To clarify what the "Rock Era" means, there will be no Etta James, Billie Holiday, or Patsy Cline on this list. Basically, it contains the most moving and powerful songs with female vocalists from the 1960s to the present. Now, before you go calling us guys sexist, it's just a simple fact that men, on average, have less female-centered albums in their collections. Try an informal poll of your own, and you're likely to have the same results.
Why, you may ask? Sometimes it's because dudes don't want to have their man card revoked for owning a Lilith Fair compilation. But there is another group of guys who have no preconceived notions about female vocals jams or the implications of liking them, they just happen not to like many of them. Either way, here's our top 10:
10. "Nothing Compares to You" by Sinead O'Conner
Written by Prince, but knocked out of the park by Sinead O'Conner, this song was everywhere in 1990 and deservedly so. The video's image is almost entirely a passionate, bald woman singing directly into the camera, and because the song and the performance are so strong, it manages to be highly effective. Indeed, just singing the song she mustered up some real tears for everyone to see on their MTV.
9."Strong Enough" by Sheryl Crow
The protagonist of this song seems to know she's difficult to be with. She's asking if her guy is strong enough and man enough to be her man, but then moments later, in an apparently vulnerable state, begs him to: Lie to me/ I promise I'll believe/ Lie to me/ But please don't leave. It's as if to say that she knows the answer but doesn't want to hear it from his mouth. It's a wonderfully written song.
8. "Bobby McGee" by Janis Joplin
Although written by Roger Miller and Chris Kristofferson, an on-again off-again lover of Janis', it was based partly about her. While it's been sung by many others, it was performed most memorably by her.
7. "Fade Into You" by Mazzy Star
"Fade Into You" is a wonderfully melancholic song that you can just zone out to; it literally fades right into you.
6. "Heart of Glass" by Blondie
This is a funky song that makes you want to dance, but when you stop doing the hustle for a moment and listen, it's also impressive musically and lyrically.
5. "Love and Affection" by Nelson. Great song, and those chicks are hot! Wait, this just in: They aren't chicks. Moving on . . .
"Crazy On You" by Heart
Heart had two amazing artists in the Wilson sisters, Nancy on guitar and Ann on vocals, and both of their talents are showcased perfectly on "Crazy on You." It's a sexy song too, but that may be due to The Virgin Suicides. After that kiss, Josh Hartnett is left thinking, "What the hell was that," and he reaches out for her. She's gone, and he's so turned on with her gum in his mouth. The song adds an amazing intensity to the scene, but it's plenty existing on its own.
4. "Doll Parts" by Hole
There are rumors that Kurt Cobain and/or Billy Corgan wrote all of Courtney Love's songs, much like the rumors of Truman Capote writing "To Kill a Mocking Bird." Is it possible that a female artist simply hanging out with a talented male artist is enough for people to jump to the conclusion that the male must have written her work? If there's no truth to it, then it's a sad state of affairs that these assumptions were made. Either way, this is a rocking song, and Courtney downright nails it at the end when she belts it out, like only her crazy ass can. The guy that one was written about must be thinking, "Man, I hope that some day I don't ache like she aches because she sounds like she's feeling downright miserable."
3. "Fast Car" by Tracy Chapman
This is one of the saddest songs ever, or is it? It sounds at first like it's a somewhat happy song about a woman running away with someone, perhaps a lover, to escape her lousy life in the lover's "fast car," but after repeated listens, it becomes evident that they merely started up a new, crappy life somewhere else. Now she just longs for that day when she first fled, blind to the knowledge of the fact that the getting away wouldn't make her life any better. Ouch!
2. "Gold Dust Woman" by Fleetwood Mac
It's a heavy, dark song that sounds positively evil, yet so subdued, and Stevie Nick's vocal is raspy, sexy, mysterious, and perfect. "Take your silver spoon and dig your grave" is a great line that, quite obviously, alludes to Stevie Nick's drug abuse that would only get worse in the years following Rumors, the band's break-out success and the album that contains "Gold Dust Woman" as its final, haunting track.
1. "Feel Like a Natural Woman" by Carole King
No one would dispute the fact that Aretha Franklin is technically a better singer than Ms. King, but in this case, the version sang by the woman who wrote it is more powerful and moving. Carole doesn't need the vocal range of the "Queen" of Soul when there's that much emotion behind that voice of hers.
What are your favorite songs by female vocalists? Make a comment!