This may sound like a male stereotype, but there’s no denying the fact that a talented female musician or singer who’s also easy on the eyes makes men pretty much powerless. Especially men who love music. In my years of exploring the rock and pop music landscape, I’ve discovered a few ladies who catch your attention with the first lilt of their voice, and not only make you want to listen to more but also, in typical guy fashion, check out how they look.
Without further ado, here are some of my favourite female music artistes. Do check out their discographies and get hypnotized by their vocal charms.
Shirley Manson (Garbage)
Image source: https://sallylouvintage.wordpress.com/page/14/
Scottish redhead Manson first caught my attention when I heard the theme song of the Bond movie ‘The World Is Not Enough’, which sounded elegiac and yet beautiful. When I discovered the band behind this song, I was even more intrigued by their name, Garbage, which apparently was an evidence of a positive take by the founding members on criticism that their initial music sounded ‘like garbage’. The true power and moodiness of Manson’s voice expressed themselves even more intensely in the ode to depression ‘Only happy when it rains’ and the lament on squandering potential (female-centric) ‘Stupid girl’. Lesser heard beauties include the vulnerable and lonely ‘Milk’ and the seductive and trippy ‘Queer’. When you listen to these songs, what you remember is the lush contralto voice and her punk vocal style which echoes the seedy glamour of our visions and emotions. With her sexy vocals and engaging-yet-aloof screen presence, Shirley paints her own shades of a purple haze that I don’t mind getting lost in at all.
Amy Lee (Evanescence)
Amy Lee’s vocals have a steely quality, flexible yet consistently strong. They are similar to her personality, a potent combination of attractive looks and a 100-yard stare that could intimidate even a rabid fan. I remember watching the trippy video of ‘Bring me to life’ and thinking, wow, what a perfect combination of sultry vocals, existential themes and a nightmare vision. Amy Lee proved that she was no one-hit wonder by following this smash hit up with a string of catchy yet meaningful songs firmly grounded in illusory reality, such as the fame hungry wannabe-mocking ‘Everybody’s fool’, the zombie-living alternate reality vision portrayed in ‘Going under’; besides these, I also like the ones portraying the darkness of the afterlife, like ‘My immortal’ or the numbness-themed ‘Lithium’. Though Evanescence has been in a hiatus since 2009, Amy Lee’s soul-stirring vocals and dark vision continues to haunt, and I find myself listening to Evanescence’s classics again and again.
Marie Fredriksson (Roxette)
Image source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Look
Roxette was formed in the mid-80s by Swedish duo Per Gessle and Mary Fredriksson, and they sounded like a more edgy and rockish version of ABBA, with Fredriksson’s grainy vocals perfectly complemented by Gessle’s brighter one and the upbeat tempo in many of their songs. Millennial children would at least be familiar with one my favourites, the 2001 hit ‘Centre of my heart’, featuring their trademark energetic keyboard riff punctuated by Fredriksson’s urgent and melodious appeal to understanding the maze of a romantic relationship. 1989’s ‘The look’ showed off their sexually aggressive foot-tapping energy. The album cover, showing off a hot Fredriksson in a leopard print double breasted coat open and showing off a gold bikini did not harm their appeal either. However, Fredriksson was not just a punk rocking diva flaunting sexual energy; she could carry off a mellow romantic number with equal panache. 1988/89’s ‘Listen to your heart’ made you see the desolation caused by growing apart in a relationship, as did 1987’s ‘It must have been love’. From it’s formation in 1979, Roxette has been steadily active till 2013. Though we don’t know what lies in the future, Roxette deserves its status as the second-most popular Swedish band after ABBA, and Frediksson’s energy and mesmerizing vocals continue to bring colour to a dull day.
Karen Carpenter (The Carpenters)
One of the most beautiful voices I’ve heard belongs to Karen Carpenter, half of the brother-sister duo that formed The Carpenters, one of the best-selling artists of all time. I remember my dad playing a cassette back in the early 90s, a recording of classic hits from a popular FM radio programme that used to air on Saturday evenings, and listening to a smooth and melodic voice singing ‘Top of the world’ and I instantly fell in love with it. Karen had a lovely contralto voice which instantly swept you away into her moods seemingly effortlessly. The melancholia evoked by ‘Rainy days and Mondays’ has a wistful beauty to it, as does ‘Yesterday once more’. However, she could sound equally sweet on upbeat numbers like ‘Please Mr. Postman’ and serene romantic ones like ‘We’ve only just begun’. Sadly, Karen passed away at the young age of 32 due to heart failure, caused by her long suffering from anorexia. She has truly made me feel on top of the world every time I hear her angelic voice, and she’ll be missed forever.
Hillary Scott (Lady Antebellum)
This list would not be complete without mentioning my recent discovery, thanks to my country music-loving friend, of a country music singing sensation called Hillary Scott, of the Nashville, Tennessee-based Lady Antebellum. Hillary’s vocals are clear as a bell, and can enchant you with their soaring range and emotive ability. She sounds equally perfect live, and her excellent harmony in the chorus parts with fellow vocalist Charles Kelley also adds lustre to their songs. Some of my favourites include ‘Need you now’, ‘American Honey’ and ‘Wanted you more’. I look forward to discovering more Lady Antebellum classics and hearing more of Hillary’s beautiful voice, which I have to admit, has kindled my own interest in country music and made me check out other amazing artists like Rascal Flatts and Keith Urban.
Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries)
The Irish charm never fails to captivate, especially when it belongs to a singer, songwriter and musician who made Celtic rock as famous as U2 did, with songs that evoked freedom (‘Just my imagination’), the horrors of war (‘Zombie’), the beauty of a first kiss (‘Linger’) and more themes impacting life. Dolores’ evocative mezzo-soprano voice and her trademark mannerism of dragging out the syllables of the last words of a verse combined with her strong Irish accent created a vocal style that was instantly recognized and loved across the world. Her vocal traits continued to shine in her first solo album post her Cranberries stint, ‘Are you listening?’ in songs like ‘Ordinary Day’. Dolores’ soulful singing, and especially her lighthearted rendition of ‘Just my imagination’, never fails to brighten my day and cheer for this pixie-like minstrel from Eire.
Before I end this piece, I readily accept that this list is anything but exhaustive. There are many more female artists I love and admire. Some names I’d like to mention before signing off include Tracey Thorn of Everything But The Girl, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac, British R&B singer Desiree, Agnetha Fältskog of ABBA, Avril Lavigne, Sophie Ellis Bextor, Imogen Heap of Frou Frou, Dido, Lisa Marie Presley and Suzanne Vega. Rock on, ladies!