to Brittany Hazzard, otherwise known as Starrah, who has also co-written songs for artists including Camila Cabello, Rihanna, and Drake. Alongside frontman Adam Levine and songwriter Jason Evigan, Starrah helped give the song its soft-edged touch. This hit is tied for the longest-ever Top 10 run on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.
10. “Better Man” – Little Big Town (written by Taylor Swift)
When country stars Little Big Town released the poignant breakup song “Better Man,” they said it was written by a “young girl from Nashville.” That girl turned out to be none other than Taylor Swift. Of course, many have speculated who Swift may have written the song about, but she thought it would be perfect for Little Big Town because of its four-part harmonies. The quartet eventually took the track all the way to the 2017 Country Music Awards, where it won Song of the Year.