Burn It Down: A Playlist for Angry Women

Music to accompany the anthology

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A playlist is very much like an anthology ? a collection of different artists, each with their own unique sound and vision, coming together to create something new. The combination creates its own power. When I was soliciting and editing work for my anthology, Burn It Down: Women Writing About Anger, it was important to me to have a range of different kinds of essays ? I didn?t want to push any of these writers into a specific form but wanted them to write their anger in the way that felt most natural to them. The voices and styles in the book range as widely as the topics and the backgrounds of the writers ? but they all work together. They flow into one another like a Beyonc song can flow into a PJ Harvey song on a good playlist.

I asked each Burn It Down contributor to choose a song to accompany their essay, and say a little bit about why they picked the song they did. Check out their selections below, and listen to the whole playlist here. If you like what you hear, check out Burn It Down here!

Burn It Down, a playlist by Lilly Dancyger on Spotify


Face Up and Sing ? Ani DiFranco

Selected by Leslie Jamison, for her essay ?Lungs Full of Burning?

I remember hearing Face Up and Sing for the first time as a shy teenage girl who smiled all the time and said sorry all the time because I felt like I had to apologize for taking up room in this world ? for even existing in this world ? and spent much of my life chasing various kinds of male approval. I loved that this song was about beauty and anger at once, and I felt simultaneously inspired and chastised by it. When Ani (and we were already on a first-name basis, obviously) sang:

it?s nice that you listen

it?d be nicer if you joined in

as long as you play their game girl

you?re never going to win

It made me aware of the ways I was still playing their game, but also made me catch a glimpse of a version of myself ? somewhere on the distant horizon ? who didn?t have to play it anymore.

Bravebird ? Amel Larrieux

Selected by Monet P. Thomas, for her essay, ?The One Thing Black Women Are Free to Explore?

?Brave Bird? is a song about a secret event that happens to a group of women that causes them to feel shame. But one girl escapes. I hope my essay will help young Black women find their courage and express their righteous anger.

Marry the Night ? Lady Gaga

Selected by Lisa Marie Basile, for her essay, ?My Body Is a Sickness Called Anger?

To me the night is intense emotion, anger, darkness, sorrow. It?s all the feelings and truths we fight against, that we hide and repress. But what happens when we lean into the shadow, as Jung would call it? What happens when we give in and open the abyss? I think we discover who we are and give validity to our many layers. Living with a chronic illness forces you to lean into your reality, even the harsh realities, of pain and exhaustion. There is so much forced (and false) positivity out there ? but we need to balance the day and night, the quiet and the spoken, the constantly repressed and the truth.

Feels Blind ? Bikini Kill

Selected by Melissa Febos, for her essay, ?Rebel Girl?

?Feels Blind? is the first Bikini Kill song that I ever heard and it plays an important part in my essay, ?Rebel Girl.? For one day at summer camp as a teen, I was in a cover band and got to scream Kathleen Hanna?s lyrics into a microphone and it was the first day I had words for the what and why of my own anger.

Precious Things ? Tori Amos

Selected by Marissa Korbel, for her essay, ?Why We Cry When We?re Angry?

I can still remember the first time I heard Precious Things; the song spoke to me immediately. I loved the beautiful sound of the piano furiously pounding under her fingers. That opening still makes my fists clench every time I hear it. Wrapped inside that raging heartbeat are lyrics full of longing. My essay attempts to capture that pull between polarities: rage and longing, tears and fury. In the piece, I explore crying as a rage language, asking what purposes tears can serve. Inside my fury, there?s a girl-me, and Tori always sings her back to life.

Lined Lips and Spiked Bats ? G.L.O.S.S.

Selected by Samantha Riedel, for her essay, ?On Transfeminine Anger?

When Sadie Switchblade screams, so does my heart. G.L.O.S.S., or ?Girls Living Outside Society?s Shit,? may have been a short-lived project, but the uniquely trans hardcore sounds they captured in their time together tapped into the hidden pain and anger of thousands of transfems, including me. ?They told us to die, we chose to live? is one of my mantras for life, and when Sadie tells us that ?bad girls have each other?s backs,? I?m reminded of the true bonds I share with my sisters. Try and start something. We dare you.

Don?t Hurt Yourself ? Beyonc

Selected by Evette Dionne, for her essay, ?Unbought and Unbossed?

For a long time, I was unable to locate my anger or identify with other women who were rightfully angry about an array of different issues impacting them, including racism, sexism, and just plain old mistreatment. Based on the trajectory of Beyonc?s music and career, it would seem that she was slow to anger as well, but ?Don?t Hurt Yourself ? is her boiling point. She is bold, ferocious, and angry in a way that encouraged me to continue tapping into and wielding my own anger. You cannot play me without playing yourself.

Rid of Me ? PJ Harvey

Selected by Erin Khar, for her essay, ?Guilty?

Anger was a thing I, like so many women, ran from for the first 2/3 of my life. I sublimated anger into guilt. If I owned all the guilt, I kept control. If I never showed anger, it would prove you couldn?t hurt me, couldn?t touch me. But my need to control put me out of control, with drugs, with sex, with emotional intimacy.

PJ Harvey?s Rid of Me reminds me of the person I used to be, the one who was out of control, the one you wish you?d never met. The song starts out low; she?s practically whispering. It ramps up and explodes and becomes loud and undeniable, just the way my anger inevitably did. It?s a song that still stirs me and I listened to it a lot while writing this piece.

The Body is A Blade ? Japanese Breakfast

Selected by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan, for her essay, ?Hangry Women?

Michelle Zauner wrote this song in response to her mother?s death. It?s about how the body continues in the face of loss. The line ? Your body is blade that cuts a path from day to day ascribes the body a violence it uses to keep going when the mind doesn?t want to. My essay is about the way women are taught to fight their bodies and how our bodies fight back as they attempt to keep us alive and full. And so this song filled with sadness and hope felt just right.

Down by the Water ? PJ Harvey

Selected by Rios de la Luz, for her essay, ?Enojada?

PJ Harvey showed up in my life when I was 17. I was unsure and confused about a lot of things, but her voice and this particular song made me want to exude a haunting presence.

She?s a Bitch ? Missy Elliot

Selected by Nina St. Pierre, for her essay, ?A Girl, Dancing?

Dance was my first love. But as I came into the teen year and shit got real heavy at home, I fell away from dance and into other ways of using my body. Boys, booze, drugs. Basically, I didn?t give a fuck and went from being a straight-A student to barely graduating high school. During this spiral, adults around me made many assumptions: That I was being a drama queen, a dropout, a diva, a bitch. While, inside I was drowning. Not only did we bump Missy Elliot?s albums during all those late ?90s parties in the woods, but the way Elliot claimed space for her unique brand of creative expression and dance reignited something in me. No I was not just a diva or a bitch, but so what if I was? In ?She?s a Bitch,? Elliot doesn?t ask who has the power. She simply takes it.

Girl on Fire ? Alicia Keys

Selected by Reema Zaman, for her essay, ?My Name and My Voice?

This song is one of my favorites. It?s an anthem that epitomizes rising from disempowerment to reclaim one?s full breadth of voice, which is central to my essay.

Daredevil ? Fiona Apple

Selected by Marisa Siegel, for her essay, ?Inherited Anger?

When Fiona Apple released her first album, Tidal, I?d just turned 13. I?d been aware of my father?s cocaine addiction for five years, and was three years away from the incident I write about in ?Inherited Anger? that led to cutting him out of my life completely. I remember how I?d lay after school on my bedroom carpet, ear to my Sony boom box, and listen to Fiona sing her ? and my ? anger. ?Daredevil? wouldn?t be released for more than a decade, but its lyrics speak directly to the angry teenager I was then (?I guess I just must be a daredevil / I don?t feel anything until I smash it up?) and the adult woman I am now, who?s learned to harness her anger and make it useful (?Say I?m an airplane / And the gashes I got from my heartbreak / Make the slots and the flaps upon my wing / And I use them to give me lip?).

Killing in the Name of ? Rage Against the Machine

Selected by Dani Boss, for her essay, ?On the Back Burner?

The first time I heard this song, I felt like I had been introduced to an anthem for the defiance I?ve felt since I was thirteen. When my favorite refrain begins (fuck you/I won?t do what you tell me), I travel from suppression to expression. It begins in a whisper, and as the lead singer repeats it, he gets louder until he?s screaming. This escalation mimics my increasing rage and is emblematic of the collective voices of women beginning to unfurl their anger.

TKO ? Le Tigre

Selected by Meredith Talusan, for her essay, ?Basic Math?

Le Tigre?s ?TKO? is one of those wonderful revenge anthems that just happens to be sung by my favorite band from the early 2000?s, which was when the events surrounding my essay, ?Basic Math? happened. I wish I?d had the confidence then to tell the man who undermined me, ?I say my piece / And when it?s over, you?ll be on your knees,? and to inform him that someday he?ll read about me at the Barnes and Noble. But I guess it?s even better that this has actually turned out to be true.

Control ? Janet Jackson

Selected by Shaheen Pasha, for her essay, ?The Color of Being Muslim?

Aside from the fact that I love Janet Jackson as an artist and performer, growing up, I didn?t have much say or control over how I behaved, how I dressed and how I even thought due to the strict norms of my Pakistani Muslim-American community. The song resonated with me when I was a kid because I thought I would never know what it would feel like to be in charge of my own self. It wasn?t until I finally embraced my anger and my desires that I truly took control of my life. It?s the perfect song to bring my voice out.

Us ? Ruby Ibarra

Selected by Lisa Factora-Borchers, for her essay, ?Homegrown Anger?

Ruby Ibarra?s ?Us? is a rap song about the Filipina American experience, which hits the underbelly of my essay about growing up in an immigrant family as a first generation American in the midwest. It mixes dialects and the lyrics activate the memory of my ancestry ? of all the strong women who came before me and who I carry with me. It?s celebratory, meditative, and unapologetic about the legacy of resistance and strength that I inherited.

Pages ? Stephanie Rice

Selected by Sheryl Ring, for her essay, ?Crimes Against the Soul?

Pages is about how spiritual books can be turned into weapons. For me, it describes the uneasy relationship I still have with my faith given how it has been weaponized, and how I can assert my independence from it.

Love Yourself ? Rome Fortune + Toro y Moi

Selected by Minda Honey, for her essay, ?For Women Who Grew Up on Eggshells?

This is a song about choosing yourself, but also about encouraging the other person to focus on loving themselves more so they can grow as a person and be better toward you. I found this that this was the key to moving past the residual anger I was harboring for my father.

Be More Kind ? Frank Turner

Selected by Megan Stielstra, for her essay, ?No More Room for Fear?

My whole heart is for women who sing rage: PJ Harvey, Sleater-Kinney, Sinead yelling, ?I?d kill a dragon for youuuuu.? That said, my essay in Burn It Down is about trying to explain my anger, specifically about gun violence in this country, to a child. The first verse in ?Be More Kind? is everything I want to say to my son: this is awful and confusing and sad but there are things we can do to make it better, even when we?re small.

Brighter ? Paramore

Selected by Keah Brown, for her essay, ?Going to War with Myself?

This song is an ode to hope. I believe my essay is as well. For me, there is hope in allowing yourself to be angry. I know that now. So, when I allow myself to feel my full range of emotions, including anger, I do shine brighter.

This Feeling ? Alabama Shakes

Selected by Anna Fitzpatrick, for her essay, ?So Now What??

It?s a pretty mellow song, but it speaks to acknowledging and accepting emotional ambiguity. I think of it as a kind of calm after the storm. And yes, I fell in love with it after watching the second season of Fleabag.

Listen to the full playlist here:

Burn It Down, a playlist by Lilly Dancyger on Spotify

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