For whatever reason, I have been on a female fronted kick lately. Although the number of outstanding female fronts are remarkably limited, when you wrap your hands around a good one (not literally, of course), it is tough to let go. Over the course of my lifetime, there have been about 20 or so that have left a certain mark on me (again, not literally). While I would love to do a “20 of the week,” choosing my three favorites was actually fairly simple. So, as for the theme of the week, we are going to take a look at my favorite track from each of my three favorite female leads. All in all, I decided to select one from my early childhood, one from my college days and finally one from my “Adult” days. They are all three magnificent in their own unique way – either bringing brilliant stage presence, luxurious vocal range, or a combination of both.
1. “Ode To My Family” – The Cranberries (Dolores O’Riordan)
Off of their second release No Need To Argue, most would think the obvious choice would be their number one hit “Zombie.” I prefer, however, to be far less obvious. Well, not really. “Ode To My Family” peaked at number 11, combining with “Zombie” as a nice 1-2 punch, helping the album gain triple platinum status in just a year. The ballad features O’Riordan in her finest element. Breathtaking balance, style and pitch simply overtake you as a listener. Even today, not many vocalists can hit those nerve endings the way she can. For that reason I urge you to listen, breathe, cry and absorb every little note. Female readers, be jealous.
2. “Hallelujah” (Live, Acoustic) – Paramore (Hayley Williams)
For those that know me, or have read anything I have written in the past, I am sure this comes as no surprise. Back in 2005, I was introduced to an extremely young blonde (dyed red, of course) and immediately knew she was someone special. Although she was (and still is) 3 years my junior (is that a phrase?), and half a foot shorter than I, she seemed like an absolute giant. Not in the weird, freakish way, but you get the idea. Right around the time they released All We Know Is Falling, an acoustic video of an unreleased track entitled “Hallelujah” showed up on Youtube. Apparently the song was one of the first they had ever written (Williams and Farro), but they wanted the song to be on a record where it would be recognized. And so, they decided to wait on the release of the track until 2007’s Riot. Watching this old video brings back so many great memories, and I still get irritated when I hear people in the background talking. Regardless, her abilities as a 16 year old are extraordinary.
3. “8:08” – Laura Stevenson & The Cans (Laura Stevenson)
An initial side project stemming from her inclusion in Bomb The Music Industry!, Laura Stevenson performed as the band’s keyboardist. Luckily for me, you and everyone we know, she decided to piece together this band and act as the band’s vocalist. After some Split’s, EP’s and other recordings, the Cans’ and their gifted female-front released 2011’s Sit Resist. From start to finish, it is an undeniably shining gem, but “8:08” in particular is stunning. The first time I listened to the track, the few hairs I do have on my body stood for a good five minutes. When I listened to the track again just now, the same thing happened (still not that much hair – good genetics). While she is new, fresh, or whatever word you choose to use with regard to her length of time “in the scene,” that talent, that tone – cannot be matched, nor can it be downgraded in any way.