Part two (of two) of my list of top twenty favourite female vocalists:
11) Minnie Riperton
Type: Lyric coloratura soprano
Definitely one of the most pleasing voices I’ve ever heard, Minnie had a very soothing tone that you could listen and relax to all day. Her technique was impeccable, having been classically trained, and she is one of the pioneers of the mastering the whistle register.
12) Chaka Khan
Type: Dramatic mezzo
What I love about Chaka Khan is that as a mezzo with a usually dark voice, she still has such a big voice that is able of hitting notes that some sopranos couldn’t even reach, even if some of them sound rather screechy. As the long-reigning Queen of Funk, she has inspired the likes of Whitney, Mary J Blige and Anastacia (who sounds a lot like her, just not as good).
13) Céline Dion
Type: Lyric soprano?
One of the best technical singers alongside Mariah, Céline has the utmost control over her almost operatic-like voice, that is rarely surpassed by anyone else. Her best performances are of course of her big ballads, where she shows off her instrument well, although I’m not a huge fan of her uptempo songs or when she covers other people’s songs. The reason I’ve ranked Céline so low is mainly because her nasal tone grates a bit too much.
14) Etta James
Type: Coloratura contralto?
What separated Etta James from other jazz and blues singers back in the day in the 1950s and 60s was her unique and influential style of singing, which consisted of mixing jazz, blues, soul and gospel genres with rock and roll and her trademark grunts, growls and raspy tone. She was a very emotive singer, more so than a technical one, and was great at improvising when singing live. Many of her predecessors include Christina, Bey, Adele and Janis Joplin.
15) Lauryn Hill
Type: Low lyric mezzo?
The fact that Lauryn Hill no longer makes music is a sad situation in today’s industry, especially after the success of her debut solo album and her work with the Fugees. She was a fabulous singer who mixed her gospel roots (which she showed off in Sister Act 2) and old-school soul and funk with modern-day R&B and hip-hop, something that has rarely been seen or heard on the scene. Even though it is sad she decided to indefinitely retire from music, you’ve gotta do nothing buy bow down to someone who released just one big album and has become a legend because of it.
16) Tina Turner
Type: Dramatic mezzo
What makes Tina Turner so incredible is her ability and power throughout her whole voice; manly low notes, strong hight belts and has a good head voice too. Tina defined herself as a great soulful rock singer and although her upper belts can sound really harsh and forced, you gotta love her gutsy deliveries and give nothing but the utmost respect to a woman who can still sing so well in her seventies.
17) Patti Labelle
Type: Dramatic soprano
I’ve mentioned quite a few belters in this list, but while they can belt it out really well, none do it better than the Queen herself, Miss Patti Labelle. Some criticise her belting as overdone screaming, but if she’s still able to do it now in her late sixties, surely she’s doing something right? Her best performances have always been when she covers other artists’ songs, injecting her own unique style into them while still retaining the musicality and emotion of the song.
18) Mary J Blige
Type: Dramatic mezzo
One of the most emotive singers out there today, Mary is a great vocalist who has good techniques (bar some pitch problems and strained belts) and a wide range with a lot of power, and I love her deep, rich and husky timbre – she’s a like an even more urban version of Whitney.
Type: Lyric contralto
Many people probably think of Cher as more of a performer than anything else, which of course she is, and a very good one. But she is also a great vocalist who is highly underrated, making her stand out against her contemporaries such as Madonna and Cyndi Lauper, who are also more known for their dramatic and ever-changing looks than anything else. Cher has a deep, warm timbre to her voice but is also a fantastic belter, with a good technique, making me wonder why so many people still overlook her as a vocalist. She’s also very versatile as an artist, having covered many different genres, and very well too, may it be said.
20) Alicia Keys
Type: Low lyric mezzo
As an overall artist, Alicia is amazing. Her songwriting and musical skills are brilliant and her voice has a husky and soulful tone to it. Although it must be said she isn’t always the most consistent live performer, I’m always more compelled to listen to the emotive way in which she tells a song rather than the way she sings it, which is sometimes pitchy and strained. Her lower register however, is always pleasant and sultry to listen to.