"Run the World (Girls)" may mark the first time Beyoncé has ever assembled an actual army of ladies to stage a pop-culture gender coup, but she's always claimed a powerful position for girls with her music. Bey's been on a girl-power trip for a long time, from Destiny's Child's strong sister anthems (see "Bills, Bills, Bills" and "Independent Women Pt. 1") to the tables-turning "Suga Mama," from the "A Milli" answer song "Diva" to the Fosse-fied kiss-off "Single Ladies." As fiercely original as they are, however, those female-focused cuts are also steeped in a long history of girl-power pop: mainstream-friendly tunes that make you wiggle your booty and maybe think critically about what it means to do so.
No, girl-power pop doesn't shy away from any of the words in its name. In the hands of these fabulous females, girlishness is an asset and a weapon, especially when perfectly paired with a killer hook and a dance beat. Not everyone below would consider herself a feminist or even a political artist, but each album here offers up a commanding female presence and a towering example of stellar pop artistry. Click on through to read about and listen to the girls who ran the world before Queen B came along.