These are videos of searching for an identity, exploring the idea of being on your own for the first time or finding a new sense of self as you walk away from an unhealthy situation. Though some of these songs are of pain and struggle, their themes are the impulse to find a voice and take a first step toward freedom.
One thing that stands out as an exceptional improvement to American popular music is the number of songs where women define their needs... and those needs include the need to be alone, to be heard, to be respected and not to be pushed sexually.
Songs that I found inspiringly assertive in this way include That’s Not my Name (Ting Tings), Potential Break Up Song (Aly &AJ), Single Ladies (Beyonce), Say OK (Vanessa Hudgens, of High School Musical fame)Do You Know How to Touch a Girl? (Jo Jo, only a very young teenager herself when she recorded it), Love Song (in which Sara Bareilles refuses to be manipulated into writing a love song she doesn’t feel) and Big Girls Don’t Cry by the incorrigible Fergie.
Single Ladies is a fascinating example. The lyrics demand an unusual request in this day of non-monogamy and hook ups... the desire of the singer for her lover to marry her “If you like it then you should have put a ring on it!” When I first saw the video I felt like it was the typical stripper genre. However, on Saturday Night Live, Beyonce explained that she wanted the video to depict strong, independent women in solidarity with each other. The black and white film footage certainly does show woman doing dance moves that could only be done by extreme training and strength. Especially in high heels.