I couldn’t sleep Tuesday night so turned on the iPod. I wanted to listen to something mellow so rather than simply set the iPod on Shuffle I went through the Artist list to find some appropriate music. I had not listened to The Sundays in quite some time so picked them. Holy cow, I forget just how incredible of a vocalist Harriet Wheeler was! Listening to those songs inspired this post because the music world has been blessed with some dynamite female vocalists over the years. Some of them deliver a beautiful style of music, some deliver a more aggressive style of vocals. ALL of them have powerful voices that continue to resonate for years.
I will put these women in alphabetical order rather than try to rank them since they are all phenomenal. My apologies to legendary artists such as Aretha Franklin, Reba McEntire and Grace Slick; great vocalists, just not my cup of tea. Janis Joplin could not sing a lick so please do not tell me I should have listed her. Kim Gordon from Sonic Youth, Kristin Hersh from Throwing Muses and Belinda Carlisle from The Go-Go’s were all excluded because each is a Sound Strike bitch. F them. So without further adieu:
- Annie Lennox – Eurythmics and solo – Incredible whether she is singing an 80’s new wave tune or classic soul.
- Bjork – The Sugarcubes and solo – Unbelievable that such a powerful voice can come out of such a small human being. The first Sugarcubes disc is an absolute classic.
- Chrissie Hynde – The Pretenders – After all these years I am still bummed the original Pretenders line-up was only with us for two albums. Get both of them, unbelievable work.
- Elizabeth Fraser – Cocteau Twins and solo – The first of two vocalists on this list that sang in her own language. What a gorgeous voice and if you are a fan of the score from the Lord of the Rings you heard her voice in the movie.
- Emma Anderson and Miki Berenyi – Lush – Dual lead vocals over some incendiary shoegaze, this band blended power and beauty very, very well.
- Exene Cervenka – X – Exene and John Doe formed one of my all-time favorite double lead vocal teams. X is still alive and kicking, go see them at Club Red December 9 if you live here in Phoenix/Tempe or Tucson the next evening.
- Harriet Wheeler – The Sundays – The reason for this post. The Sundays played a stunning style of subdued dream pop and Wheeler will go down as one of my all-time favorite vocalists, male or female.
- Joan Jett – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts and The Runaways – The baddest woman on this list. No other female vocalist kicks ass the way Joan Jett does, but she delivers plenty of material in a pop vein as well. Still, tracks like the ferocious punk-inspired “Bad Reputation” and “Do You Wanna Touch Me (Oh Yeah)” are what this listener prefers to hear.
- Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson – The B-52’s – The original line-up of The B-52’s created some of the most infectious party-inspired new wave of the late seventies and early eighties. The “Whammy” album was overlooked somewhat but contains my favorite single from the band.
- Kazu Makino – Blonde Redhead – I have said it before, I have come to despise the term “epic” when used to describe music because people rarely use it under the right circumstances. It applies to this dream pop band and especially this soaring track.
- Linda Hopper – Magnapop – Bob Mould produced this band’s Hot Boxing album. Enough said. I saw this band twice, including a show in which they opened for Mould’s band Sugar. Hopper’s pop style of vocals was the perfect complement to the indie rock stylings of the band.
- Lisa Gerrard – Dead Can Dance and solo – Like Elizabeth Fraser this vocalist created her own language when she sang. Dead Can Dance is one of my all-time favorite bands and rumors are they are reuniting in 2012. SWEET! I am in awe every time I hear her voice, she is that incredible.
- Pat Benatar – Remember those “I Love the 80’s” episodes on VH1? When they showed the “Love is a Battlefield” video from Benatar Dave Grohl commented he liked the old Benatar better, the one who would say, “I’m going to kick someone’s ass if I don’t get laid right now.” Okay, so I doubt if she really said that but I appreciate the sentiment. Has there ever been a female vocalist that could sing in such a classic operatic style and scare the crap out of men at the same time?
- PJ Harvey – The 1993 Rid of Me album from PJ Harvey is a classic, 14 tracks of unadulterated bliss that pummels the senses. No wonder, the album was produced by Big Black’s Steve Albini. Make sure to pay attention to the lyrics when listening to this disc, an incredible follow-up to her amazing debut Dry. PJ Harvey just won her second Mercury Award this year, proving this artist is not just an indie prodigy.
- Ritzy Bryan – The Joy Formidable – This band delivered one of my favorite discs of 2010. The 2011 release of The Big Roar is even better and the band has an amazing reputation for their live performances. Check out The Joy Formidable, they are becoming one of the best bands in the industry and Ritzy Bryan’s voice is a wonder to behold.
- Rose Carlotti – Heart Throbs – Oh, how I miss this band! Dream pop received a gift when this band started creating music in the late eighties. Carlotti had such a distinct, seductive voice, a true match for the gorgeous pop music this band delivered.
- Sharon Jones – Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings – Classic soul lives today thanks to Sharon Jones. Delivering one of the best performances from the 2008 Monolith Festival, Sharon Jones not only possesses an amazing voice but an amazing stage presence as well. If you ever have a chance to attend a Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings performance do so!
- Sinead O’Connor – Sinead’s second album I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got may have been her pop breakthrough but you have to check out her debut to get a true representation of just how good she is. “Troy” is another one of those songs that earned the “epic” tag, it is that incredible of a track. Like many artists you have to ignore all the outside drama to appreciate her work as a musician.
- Siouxsie Sioux – Siouxsie and the Banshees and The Creatures – One of U.K. punk’s original artists, Siouxsie has traveled all over the musical landscape during her illustrious career. The thing that never changed was that captivating voice of hers. I only had a chance to see her live one time, at the first ever Lollapalooza Festival in 1991 at Compton Terrace.
- Yuki Chikudate – Asobi Seksu – Shoegaze and dream pop are alive and well because of bands like Asobi Seksu and at the forefront of the band is the amazing talent of Yuki Chikudate. I have seen this band play live on three occasions and they shred every single time.
Other than Celine did I forget anyone? Cheers!