10 female anthems to share with your mum this Mother's Day

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Alice Vincent
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Mums, aren’t they just the best? There’s nothing quite like that mother-daughter bond. Whether your mum drives you bonkers or is your best gal pal, our resident music guru, Telegraph music writer, Alice Vincent, has delved into the archives and compiled the ultimate mother-daughter anthems. Time to share a song with the woman who got you here 

In case you hadn’t noticed from the high street’s well-orchestrated reminder system, Mother’s Day will swiftly be upon us. But it’s difficult to remember the real meaning among all the fuss and the cards and general guilt-tripping: that, for one piddling day a year, the women who raised us get a smidgen of what they deserve in love and time.

If you can’t be dealing with the mass consumerism of it all this year, then why not send a song? After all, some of our greatest female artists have been moved to write music about motherhood. From Joni Mitchell to Beyoncé, and, of course, the Spice Girls, here’s the best songs about mothers and daughters.

1. Mama, Spice Girls

It may not be pop’s finest calibration, and is easily dismissed as a well-timed hit single (it was released in March, just before Mother’s Day, as a double A-side with Who Do You Think You Are), but Mama repainted the Spice Girls as more than just miniskirt-wearing bastions of Girl Power.

The song allowed fans to crack through their pop gloss and into their childhood, and the lyrics taught their army of prepubescent fans to actually spare a thought for their long-serving mothers. Plus, it’s 20 years old this year. Now you feel old, right?

2. Little Green, Joni Mitchell

In 1964, Joni Mitchell was 21, three months pregnant, and abandoned by the child’s father “in an attic room with no money and winter coming on and only a fireplace for heat. The spindles of the banister were gap-toothed fuel for last winter's occupants”.

She may have been on the cusp of international folk stardom, but that didn’t stop the stigma of childbirth out of wedlock. So Mitchell stayed in Toronto, away from her family, and quietly had her daughter before giving her up for adoption - because, she later said, “I was dirt poor. An unhappy mother does not raise a happy child. It was difficult parting with the child, but I had to let her go”. 

Little Green appeared on record two years later, an achingly beautiful paean to her unnamed child and the future happiness she wishes her.

3. Blue, Beyoncé

Mrs Carter-Knowles has increasingly made motherhood part of her career, as she explores her place in the world as a black woman, wife and mother. Who can forget her incredible announcement that she and rapper husband Jay-Z were expecting twins? She’s dealt with her miscarriage on last year’s Lemonade, and daughter Blue Ivy’s “baby hair and afro” was a key part of Formation.

But it is Blue, the final track from her 2012 eponymous album, that first stated her love for her daughter. A classic Beyoncé piano ballad, Blue could be read as a love song of a more general means, but when the album closes with toddler Blue Ivy’s chatter with Queen Bey, it’s quite clear who is the subject of her affection.

4.  Lions and Tigers, Sleater-Kinney

Sleater-Kinney’s vocalist and guitarist, Corin Tucker, gave birth to her first son, Marshall, in 2001. It was not an easy process, she later recalled: “he was born nine weeks premature and he was in the hospital for a while. It was the hardest thing that I've ever lived through”.

As a result, motherhood leaves its fingerprints all over the rock trio’s sixth album, One Beat, a rare and wonderful thing, partially due to the paucity of women in rock. While Sympathy, from that album, is worth listening to, it’s Lions and Tigers that captures the sweet optimism and simplicity of parenthood - with a soaring guitar riff to boot. One for mums who rock.

5. The Best Day, Taylor Swift

The penultimate number on Swift’s generally indulgently gushy third album Fearless, The Best Day would fail to melt only the toughest hearts. This is peak country Swift, but her teenage ode to her mother wrangles thorny issues such as bullying, adolescent humiliation and growing pains with deftness. If you’ve ever felt rubbish, called your mum, and felt infinitely better, this will resonate. The video features toddler Taylor, too.

6. To Zion, Lauryn Hill

Now that Hill is more frequently associated with tax evasion and backing out of gigs at the last minute, her six children are sometimes spoken of in terms of irresponsibility. Sadly, that’s always been the case, as demonstrated by To Zion, the gloriously defiant song on her remarkable debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.

The lyrics are fairly self-explanatory: the music industry tried to convince her to have an abortion after she fell pregnant by Rohan son-of-bob Marley, but she didn’t. Their resulting son, Zion - the first of five by Marley - brought her the greatest joy.

7. Adele, Sweetest Devotion

Adele has achieved many things, but one that mustn’t be underestimated is how she’s kept her son out of the public eye. This song, from her third album, 25, paints her love for him in a way that she is rarely prepared to discuss in interviews.

What we do know about Adele and motherhood, however, is that it takes considerable priority over her pop career - she’s hinted that we may not see her on stage for as long as a decade as she takes time out to raise Angelo.

8. Acapella, Kelis

Sometimes you’ve got to feel for the children of these pop stars: how can you ever rebel when your mum’s so cool? Kelis recorded 2010’s Flesh Tone, which marked a shift in her musical direction from RnB to dance, while unsigned and pregnant, which is already pretty badass. To then dedicate a number of floorfillers, notably the euphoric Acapella, to her newly born son, Knight, just added the icing on the cake. Add into the mix that the dad’s father was none other than hip-hop legend Nas and the poor scrap has a lot to do to rebel against his parents.

9. You Are My Baby, Kimya Dawson

Dawson comprised one half of The Moldy Peaches, the cult indie duo who created Anyone Else But You, otherwise known as the adorable love song that forms the sonic backbone of teen pregnancy movie Juno. But she wrote a motherhood-specific song, You Are My Baby, for her daughter Panda in 2011.

It’s as simple and charming as anything she did with Peaches (considerably more so than the likes of Who’s Got the Crack) and includes that essential vow of parenthood: “No matter what, I’ll always love you unconditionally”.

10. Oh Mother, Christina Aguilera

Oh Mother is one of those rare tracks which looks at motherhood from both sides of the coin. Fame is fickle, and when Aguilera took a sidestep out of the spotlight to raise her two children the pop gossip columns were quick to forget her. But the Mickey Mouse Club graduate continues to release music and tear up festival stages with her vocals.

Oh Mother, from her fifth album, 2006’s Back to Basics, shows that the age and experience that comes with it can be a valuable thing in a pop star, as she wrestles with both the abuse of her single-parent childhood and her own journey as a mother.