Top Female Empowerment Anthems for International Women’s Day

Essential Songs that Defined the Last Decade

Editor’s note: The following list was compiled by CMT.com contributors Alison Bonaguro, Samantha Stephens and Lauren Tingle.

We can’t imagine our lives without these songs. Here are a few of our favorite female empowerment anthems that defined the decade in observance of International Women’s Day.

  • Delta Rae “Hands Dirty”

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    Every woman siblings Brittany and Ian Hölljes know and love is the leader of her own life despite the adversity they’ve had to overcome. Inspired by the sexism his sister and bandmate Elizabeth Hopkins experienced in Delta Rae’s rise, Hölljes wanted to give them an anthem that would motivate them to keep pursuing their passions no matter how dirty the business can be. He finished the song with Brittany, and they imply a positive outcome to the #MeToo movement in the bridge. “I’ve just been really inspired by the women in my life,” Hölljes tells CMT.com. “My mom was a gay rights advocate, and we’re in this moment where women are leading the country in showing us how to protest and raise our voices for important causes … and that’s not their profession. They’re having to find extra time in the day in addition to working hard jobs, growing their families, being friends and community members. On top of that, they’re bringing this energy and activism to important issues that further our country.” (LT)

  • Miranda Lambert “Mama’s Broken Heart”

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    A landmark hit in Lambert and Kacey Musgraves’ careers, “Mama’s” marked their first hit together and Musgraves’ first No. 1 as a songwriter. The two grew up performing on the same Texas music circuit and at one point took lessons from the same guitar instructor. “Mama’s” was also the second No. 1 for co-writer Brandy Clark and another chart-topper for Shane McAnally. (LT)

  • Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood “Somethin’ Bad”

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    We learned very quickly just how much trouble Miranda Lambert and Carrie Underwood can be together…the best kind of trouble, that is. This twosome set country music on fire (are we surprised?) in 2014 when they released their first duet: this deliciously saucy and wicked girl power anthem to just bein’ bad. A runaway bride, a stack of cash, a bunch of whiskey, a poker game, a bank robbery, and two amazing wigs? Lambert called it when she sang, “A real-life Thelma and Louise.” We’d post bail for these two any day of the week. (SS)

  • RaeLynn “God Made Girls”

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    Knowing your worth is everything, ladies, and in case you need a reminder, RaeLynn has one for you. Written with Nicolle Galyon, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose, this breezy and sweet single from 2014 is a heartwarming ode to the beauty of womankind and the innocence of the just being a girl. The magic of this song is that no matter your age, you still find meaning in the message: that you are special and full of wonderful purpose. (SS)

  • Maddie & Tae “Girl in a Country Song”

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    “Where did these two spitfires come from?” That was the question most often heard when duo Maddie & Tae first broke on the scene in 2014 with their tongue-in-cheek exposé on women in country music, cleverly titled “Girl in a Country Song.” Young, whip-smart and beautiful with all the talent to boot, Maddie Marlow and Taelor Dye weren’t afraid to call the situation as they saw it: that there was a real problem with women’s roles and portrayal in country hits, and it was high time someone set the record straight. And boy did they — “Girl In A Country Song” became the feisty duo’s first No. 1 on Billboard’s Country Airplay chart the year it was released. Fortune truly does favor the bold, doesn’t it? (SS)

  • Sara Evans “Little Bit Stronger”

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    Serving up a double dose of woman power, this massive smash for Sara Evans was co-written by Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott from a deeply personal and dark place in Scott’s journey. The song became an anthem for women — and anyone really — who needed a reminder that you can overcome, and that though the night is dark, joy always comes in the morning. The movement of comfort and empowerment only grew as the song topped the Billboard Hot Country Songs Chart in 2011, which also bolstered Evans’ already-thriving career. It remains a win-win-win: for Evans, for Scott, and for women everywhere. Sisters helping each other out — the world needs more of that. (SS)

  • Maren Morris “Second Wind”

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    First cut by Kelly Clarkson for the deluxe edition of her 2016 album Piece by Piece, Morris rerecorded it for Hero and has been known to whip this one out during her live shows. And what a blessing it is to hear her sing these lyrics that she herself wrote with Chris DeStefano and Shane McAnally, a true comeback anthem for anyone who’s ever been doubted, forgotten, overlooked or abandoned. “Just when you think I’m at the end / Any second I’m gonna catch my second wind.” We all fall down, it’s what you decide to do when you’re down there that counts. For Morris and Clarkson, whose voices both cut to the bone on their versions of this vibrant song, you get back up again, catch your second wind and soar. (SS)

  • Reba McEntire “Going Out Like That”

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    You can’t keep a good woman down. Exhibit A: Reba McEntire. This “Aw hell no” anthem for the brokenhearted debut in January 2015 during a very precarious year in McEntire’s musical career and personal life. It marked the first single she’d released since 2011 and preceded the sad news in late 2015 that she and her husband Narvel Blackstock had filed for divorce. Plotline coincidence? Most likely. But still a return to strong, sassy and indomitable Reba? You better believe it. Fun fact: the song was originally recorded by Love & Theft for an album that was never released. But there’s nothing like a woman’s voice on such a declaration, is there? You go, Reebs. (SS)

  • Little Big Town “Tornado”

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    Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned… or pissed off or just flat-out done, honey. This is a truth universally acknowledged and put brilliantly into verse and melody in Little Big Town’s hit “Tornado,” which debuted in 2013 and cracked the top ten on the country charts. Call it an anthem or a cautionary tale, we call it the perfect storm of a fair warning to any man who can’t recognize a woman’s worth or power. Oh, the damage she can do. Better run for cover, boys. And run fast. (SS)

  • Kacey Musgraves “Good ‘Ol Boys Club”

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    “I guess I’ve always kinda been for the underdog,” Kacey Musgraves sings. Amen to that, sister. This brilliantly cheeky and pointed ditty from Musgraves’ sophomore album Pageant Material, takes a shot at the too often homogenized and misogynistic establishment. Is she talking about the world at large? Nashville? Sadly, both could be applicable, so we’ll leave you to glean from that what you will. More importantly, she’s making a grand statement to the individualists, the free-thinkers, the dreamers, and the do-it-your-way hustlers. Your art is your own. Dare to be different, folks: you’ll change the world. And maybe, just maybe, also end up with more Grammy awards than you can tote in the process. (SS)

  • Kalie Shorr “Fight Like a Girl”

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    Shorr, a member of CMT’s Next Women of Country program, is an emphatic songwriter who makes every note count for the sake of her art. “Fight Like a Girl” made a statement as one of her releases in 2016, a year in which country radio was dominated by male-led collaborations with female artists and saw four hits by Carrie Underwood and Kelsea Ballerini rise to No. 1. Shorr’s “Fight Like a Girl” tapped into an inner strength that was definitely needed at the time. (LT)

  • Song Suffragettes “Time’s Up

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    Too often society puts the burden on women to be the change they want to see for themselves. Shorr and rising artist Lacy Green astutely addressed that burden when they co-wrote “Time’s Up” in direct response to the 2018 Hollywood initiative launched to support victims of sexual harassment and workplace misconduct. Contributing vocals on “Times’ Up” are 23 members of Nashville’s Song Suffragettes songwriting series for women. They are Shorr, Paige, Tasji Bachman, Chloe Gilligan, Savannah Keyes, Mignon, Gracie Schram, Tiera, Jenna Paulette, Emma White, Jordyn Mallory, Emma Lynn White, Regan Stewart, Jenna McDaniel, Madison Kozak, Jenny Ray, Tenille Arts, Tristan McIntosh, Tia Scola, Alexis Gomez, Candi Carpenter, Trannie Stevens and Lena Stone. (LT)

  • Runaway June “Buy My Own Drinks”

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    Perhaps somewhere out there there’s a list of all the things a woman cannot do without a man by her side. But I’m guessing it’s a very short list. Which is why this Runaway June song — a refreshingly long list, really, of all the things a woman can do just fine on her own — is so fitting for any day that puts the entire gender on a pedestal. The band’s Naomi Cooke, Hannah Mulholland and Jennifer Wayne wrote this celebration of self-sufficiency with Hillary Lindsey and Josh Kear. (AB)

  • Mickey Guyton “Better Than You Left Me”

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    Every time I hear this song, I think, “Now she knows better.” As in, better, stronger, deeper, longer, et cetera. It may have only made it to No. 34 on the Billboard’s country airplay chart, but that doesn’t matter to anyone who needs to hear it. It sounds cliché to call it empowering, but there’s no better way to describe lyrics that remind you of how strong you really are. Guyton wrote the song with Jennifer Hanson, Jenn Schott and Nathan Chapman. (AB)

  • Kellie Pickler “Tough”

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    This song says it better than any lyrical analysis ever could: There ain’t nothin’ wrong with a woman that got a little backbone. Leslie Satcher wrote it, and Kellie Pickler made us believe it. It was one of Pickler’s best chart successes — it made it to No. 30 — but more importantly, it painted an autobiographical picture of what Pickler’s childhood might’ve been like in North Carolina with a mom who couldn’t stay put and a dad who couldn’t stay out of prison. And who you become once you outgrow all that adversity. (AB)

  • Pistol Annies “Hell on Heels”

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    Was the world ready for a post-Dixie Chicks era, all-girl band singing about making deals with the devil and collecting cars, rings, real estate, yachts and guitars from the men they met along the way? Maybe, maybe not. But this song established the Pistol Annies as a force that would survive with or without the traditional barometers of success. The Annies – Miranda Lambert, Ashley Monroe and Angaleena Presley — wrote this one as the lead single from their debut project of the same name. (AB)

  • Lauren Alaina “Road Less Traveled”

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    It’s impossible to not love this song; especially if you’re a girl from about 4 to about 104. The message here is that universal: don’t let the world decide what’s beautiful, show what you got and just own it, and don’t be afraid to take the road less traveled. Alaina wrote it with Jesse Frasure and Meghan Trainor (who was already winning with her own Love Yourself pop anthem, “All About That Bass”), and its immense likeability took it all the way to No. 1 on the charts. (AB)

  • Shania Twain “Life’s About to Get Good”

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    She was sad, now she’s not. That’s the gist of this comeback song from Shania Twain: that you need to have the bad to feel the good. It’s a simple premise and one that stands the test of time. But it’s also cathartic on a few different levels for her; both personally and professionally. Twain wrote the tune by herself after a long hiatus from making music. It peaked at No. 33 on the country airplay chart. (AB)

  • Kelsea Ballerini “Miss Me More”

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    If a guy is telling you what kind of lipstick to wear, which records to play, and how high your heels should be, he doesn’t love you. He loves his idea of you. And that’s the you you no longer need. So, even though Ballerini is in her happily-ever-after newlywed bliss right now, it’s clear that she knows exactly what it feels like when the real you goes missing. She co-wrote this upside-of-the-breakdown anthem with David Hodges and Brett McLaughlin, and it’s currently No. 14. (AB)

  • Alison Krauss “You Don’t Know Me”

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    When Eddy Arnold first pitched the title “You Don’t Know Me” to Cindy Walker, his initial plotline at the time seemed too vague for Walker’s taste. In an interview with the Grammy Foundation https://youtu.be/LjJFq-8tVZs, she recalled telling Arnold she’d “cook” on the title for a while. Then one day out of thin air, the first verse came to her, “You give your hand to me / And then you say hello / And I can hardly speak / My heart is beating so / And anyone can tell / You think you know me well / But you don’t know me.” Arnold later recorded the full track and released it in 1956. Since then, legends like Elvis Presley, Roy Orbison, Ray Charles, Bette Midler and others have released versions of the song. Krauss’ performance is from her latest album, Windy City. (LT)

  • Margo Price “Pay Gap”

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    In the hours leading up to each performance on Price’s most recent three-night run at Nashville’s Ryman Auditorium, her stage crawled with an all-female crew testing equipment and instruments. Hiring women to make her career move is essential to Price to show other rising female music professionals that they have viable futures in music. “I hope to encourage more girls to get out and follow this crazy dream, even if you’re not getting the same radio play, even if you’re not getting the same pay, even if you’re not getting the same festival billing, there is still a way to make a living at it,” she told CMT.com recently. “And it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s rewarding.” “Pay Gap” is from Price’s latest album All-American Made. (LT)

  • Margo Price “Wild Women”

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    Wild women never worry, and they don’t have time for the blues in Price’s ode to ramblin’ females from All-American Made. Price was among the best new artist nominees at the 61st annual Grammy Awards. (LT)

  • Nikki Lane “Highway Queen”

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    Elements of Lane’s road life can be heard all over her 2017 album of the same title, and it kicks the listener in the teeth from its first “Yippee-ki-yay.” “‘Highway Queen’ is 100% about me,” Lane said with a laugh during a 2017 CMT.com interview. “Or [it’s] about the character that I joke that I became — touring to survive it if you will. But I don’t break hearts in every town because I don’t date fans.” (LT)

  • Carrie Underwood “Good Girl”

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    Co-written with Ashley Gorley and Chris DeStefano in Los Angeles, “Good Girl” was the lead single from 2012’s Blown Away. Over fierce and flashy backbeats, Underwood warns a good woman of reconnecting with an ex who is no good for her. She sings, “You better get to getting’ on your goodbye shoes.” (LT)

  • Ashley McBryde “Girl Going Nowhere”

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    If Garth Brooks records a version of your song, you know it’s good. The title song of McBryde’s debut album came from a comment a ninth-grade teacher once said to her when she asked the class what they wanted to be when they grew up. McBryde’s answer involved studying at Arkansas State and then moving to Nashville to be a songwriter. “She told me I was stupid,” McBryde recalled during a CMT.com interview. “Most educators wouldn’t say that. It wouldn’t have mattered what you said to them whether you wanted to be a bug collector. They’d be like, ‘Oh yes, there’s probably a market for that.’ And then she told me that I better have a really good backup plan.” McBryde never had to fall on a backup plan. Girl Going Nowhere was nominated for best country album at the 61st annual Grammy Awards in February. (LT)

  • Brandy Clark “Girl Next Door”

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    The main character’s attitude in “Girl Next Door” is everything. The song was inspired by a phone call Clark had with Grammy-nominated songwriter, Jessie Dillon, about a guy she was dating. When they wrote the song with Shane McAnally, their idea was to write a representation of the anti-girl next door; hence the hook, “If you want the girl next door, then go next door.” (LT)

  • Taylor Swift “Mean”

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    When Swift released “Mean” from Speak Now, the world wondered who she was talking about in the song. She explained in Speak Now’s liner notes, “Each is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person.” She added one person she wrote about was “a mean man” she “used to be afraid of.” Whoever it is, they have a voice like nails on a chalkboard and are at once a liar, pathetic and alone in life. She performed the song at the 54th annual Grammy Awards where she took home two awards for best country song and best country solo performance. (LT)

  • Danielle Bradbery “Worth It”

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    Bradbery won’t settle for anything less than the love she deserves in “Worth It,” a powerful ballad from her sophomore album, I Don’t Believe We’ve Met. Bradbery co-wrote the song with Jeff Pardo and Molly Reed. (LT)

  • Cassadee Pope “I Am Invincible”

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    Co-written by Brett Boyett and Nash Overstreet, Pope’s “I Am Invincible” was needed in 2015 months after a radio consultant’s comments that compared female artists to tomatoes in a salad went viral. Songs like “I Am Invincible” prove people who use unjust comparisons like that wrong, and those comparisons shouldn’t go unchallenged. Pope will headline the sixth CMT Next Women of Country tour with Clare Dunn and Hannah Ellis starting April 11 in Tampa, Fla.