In honor of PAPER's Spring Transformation cover featuring Katy Perry — a prolific songwriter as well as performer, who has written for peers including Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj, and Iggy Azalea — we asked veteran songwriter Sarah Hudson to curate a portfolio of the womxn hitmakers you should know.
"I'm tough, ambitious and I know exactly what I want. If that makes me a bitch, Okay." – Madonna
"Women have been oppressed, ignored, underrated, and denied opportunity in the music industry since it began. But I feel the shift. I hear the voices of women getting louder, the energy of the goddess growing stronger and the demand for women's creativity becoming more and more evident. Women are so intuitive, resourceful and complex, that it's no wonder men have feared us stepping into our power for so long. But we are here and we have a voice.
Being in the music industry, it is imperative that women's voices are heard, because some of the most talented, poetic and prolific artists, writers and producers that I know are women. I wish I could highlight every single talented woman working in the music industry today in this article, but this portfolio would be closer to a novel. I chose these 15 women, not only because they are my friends and favorite co-writers, but because they are also beautiful souls with incredible perspectives and stories to tell.
Related | Katy Perry: Outside the Box
Each and every one of these women has fierce talent, undying tenacity and a vigorous ability to shine bright through the shades of a male dominated music industry. You know their songs, and I would love for you to get to know them a little better, as they change the world with their lyrics and melodies.
I hope we can stand together as a sisterhood, fight for equality, stand our ground on what we believe in, never compromise our artistic integrity for anyone... and as the queen says, if that makes us bitches, then okay... let's take the fuck over, bitches! — Sarah Hudson
Known for: "Heat" by Kelly Clarkson, "I Don't Think About You" by Kelly Clarkson, "Love Me Down" by Britney Spears, "Run My Mouth" by Ella Mai, "Secret (Shh)" by Charli XCX
Why were you drawn to songwriting?
Since I was a little kid, I've processed life through songs and the feelings they give me. Songwriting captured a part of my spirit that no other communication could. Telling stories through song is so healing, soulful, happy, sad and everything in between. It's what makes me feel understood.
What are the best and worst things about being a songwriter?
By far, the best thing is the connection you share with both yourself and listeners. Also, the process of being in the studio and healing yourself through your music is one that particularly stuck with me this year. The worst thing about songwriting would have to be the uncertainty. It's not a straight path in the least, and that sometimes can really be frustrating. You never know where a song will end up, if and when it will come out. Patience has been a huge lesson for me... still working on that one.
Do you write music for yourself? If not, have you ever considered pursuing a solo career?
I have been! I recently signed a record deal with Roc Nation, which is an absolute dream come true. I've got a single coming out end of March or early April, and then an EP to follow. I can't wait!
What's the biggest hit you've ever written?
I'd have to say "Heat" off of Kelly Clarkson's latest album. The album just got nominated for Best Pop Vocal Album for this year's Grammys, so I'm so grateful to be a part of it.
What's your favorite song you've ever written?
It changes all the time, but right now it's on my upcoming EP so you will have to stay posted to hear it!
Who are your favorite female songwriters?
Sarah Hudson is one of my favorites for so many reasons. Her writing is genuine and special, and she is a powerful woman who empowers and inspires the women around her. She is a gem. I also love Whitney Phillips. I've had some of my favorites sessions with her and she is one to watch for sure!
Why do you think it's important that women write songs and not just sing them?
We are the stories we tell. The more honest we are, the more space there is for compassion and understanding. I think that women have so many important ideas to share and through music it makes it more possible to be heard.
What do you think it will take to change the gender disparity behind the scenes in the music industry?
I think the conversations being had and women not caving in when it comes to standing for what is fair. People are more and more aware now, and I feel like a sisterhood is forming amongst women in music. I think the evolution of women coming out as producers in the studio is happening which will also contribute to a more fair environment.
(Photo via Harloe)
Edited by Jael Goldfine, Michael Love Michael and Justin Moran