We said bon voyage to 2014 last week, but it seems only customary to reflect on the happenings of the past year. Feminism was a buzzword throughout 2014 and this era has been deemed as the fourth wave of feminism. From the media to classrooms of liberal arts colleges, conversations of female empowerment have been discussed frequently. However, it seems that whenever there is a successful woman in the public eye, whether it be politics or entertainment, they seem to experience a greater amount of scrutiny than their male counterparts or are idealized as if there are no other talented, funny, and/or intelligent women on the planet. In music, the talents of female musicians are frequently taken for granted. So, in this new era of enlightenment, I’ve decided to compile a list of my personal favorite musicians who are exceptionally talented.
1. Haim My new favorite band. Haim is a girl group comprised of three sisters (Danielle, Este, and Alana) from Southern California. The band is a contender for the Best New Artist award at the Grammys this year and after listening to their album, Days Are Gone, you’ll know why. The album includes several great songs with perfect harmonies and lyrics. The girls are often compared to Fleetwood Mac front woman, Stevie Nicks, but I think their sound resembles that of the 1980s band, The Bangles. Stay tuned, if you haven’t heard of Haim yet, I predict that the band’s popularity will rise to great heights within the year.
Personal favorite songs: “Forever” and “The Wire”
2. Whitney Houston The singer who had the best pipes in the business, Whitney Houston was an absolute superstar in her heyday. Whether it was “I Will Always Love You” or her performance of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the 1991 Super Bowl, her vocal range is truly amazing. One of my favorite Whitney performances is when she sang “That’s What Friends Are For” alongside her cousin, Dionne Warwick, and singers Luther Vandross and Stevie Wonder. I swear, watching the YouTube video still gives me chills…and makes me tear up. It’s my mission in life to sway back and forth in a circle with my college friends at graduation (my own version of Chrismukkah Bar Mitz-Vahkkuh) while singing along to this song.
Personal favorite songs: “Saving All My Love For You” and “I Will Always Love You”
3. Stevie Nicks (honorable mention: Christie McVie) Stevie Nicks’ voice can most aptly be characterized by the title of that Sinead O’ Connor song, “Nothing Compares 2 U.” Her voice. Her lyrics. Her style. ALL PERFECTION. To this day, Fleetwood Mac continues to be my favorite band of all time. Nicks is known for singing songs like “Landslide” and “Rhiannon,” but some of her lesser known songs are fantastic as well. In addition to her career as Fleetwood Mac lead singer, Stevie Nicks also had a successful solo career. Almost five years later, I still have fond memories playing “Edge of Seventeen” on a loop, the morning of my seventeenth birthday. Fun fact: Destiny’s Child actually used the guitar music from “Edge of Seventeen” for the group’s song, “Bootylicious” and Nicks was even featured in the music video. When you listen to Nicks’ songs, you’ll want to dance like her, while wearing a blanket-y sweater over a billowy dress. In one word, she is awesome.
Personal favorite Stevie songs: “Gypsy,” “Sara,” “Rhiannon,” and “Leather and Lace”
Personal favorite Christie songs: “You Make Loving Fun” and “Songbird”
4. Lady Gaga I have full confidence that in twenty years, people will look back on Lady Gaga’s career and realize how much they underestimated her artistry. Gaga is one of the few musicians who, in my opinion, performs better live than in the studio and one of the only artists of our generation whose music is heavily influenced by popular culture, jazz, musical theater, and art (as seen in her album Art Pop). She writes her own music and lyrics, and has a major influence in the creative direction of her image, something that seems to be rare in the industry. I was introduced to Gaga’s music when her first big hit, “Just Dance” rose to popularity and since then, I’ve been in awe of her progression as a pop superstar. Almost seven years and five albums later, Lady Gaga has opened the world’s eyes and ears to smart music that happens to have cool beats and catchy lyrics. Behind her meat dresses and latex bodysuits, Lady Gaga is a classic musician to the core.
Personal favorite songs: “Paparazzi” (her performance at the VMAs circa 2009 is one of my favorites), “Edge of Glory,” “Marry the Night” (fantastic music video), “Anything Goes” (a cover duet with Tony Bennett), “Do What U Want,” and “Applause”
5. Carole King On the subject of talented pianists, I have to write about Carole King. She is famous for her narrative folk songs and her frequent collaborations with James Taylor, but every time I listen to her album Tapestry, I am continually amazed by the brilliance of her piano music. The music and lyrics of her songs are seemingly simple, but actually have a lot of depth. Many people don’t realize that King actually co-wrote several songs that were made famous by other artists and music groups, including “Some Kind of Wonderful,” “Up on the Roof,” (both sung by The Drifters) and “Locomotion” (sung by Little Eva).
Personal favorite songs: The entire Tapestry album and King’s version of “Up on the Roof”
6. Ella Fitzgerald What’s the saying? Behind every great man, there is a great woman? Well, if the man is Louis Armstrong, the woman is Ella Fitzgerald. A fellow Virginian, Fitzgerald is a jazz legend. I’d describe the sound of Fitzgerald’s voice as smooth and sweet. There’s a hint of nostalgia in Ella Fitzgerald’s music and every time I listen to it, I wish that I could be transcended back to a 1940s New York nightclub, where swing and slow dancing were socially accepted and the sounds of jazz filled the room. In order to truly appreciate music, I think all people must listen to jazz, specifically Ella Fitzgerald.
Personal favorite songs: “Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off,” “Love is Here to Stay,” and “Stars Fell on Alabama”
7. Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine Florence Welch told Chelsea Handler that she sang to Etta James in a bathroom at a party (insert Vanessa Bayer’s impression of Miley Cyrus saying, “that’s pretty cool”). In addition to this factoid, Welch’s unconventional voice and blazing red hair makes her the epitome of cool.
Personal favorite song: “Dog Days are Over”
8. Adele Ah, 2011. The year I graduated high school and when I started college. It was also the year that Adele released her album 21 and “Someone Like You” became the sad-day anthem. Although 21 was the last album Adele has released, there has been a significant amount of media buzz that the R&B singer will be releasing her third studio album this year. This information is music to my ears (no pun intended). Adele’s soulful sound is like a modern take of Aretha Franklin. There’s power and emotion in her voice, which can be felt as a listener. In a nutshell, the girl has pipes.
Personal favorite songs: “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep”
9. Cyndi Lauper I was in the sixth grade when I watched Romy and Michelle’s High School Reunion for the first time. While it isn’t the best work of Mira Sorvino and Lisa Kudrow, the film has a killer soundtrack and was the catalyst for my obsession with 1980s pop culture. In the movie, Sorvino and Kudrow do a ridiculously amazing dance routine alongside Alan Cumming to Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time.” While critics may argue that Lauper’s songs haven’t aged well, her songs are uplifting and what I like to call ‘feel good songs’. With her half-shaved head and fiery hair color, the resurgence of edgy trends occurring today are statements Lauper made 30 years ago. I appreciate artists who promote female empowerment and self-confidence; Lauper has successfully achieved both of these things.
Personal favorite songs: “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun,” “True Colors,” and her part in “We are the World”
10. Karen Carpenter In a new Chevrolet commercial, the company associates The Carpenters’ song, “Rainy Days and Mondays,” with an uncool lifestyle. Say what you want about The Carpenters, I don’t care. If butter could sing, I’m sure it would have Karen Carpenter’s voice. Like butter, Carpenter’s voice is smooth and fresh. In addition to having an angelic-like voice, Carpenter also played the drums in the band she led with her brother. Come on, playing the drums instantly adds a few notches to a person’s cool factor (even if she did wear dresses that looked as though they were stolen from the set of Little House on the Prairie).
Personal favorite songs: “We’ve Only Just Begun,” “They Long to be Close to You,” and “Yesterday Once More”
11. Janis Joplin In the movie The Sandlot, the narrator describes one of the kids as “getting really into the ’60s.” I’m fairly certain that Janis Joplin would meet this description, too. Never the less, Janis Joplin is one of the few females who has been recognized for her ability to rock. Her raspy vocals integrated blues, jazz and rock extremely well, so much that she became the voice of a new genre called, psychedelic rock. In more ways than one, Joplin was revolutionary in rock history, because she was one of the first women whose career and music was compared and taken as seriously as other similar, male musicians.
Personal favorite songs: “Piece of My Heart,” “Mercedes Benz,” “Bobby McGee,” and “Maybe”