10 Best Female Solo Artists
These 10 best female solo artists represent a variety of genres and eras. But the one constant these women share is a drive and originality that sets them apart from the rest of the pack.
- Aretha Franklin. The Queen Of Soul deserves her title. Outside of pop, rock or folk, there is perhaps no other female solo artist as popular in the 60's, having hits like "R.E.S.P.E.C.T." She continues to deliver lyrics in a powerful and emotional way that automatically makes any song she's singing hers alone for that moment.
- Janis Joplin. She proved that white women could sing the blues and that female solo artists could rock. Hailing from working class, coastal Port Arthur, Texas, she turned her southern twang into an urgent rasp that worked just as well on slower numbers ("Mercedes Benz") and soul-rockers ("Piece Of My Heart").
- Patti Smith. A godmother of punk rock, this solo artist burst into the music world in 1975. The complex wordplay in her lyrics reflects her poet background, although her most well-known songs are covers ("Gloria" and "Because The Night") with her own added lines. With her untrained vocal style reminiscent of a rough mix of 60's girl groups and Mick Jagger, sound and feeling merge.
- Cat Power. Emerging in the mid-90's, Chan Marshall (solo artist stage name Cat Power) has gone from minimalist folk and rock to full-on soul. Her earthy, breathy, smokey singing voice manages to sound ethereal as well. It works best anchored by her own primitive, distinctive see-saw guitar or piano but also when backed by a full blues band.
- Bessie Smith. Popular in the 20's and 30's, she was one of the first female solo artist blues stars. Under her wing, the blues was fleshed out with jazzy flair. But it kept the standard themes of alcohol and double entendres. She sang in a boisterous manner with extended notes.
- Bjork. She is the best known musical solo artist export from Iceland. To call her eccentric would be an understatement. But the flamboyant make-up and costumes don't hide a lack of talent. Her voice is fragile and childlike but also coy and sexual. Some songs have angular electronica while others have a meditative pulse. She even recorded an acapella record as layered as any other. She is pure theater in musical form.
- Joan Jett. She began her musical career as a teenager in the 70's as the rhythm guitarist with The Runaways, a highly manufactured, though talented, all-girl punk band. When that band fell apart, she started a solo artist career on her own terms. While catchy as pop tunes, her music ("I Love Rock N' Roll" and "Bad Reputation" for example) is as brash as Iggy Pop before her. She shares a similar sneering vocal style with Billy Idol.
- Jenny Lewis. She's also the front-woman of Rilo Kiley. As a solo artist, her music runs from country-flavored folk-rock to the soulful side of John Lennon. She is a master at making both slow ("Melt Your Heart") and up-tempo songs ("Carpetbaggers") catchy. There's a beautiful longing in her clear, flowing vocal style that suggests there's more behind the words she's singing. This makes her like the great country singers from Hank Williams to Emmylou Harris.
- Diamanda Galas. She has a chameleon singing voice that fits many types of music from soul to operatic pieces to avant garde goth-rock. Even on her most mainstream album she sings with a demented warble about insanity, hell, murder, etc. Her fascination with the darker side of life adds the dangerousness and uneasiness to her music that makes it interesting.
- Cyndi Lauper. In the '80s, synth-pop like her's ruled. What set her apart from other solo artists was a celebration of weirdness. The oddly-shaped haircut and the full-size Barbie doll earring were part of who she was and not props. Her songs, like "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun," about teenage rebellion and "She Bop," about self-pleasure, are all sung in her expressive, bright voice. She has maintained a solo artist career of smart pop and even released a blues album in 2010.
Posted on: Dec. 20, 2010