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The Bikini Kill song that defined the Riot Grrrl movement


If you know anything about Riot Grrrl music, one of the first things you’ve heard is likely a specific song by a band who were the cornerstone of the movement: Bikini Kill. Although the Riot Grrrl movement was only active for a few years, it has had a long-lasting legacy on punk, rock, and indie music since.

‘Rebel Girl’, a Bikini Kill track that appears on albums Pussy Whipped and Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah and released on its own as a single, technically boasts three different recorded versions, all of which were recorded in 1993. Joan Jett is even featured on guitar and backing vocals on one of the recorded versions. The EP, the LP, and the 7-inch single each have their own unique details, although they’re undoubtedly the same classic song.

Although the official recording and release came in 1993, the band actually played the song live as early as 1991, making it one of the earliest Riot Grrrl tracks to gain a wide fanbase and have people singing along show after show. Once recorded, the song was critically acclaimed, even if it never became a hit single, ‘Rebel Girl’ is considered to be one of the best songs of 1993.

So, what made this song the essential Riot Grrrl track? Well, what makes any good song take hold of a counterculture? Sure it was the anatomy of the song itself – the lyrics, the beat – but it was also about the timing, the energy, and some indescribably quality that just makes a song what it is.

The lyrics are fun and full of energy, and they offer an alternate and intriguing perspective that deviated from a lot of music at the time. It was essentially a love song for another woman, celebrating a character who could be imaginary but could have also been you, your friends, or the cool girl you saw at the show. And that’s really what Riot Grrrl is all about anyway, women supporting one another and celebrating each other.

If you want to hear the song that swept up so many fans and defined the Riot Grrrl movement as we know it, you can take a listen to ‘Rebel Girl’ down below.