Once again this list is not a "greatest of all time" list but my personal favorites. So you won't see Joni Mitchell, or Madonna, or Patti Smith. And no I don't have Whitney, Mariah, or Christina Aguilera on my list either. I do like Tina Turner, Grace Slick, and Debbie Harry but no, not on the list. But I did struggle over leaving Debbie Gibson off of my list, because Electric Youth is such a masterpiece of creativity....especially the video. Here's my list:
15. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)
Singer, songwriter, bassist and sometime guitarist for the modern post-punk equivalent of The Velvet Underground, New York's Sonic Youth. Kim along with husband and guitarist Thurston Moore is the voice of the group. She's got grit, she's got style.
14. Patsy Cline
Loretta Lynn and Tammy Wynette are great in their own right, but Patsy was always my favorite of the country divas. Her style was simple but beautiful and many of her songs have stood the test of time, like Crazy and I Go Walking.
13. Billie Holliday
Lady Day did not have the range of other jazz vocalists but a silky smooth style that set her apart. She also had an unmistakable image with the white carnation in her hair.
12. Lauryn Hill
I consider Lauryn the most talented female hip-hop artist of them all. Her writing and vocal skills are the best. I don't know what happened to her but when she was with The Fugees and made her solo debut nobody was better to me. The last I saw of her was a live acoustic set that blew me away. Turns out she can play a guitar as well.
11. Norah Jones
Norah is my wife's favorite. I have endured the same CD, Norah's debut Come Away With Me, over and over to the point of disdain. But fortunately, I like her work and have huge admiration for her ability to incorporate different genres and styles into her trademark sound. She is obviously very talented as a songwriter and musician.
10. Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries)
I don't know if she's still recording, and I didn't notice anything special from her last solo work but when Dolores was writing and recording songs with The Cranberries, particlarly the first three albums, she was the best. I thought of her like a female Bono, since she is Irish and the singer-songwriter of the group. Her vocals are perfectly melodic and piercing on the heavier tracks. C'mon, haven't we all tried to imitate that high lilt on Zombie?
9. Etta James
The Queen of the Blues, with a vocal as raw and powerful as a steam engine.
8. Ingrid Michaelson
She is new on the scene and I don't even know most of her work, but what I have heard is some amazing songwriting. She has a knack for lyrics and creating harmonies that many other artists could learn from in my opinion. Die Alone is such a good song it never gets old.
7. Aretha Franklin
What can I say about the Queen of Soul that hasn't already been said? She might have the most powerful voice any woman ever had. Her gospel work is sometimes overlooked but just as awe-inspiring.
I got to see her in concert, and even though she's a dork, her musical ability and songwriting are awesome. She has such a pretty voice and knows how to craft a catchy tune like few around today.
5. Sarah Vaughan
I have already written about Sarah on my jazz list, but I will say that it might seem unfair to include jazz vocalists on a list with singer-songwriters and musicians. But I can't help it with a voice like Sarah's. She should be on any list of female talent.
4. Emily Haines (Metric, Emily Haines and The Soft Skeleton)
I was fortunate enough to see Metric live a few years ago. I love her voice and her songwriting.
3. Shara Worden (My Brightest Diamond)
Shara might be the most talented female artist around today. Her operatic vocals are beyond any female singer I've heard. I got to see My Brightest Diamond live also, and even thought they were the opener with an abbreviated set, Shara still put on an incredible show.
2. Alison Krauss
Alison Krauss is an angel on Earth. I've said many times jokingly, that if I weren't married I'd be an Alison Krauss stalker. Who am I kidding, though, she'd want to marry a guy like me any day! But seriously, I have enjoyed her voice and musical ability for years and finally saw her live at Red Rocks with Robert Plant. I'm a Led Zeppelin fan, but I have to say I was only interested in seeing Alison perform. She's my favorite living female artist.
1. Ella Fitzgerald
As previously stated, Ella is my favorite female artist in any genre of music. I know she didn't play an instrument or write any songs but she recorded every standard in the Great American Songbook at least once. Her voice was sonically perfect. Like Nat King Cole, she sang every syllable with perfect diction. She hits every note with no noticeable effort and had the range of an opera singer. Her intonation has been described as "flawless" and "God-like". Her work with Louis Armstrong is my favorite.