A Brief History of Angsty Girl Anthems

From smudged eyeliner to high school heartbreaks, misaligned parallel parking, it’s not easy being a girl. Add all of that plus a world that’s constantly telling us what we “can” and “can’t” do, and you’ve got yourself some angry girls.

But along with these messy feelings of I-just-want-to-scream-into-my-pillow comes something beautiful. Sometimes these really angry girls write songs, strum chords, and sing lyrics. Before you know it, an angsty girl anthem is born.

What Exactly Is The Angsty Girl Anthem? 

Ranging from punk to rock to pop, there’s no one-size-fits-all for what makes the angsty girl anthems. Every anthem is a different take on the trials and tribulations of girlhood. From living in a man’s world to hating how you look in that dress, themes range between the artists and their takes.

New artists like Olivia Rodrigo are trying their own hand at angst. But there’s no way to properly celebrate the revival of angsty girl anthems without honoring the predecessors. The fearless artists who pioneered in a genre in a male-centric industry.

Not only did these women bring an innovative take to a genre that’s rooted in the superiority of “classics”, but their songs were all about what it meant to be a woman. A big middle finger to men who didn’t believe girls could, well, rock.

Take A Listen For Yourself

These female artists defied what it meant to succeed in the cutthroat world of rock, punk, and pop. So, let’s take a trip back in time and take a look at some of our predecessors—the angsty girl anthems that defined the past. 

“Cherry Bomb” (1976) – The Runaways

The Runways are one of the first all-girl rock groups, so it’d be a shame to not include them in this lineup of legends.

“Barracuda” (1977) – Heart

Heart, led by powerful vocals thanks to sisters Ann and Nancy Wilson, were one of the first bands to top charts as a female-fronted band. With hit after hit, their legacy in the rock world doesn’t go unnoticed.

“Bad Reputation” (1981) – Joan Jett & The BlackHearts

Joan Jett is no stranger to a “reputation”, but this one’s impressive. Known for her iconic vocals, pounding basslines, and in-your-face-attitude, Jett is the pinnacle of angst and rebellion wrapped into an eyeliner-sporting, leather-wearing cool girl package.

“Rebel Girl” (1992) – Bikini Kill

Bikini Kill was the trailblazing female band of the 90’s, credited with kickstarting the “riot grrrl” movement, which combines feminism, punk rock, and politics.

“You Oughta Know” (1995) – Alanis Morissette

When I asked my mom for inspiration in finding the best girl anthems, before I could even finish my sentence, she was telling me about Jagged Little Pill. Morrissette’s 1995 album is the perfect conglomerate of heart-wrenching ballads and songs to angrily scream from the comfort of your car.

“Ballad of A Homeschooled Girl” (2023) – Olivia Rodrigo

“love is embarrassing”, “bad idea right?”, “all american b***h”, and “ballad of a homeschooled girl” are some of the many tracks on Olivia Rodrigo’s newest album, Guts, that dip their toe into rock territory. With wry lyrics and intense pop-meets-garage-rock-basslines, each of these tracks honor and emulate the angsty girl anthem in a way that’s equal parts nostalgic yet fresh.

Spilling Her Guts

The difference between Bikini Kill or The Runways or Olivia Rodrigo may feel miles apart, but whittled down to the core, each of their songs is a rebellion of its own. Embracing all of the turmoil that comes with being a girl—rage, heartbreak, and those awkward, gawky things in between—is the beauty that comes from these artists and their songs. In a male-dominated industry, angsty girl anthems are a musical version of “sticking it to the man.”

Past and present, there’s no shortage of rockin’ women. So, if you can’t get enough of the vibes, here’s a playlist I put together of my personal 100 favorite angsty girl anthems—new and old. Take a listen and embrace the angsty girl within.

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