Since 1927, TIME magazine has been naming a Man or Person of the Year. To mark International Women’s Day and the 100th anniversary of American women getting the right to vote, the publication has now compiled a list of the women who defined a century, choosing one woman per year from 1920 through 2019 — and some top female musicians made the cut.
Madonna, Beyoncé, Sinead O’Connor, and the late Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin are all included on the list, representing the years 1989, 2014, 1992 and 1968, respectively.
As TIME notes, in 1989, Madonna was already a superstar, but the release of Like a Prayer — as well as the title track’s controversial video — “marked Madonna [her] an artist in it for the long haul, one whose marriage of provocation and pop would inspire future generations to shape their careers in her image.”
As for Beyoncé, she was chosen for 2014 because she surprise-released her “visual album,” Beyoncé, in December of 2013 and it dominated the conversation the following year. As TIME notes, with that album’s song, “Flawless,” Beyoncé “explicitly claimed feminism for herself. …She may be pop, but she is also political.”
TIME says Aretha Franklin owned 1968 because the three albums she released that year were “a salve for a torn nation” grieving after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
As for Sinead O’Connor, 1992 was the year she tore up up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live.
“She was aware of the danger of criticizing a powerful entity like the church,” writes TIME. “She took that risk in order to publicly demand justice for children who were sexually abused…She remains an example of the power of provoking necessary, if unpopular, conversations — and the courage it takes to do so.”
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