This week we have women who defined the bands they were in. This isn’t your 1960s girl-group best-of. These are the women whose performances got people to sit down and shut up, who led groups that changed the way that we listen to music.
Chrissie Hynde – The Pretenders
There’s nobody cooler than Chrissie Hynde. I glimpse so many things I love about her in many of my favorite female musicians. Karen O, PJ Harvey, Jenny Lewis, and Annie Clark all share elements of her powerfully delicate voice, stage presence and overall demeanor. After several false starts creating bands Hynde built The Pretenders with Pete Farndon and came out with the hit “Brass in Pocket” right out of the gate. She’s a dynamic performer without having to put on too much of a show. I find myself failing to make a better for her than to say just watch her.
Siouxsie Sioux- Siouxsie and the Banshees
There are many excellent lead female singers, but I’m going to go with Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie of the Banshees due to her complete package. Siouxsie had a great stage presence when the Banshees were considered a punk group back in the late 70s, which I suppose was vital for longevity given the glut of male-dominated punk bands at the time. Aside from Debbie Harry (Blondie) and perhaps Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics), there weren’t too many noticeable ladies gnashing it out while running the show in the rock scene back then. As the Plasmatics and Blondie fizzled, the Banshees kept things going with a combination of pop and goth music during the eighties. In addition to the Cure, Siouxsie’s songs, style, and eyeliner helped start a new genre of music. Even in the nineties, when the band had gotten a little older and a little softer, Siouxsie was still an impressive front woman not only in dramatic flair but also in ageless beauty. Along with her influence on future bands, Siouxsie Sioux has to be considered at least one of the best lead singers of a band of the modern era if not of all time.
Lauryn Hill- The Fugees
It’s rare to find a female MC who can hold her own, but one woman who can compete with some of the best rappers in the game is Ms. Lauryn Hill. I will concede that she is known for her solo career, but that only came after the Fugees broke up in 1997. Without the Fugees – and without her iconic performance on their 1996 album “The Score” – Ms. Hill would not be where she is today.
And with just one look at the track list, it quickly becomes clear how important Ms. Hill was to the band’s success. The first verse of the first song “How Many Mics” showcases her impeccable, smooth flow, and the verses only get better from there. The sings the hook for the next song “Ready or Not” with just as much grace. But on the album’s title track “The Score,” her lyrics still bite. And then take the Fugees’ most acclaimed song “Killing Me Softly.” That song is nothing without Ms. Hill’s voice crooning that haunting, painful melody. Wyclef Jean barely appears on the track; she is the one driving the song forward, and she ultimately serves as the anchor for the entire album. Ms. Lauryn Hill is a strong woman whose musicianship and ability to shift between a mean MC and a soulful singer made the Fugees what they were. Her signature is all over the Fugees’ music, and that is what makes her a leader.
Amy Linton- Henry’s Dress/The Aislers Set
Amy Linton is a God to me to be quite frank. Henry’s Dress was the best 90s indie/noise-pop/twee band and I am saying that as a Beat Happening and Black Tambourine fan. That said, I really almost chose Pam Berry as my choice for this week. Henry’s Dress put out a few 7-inches, an EP and one phenomenal LP, 1996’s Bust ‘em Green which stands to this day as one of my favorite albums. Henry’s Dress was Linton’s vehicle for being a badass woman musician in a post-twee landscape. They weren’t Riot Grrrl; they were never political or provocative or crass. Think Black Tambourine with a little more Now she’s the singer for The Aislers Set, which is a great in own, less noisy, way.