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Empowerment playlist: 16 rousing songs by Beyoncé, Lady Gaga, and more

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Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP; Scott Legato/Getty Images; Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

To celebrate Kesha’s triumphant new single “Praying,” the EW staff rounded up their go-to songs for a burst of empowerment. Check out our picks — ranging from Beyoncé’s “Run the World (Girls)” to the Cheetah Girls’ “Cinderella” to Sia’s “Never Give Up” — and listen along below.

“Still I Rise,” Nicki Minaj
They say don’t ever read the comments, but on this old-school Nicki Minaj cut — from her 2008 mixtape, Beam Me Up Scotty — she doesn’t just read them; she devotes the whole song to them, cataloguing every slight made against her in the early days of her career and vowing to press on, haters be damned. The success she’s had in the ensuing decade doesn’t take away from the power of lines like, “Nothing I do ever is good enough for the music biz/Still I rise.” —Nolan Feeney

“Run the World (Girls),” Beyoncé
There’s a reason why Beyonce’s unapologetic anthem to the power of femininity has been covered again and again and again — and even played before NASA’s final space shuttle launch in 2011 (yup, you read that right): With “Run the World (Girls),” Queen B fired the message of female empowerment (musically and literally!) into the stratosphere with her confident vocals, pulse-pounding beat, and most of all, that unforgettable, made-for-bellowing refrain that it’s girls — and girls only — who run this motherf——. —Shirley Li

“Kill V. Maim,” Grimes
Grimes wanted to make an aggressive song she could dance to — and that could soundtrack the trailer for a fictional Godfather-Twilight crossover. On “Kill V. Maim,” she did all of those things, and more: The Art Angels cut is a triumph in contrasts, with a cheerleader-inspired chorus following lines she full-on screams and ironic lyrics that challenge gender roles like, “I’m only a man/And I do what I can.” Devoid of any explicit lyrics about overcoming struggle, the irresistibly chaotic and playfully rebellious “Kill V. Maim” isn’t your typical anthem; its power instead comes from its take-no-s— attitude and refusal to, well, B-E-H-A-V-E. —Ariana Bacle

“Million Reasons,” Lady Gaga
While the Americana-inspired sounds of Joanne loosened the Grammy winner’s grip on her tried-and-true brand of electronic pop, this country-influenced ballad — Gaga’s first top 10 hit in nearly four years – served as an inspirational throwback to her roots as a powerhouse vocalist. Oozing with a searing blend of spiritual optimism and sonic confidence, “Million Reasons” serves as a beacon of hope, not only showcasing its creator’s impassioned dedication to the craft, but also proving daring career moves are possible for any headstrong women willing to take a chance. —Joey Nolfi

“Don’t Be So Hard On Yourself,” Jess Glynne
Any girl who’s gone through a tough breakup knows the pain comes in waves. In Glynne’s DBSHOY, she walks in with a broken heart that she keeps to herself (because females are strong as hell), but upon realizing she’s losing herself in the darkness that’s engulfing her, she decides to just give herself a break. From there out, it becomes a song about healing, not hurting. Any track that addresses the female tendency for self-blame and offers a way to correct that is worthy of empowerment anthem status — and chances are, you were right and he was wrong anyway. —Ruth Kinane

“Cinderella,” The Cheetah Girls
No one talks about the Cheetah Girls nearly enough, and when I first heard “Cinderella” as an 8-year-old, it changed the game for me. “I’d rather rescue myself” was such an important line for young girls to hear when they’re being fed the idea of needing to be rescued by Prince Charming. Hi, hello, you don’t need to be, and I thank the Cheetah Girls for being the first to tell me that. Also, it’s a banger. —Sarah Weldon

“Don’t Hold Your Breath,” Nicole Scherzinger
Overly dramatic (“You could kill someone”), Nicole Scherzinger’s harsh send-off might veer too far into victim territory to capture the heartbreak of every split, but once that explosive chorus kicks in (“If you think I’m coming back, don’t hold your breath”), you feel like you can do anything in the world, especially if you’re on the treadmill. —Nick Maslow

“Me,” Kina
During the summer of 2000 — just before my senior year of college — I was an intern at MTV and Kina came to perform for the staff. I can still picture sitting in the back of the room as she performed her song “Me,” and I got a little emotional. She was so fierce and strong, and just listening to the track made me feel the same. Seventeen years later, it’s still one of my favorite pump-up tracks. “I’m just me, I’m enough. Nothing less, nothing more.” —Breanne L. Heldman

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“Never Give Up,” Sia
Picture this: You’re sweating buckets after being on the elliptical for 30 minutes, but you need to get to 45 to burn off the ham and cheese croissant you had that morning. What is going to help you power through? Sia’s promotional single for the Oscar-nominated Lion. The sitar-flourished anthem builds and hits hard on the third chorus with Sia’s amped-up descant harmony, rousing enough to help you finish your yearly workout. —Eric King

“Not Ready to Make Nice,” the Dixie Chicks
When the Dixie Chicks received death threats telling them to “shut up and sing” in the wake of their criticism of President George W. Bush, they could have been contrite. Instead, they came roaring back with “Not Ready to Make Nice” off their 2006 album Taking the Long Way (and a provocative 2003 EW cover). The lyrics, which specifically indict some of the Chicks’ detractors, are the perfect bible for anyone possessed by righteous anger. “I’m not ready to make nice/I’m not ready to back down,” they sing. “They say time heals everything, but I’m still waiting.” Sometimes we don’t need time, we just need to channel our frustration into something great (like a three-time Grammy-winning track). —Maureen Lenker

“Fighter,” Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera’s Stripped came out when I was in middle school, which is to say that I needed an anthem. And “Fighter” delivered that in every way, from Christina’s infectious confidence to the lyrics themselves. This was a song about taking something negative, learning from it, and ultimately, it making you stronger. And it delivered that message with some serious attitude. What more could I want out of an anthem? —Samantha Highfill

“Princess,” FLETCHER
The real-life struggles of some of FLETCHER’s friends inspired this track, which touches on issues such as homophobia and body image. It’s a grittier alternative to the rosy, good-vibes-only kind of empowerment messages also found in pop. “I’m definitely uncomfortable with vulnerability,” FLETCHER told EW earlier this year. “It’s something that I’ve struggled with, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve been able to talk about what I’m going through and be like, ‘It’s okay to show people how you feel or that maybe you need help.’” —N.F.

“Don’t Kill My Vibe,” Sigrid
Instead of wallowing after a disastrous studio session with a mean, belittling songwriter, the 20-year-old Norwegian singer channeled her frustrations into this thrillingly satisfying eff-you, which made EW’s list of the best songs of 2017 (so far). “This song for me is mostly about how I didn’t have the nerve to speak up for myself,” Sigrid told EW earlier this year. “I should have said, ‘You can’t talk to someone in that way, you’re not treating me like I should’ … I just powered through those two days. I think that’s why I wanted to write this song: I wanted to get it out.” —N.F.

“Shine,” LOLO
The Broadway-groomed singer — who performed on The Bachelor earlier this year — originally tried to give this song about overcoming a deep depression to Kelly Clarkson. “‘The only person who can help you is yourself’ — that’s a statement we’ve all heard,” LOLO told EW. “But until you really have to apply that in a way that’s challenging for you, it just doesn’t make any sense. And for me, the result of that moment was this song. I realized the only way I could rise above [my depression] was to work hard, put one foot in front of the other, and figure out how to put the pieces back together.” —N.F.

“I’m a Survivor,” Reba McEntire
A version of this song was used for McEntire’s eponymous sitcom, and it really doesn’t do the song justice. The narrative follows a woman who, after her partner takes off, leaves her to be a single mom — but she knows she can persevere because she’s survived worse things, including being born prematurely. “A single mom who works two jobs, who loves her kids and never stops, with gentle hands and the heart of a fighter. I’m a survivor.” —E.K.

“Devil Inside,” Utada
She’s one of the top-selling Japanese artists in history, though Utada’s universally appealing pop masterpieces haven’t broken out in North America just yet. With her 2004 stateside launch, Exodus, she bridged the sonic divide between Eastern and Western styles, however, enlisting the help of producers like Timbaland and Danja to mold futuristic beats around her charmingly idiosyncratic lyrics. Throbbing album opener “Devil Inside” declares the bold, proper English-language arrival of a global superstar ready to pounce. “You don’t know ’cause you’re too busy reading labels/You’re missing all the action underneath my table,” she speak-sings over a menagerie of shamisen strings and video game beeps before embracing her devilishly daring inner demon on the track’s explosive chorus. —J.N.