There’s so much music out there these days that it’s hard to sort through exactly who is the most talented.
When it comes to female vocalists, there are plenty out there to choose from. However, I managed to narrow the list down to ten artists, in no particular order. I urge you to check out some of their songs. (Two of my favorite female vocalists, Hope Sandoval and Liz Fraser, are not on this list because I’ve praised them in several other articles, but I urge you to check out their music as well).
(For my favorite male vocalists, click here).
Well known for her work as a vocalist in the band Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks has a prolific array of solo work as well. She produced seven solo albums, including the very popular Bella Donna from 1981, which features hits like “Edge of Seventeen” and two duets: “Stop Draggin My Heart Around” and “Leather and Lace.” She also wrote the number one Fleetwood Mac hit “Dreams.” Having seen Stevie perform live, I can tell you that her vocal range is incomparable- I’d say the only artist from the past who could compete is Janis Joplin. Stevie’s songs are both delicate and fierce, and there’s a reason why she’s known as “The Reigning Queen of Rock and Roll.”
Beauty and the Beast
2. Tori Amos-
Tori Amos is a singer/songwriter/pianist/prodigy who first made waves with 1992’s Little Earthquakes. She’s created a total of 13 albums, 30 singles, 60 B-sides, and has contributed to nine soundtracks, including Mona Lisa Smile and Great Expectations. A new album called Gold Dust is due out in October 2012. Tori’s vocals are amazing because they are super-emotional. The words are both soothing and bracing-you can feel Tori tremble and writhe amid songs of protest, sexuality, an intimacy. She’s also very delicate in some songs, to the point where she sounds like she’s weeping on the recording. This woman can do anything she sets her mind to. Let’s hope she sticks around for awhile.
Caught a Lite Sneeze
3. Anna-Lynne Williams-
Of Trespassers William and Lotte Kestner fame, Anna-Lynne Williams is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Seattle. With dream-pop band Trespassers William, Anna helped produce four albums, including a B-side and Rarities album due out sometime in 2012. Popular singles from the band include the Ride cover of “Vapour Trail” and the beautiful “Different Stars,” which was featured in the film A Love Song for Bobby Long. Trespassers William also does an excellent live cover of Radio head’s “Videotape.” Anna’s voice is beyond comforting- it seems to bob and weave throughout high and low notes ceaselessly. Her vocals are the perfect counterpart to the ethereal music she creates.
Song Recommendation: Black Metallic (Catherine Wheel cover)
4. Johnette Napolitano-
Johnette is an American singer/songwriter/bassist, perhaps best known for her work in the band Concrete Blonde (whose infamous single “Joey” I guarantee you’ve heard). She created four studio albums as a solo artist, and has taken part in bands like Dream 6, The Heads, Vowel Movement and Pretty & Twisted. She’s opened for Paul Westerberg and has contributed to many movie soundtracks (Candy, Underworld) and TV shows (The Sopranos, Beavis & Butthead). She’s covered songs like Patti Smith’s “Dancing Barefoot” and Coldplay’s “The Scientist.” As with other artists on this list, Johnette’s vocal talents are incredible. On songs like “Joey” she almost croons in the verses yet raises her voice perfectly for the chorus. Despite its subject matter, “Joey” is my favorite lullaby.
Song Recommendation: Wedding Theme from Candy
5. Alison Mosshart-
Mosshart is an American singer/songwriter best known for her work in bands like The Kills, Discount and The Dead Weather. She was featured on the Placebo song “Meds” and the Primal Scream song “Dolls.” The Kills produced five albums, Discount three albums, and The Dead Weather two albums. She also contributed to three soundtracks. Mosshart’s vocals, like the music, is both edgy and raw, balmy and alluring. You want to hug her when she softly sings “Monkey 23.”
Gypsy Death & You
6. Margo Timmins
– Timmins is best known as the lead singer of the band Cowboy Junkies. The band produced 17 albums, 8 live albums, 4 compilation albums and 20 singles. It’s no surprise that at an early age Timmins was influenced by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and Bruce Springsteen’s Nebraska (also my favorite Bruce album). Like Jim Morrison, Timmins initially would turn her back to the audience when she played some of the band’s early shows. Like Cowboy Junkies, Margo’s vocals are intangible and placid, dreamy and tranquil. Her threadbare sound is perfect for any occasion, but mostly you’ll want to slow dance in an alternate universe.
Wrong Piano (Vic Chesnutt cover)
7. Janis Joplin-
Janis is an American singer/songwriter best known for her work with Big Brother and the Holding Company, the Kozmic Blues Band and the Full Tilt Boogie Band. Big Brother produced seven albums, Kozmic produced four, and Full Tilt produced seven. It should be no surprise why Janis made this list. Her vocal range is matchless to any other female vocalist on this list. She is queen of the electric folk/blues era. I prefer this quote from Richard Goldstein of Vogue in regards to Janis’ singing abilities: (She’s) the most staggering leading woman in rock… she slinks like tar, scowls like war… clutching the knees of a final stanza, begging it not to leave… Janis Joplin can sing the chic off any listener.” Indeed.
8. Linda Perry-
Perry is a musician, songwriter and record producer, best known perhaps for her role in the band 4 Non Blondes (who had the popular one hit wonder, “What’s Up?”). Founding two record labels, she’s written hit songs and has produced for artists like Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love, Pink, Cheap Trick, James Blunt and Christina Aguilera. She’s sung and recorded with members of The Who, Bryan Adams, Slash and Dave Navarro, the latter whom she covered Led Zeppelin’s “Misty Mountain Hop” with. In fact, she’s recorded acoustically several cover songs including bands like Radiohead, Tears for Fears, Soundgarden and David Bowie. She’s created four solo albums, including her participation in The Crow: City of Angels soundtrack. I’d put Linda Perry in the same league vocally as Alanis Morissette, but better. She can howl, scream and whimper all at the same time. This woman is amazingly talented.
Knock Me Out (featuring Grace Slick)
This artist needs no introduction. Bjork is a singer/songwriter/actress from Iceland, who has created ten studio albums and has ten soundtrack appearances. She has countless great songs from “It’s so Quiet” to “Army of Me” to “Unravel.” I liken Bjork’s vocals to a strong flower- unfolding but unyielding- delicate but ferocious. She expresses joy and sorrow equally, putting you to tears in songs like “All is Full of Love.” When I listen to Bjork I’m reminded of the violent yet beautiful sides to nature.
10. Susan Tedeschi-
Tedeschi is an American singer/guitarist who happens to be married to Derek Trucks. She’s received several Grammy award nominations and has created six albums, along with fifteen collaborations and guest appearances. Her musical influences include Janis Joplin, Bonnie Raitt and Stevie Ray Vaughan, while personally she reminds me of one of my favorites that didn’t make this list- Patty Griffin. Tedeschi’s country/blues vocals are strong enough to warrant her an American Idol win, while she sings like she has enough spunk to give the show the finger. She’s soft with an edge, and I like that.
Presence of the Lord (Blind Faith cover)