It’s a great time for women in music. Gone are the days of fiascos like Britney Spears’ alleged exploitation by her manager, or Mariah Carey’s failed marriage to label executive Tommy Mottola. The female artists ruling today’s music scene definitely have their heads on straight.
To commemorate Katy Perry’s latest single, the empowerment anthem “Roar,” which was released today, here are five amazing women in music who took charge of their careers.
1. Katy Perry
With a head for business and a body for sin, Katy Perry has built herself a candy-coated empire. The “Part of Me” singer took home a cool $44 million last year.
Known for her signature combination of sex appeal and strong songwriting, Perry isn’t afraid to take risks, like investing $2 million of her own money into her concert film, Katy Perry: Part of Me. "My frugal business manager, God bless him, was sweating," Perry said in an interview with the Hollywood Reporter. "And I was like, 'Please trust me.' That’s kind of been the mantra I’ve said to everyone my whole life: 'Trust me, I have a vision.'"
Before she hit it big with 2008’s One of the Boys, Perry followed that vision to Los Angeles at the age of 15. She spent time on three different record labels, becoming more and more discouraged. “But I never took no for an answer and really believed in myself,” Perry told Glamour magazine.
After years of trying to break into the music business, Perry signed with EMI’s Capitol records in 2007. “I Kissed a Girl” hit airwaves the next summer, and the rest is history.
2. Taylor Swift
A country darling turned pop superstar, Taylor Swift walked away from a development deal with RCA Records at the tender age of 13. Among other reasons, Swift left because the label wanted her to record other people’s songs.
“I wanted there to be something that set me apart. And I knew that had to be my writing,” Swift told Entertainment Weekly in 2007.
The seven-time Grammy winner rose to fame through her songwriting, hard work, and attention to detail. The 23-year-old Swift is involved with planning each aspect of her career down to album artwork, tour production, and, of course, every line in a song. Executives at RCA are likely still kicking themselves for letting her walk away.
The chameleon star of pop music, the 25-year-old singer from Barbados has gone through several transformations over her career, and has produced seven hit records so far.
Rihanna’s first big transformation came in 2007, when she chopped off her beachy waves for a short black bob, in advance of shooting album artwork for her third album, Good Girl Gone Bad.
“This change was just really an expression of how I’m feeling right now — in my life and in my career,” she said in an interview. “I felt like I had enough of being forced into a particular image and sound, that’s why I call the album Good Girl Gone Bad, because I really didn’t care anymore. I just wanted to do what I wanted to do, and this is who I am now.”
4. Zooey Deschanel
Actress-turned-singer Zooey Deschanel has a penchant for pretty dresses, and has been accused of being a real-life manic pixie dream girl, but Deschanel is insistently and simply herself. As half of the indie-folk duo She & Him, Deschanel’s retro sound matches her 1960s style, but the 33-year-old is definitely an original.
“I’m just being myself,” she said in a recent interview with Glamour magazine. “There is not an ounce of me that believes any of that crap that they say. We can’t be feminine and be feminists and be successful? I want to be a f--king feminist and wear a f--king Peter Pan collar. So f--king what?”
The (500) Days of Summer actress pens She & Him’s songs, which are then arranged by M. Ward. The two have collaborated on three albums to date, releasing Volume Three earlier this year.
5. Kelly Clarkson
The original American Idol, Kelly Clarkson has had to stand her creative ground more than once during her career. She was allegedly bullied by producer Clive Davis during the creative process for Breakaway, Clarkson’s second, and very personal album.
The “Since U Been Gone” singer played an original for Davis called “Because of You.” The song, which has since become a radio staple, was an intensely personal ballad that Davis scorned on first hearing.
“He hated ['Because of You'] and told me verbatim that I was a ‘sh*tty writer who should be grateful for the gifts that he bestows upon me,’ Clarkson said. “But I continued to fight for the song and the label relented. And it became a worldwide hit.”
Clarkson went to bat for her artistic privileges again in 2007 when she fought for the release of her third album, My December. Penned while she was going through a difficult time, the record was much darker than her earlier work, and contained Clarkson’s most honest writing yet.
"That was one of the label's things; they were like, 'It's just too negative,'" Clarkson told Entertainment Weekly. I'm like, 'Well, I'm sorry I've inconvenienced you with my life.' No, it doesn't say, 'I'm happy, I'm with a boy, and having so much fun.' But it's reality."
Never one for the public eye, Clarkson has kept a low media profile and still maintained a strong career. She released a greatest-hits compilation in November that spawned the hit singles “Catch My Breath” and “People Like Us.”