Mixtapes got me through high school. Now, they’re getting me through this brutally cold Brooklyn winter. The cassette’s been making a comeback. I even just overhead some teenagers talking about how they wanted cassette players so they could make mixtapes. Because they heard that’s cool. If I see those kids again, I’ll tell them to grab that thrift shop cassette player and push record on these feminist tracks to help get them through the cold winter days and long winter nights.
Track 1 > > > Sister Nancy, “Bam Bam”
A strong start is essential, and Sister Nancy delivers. She tells it like it is: “Sister Nancy she a one ina 3 million.” If you don’t already know and love her, this introduction is the finest winter gift you can get. And yes, you have heard her sampled by Lauryn Hill. You’ll never forget her name, because she says it a hundred times in every one of her songs. That’s one of many reasons to love Sister Nancy. When you’re done with this, check out “Gwan a School.”
Track 2 > > > Fever Ray, “When I Grow Up”
Now we leave the hot Jamaican sun for a witch’s cauldron disguised as an off-season swimming pool. Karin Dreijer Andersson’s decision to go solo as Fever Ray was brilliant and calls for more albums. Immediately.
Track 3 > > > X-Ray Spex, “Art-i-ficial”
It’s chilly London, circa 1978, and braces never looked so good. Poly Styrene sings this punk anthem 15 years before Riot Grrrl: “When I put on my make-up / The pretty little mask not me / That’s the way a girl should be / In a consumer society.”
Track 4 > > > Crass, “Beta Motel”
If anyone tells you that this year’s Super Bowl commercials were pretty radical, remind them that this is what Eve Libertine was singing in the 1970s. Nuff said.
Track 5 > > > Chavela Vargas, “La Llorona”
We can’t always escape the winter blues—sometimes we’ve got to dive deep in. So here’s the epic part of the mix, where shit gets real. Like wandering-the-riverside-in-search-of-your-drowned-children real. The myth of La Llorona is haunting. In short: she drowns her kids, can’t get into heaven, snatches up other kids by the riverside to substitute for her own—though there are as many versions of the story as there are recordings of this song. Nothing can melt the ice of winter like Chavela Vargas’ voice, and bam! you feel feelings again.
Track 6 > > > Kathleen Hanna, “I Wish I Was Him”
In case the feelings you’re feeling after “La Llorona” are leaving you a bit heavy, check out this next track: a lesser-known gem by Kathleen Hanna. I found it on an old mixtape, and yes, Kathleen seems to have been madly influenced by X-Ray Spex.
Track 7 > > > Erykah Badu, “Back in the Day”
This track might be worth having on repeat for a while. Might be worth pouring a glass of red wine. Might be worth getting out of those pjs after all. Might be worth listening to all of Worldwide Underground.
Track 8 > > > Robyn, “Dancing on My Own”
One time, I was driving around upstate New York by myself, craving human contact, and this song came on and I turned it way, way up and drove and wept and laughed like a maniac. That’s how winter feels sometimes, am I right?
Track 9 > > > Yaz, “Only You”
I grew up on Yaz. As a kid I always thought it was a dude singing. Gods bless the 80s and their androgyny. And thank gods for landing Alison Moyet and her glorious vocals on this mix, which was in need of at least one love song. If such a thing as a perfect track exists, it’s this.
Track 10 > > > Tori Amos, “Creep”
I love the transformation that occurs when Tori sings a song we’re used to hearing in a man’s voice. I was at a Tori show with my sister Laura and she leaned over and whispered, “Has Tori ever covered Creep? Cause that would be amazing.” Two minutes later, Tori played this. She took a song that makes me morbidly sad and turned it into a song that makes me way less morbidly sad. It’s a perfect choice for indulging the winter blues before shaking them off with our final track.
Track 11 > > > Beyoncé, “7/11”
She says she’s a feminist, and so it is so. She says she is fresher than you, and so it is so. This video reminds you of the joys of being stuck inside with yr girls.