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Top 10 Great Underrated Female Singers

Listverse Staff

This list is my tribute to underrated or lesser known great female vocalists. These are all women who are unlikely to make it to most people’s top ten lists and I really would like to give them some exposure if possible. I must confess that this list is a little self-indulgent as these are some of my favorite singers.

9. Émilie Simon

In May 2003, she released her debut album Émilie Simon. The electronic album was critically acclaimed and went on to become a commercial success. To promote her album, she did numerous live performances and TV appearances all over France. In 2004, she was rewarded with a Victoire de la musique in the ‘Electronic Album’ category for the album. This girl needs to get the acclaim she deserves outside of France!

8. Anika Moa

Anika Moa is well known in New Zealand but not outside. She was given a contract with Atlanta Records in New York, but returned to New Zealand to pursue her music in a more relaxed way. Her albums have all been very successful in her home country and she deserves a lot more international attention. The clip above is “Falling in love again” one of the best songs on her double platinum album “Thinking Room”. One of the coolest parts of the clip above is when Anika is standing outside a 4 Square – one of New Zealand’s oldest grocery store chains – well – cool for me for reasons of nostalgia!

7. Melanie Safka

Melanie had a number of hits ultimately faded from the a list of rock music. She continues to perform to this day but is only known to her most devoted fans from the past. When first released, the song above (Brand New Key) was banned by some radio stations due to the lyrics being interpreted as being sexual innuendo.

6. Julee Cruise

With a distinctive, airy voice, Cruise has recorded three albums, but is probably best known for the lead vocal on “Falling,” the theme song for the cult U.S. television series Twin Peaks. Until recently, she was a frequent collaborator with composer Angelo Badalamenti and film director David Lynch, who produced and wrote the lyrics for most of her songs.

5. Peaches

[WARNING: The clip above contains language that will almost certainly offend some readers] Peaches is not very well known outside of her own genre (electroclash) but she is an astonishingly talented woman. This track was featured in the movie Lost in Translation. Peaches’ music is preoccupied with genderchange identity, and she often plays with traditional notions of gender identity, gender roles, and gender presentation. Her lyrics and live shows self-consciously blur the distinction between male and female; she appears on the cover of her album Fatherfucker with a full beard.

4. Janis Ian

Janis Ian’s most successful single was “At Seventeen,” released in 1975, a bittersweet commentary on adolescent cruelty and teenage angst, as reflected upon from the maturity of adulthood. “At Seventeen” received acclaim from record buyers — it charted at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart — and critics, as it won the 1975 Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, beating out the likes of Linda Ronstadt, Olivia Newton-John and Helen Reddy. Janis is still performing regularly and recording – for a fee she will even travel to your home and give you a private concert. I have had a number of communications with Janis and she is a lovely lady with a great talent that needs to be more widespread. I recommend visiting Janis’ website and buying some of her music. Alternatively most of her albums are on iTunes – why not contribute some money to increasing her popularity!

3. Carolyne Mas

Carolyne Mas had a great career ahead of her. Unfortunately due to marketing decisions, her career was cut short. She has suffered a great deal in her life – being stabbed nine times in a break in at her home. It is a tragedy that this rising star of rock music had her career cut short by bad marketing decisions. This clip above was actually submitted to Youtube by Carolyne herself. Visit Carolyne’s website and download some great music!

2. Edie Brickell

Edie Brickell made some fame through her song “Goodtimes” which was included as a video clip in all copies of Windows 95 to demonstrate its new video abilities. The clip above was while she was with the New Bohemians before her solo career (she has since rejoined the group). I hear this song on the radio and fell in love with her voice instantly. Brickell is married to Paul Simon and they met while she was performing this song on Saturday Night Live.

1. Cass Elliot

Admittedly Cass Elliot was famous as part of the 60s group the Mamas and the Papas, but I have chosen to include her here because many younger readers won’t know who she is and many people don’t know that she had a solo career after the group split. In the clip above we see one of her great songs California Earthquake – we see her characteristic movement style and her truly astounding voice. What an icon! You may also be unaware that she played a part in the children’s movie Pufnstuf – she even has a large solo singing part in it. You can watch the clip here. Sadly, Cass Elliot (who I think could almost be considered the greatest female pop vocalist of the 20th century) died before her time at the age of 32 of a heart attack (1974).

1. Your Choice

You might have noticed that I only have 9 women on this list. I have spent the last five hours trying to think of a tenth and I can’t. Can you give my tenth lady? Tell me in the comments and I will complete the list!

Afterword

I think the talent of the women above really puts modern music to shame – all of the women above have achieved their greatness through vocal talent – not marketing or publicity. It would be great if the music industry were to return to those days.

Listverse Staff

Listverse is a place for explorers. Together we seek out the most fascinating and rare gems of human knowledge. Three or more fact-packed lists daily.

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