While all sorts of ‘top’ lists don’t really offer much of valuable content, I often catch myself enjoying these immensely. Whether it’s TOP 10 rock bands of all time list, TOP 50 Rob Schneider movies or ‘5 ways to become an alpha male’ guide, you end up being drawn to this type of posts on the internet.
From time to time the-best-something lists may be helpful – for instance one day you decide you want to watch Swedish soap operas (are there any??) – googling up ‘best Swedish tv shows’ is the first thing you want to do.
I’m not really trying to show that my opinion on the matter stated in the title is something to live by. I’m only creating a list of female voices in music which I find the most beautiful and mesmerizing, and their work is definitely worth exploring. Also, as I said in the beginning, lists are fun and we’ll see how this one turns out!
20 Alicia Keys – the only songstress in this list who doesn’t belong to rock/folk/pop category. Alicia Keys redefined R&B music in the early 2000s, drawing a lot from classical soul, jazz and gospel, yet making the sound her own. Sexy, powerful vocal and captivating lyrics – the songs tell stories and they’re just so real and easy to relate to.
19 Mourita Douji (森田童子) – Japanese psychedelic rock scene produced astonishing amount of great artists, with Morita Douji being no exception. Honestly there’s not much information which could be found about her. Surrounded by the aura of secrecy, wearing signature curly wig and shades she wasn’t a typical music star. Contrary to soft and girlish voice of hers, her albums are really sad and depressing, accompanied by instrumentation reminiscent of choral church music. She suddenly ended her career after 8 years or so in 1983. There were some reissues of her CDs in the early 1990s but they go for crazy money now on amazon.jp and auctions, so… around the goddamn time they reissue her work again.
18 Aimee Mann – lead singer of New Wave band ‘Til Tuesday, known for their hit song ‘Voices Carry’ (1985). New Wave thrived in the 80s – tons of new bands playing this sub-genre of music emerged, and while most of them sounded almost the same, only a few attained recognition. ‘Til Tuesday wasn’t particularly original, but Aimee Mann’s tender voice and lyrical capability surely were the main force behind the band’s (kinda short-lived) popularity.
17 Yumi Matsutoya (Yumi Arai) (松任谷由実) – to Western audiences she might be known through Studio Ghibli’s Kikki’s Delivery Service, as 2 of her songs were featured in the movie. One of the most popular, commercially successful and influential Japanese singers and songwriters. With millions albums sold, including over 20 #1s she surely made a name for herself in Japanese music history.
16 Suzanne Vega – largely only associated with Luka who lives on the second floor and DNA’s remix of ‘Tom’s Diner’, Suzanne Vega is a brilliant songwriter whose music, I reckon, is very underrated. Particularly her folk-ish influenced debut self-titled album and the follow-up Solitude Standing really showcase how immensely talented she is.
15 Cat Power – Chan Marshall; supposedly she may be categorized as an indie artist, though these days everything’s that not on the popular radio is indie so I dislike this term. Cat Power mixes folk, soul, blues and jazz, creating beautiful songs – beautiful in the sadness which emanates from them.
14 Akina Nakamori (中森明菜) – a rare pearl in the ‘aidoru’ sea. She really stood out among the countless Japanese female singers who were starting out in the 80s. For one, she wasn’t just looks, she could sing well. Instead of numbingly sweet image which was popular back then, she went for mature and unruly impression.
13 Superfly – Shiho Ochi (越智志帆); my first encounter with this awesome singer was listening to her cover of Stevie Nicks’ ‘Rhiannon’. Her clear timbre and one hell of a voice quickly made me crave more of her music. She seeks inspiration from hippie culture and stylizes herself as a flower child which is quite adorable and cool.
Now that I think of it, she really fits into the theme of this blog and is a true nostalgicrocknrolla.
12 Kate Bush – true British national treasure. She possesses extraordinary voice and amazing songwriting skills. Basically each and every song of hers defies any classification, as Bush constantly experiments with different music genres. She always succeeds whilst doing so.
11 Jun Togawa (戸川純) – best example of an idiosyncratic Japanese singer; she was posing as a robot, mushi no onna (insect woman) and an idol parody among others. She has a large following, even though she has never become successful in commercial aspect of this word, because of her bizarre persona and quirkiness. 10 Debbie Harry – the lead singer of Blondie, a band which pioneered New Wave genre. Not sure how much of Blondie’s popularity came from the fact that Debbie Harry was considered a sex symbol at the time (Marilyn Monroe immediately comes to mind), but her usually mellow voice had the edge when needed, and it nicely blended with the music arrangements of other band members.
One Direction’s ‘One Way or Another’ cover is a disgrace.
9 YUKI – Yuki Isoya’s voice is the one you either love or hate. It’s that loud high pitched kind of voice which deters many people from listening to Japanese music. In the 90s through early 2000s she was a member of a noisy punk-rock-pop band Judy and Mary. Currently she’s recording and performing as a solo artist (she isn’t squeaking that much anymore either). Judy and Mary was one of the Japanese bands I heard first, and it still is pretty important to me. Not for everyone, but great nonetheless.
8 Hako Yamasaki (山崎ハコ) – folk singer. Yamasaki’s music is a bit similar to Morita Douji, although more guitar-driven and her 80s works are a bit more mainstream. Mostly sad and softly sang songs which grip your feelings. I don’t think she enjoyed much commercial success, but I’m glad she continued to release all those great albums.
7 Momoe Yamaguchi (山口百恵) – huge idol from the 70s who following her marriage, retired at the age of 21, at her artistic peak to take care of the house. What strikes me the most about her career is the growth and transformation she underwent over 7 years. On her final few albums she sings like a life-experienced woman in her 40s, not a 20-year-old. In the 80s, Akina Nakamori was often compared to Momoe.
6 Johnette Napolitano – of Concrete Blonde. Another greatly underrated band, perhaps best known for song ‘Joey’ (‘Bloodletting’ was featured in an episode of Beavis & Butthead and these fartknockers enjoyed it, so yeah). I love Napolitano’s unique voice and interesting song-writing.
5 Dolores O’ Riordan – Irish singer, a member of the Cranberries, one of the quintessential bands of the 1990s. You can’t possibly get tired of ‘Dreams’ or ‘Zombie’, no matter how many times you hear those. The first two albums, ‘Everybody Else Is Doing It, So Why Can’t We?’ and ‘No Need to Argue’ have this gentle Celtic touch which makes them mysterious and unforgettable listens.
4 Chrissie Hynde – vocalist and rhythm guitarist of the Pretenders. Following the release of their second album, the guitarist James Honeyman-Scott and bassist Pete Farndon, died drug-related deaths. Hynde continued on against the odds. Despite the fact that the initial two records are considered their best, I find most of her work very interesting and addictive. Although Chrissie’s in her 60s now, her voice hardly changed. The Pretenders are famous and loved for their New Wave/ pop/rock/punk blend.
3 Shiina Ringo (椎名林檎) – one of the most important figures in Japanese rock music of the last 20 years. She began her career in the late 1990s along with Utada Hikaru and Ayumi Hamasaki, pop singers who also enjoy huge success and popularity to this day. Ringo chose different way though, as her music is quite an eclectic mix of alternative rock, pop, jazz, electronica; some songs have punk influences. She achieved recognition for her work with the band Tokyo Jihen as well. Shiina Ringo’s solo albums have great re-listen value and her voice is truly unforgettable. 2 Miyuki Nakajima (中島みゆき) – legendary folk and pop singer and songwriter. Her heyday came in the early 80s with string of extremely successful pop-ish albums. Several of her songs topped Japanese charts, including songs she wrote for other artists. Her records from the 70s, which were more on the folk rock side, is what I appreciate the most about her long-lasting career. Nakajima’s easily recognizable thanks to her powerful, wailing and haunting voice.
1 Stevie Nicks – the goddess of rock and roll. Be it solo or with Fleetwood Mac, she gained enormous popularity. In 1998 she was inducted into Rock And Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac. Her songs and albums are considered rock classics. Everyone has heard Rhiannon, Dreams, Edge of Seventeen, Silver Springs or Seven Wonders. Her artistic career served as influence for countless younger artists. She overcame drug addiction in the late 1980s and is performing and recording to this day.