Charli XCX
2014, Asylum Records

Sucker is a nonstop party album that is sweet and sour in all the right places. The album’s best songs are explicitly friends-before-lovers anthems. On “Breaking Up,” Charli quits dudes that don’t deserve her, and on “Body of My Own,” she prefers the touch of her own hand to a dude’s. When she’s having fun, she’s out with her friends, pretending she’s a movie star, and skipping school for partying. “Oh I could die tonight,” she sings on one track, “’Cause I got the magic in my veins, and I’m going hard with all my friends.” Charli can be mushy-gushy—take “Boom Clap,” for example—but she’s also one of the only pop stars I can seriously call punk. Her music always includes a “Fuck you!” to mean boys, teachers, and haters. Sucker will have you dancing, hair-flipping, and tearing to shreds whatever’s standing in the way of your happiness. —Hazel

Janet Jackson
1986, A&M Records

“This is a story about control: My control,” are the very first words that Janet Jackson utters on her third studio album, Control. As the ultimate J.J. stan (please see: my official fan club membership, dolls, and assorted J.J.–related paraphernalia…my love was/is REAL), these words hold so much power. This record taught me that I am in control of me, my future, and what I do with my life. Control is desire spoken out loud, a declaration of Janet’s independence from her famous family, and what it sounds like to search for your own identity. The innovative, hard-edged funk, industrial-feel cuts, inventive, synthesized vocal treatments, and friendly R&B pop grooves made Control one of the greatest albums of the ’80s, and it’s still one of the greatest today. —Bianca

1992, Kill Rock Stars

Bratmobile fearlessly invaded the punk scene in the early ’90s, a time when punk was dominated by men. Feminist and brash, these first-generation riot grrrls created killer tracks like “Bitch Theme,” “Cool Schmool,” “Panik,” …let’s be real, the list goes on and on. They even do their own DIY-esque cover of the Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb.” A lot of Bratmobile’s music is uninhibited and fun, but they also dig really deep to sing (and shout!) about ideas they’re passionate about. Raw, revolutionary, and all about grrrl power, Pottymouth is a great album to listen to when you’re feeling antsy and empowered, or while munching on jalapeño Cheetos (or the Cheetos flavor of your choice). —Mads

cover170x170-7Version 2.0
1998, Almo Sounds

The day I saw the music video for “I Think I’m Paranoid,” my mind promptly exploded. “Who is this badass woman thrashing around wearing the tiniest polka-dot mini dress???” I was completely mesmerized by Shirley Manson’s brand of in-your-face, classy rock. Manson’s lyrics are raw, angry, and complicated. She makes no apologies for her flaws, and she’s open about her struggles with mental illness. “Medication” portrays the weariness that can accompany treatment, so when Shirley sings, “They’ve got me on some medication, my point of balance was askew,” her tone is indignant and resigned, and it makes total sense. On “Push It,” Manson owns her thirst, and her frankness about sexuality really helped me overcome some of the shame I had about sex. It’s not all introspection though: “Hammering in My Head” is a rad party jam that will have you dancing in front of a mirror. —Meagan

M.C. Luscious
1992, Avenue Distribution

Back when I was making my dating debut, I’d jam to “Boom I Got Your Boyfriend,” as a pre-date pick-me-up. The lyrics are contagious, and the music video is just as sick as its beat. This whole album makes me want to strut around my neighborhood, chomping on bright pink bubblegum, armed with a killer boom box. Boom! is shameless and empowering, and the lyrics don’t beat around the bush. When M.C. Luscious spits, “I want your car, baby! I want your car,” she speaks the forbidden truth: That sometimes you like your date’s ride way better than the person you’re dating. —Mads

cover170x170-5Mommy’s Little Monster
Social Distortion
1983, Time Bomb Records

Social Distortion’s debut album is the musical version of a defiant sneer and a raised middle finger. The music is loud and fast, and the lyrics are full of attitude, anger, and nihilism. “Telling Them,” is all about challenging authority, while the title track, “Mommy’s Little Monster,” is a catalog of rebellious behavior including dyeing your hair and doing drugs. Social Distortion’s “monsters” sometimes go a lot further than I’d ever want to, but these songs are anthems for when you feel pissed and wish you could break all the rules. Screaming along is a good way to act out without getting hurt. —Stephanie

cover170x170-6Kelis Was Here
2006, LaFace Records

Kelis Was Here came out just as I was leaving one city to start a new job and graduate school in another. Kelis’s unique mix of neo-soul, hip-hop, and house grooves became my soundtrack: As I navigated my new life and rode the subway toward new adventures, I channeled Kelis’s confidence, unapologetic defiance, and self-determination. Her lyrics on “Bossy” moved me to assert myself, and “Appreciate Me” gave me the fuel I needed to make it through a draining break-up and late nights at work. Her words and unrelenting beats always remind me of my own power. —Jamia

cover170x170-2Frenching the Bully
The Gits
1992, C/Z Records

“Push me, push me I don’t care ’cause I’ll keep coming back slightly stronger,” Mia Zapata snarls on “While You’re Twisting, I’m Still Breathing.” Those words are the pulse of this album, which is all about pushing on. Maybe my favorite track on Frenching the Bully is “Second Skin,” because that’s what this music is for me—a second skin made of hard driving guitars, rapid-fire drums, and Mia’s incredible vocals. Each and every song is reminder that living, fighting, pushing forward is powerful. And a heads up: The 2003 reissue of Frenching the Bully includes seven live tracks that capture the band, and Mia’s vocals, at their best. —Stephanie

2000, eOne Music

Don’t be mistaken: Kittie does not fall under the nu metal umbrella, like other bands from the 2000s: They are straight-up METAL. Kittie released Spit while all the band members were teens. I was obsessed with these girls, who were my age and making virulent, angry music. Spit is a raw and painful album: Just listen to Morgan Lander scream over the distorted guitars and frantic drums. Kittie carved out a space for girls to get angry, wear spiked necklaces, and scream. This band put out a difficult album by teen girls, for teen girls, and gave us a voice in metal. —Meagan

cover170x170-3Bitter Rivals
Sleigh Bells
2013, Mom+Pop

If there’s a sound that could get a person rowdy, it’s the beats and guitar licks from this Sleigh Bells gem. When I listen to Bitter Rivals, I see myself in Dr. Martens, wearing bright red lipstick, and conquering the whole entire world. Right from the first track, it’s clear that Sleigh Bells will not be playing nice: shots will be fired. The lyrics are as incendiary as the beats: “I lit my ponytail on fire,” and “I’m sending gummy bears to the electric chair,” expose the rage at the center of this album’s kicking and screaming rebellion. The shout-y singing pumps vengeance straight into my veins, and gets me ready for ANYTHING that might get in my way. —Chanel

The Slits
1979, Island Def Jam Records

In 1976, four teenage friends formed the Slits and became one of the first British all-girl punk bands—and the ultimate girl-gang! These women did not give any fucks. Their debut album Cut explores youth, boredom, frustration, and rebellion against the status quo. The music fuses the rawness and attitude of punk with reggae and dub to make a pioneering sound that’s all their own. Cut shows us the world through the band’s eyes. “Typical Girls” takes down pre-defined gender roles, and what girls are told they should be; “Spend, Spend, Spend” tackles consumerism; and “Shoplifting” suggests an alternative to spending that hard-earned check. (Not one I’d recommend, though!) I spoke to the band’s vocalist, Ari Up, before she passed away in 2010, and she said: “Happiness to me is when you constantly overcome your fears and challenges in your life. If you cross those barriers and bridges you come to freedom. With freedom comes happiness. I stand for freedom in every way. Equality and freedom is a lot for me.” Cut speaks to every one of those values. —Bianca ♦