Harley Quinn dismantles the patriarchy with ‘Birds of Prey: The Album’.


Atlantic Records

The cover of the sweet, yet dangerous, 'Birds of Prey: The Album'.

By Mason Montano, Pinole Valley High School

Following the success of American superhero film Suicide Squad in mid-2016, DC announced a spin-off centered around the character Harley Quinn, titled Birds of Prey, which was released in mid-February and sees Quinn assembling a team of female supervillains after finding herself in the face of danger without the protection of her former love-interest, the Joker.

An accompanying soundtrack, aptly titled Birds of Prey: The Album, was released ahead of the film in early February and includes twelve original songs and three covers performed by an all-female cast of well-known and underrated artists. It’s a direct counterpart to the Suicide Squad soundtrack, which had a predominantly male lineup, and features an eclectic mix of genres from hip-hop to hard rock and R&B to indie pop.

The songs are sung from the perspective of Harley Quinn, with each artist giving the character a voice through which to convey her frustrations, and the lyrics hold powerful feminist sentiments, mostly revolving around emancipating oneself from the male grip and dismantling the patriarchy.

Tracks like the third single, “Boss B***h” by American rapper and singer Doja Cat, and the lead single, “Diamonds” by American rapper Megan Thee Stallion and American singer Normani, speak generally about female empowerment, and others, like the second single, “Joke’s On You” by American singer-songwriter Charlotte Lawrence, and “Smile” by English singer-songwriter Maisie Peters, specifically reference events from the film.

“Joke’s On You”, in particular, effectively conveys Quinn’s resentment toward the Joker through dark, indie pop production and lyrics filled with acrimony. Lawrence sings about how Quinn devoted her life to the Joker only to be betrayed by him and, refusing to accept a victim role, revenge becomes the only viable option, as she intends to bounce back stronger and more dangerous than ever.

While praised for its feminist themes, Birds of Prey: The Album was criticized for its exclusion of American rapper Rico Nasty, whose punk persona and aggressive rap delivery would’ve been a perfect fit for the soundtrack, and many fans felt as though she had been snubbed for a spot on the album.

They also drew comparisons between her signature spiky hair and a similar look sported by American rapper Saweetie in the music video for the song “Sway With Me”, generating a slight controversy, as it appeared that Nasty had been cheated out of receiving mainstream recognition for her style.

Despite being disappointed as well, tweeting that she felt “invisible”, Nasty defended Saweetie, stating that she “wasn’t the first Black girl to wear spikes” that it’s “just a soundtrack”, although I still think she was robbed. Justice for Rico!

Regardless of who was or wasn’t involved, however, Birds of Prey: The Album is still a powerful celebration of women in music and the music industry, which often mistreats them, and asserts that women are just as strong, if not stronger, than men.

Birds of Prey: The Album is available now across all online and streaming platforms.

Atlantic Records
Charlotte Lawrence in the music video for “Joke’s On You”.

This story was originally published on Spartan Ink on March 13, 2020.