NPR had the right idea. Suggesting songs or albums that would help a 13-year-old get through her adolescence is a great way to connect with and guide the next generation, but I don't know many 13-year-old girls raised on a steady diet of Katy Perry and Ke$ha who could really get into King Crimson's In the Court of the Crimson King or Neil Young's After the Goldrush. Any chance one would have to drive a teenage girl away from pop music's message that she has to be thin, sexy, and available to boys, take it. But Neil Young isn't going to cut it. At 13, I would have dismissed it as "dad rock."(If you have to go the Bob/Neil/Bruce route, I'd suggesting buying her a guitar to go along with cds.)
Queen Latifah's "Ladies First" and "U.N.I.T.Y"
My earliest taste of feminism came courtesy of hip hop, and both these songs left a huge impression on me. Hearing Queen Latifah in "U.N.I.T.Y" threaten to punch her harassers "dead in the eye" planted the seed in my head that, "Wow. I can do that?" I never had to, but I used to play that song on a loop in my brain whenever I'm walking home alone.
Patti Smith's "Gloria"
Jesus died for somebody's sins but not mine... Truer words have never been spoken, especially to a budding atheist like myself. I kind of wish someone would have pointed me toward this song when, at age eleven, I asked my dad how I could become excommunicated from the church. I actually got to see Patti Smith a few years ago, and it was the closest I've ever been to a true religious experience.
Le Tigre's Feminist Sweepstakes
Going with the entire album here, as there are few artists these days calling themselves feminists, and even fewer records that make the word sound not scary or antiquated.
TLC's "No Scrubs"
What I've always loved about this song, though it was a huge pop hit, was that it was completely free of the victimization of street harassment. Many times "message" songs make me feel more powerless than I did before. This one doesn't, and puts the onus on the creepy guy "hanging out the passenger side."
So, what songs are albums would you recommend to a girl just entering her teens?