A Playlist for My Daughter: 15 Songs to Empower Girls

I love my daughter. I really do. She is the sun in my sky and light of my life and rose in my garden and all those metaphors we use to describe how much we love someone.  Do you want to hear another metaphor that describes love?

Love is a battlefield.

And holy crap, if I have to listen to Let It Go or Shut Up and Dance one more time, my car is going to be a battlefield.  I can play some Pat Benatar as background music.

It’s my own fault, I suppose. I don’t listen to the radio, so our car music choices are the ones that I provide via my iPod.  For her fifth birthday, we had a “royal ball” and I made a dance playlist for the kids. ‘Shut Up and Dance’ is the first song on the playlist. (I’m a bad mom and didn’t think to download the Kidz Bop version that doesn’t use ‘shut up’ – oops.) And ‘Let it Go’ is, of course, from Frozen and Frozen is life.


After four years.

That playlist is my go-to when I’m in the car with her, and it hasn’t been updated in almost two years. I figure it is time I make my daughter a new playlist, but not just any playlist. I want to create a playlist that instills in her the idea – the truth – that women are strong, powerful, and courageous and are more than just pretty faces or sexual beings. I want to provide lyrics that make her stand taller, run faster, work harder, dream wider, and shatter those glass ceilings. I want my daughter to be inspired to stand up for herself and for others, to have the confidence to face adversity, and to demand the respect that every member of the human race is entitled to, regardless of their gender.

Beethoven once said, “Music can change the world.” So, too, can our daughters, and we can use music to help inspire them.

15 Songs to Empower Girls

Sara Bareilles – Brave (2013)

“Say what you wanna say
And let the words fall out
Honestly, I wanna see you be brave”

Too often little girls receive the message that they need to be quiet, well mannered, and attractive. That their worth doesn’t extend beyond the dimples in their cheeks. In Brave, Bareilles encourages our daughters to find their voices and start speaking up against their adversaries.

Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenoweth – Defying Gravity (2003)

“I’m through accepting limits
’cause someone says they’re so
Some things I cannot change
But till I try, I’ll never know!”

If you aren’t a fan of musicals (gasp!), there are several versions of this song sung by different artists. At the heart of this song is the idea that we need to be the change we want to see in the world. I want my daughter to have the courage to trust her instincts and do what she thinks is right. It may not always be easy, and it may not always work out, but at least she will have tried.

Rachel Platten – Fight Song (2015)

“Like a small boat on the ocean
Sending big waves into motion
Like how a single word can make a heart open
I might only have one match but I can make an explosion.”

Fight Song reminds our daughters that they have this power to make a difference in the world.  They may face barriers along the way, but they have the strength within themselves to continue to fight for what they believe.

Natasha Bedingfield – Unwritten (2005)

“I break tradition, sometimes my tries, are outside the lines
We’ve been conditioned to not make mistakes
But I can’t live that way, no.”

Unwritten encourages young girls to be themselves and reminds them that they have the power to create their own futures.

Idina Menzel – Let It Go (2013)

“It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through.”

I know. I KNOW. I was totally bashing Let It Go earlier. But have you actually paid to attention to the lyrics? This song is so ridiculously empowering that I could never deny my daughter the opportunity to listen to it. Let It Go encourages girls to break free from their restraints and create their own destiny.

Lauren Alaina – The Road Less Traveled (2015)

“So don’t hold it back and just run it,
Show what you got and just own it!”

The Road Less Traveled encourages girls to just be who they are and not to apologize for it.

Estelle – Do My Thing (2012)

“My road, it ain’t your road but trust I know just where I am going,
My flow it ain’t your flow, but trust I know, I know just how I’m flowing.”

Do My Thing is a girl power anthem, encouraging girls to embrace their individuality and uniqueness and declare their independence.

Grace VanderWaal – Clay (2016)

“I won’t mold to
Your silly words
I won’t live inside your world.”

Grace VanderWaal encourages girls to stand up to bullies in her song Clay. Barely just a teenager herself, Grace can really relate to what girls go through as they grow up.

Colbie Caillet – Try (2014)

“You don’t have to try so hard
You don’t have to, give it all away
You just have to get up, get up, get up, get up
You don’t have to change a single thing.”

Try contains a message of self-love for women, that we don’t have to try so hard, and that it’s enough to just be our natural selves. Societal pressures often make girls feel like they have to change themselves to be accepted and liked. Anyone who has ever felt insecure (and seriously, who hasn’t?) should listen to this song.

Christina Aguilera – Beautiful (2002)

“You are beautiful
No matter what they say,
Words can’t bring you down.”

Beautiful encourages girls to see their inner beauty and to ignore the hateful words that so often cause us to be insecure and lose our self-confidence.

Jewel – Hands (1998)

“If I could tell the world just one thing
It would be that we’re all ok
And not to worry because worry is wasteful
And useless in times like these.”

Hands encourages girls to stand up for what is right, because “in the end only kindness matters.” A girl’s hands might be small, but they have the power to change the world.

Jimmy Eat World – The Middle (2001)

“Live right now
Just be yourself
It doesn’t matter if that’s good enough for someone else.”

The Middle is a song that I hold dear to my own heart. It came out during my second year of college and there were days when I would listen to it on repeat, hoping the message would sink in. The Middle is about fitting in (or not fitting in) and reminds girls that they don’t have to be the same as other people to be liked or to be popular.

Anika Noni Rose – Almost There (2009)

“I remember Daddy told me, ‘Fairytales can come true
You gotta make ’em happen, it all depends on you.’”

Almost There, from Disney’s “The Princess and the Frog,” encourages girls to take their own destinies in hand and to continue working toward their dreams.

Des’ree – You Gotta Be (1994)

“Challenge what the future holds
Try and keep your head up to the sky.”

You Gotta Be is an anthem for girls, encouraging them to bold, be wise, be stronger. It might at times seem like your future is set and you have no choice as to the path you will take. Des’ree reminds girls that they have the power within themselves to challenge that path and create their own future.

Katy Perry – Roar (2013)

“You held me down, but I got up (hey!)
Already brushing off the dust
You hear my voice, your hear that sound
Like thunder, gonna shake your ground!”

I had a hard time choosing which Katy Perry song to add to this list. This isn’t because I especially love Katy Perry, but because so many of her songs are about female empowerment. I chose Roar because girls needs to hear, over and over again, that they do not have sit quietly and are allowed to raise their voices as loud as they need to in order to stand up for themselves and others.

I came across so many amazing songs for this list, and I wish I could have included them all. What songs would you add?

Want more great mom-approved songs to download? Check out this Family-Friendly MixTape and 90s Songs Your Kids Will Love Today. Enjoy!


Caroline is an Arizona native who moved to Iowa in 2007 ‘for love.’ She and her husband live in Coralville with their 8-year-old daughter. Caroline works full-time at the University of Iowa and recently earned her MA in Higher Education Administration. Caroline is a self-taught sewer, fabric hoarder, Starbucks lover, wannabe graphic designer, and avid reader. Her greatest aspirations are to raise a kind, strong, and fearless girl and have a clean house.


  1. When I was a newly married young woman back in the 60s, I depended upon Helen Reddy’s “I am Woman” to get me through many a difficult day. Actually I listed to it into the 70s and 80s, although not so often. Today I’m grateful to say I listen only for nostalgia’s sake.

  2. you are a singer too and I love the 70s and 80 songs because I don’t make 80s songs but i make I owns songs and i have a lot of then and i sing too and i love to sing and just let to what i make that are my own

  3. ok, let me start off by saying I’m 11 years old, okay? So, I would say the best songs that’ll take you back to 1900’s and early 2000’s! (BTW, i love these songs and my parents introduced me to them!)
    1. All the small things by Blink 182 (reminds me of my crush)
    2. It feels like we only go backwards by Tame Impala (a very relaxing song to help you think of the past)
    3. Tiny Dancer by Elton John (reminds me of ” I can’t wait to be king” in The lion king, which is actually a song made by Elton john.)
    4. Changes by David Bowie (a wonderful song in memory of him)
    5. I love rock’n’roll by Jon Jett (reminds woman you are strong)
    6. The suburbs by Arcade Fire (a song that’s kinda sad, makes you wanna dance a little, and a great karaoke song!)
    7. Love is a Battlefield by Pat Benatar (reminds you love is hard, but you can face it)
    8. I’m just a girl by No doubt (a classic kick-ass girl song)
    9. girls just wanna have fun by Cyndi Lauper ( Calling all girls! Girls rule, boys drool!)
    And finally 10. Living on a Prayer by bon jovi (remember “oh, we’re half way there”!)


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