Helen Reddy – I am Woman

First Hit #1: December 9, 1972

I Am Woman is a bit of an advocacy song, and that’s often not a particularly good genre. The reason is that that’s where subtlety goes to die, and lyrics that are a bit too on the nose and obvious often find difficulty holding up to repeat listening. So I was predisposed to be a bit down on I Am Woman, just because by its very nature it’s going to be a bit obvious. And yes, the feminist anthem certainly isn’t subtle, but it works, and the reason is it’s not just an advocacy song, but a full blown pop song.

That bit is important, because as a pop song it has an incredibly catchy chorus. Reddy has made a song that works because she knows how to construct a pop tune, and this one just happens to be about how great it is to be a woman. As a result, it does what only really Sly Stone managed to pull off before – make a song about an issue that also happens to be stupidly fun to sing along with. Even as a big bearded man I find myself wanting to join in with the “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman” parts. It doesn’t attempt to hide its message – it’s up front, center, and in your face – but it makes the message fun to listen to. That’s the only way a message song can work.

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