In movies, TV and comics, super heroes like Wonder Woman have been known to earn their fair share of applause. Fittingly, that’s something that Donna Lynne Champlin, the Broadway star behind our latest Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary playlist, has in common with her. A longtime star of stage and screen, Champlin is an Obie Award-winning stage performer and recently has grabbed attention in her recurring role as Paula Proctor on The CW’s Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.
Champlin’s list is a mix of…well, pretty much everything, from Wonder Woman theme songs to pop to Broadway to SNL skits. She also agreed to share her thoughts on each song, so strap in (because this wonder woman pulls no punches when it comes to her opinions and language) and turn up the volume. Here’s how Champlin went about assembling her list…
What inspires me most about Wonder Woman (besides her innate super powers, intelligence and discipline), is that she has grown up in a world where women are in charge and sexism doesn’t exist. She was literally raised in an idealized, feminist vacuum. So her greatest super power is her purity of perception; her objectivity. She finds the sexism in our world, not even so much perplexing as laughable. Chauvinism is not a threat to her; it’s absolutely f**king ridiculous. And she will commence to kick your ass if you disagree. It’s her clarity and her ability to call bullsh*t on our patriarchal society (and her combat skills to back up those calls) that I admire most.
Also, as I was going through my library for this (ridiculously scattered) set list, I realized that besides the obvious girl-power numbers, the songs that really empower me are the ones that cut like a laser through all the struggles of our daily lives as women; living in a boy’s club, the constant judgment, the pressure to have kids, to be perfect, to be married, to be beautiful, to smile, etc. THOSE “truth bomb” songs give me strength because there is power in numbers. “Truth bomb” songs give me Wonder Woman’s objectivity. They allow me to see through and even laugh at, the absurdity of our everyday lives as women in a man’s world.
I also respond to the raw honesty and audacity of the composers of these sometimes very vulnerable songs. They make me think, “Well, damn. If she can open up a vein and say, ‘this is who I am, so screw it,’ then…so can I.” Someone who knows their flaws and has the strength to own them and reveal them masterfully through a universal art form? That’s a super hero to me. And they inspire me to be a Super Hero and a “secret spiller” in my own artistic work.
Let’s start with the really obvious:
For most of us of a certain age the “Wonder Woman Theme” brings us back to that funkaliscious, bongo laden, base line of the 1976 TV show. The male soloist sings “In your satin tights! Fighting for your rights!” while the female chorus sings “Get us out from under, WONDER WOMAN!”. BUT check out the subtle musical (and feminist) improvements between the first and third season of the TV show.
“WONDER WOMAN TV THEME” Season One:
You’ve got a male lead singer and a female backup chorus. That’s a pretty blatant first season, chauvinistic, musical safety net. Man in front, ladies in back.. Not to mention, some kickin’, old school animation making sure all male actors got their equal billing. Yeah I’m talking to you, Lyle Waggoner. Just cool your jets, man. It ain’t about you.
Two years later….
“WONDER WOMAN TV THEME” Season Three:
Only two years later and now we’ve got a male chorus and NO lead vocals at all. They’re not even necessary. It’s basically just a bunch of men “backing up” Lynda Carter as she kicks ass all over the place. This pleases me as this is a small step forward for the ladies.
Fifty years later…
WONDER WOMAN Theme / Music (from Batman v Superman OST) - Hans Zimmer & Junkie XL
Just listen to the Wonder Woman theme from the recent Batman v Superman movie, and TELL me that feminism hasn’t taken leaps and bounds here just by the music they’ve composed for her. Listen to the primal drums and the absolutely fierce “do-not-f**k-with-me” down and dirty vibe here. With the occasional banshee scream of an electric cello (by Tina Guo) and a full chorus in the background. TELL me that doesn’t resonate with every woman’s ancestral inner metronome on a CELULAR LEVEL. COME ON! But then, they give her a soft side too. They make her three-dimensional. Musically. At about 3:35, they bring her back to her center. She’s cool. She’s calm. Aaaaand then, no she’s not! PYSCHE! SHE’S A BEEAASSSSTTTT!!! We’ve come a long way baby, just sayin’.
“My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get it)” - En Vogue
Yes. Ladies taking the power BACK. Laying down the rules. Plus that acappella section in the middle is beyond ear-wormy and fabulous. This is a great song to play when you need the super power to keep saying no to an ex who just won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Basically this song was on constant loop on my CD player from the age of 20 to 35.
“Rhythm Nation” - Janet Jackson
As a teenager in the 80’s, this video was EPICLY feminist. This video was a massive game changer for equality because you can’t tell who’s a woman or who’s a man in it. I was a competitive dancer at the time, and the summer after this video came out, the whole game changed. Girls dressed and danced more for power and technique as opposed to “beauty” or “appeal.” It was liberating. BTW, I love the young boy in the video watching everything thinking “What the hell…?”. Buckle up, young man. Society’s gonna change.
"So What" - Pink
My favorite thing about this song is that she’s BARELY hanging on here and she just powers through the occasional crying jag 'til the words she’s singing are actually true. This is an awesome song to sing when you need to convince yourself that everything is ok, even though it is so f**king not. But it will be. Which is basically eight times a day for the average woman. Fifty-two, if you have children under the age of five.
“Respect” - Aretha Franklin
“Secrets” - Mary Lambert
First let’s talk about how awesome it is that Mary Lambert is out there at all in this crazy, hyper-perfectionist-sexualized- visual–popular music world? She is just hitting a home run in general as a musician and this is one of my favorite girl-power, truth teller songs. If you own your secrets, no one can control you with them. And it doesn’t hurt that she looks more like me, than anyone out there.
“Not Ready to Make Nice” - The Dixie Chicks
Ok. Not only is the song fantastic but also it’s really the story behind this song that’s amazing. In 2003 when they were playing a gig in Britain, they said that they were against the war and Bush (to which the UK crowd applauded). Back in states the backlash was insane, aggressive and at times, terrifying. And since they were women, I was already bracing myself for the inevitable apology they would have to make to keep the peace and their southern (uber-patriarchal) demographic calm…and they F**KING DIDN’T. They doubled DOWN and it was amazing. It was a mind blowing feminist move at that time and women everywhere woke the f*ck UP. I know I did. So when THIS album came out afterwards, this track shot through the roof as just the most brilliant “f*ck you” comeback ever. Basically they’re saying, and rightly so…that THEY were in fact owed an apology for the ‘mud raking’ they were dragged through, and that they were still waiting. Feminism at its finest.
"Girl in a Country Song" - Maddie & Tae
There’s so much to love about this song….and it echoes a thought I’ve had for decades about how women have been depicted in country music for the last 20 years. Bottom line this song is hilarious, as is the video. 100% on point AND they took some serious sh*t for this in the country music world. For “making fun of male country stars.” I mean….can you believe it? Which brings me to….
"Put Yourself First (in a Sexy Way)" - Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
It was so hard to pick just one Crazy Ex-Girlfriend song for this list because literally half of our Season One score is a feminist bulls eye. But this song is not only super catchy, it’s a fantastic send up of the questionably ‘feminist’ anthem from Fifth Harmony, BO$$. BTW, my Crazy Ex-Girlfriend Wonder Woman runner -ups were SEXY GETTING READY SONG, STUPID BITCH, GIRLS GOTTA STICK TOGETHER, I’M SO GOOD AT YOGA and SEXY FRENCH DEPRESSION. You can find them all here at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL6abPzY300GUJQic25ynhTLup1YTqmvOX
"D*ck in a Box" - SNL short
There is no more powerful tool to fight oppression than to expose it for the absurdity that it is. How many guys we know like this, right ladies? Laughing at these two ridiculous, feminist fools as they mock the dysfunction of their own gender, makes me feel like Wonder Woman. And I love them for it.
"Ghostbusters (I'm Not Afraid)" - Fall Out Boy/ Missy Elliott
If you haven’t seen the new “all-female” Ghostbusters reboot yet and you are in possession of a uterus? GO GO GO GO GO! Plunk down your hard earned 70 cents to every man’s dollar and SUPPORT THIS MOVIE! I saw it a few weeks ago and literally SOBBED through the whole thing because as a woman it was WOOD SHEDDING MY LIFE. I grew up loving the original Ghostbusters but subconsciously I also grew up thinking I could never be one because I was a girl. And I wept when all the women were smart, and funny, and when the ‘eye-candy’ was a guy, and when they all fought like BEASTS in overalls and not one shot was angled for sex appeal…I mean. I basically puked out (via my eyeballs) 30 years of sexism I never even knew I was holding onto. This movie changed my life as a 45-year-old woman. So, this ‘new’ version of the Ghostbusters theme symbolizes for me how far the world has come since I was a kid, and what wonderful role models our young women have now. We have a loooooooooooooong way to go, but this song is a great marker for how far women have actually come in Hollywood.
"Show Me How You Burlesque" - Christina Aguilera
I just recently did an all-female production of “Taming of the Shrew” and we were asked to bring in a track that made us feel like powerful women and I brought this one in. Some of the ladies gave me the side-eye, but that’s because Burlesque is frequently dismissed unfairly as stripping. It is actually a fantastic art form, which takes a great degree of theatrical, vocal and dance training, and Aguilera’s vocals on this track are SIIIICCCCKKK. Go get it, Wonder Women. You better own your sexuality. Don’t need a Sugar Daddy, you can work it just fine.
“None of Your Business” - Salt-N-Pepa
Growing up as a very young, very Caucasian, very sexually repressed, very Irish Catholic? Singing to this song absolutely made me feel GANGSTER. OMG, I felt so liberated and dirty all at the same time. This song set me free in a lot of ways as a young woman.
“Run the World (Girls)” - Beyonce
“Who are we? What we run? We run the world.” Queen Bae.
“My Body” - The Life (original Broadway cast album)
This was the first time I’d ever seen women of all shapes and sizes in a sexual context in my own chosen profession of musical theatre. Strong women of all races just BELTING “MY BODY IS MY BUSINESS AND NOBODY’S BUSINESS BUT MY OWN!!” Yes…..they’re prostitutes, which is….not awesome for women’s lib overall, but at that time, and even now, women over a size 6 are not ‘allowed’ to dance freely or in a provocative manner unless it’s for comedic effect. And these ladies were just letting loose and HOT as hell. I sing this song in the car a LOT. A. LOT.
“Cell Block Tango” - Chicago (original Broadway cast album)
Because…what woman hasn’t wanted to be able to kill their significant other with impunity?
“Sugar in my Bowl” - Nina Simone
“Be On Your Own” - Nine (original Broadway cast album)
Oh man. An older woman just kicking her good for nothing man to the curb after she has taken years of abuse. You go girl. The anger in her face on “I SET YOU FREE!” I love it.
“I Won’t Mind” - Jeff Blumenkrantz (Audra McDonald version)
This is a shout-out to all the awesome aunties out there. There’s so much pressure on women about having children. This is a pain that only women understand, even if you don’t want children, the constant “what’s wrong with you?” vibe day after day is crippling. I didn’t have my son until I was 40 and this song for me was a tremendous comfort throughout my 30’s. Sometimes it takes super powers to just be a childless woman, at any age, for whatever reason. So…whether you never wanted children of your own, or wanted them and couldn’t have them…if you’ve ever loved a child that wasn’t yours, but maybe almost got psycho about pretending that it was? You’re not alone. Awesome “secret spiller” song.
This Woman’s Work - Kate Bush
I first heard this song when I saw the movie She’s Having A Baby and from the first two chords I started sobbing my eyes out. Women can have babies; men can’t. Game over. It’s terrifying, sometimes deadly and excruciatingly beautiful. But it’s all ours. And men just can’t f*cking have it. Ever.
He’s Got a Way - Bernadette
I love how Bernadette took this very iconic song by a man about a woman, and beautifully turned it on its head. Equality at it’s finest.
The Prayer Cycle - Movement 1- Mercy - Alanis Morissette/Salif Keita
Alanis Morissette’s voice in this kills me. Begging for mercy. So raw. So true. What’s so gorgeous about this song is the balance between female and male. Both wanting the same thing. I listened to this track on an endless loop while walking through NYC post 9/11 for a month. It was the only way I could get to work. It was my ‘super power.’ With my headphones on, I blocked out the real world and sent out this Prayer Cycle (which I highly recommend listening to in its entirety). Even Wonder Woman gets hurt and needs time to heal. Even Wonder Woman feels the pain of the world.
“Leather” - Tori Amos
I discovered Tori Amos in college. It was really hard to narrow down just one of her songs for this list because she’s just such a deliciously feminist composer. She’s a brilliant musician, pianist, performer…just balls out. I love the bluesy riffs in this and the economical way she builds the whole song, layering in electric guitar, etc. And her light and breezy hilarity kind of freed me sexually in a way. Like Wonder Woman, she helped me shrink my personal demons by allowing me to find them laughable. Plus she’s famously quoted as saying “I’m too raw for straight men. They are tortured by my shows.” So. Ya know. There’s that.
“The Captives Hymn” - Paradise Road Soundtrack
True story. Women in a Japanese Internment camp during the war created a vocal orchestra as a way to survive hardship through creativity. This is what a group of women do when sh*t gets REAL. They come together and create something beautiful. Beyond inspiring. Wonder Women. BEYOND Wonder Women.
“From God’s Arms to My Arms to Yours” - Michael McLean
Full disclosure, I found this song so inspirational, that I put it on my own vocal debut album “Old Friends.” Women deal with such crazy societal pressure about not having babies when “you’re too young” and having babies “before you’re too old” and no one really ever talks about the unbelievable Wonder Women who carry those babies to term and then give them up for adoption. It is probably one of the most amazingly, selfless acts ONLY women can do. Think about it. Men don’t give kids up for adoption and they certainly don’t carry them to term for nine months, prior. Adoption is a woman’s cross to bear and solely a woman’s sacrifice. Wonder Woman power = selflessness.
I Will Never Leave You - Side Show (original Broadway cast album)
There is no better anthem for sisterly love and best-friend devotion than this song in the entire musical theatre cannon throughout all history. And Emily Skinner and Alice Ripley are absolute dynamite, belting their faces off while hardly moving a muscle.
You can listen to Donna Lynn Champlin’s Wonder Woman playlist at the official DC Spotify Profile, or you can stream the entire list below.