5 empowering hair anthems for defying the haters

These songs explore how our roots contain our identities, confidence, and heritages. As Gaga poetically says, "I am my hair."

by André-Naquian Wheeler
23 June 2017, 5:25pm

i-D Hair Week is an exploration of how our hairstyles start conversations about identity, culture, and the times we live in.

Few things get the endorphins going like a good hair flip. Admit it, you've rocked out in your bedroom, hairbrush in hand, swishing your long locks (or imaginary ones) side to side, and felt like a bonafide diva/divo! That's why we've put together a playlist of hair anthems for the next time you need a confidence boost (or when your boo acts up and forgets they are not irreplaceable). Check out these 5 empowering hair songs to remind the haters, and, more importantly, yourself, who is boss.

Lady Gaga - "Hair"

Appearing on the experimental, high-concept album Born This Way, "Hair" is about finding acceptance, popularity, and identity through your locks. In the course of five minutes, the song explores the genres of 80s pop, dance, and new-wave jazz. It goes from a soaring Phil Collins-esque chorus with lyrics like, "This is my prayer/ that I die living just as free as my hair," then bangs out a robotic, EDM-heavy refrain "free as my ha-ha-ha-hair," and ends with Gaga screaming her lungs out on a jazz bridge (Clarence Thomas playing the saxophone), "I'm the spirit of my hair/ It's all the glory that I bear!" In short, the song is one big pouty, "You don't understand me, Mom and Dad!"

During the Born This Way-era, Gaga made her hair a focal point. She used colors like bubble-gum pink, teal, and gray to represent airy themes like innocence, metamorphosis, and rebirth. For example, the teal blue Gaga wore during an acoustic performance of "Hair" (above) is the same blue that's created during the process of bleaching your hair, representing the in-between phase of a major transition. Who knew hair could mean so much?

Willow Smith - "Whip My Hair"

At only ten-years-old Willow Smith released a banger filled with more confidence than you or I could ever hope to have. With a catchy chorus, heavy 808s, and Willow's impressively mature vocals, "Whip My Hair" is a club anthem that easily competes with Rihanna's and Beyonce's.

The song is all about brushing your shoulders off and forgetting about the haters. Acting as Willow's musical introduction to the world, she lets us know the song is only the beginning of her world domination, singing, "I'm gonna get more shine in a little bit/ Soon as I hit the stage, applause I'm hearing it." Well, seven years later and a major Chanel ad campaign, critically-lauded EPs, and a host of film roles under her belt, Willow's lived up to her promise.

Mario - "Braid My Hair"

This song is more of an ode to hairstylists than hair itself. Mario croons about the bond he shares with his hair braider, because don't we all fall in love with the people who make us look good? Mario turns the moment into a pretty sensual experience, singing, "Let your fingers do the walkin/ and your lips do the talkin in my ear." The song represents the intimacy that hair has the power to create, both with our significant others and the people who fashions our hair into reflections of who we are. Think about the vulnerable conversations that take place inside salon —our hair stylists acting as unlicensed therapists. There's a recurring image in black culture: a man sitting on the stoops of his apartment as his "girl" braids his hair. It represents a casual closeness, letting only the people you love and trust fashion your appearance and identity.  

(Surprisingly, this is not the only sexual ode to hair braiders out there. Check out R.Kelly's NSFW track, "Hair Braider.")

Solange - "Don't Touch My Hair"

Every black person has been there, someone looking at your hair with an infuriating look of puzzlement and asking, "Can I touch your hair?" It's a moment that turns black identities and physical qualities into something "alien."

Well, Solange waves away those problematic hands with, "You know this hair is my shit/ Rolled the rod, I gave it time/ But this here is mine."

The tracks features Sampha and crescendos into the soul-filling, gospel-inspired refrain, "What you say to me?"— bluntly challenging the host of microaggressions blacks endure each day.

Solange has been a great advocate for black women and their hair. For years the singer rocked her hair in a voluminous afro, helping scores of women see how glamorous and beautiful their natural hair can be. But Solange is the first to admit how she choses to fashion her hair should not dictate how all black women should style theirs. ""I NEVER PAINTED MYSELF AS A TEAM NATURAL VICE PRESIDENT," Solange tweeted after she felt the media was spending too much attention on her. Perhaps "Don't Touch My Hair," is less an attention-call to black women's hair and more of a plea to just stop worrying about it so much... 

"Don't Touch My Hair" could not have come at a better time. With the Black Lives Matter movement roaring, paired with the repeated setbacks and disappointments regarding justice for victims like Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, a song that both celebrated blackness and salved the community's pain was needed.

India.Arie - "I Am Not My Hair"

Well, as much as we've written about how hair is connected to identity this week, it's not the be all, end all of who we are. This is what India.Arie reminds us in the saccharine ballad, "I Am Not My Hair," calling for others to not conjure up negative prejudgments and biases about people based on their outward appearance.

Black females are frequent victims of these prejudices. As India sings, "Had 'em give me lil' twist and it drove 'em crazy (crazy)/ Then I couldn't get no job/ 'Cause corporate wouldn't hire no dreadlocks." India tracks her convoluted hair journey for us in the song, reminiscing on her first relaxer at thirteen. Eventually, she decided to do away with chemically processing her hair and go natural after it was severely damaged. "I was the source of so much laughter/ At fifteen when it all broke off/ Eighteen and went all natural."

"I Am Not My Hair" is a bird song for freedom. The freedom for black people to wear their hair anyway and do away the notion of "good hair" and "bad hair." And that's a message we very much support.  


Text André-Naquian Wheeler
Screenshot via Youtube

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