Archive for contralto

Top Ten Favourite British Female Vocalists

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 5, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

After my list of twenty favourite female vocalists, I have now completed a list that focuses on British females. Again, those on the list were chosen and ranked based on my own opinion and looks at the ladies’ timbre, vocal ability, power, versatility and live performances.

1) Beverley Knight


Type: Coloratura mezzo

She may be highly underrated but Beverley is an amazingly talented vocalist, whose style is rooted in gospel singing. She has an incredible range, great technique and is a very powerful belter, giving it her all in all her performances, and is very much like a younger, British version of Aretha Franklin. It’s such a shame she isn’t as widely recognised when she is far superior than the likes of Adele and Leona Lewis.

2) Annie Lennox


Type: Coloratura contralto

Annie Lennox’s musicality is astounding; classically trained with an almost operatic-like singing voice (she’s a contralto but has a phenomenal range for one), she is not only a very skilled technical singer but also an emotive one. She has a very rich and warm tone to her voice but her high notes are also very full and clear, and she could definitely show some of the younger generation how it’s done!

3) Gabrielle


Type: Low lyric mezzo

What I liked about Gabrielle’s voice, which reminded me a lot of Mary J Blige and Macy Gray rolled into one – like a British version of both of them, was the sweet and soothing yet raspy tone to it, and the cool edge she had to her sound and music.

4) Heather Small


Type: Lyric contralto

Astonishingly deep and extremely rich, Heather Small’s powerful gospel-influnced voice is distinctive and full of soul. Her voice may not be to everyone’s taste but there’s something about her that makes me love the bombast way in which she sings.

5) Jessie J


Type: Spinto soprano

Jessie J is a vocal beast and definitely one of the best young singers in the UK out there today (well, there aren’t many to compare with… I mean, look at Ellie Goulding, for example). Sometimes her vocal styling isn’t to everyone’s taste and her upper belts can be rather screechy but overall she has a great technique and there is a lot of power in her voice.

6) Adele


Type: Low lyric mezzo

A deep, rich and soulful voice, Adele certainly knows how to deliver her songs well with a lot of emotion (even if they are all very similar and monotonous). Although I don’t think she’s as phenomenal as a lot of people seem to believe her to be, she’s certainly great at what she does, so let’s see if in the long run her recovery from vocal surgery and after quitting smoking she further improves.

7) Leona Lewis


Type: Light lyric soprano

A very sweet voice (almost too sweet perhaps, sometimes), Leona made a name for herself trying to impersonate her idols Whitney and Mariah on The X Factor. However, when she broke away and did her own thing and didn’t attempt iconic songs that were too big for her to handle, she really exceeded. She has a impressive range and the best parts of it are her pretty falsetto and head voice.

8) Jamelia


Type: Lyric soprano

Another underrated singer and of the last proper British female R&B singers, Jamelia deserves more recognition than she gets, especially when it comes to the ballads she recorded, where her real talent for singing and her and gorgeous tone shone through.

9) Joss Stone


Type: Lyric mezzo

I could never tell whether the way Joss Stone sings is actually her real voice or just totally fake, which was slightly annoying, but either way she is good singer and an emotive one at that and one of the first pioneers of British blue-eyed soul singers since 2000 onwards.

10) Amy Winehouse


Type: Contralto/low lyric mezzo? (debated)

The thing about Amy Winehouse’s voice is that you could never tell if she was drunk or sober or not at the time of singing, whether it was in the studio or live, yet at the same time she had a very compelling voice that told the story of her songs with a lot of emotion. She was far off from being a great vocalist, especially when she definitely wasn’t in the best of health due to alcohol, smoking, drugs and other illnesses, but there was certainly something about her that was interesting, particularly her rich, almost sickly sweet lower register and drawl.

Top Twenty Favourite Female Vocalists (11 to 20)

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 28, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

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.

19) Cher


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.

Top Twenty Favourite Female Vocalists (1 to 10)

Posted in Female Vocalists with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on February 26, 2013 by Ain't No Other Tan

This list is part one of two of my top twenty favourite female vocalists but does not include British females as I will make a separate list of those another time. The list is based mainly on personal taste and them as singers, rather than as artists (for example, Christina would be higher as an artist) but I do draw on some truths and facts about each singer as well to tell you why I think they rank higher or lower than others – and these opinions and facts are based on tone/timbre, vocal ability, versatility and live performances (as for many singers, they may have a great recording voice, but totally suck live). For each singer I have also provided a video of their best (or one of their best) live performances.

1) Whitney Houston


Type: Spinto soprano (pre-1993), lyric mezzo? (post-1993)

A vocal beast, period. A mixture of things made Whitney stand out: her luxurious tone which consistent throughout her voice, her great range, her strong mid-range belts and practically unparalleled control, especially when using vibrato. But above all, it was how she delivered songs, particularly live, with so much emotion and added riffs, runs and inflections only when needed, and wherever she did so, still sounded magnificent and executed them great precision, perfect pitch and brilliant phrasing. Even though from the late 1990s onwards, her voice had begun to deteriorate, Whitney’s delivery was still on point (most of the time anyway).

Unfortunately, Whitney wasn’t as perfect as she may have seemed; her belting may have sounded great, but were done so through poor technique – which aided in her vocal decline, amongst other things.

2) Aretha Franklin


Type: Dramatic mezzo

Whitney’s godmother, Aretha was just as amazing in almost every way and it was from singing in church and Aretha (and her mother Cissy), where Whitney learnt her skills. And Aretha’s skills are pretty much the same as the ones I have listed for Whitney, but her range is wider, she could belt higher and her technique was better; it’s just Whitney’s timbre that I prefer over Aretha’s that pushes her into second place.

3) Mariah Carey


Type: Lyric coloratura soprano

Out of all twenty singers, Mariah is probably the best when it comes to technical ability (perhaps only bettered in some parts by Céline), having almost no flaws whatsoever, except for some pitch issues in live performances and scratchier upper belts (in recent years anyway). Many singers very rarely reach the same peak as their own idol, but like hers, Minnie Ripperton, Mariah has earned her place alongside her as a true master of the whistle register, even if she does overuse far too much. What is astounding about Mariah is is the way she manipulates her timbre in different registers – deep and husky in the lower register (which is actually more like her natural voice), full and powerful in the middle, and light and airy in the upper registers.

4) Christina Aguilera


Type: (Light) lyric mezzo

First of all, let’s get Christina’s negatives out of the way – she employs poor techniques to reach many of her higher belts that are beyond her comfortable range and limits, which results in a scratchy and shouty sound and produces pitch issues, and sometimes she does go overboard on the riffs and runs, but when she keeps it clean, straight and reined in and within her comfort zone, she reigns supreme and is definitely more of an emotive singer than a technical one.

Of course, her main strengths are: her unique and gorgeous timbre (which she can also manipulate to sound different in different registers like Mariah) – based on tonal quality alone, this is the main reason why she’s known as ‘the voice of this generation’; great vocal power and range – and although she has proven to be able to hit whistle notes she unfortunately rarely does; and she is extremely versatile, having covered or touched upon countless different genres (although that’s more about her artistry). Also, while like some singers (such as Charice), Christina grew up listening to and emulating her idols, she still managed to develop her own sound and style of singing that the likes of Charice haven’t done.

5) Donna Summer

Type: Lyric mezzo

The Queen of Disco, Donna Summer was a underrated vocalist but those who were fans of her music would know she had an incredible voice. A great, soulful tone which could sound sultry and sexy and some of her songs and smooth and warm on others, she had excellent technique too that helped keep her voice in good shape even in her later years.

6) Kelly Clarkson


Type: Full lyric soprano?

Probably one of the best technical singers out there right now and excels in what the type of music she does best – soulful, rocky and country-tinged pop, a sound which reminds me a lot of Anastacia. Except Kelly has a far more pleasant and less gravelly tone.

7) Toni Braxton


Type: (Low) lyric mezzo

Toni Braxton is one of my favourite traditional R&B divas from the 90s; I love her deep, rich tone, which is hella sexy, heavenly and soulful. Another singer who I am saddened by the fact that she hasn’t made any new music in such a long time.

9) Nicole Scherzinger


Type: Full lyric soprano

Why people call Nicole ‘Shitsinger’ is beyond me when this lady has a very solid voice with great technique – probably because she has had classical training as an opera singer with incredible power, range and control. To me, she sounds better singing opera, when her slight nasal tone she normally has is absent, as she is unfortunately underrated as a vocalist in the pop industry.

9) Beyoncé


Type: Coloratura mezzo

Along with Kelly and Nicole, Beyoncé is also one of the best technical singers out there today with really good control over and knowledge of her own voice, and if it weren’t for Christina’s greater power, versatility and nicer tone, Bey would probably beat her to the pole position as ‘the voice of this generation’. However the best parts of her voice are her warm and smooth lower register and clear and bright head voice. Out of all them though, I am personally not a huge fan of her and the hype that surrounds her, but acknowledge her entertainment value at least.

10) Jennifer Hudson


Type: Spinto soprano?

J-Hud’s power is unmatched by nearly all the ladies in this list, except Patti Labelle, and like Patti is able to belt ridiculously high, even though some notes can sometimes sound shouty or screechy. She has a singing style that is deeply rooted in gospel – and is the genre she excels in the best, which means she sings with an immense amount of soul , and a very strong mid-range that today is probably the closest to that of Whitney Houston in her prime. It’s just a shame she is so highly underrated.