The Cool Girls Revolutionizing Music

Lo-fi indie, psych pop, bedroom R&B, avant-garde electronica—there’s a new wave of genre-bending music, and it’s led by women of color. These six brilliant musicians are both empowered and vulnerable, producing irresistibly catchy songs about love, life, heartache, introspection, recovery, and self-love. Add them to your playlist for music that will instantly uplift you, resonate with you, and inspire you.

1. Mereba

Our Song Picks | Bet, Black Truck, Stay Tru

For transformative folk-soul songs that tug at your heartstrings, Mereba is your gal. Her soothing voice, lush instrumentals, and crisp beats instantly captivate listeners. From Philadelphia to North Carolina to Atlanta, she’s made her way down south, building a name for herself. “Bet,” released in 2018, is one of those songs you feel like you’ve known all your life—familiar, haunting, and beautiful. That same year, Mereba was signed to major record label, Interscope. Her big release through Interscope, The Jungle Is The Newest Way Out, came out this year. It’s a relationship and break-up album about all of love’s highs and lows.

Listen to Mereba

2. Japanese Breakfast

Photo credit Ebru Yildiz

Our Song Picks | Boyish, Soft Sounds from Another Planet, In Heaven

Ethereal and magical, Japanese Breakfast croons lo-fi heartfelt melodies about love and death. Their first album, Psychopomp, came out in 2016 after frontwoman Michelle Zauner’s mother passed away from cancer. The song, “In Heaven,” directly addresses her mother’s death and her sorrow. Before that, she was in the project Little Big League, which has a similar shoegazey indie sound. Japanese Breakfast’s next album, out the following year, is titled Soft Sounds from Another Planet. Zauner sings about life on earth and the human experience, from an alien perspective. Her song “Boyish” (repurposed from Little Big League) is vulnerable and honest, with gentle crooning about unrequited love and infidelity.

Listen to Japanese Breakfast

3. Vanessa Zamora

Our Song Picks | Solegrande, Hbls Mucho, Al Fondo de Mi

For infectiously fun and poppy tunes, psychedelic vibes, and music to dance to, look no further than Vanessa Zamora. The Mexican singer-songwriter, producer, and multi-instrumentalist effectively channels psych pop with jazzy undertones. In her 2018 album, Tornaluna, she sings about life changes, solitude, and friendship. The song “Solegrande” brings a new meaning to being alone; it’s no longer a sad, lonely experience. Instead, it’s one filled with great joy and self-discovery. It’s a song you’ll want to play on repeat as you hang out in your room, enjoying your own company.

Listen to Vanessa Zamora

4. UMI

Photo credit Allegra Messina for Cools

Our Song Picks | Remember Me, Ordinary, Down to Earth

You’ve heard of bedroom pop, but what about bedroom R&B? Twenty-year-old UMI is owning the genre mash-up with a lo-fi sound, laidback beats, intimate lyrics, and major self-awareness. Her 2019 EP, Balance, is a bit more polished but still feels like UMI is your best friend, giving you advice and words of wisdom. The EP’s two songs, “Ordinary” and “Down to Earth,” provide that balance; one is more upbeat and positive, and the other slower and more vulnerable. We love her 2018 hit, “Remember Me,” reminiscing about an ex after personal growth. It’s nostalgic, reflective, and mature all at once.

Listen to UMI

5. Yaeji

Our Song Picks | raingurl, drink i’m sippin’ on, One More

Call her the queen of underground electronic music. Singer, DJ, and producer Kathy Yaeji Lee—known professionally as “Yaeji”—is the totally unassuming, chilled out, and unexpected Cool Girl of our dreams. Alternating between English and Korean, Yaeji spits clubby, hazy raps against avant-garde beats in what is the perfect blend of upbeat house and mellow. It all started when she tried out DJing while at the prestigious Carnegie Mellon University. Now, her hit, “raingurl,” from the 2017 album EP2, has almost 22 million listens on Spotify. It’s one of those songs that can cheer you up no matter what mood you’re in.

Listen to Yaeji

6. Orion Sun

Our Song Picks | Antidote, Mirage, Space Jam – An Odyssey

You will instantly fall in love with Orion Sun’s sultry smooth voice and poetic lyrics. The Philadelphia-based singer, producer, and multi-instrumentalist sings about the bright side of life against vinyl-like crackles, samples, and innovative beats. Her 2017 mixtape A Collection of Fleeting Moments and Daydreams is brimming with positivity, hopefulness, dreaminess, and a little bit of heartache. It’s the perfect soundtrack for lazy summer days and long drives into the sunset. “Antidote” is an ultra-catchy, super sweet love ballad, in which Orion Sun sings, “Your smile is my antidote.”

Listen to Orion Sun

Who are some of your favorite women musicians of color? Share in the comments below!


Belinda Cai is a multimedia journalist who frequently writes about lifestyle, social and environmental justice, and identity and culture. She has a master’s in journalism and communications from the University of Southern California, and hails from Cincinnati, Ohio. When she’s not writing, she’s Wikipedia-spiraling, staying active, enjoying nature, and thrifting. Check out her website and Instagram.