My novel Beast Mom follows an Oregon mom, Harriet “Harry” Lime, as she discovers what happens when she lets herself become angry. (Hint: She turns into a giant monster.) I hope the book raises interesting questions for readers—questions that tie into the songs on this playlist. For example: Why are so many women so angry right now? How do we treat a woman when she becomes visibly, publicly angry, and why is that the case? Do you agree with Harry that American women are treated differently from men, in a way that is detrimental? And if not, why do you doubt her word on this?
All the Trouble
Lee Ann Womack
Womack’s soulful, ominous insistence that she’s had enough—singing repeatedly that she “just don’t want no more”—reminds me of my protagonist, Harry: a woman on the verge of losing her s#!t, thanks to certain miring circumstances in her life.
That’s Not My Name
The Ting Tings
I like to imagine Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver doing his famous “You talking’ to me?!” lines in the same sweet, placating manner that Katie White of The Ting Tings sings “Are you callin’ me darlin’? Are you callin’ me bird?” Because really—why do women have to use gentle tones and words when they push back on something, but men are celebrated for speaking aggressively, even to the point of sociopathy?
Top Knot Turn Up
In Beast Mom, Harry shoulders more household responsibilities than her husband Theo does, and it causes tension in their marriage. In this song, a diverse group of women celebrate how successfully they’re able to do the work necessary to get things done—which is great, as long as we’re also working toward an equitable division of home labor!
There is so much unapologetic swagger in this song, I couldn’t possibly omit it form this list. In Beast Mom, Harry eventually reaches a point where she has a declining amount of f*cks to offer the world, and this song might as well be the soundtrack for those scenes.
Let’s Get Loud
The beat here is infectious as JLo dares us in the funnest possible terms to go our own way in life, consequences be damned. It’s also the rare song in which a woman demands that her listeners—lots and lots of other women—turn up their volume, which I love.
Santigold didn’t have kids yet when she recorded Creator, but I like reimagining this song from the perspective of a mom. Why shouldn’t we brag about our life-giving capabilities? The characters in my book Beast Mom certainly gain a lot of power from the parts of themselves that have to do with creation.
(May not be the official YouTube posting of the video)
Army of Me
“You’re alright. There’s nothing wrong. Self-sufficiency.” Army of Me reminds me of how some American leaders suggest—disingenuously, and even hypocritically—that we’re meant to “suck it up” and never ask for things to be “handed to us.” But anyone with common sense knows that in a society that claims to care about the pursuits of individuals—happiness, anyone?—certain things require a collective response.
Queen & David Bowie
“Love dares you to care for the people on the edge of the night.” To my ear, Bowie and Mercury are singing about the importance of actively caring about others, about community, about not turning a blind eye to those in need. One of the the themes in Beast Mom is that we all need to spend more time together, face to face, and not only with our loved ones but those with whom we disagree, too.
(May not be the official YouTube posting of the video)
Swift’s brooding lyrics point to some of the traps that lie in wait for women whenever our emotions are invoked. “No one likes a mad woman,” Swift sings, where “mad” could mean either angry or crazy or both. So instead of expressing our anger, we suffer from the constant repression of it—which only metastasizes the emotion further—and the cycle continues.
Not Ready to Make Nice
This barn burner of a song is a validation of anger, discord, and protest as appropriate reactions to cruelty. It assures listeners that we (we being women, in the case of Beast Mom) don’t have to bow to pressure to lighten-up our tone, to “kiss and make up,” or to “take the high road.” Because sometimes, as the journalist Rebecca Traister says in her book Good and Mad, “Being mad is correct.”
“Somehow the wires uncrossed, the tables were turned…I’ve changed for good.” In Beast Mom, Harry struggles with the fact that she’s come to enjoy being a monster and having that raw power. I think lots of women struggle with embracing big emotions—or the idea that they have power and that they can use it—fearing there will be a negative fallout in their lives if they do.
“Got my own mind. I want to make my own decisions. When it has to do with my life, my life, I wanna be the one in control.” I think women fundamentally want the opportunity to live their lives as they see fit, and with the same opportunities as anyone else.
Kim Imas received degrees in engineering and urban planning, from Duke and Harvard respectively, before pursuing a career as a writer. Her work appeared in Boston Magazine and The Boston Globe Magazine before she turned to long-form fiction. Her first novel, a romance, was initially published under a pen name and earned praise from Publishers Weekly for its “smooth prose and witty dialogue.” A former Oregonian, Kim now lives with her family outside New York and tries to do in novels what Dolly Parton does in song: deliver stories of women’s struggles in a way that’s too damn delightful to ignore.