Your Quarters Worth

10 Female Singers You Should Know About, But Might Not

Bands performing during Outside Lands Music Festival at Golden Gate Park

by John Andreula

Edited by Kodid Laraque-Two Elk

I suspect many people are a lot like me.

Music is and has always been a major part of my life. An array of songs become the soundtrack to my moments and my days.

As a youth, I grew up on the oldies my father played from his vinyl collection and the classics that were spun on New Jersey 101.5 {1}. The Beatles, The Stones, The Doors, The Who; the list is endless.

One thing that always lacked, however, was an adequate amount of female voices and instrumentalists in the music industry.

When I was old enough to make my own decisions about the type of music I wanted to hear I turned my ear away from the assortment of amazing tunes my dad had exposed me to.

I scrounged up enough money to buy albums by Pearl Jam, Green Jelly, and Nine Inch Nails. I hid in my bedroom in hopes that my parents wouldn’t hear me consume any of the explicit language contained on some of my selections.

Of my many, many cassette {2} and compact disc purchases, Salt-n-Pepa and TLC were the only female acts that could be found in my collection in my younger days.

salt-n-pepa
Salt-N-Pepa with Spinderella courtesy of Pinterest

Like many youths, as I got older, more and more extreme acts and genres made their way onto my attention’s radar. Heavy metal and gangster rap were where my tastes led me.

I had even less exposure to women in these genres than I’d had in my younger tastes. Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, and Eve were some of the most successful female acts of the time. Their music was low-brow, and frankly, trashy. {3}

Today’s youth have similar emotional and social connections to mumble rappers, like Kodak Black and Lil Uzi Vert, or to acts from EDM {4} sub-genres Trap and Dubstep, like Bassnectar and Nightmares on Wax.

Eventually and inevitably, people start to get older. I sure did.

old man

Lives change. People get higher paying jobs. Heck, jobs transform into careers. They buy houses, get married, and have kids. They become shadows of of their younger, radical selves.

They evolve and become the establishment they pushed back against for so long.

Naturally, our music tastes adapt to our life changes and new moods.

In a world dominated by men it is certainly hard to reach stratospheric levels of renown and maintain longevity for many women in the music industry.

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Ask yourself to list off the bands with a female lead vocalist. Unfortunately it’s not very long. Do the same thing for bands with male singers. The list is literally endless.

I’ve decided that in honor of the amazingly talented selection of female singers available for our listening pleasure, I’ve put together a list of ten female vocalists you should know about.

I will outline why I have chosen them and give some links to songs and videos I think truly represent their talent and abilities.

Like my other lists, there are no metrics or professional expertise that drove my decision to include or exclude any particular singers. It’s just my perfect and objective opinion.

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If I left someone off or I just got someone wrong, let me know in the comments. If you include a song or music video link, even better. That’s the way I was exposed to the majority of the artists I’ve decided to include. I relish this opportunity to expose others to some of my favorite, and hopefully learn about theirs.

Without further adieu, here’s the list of the best female singers in no particular order. Enjoy.


1. Lana Del Rey

lana del rey grammys
Lana Del Rey at the 2018 Grammys courtesy of Vogue

Simply put, Lana Del Rey is the queen bad girl with a rich, smokey voice. Her sounds provoke powerful emotions and deep thoughts. Album after album, her production and the overall tone coming from her current place in life permeate her sound and that sound penetrates your soul through your eardrums.

Listen to Ultraviolence and Born to Die albums, and the song Young and Beautiful from the Great Gatsby soundtrack.

2. Janelle Monae

janelle monae
Courtesy of rocknycliveandrecorded.com

Janelle Monae is the closest performer in quality to Michael Jackson since Michael Jackson. She just doesn’t have any monkeys or a propensity for questionable relationships with children as far as I can tell.

Talent-wise, she can sing very well, dance even better, and rap. I have not seen the movie Hidden Figures, but from the critical acclaim I would assume she can act as well.

Check out the music videos from her first couple albums, and prepare to have your mind blown. I recommend Tightrope and Many Moons as good jumping off points.

3. Samantha Gongol

samantha gongol
Courtesy of zimbio.com

You probably won’t recognize the name on its own, but you may know her group, Marian Hill. Samantha Gongol is the vocal half to Jeremy Lloyd’s stellar production and DJ’ing. Gongol belts out beautiful vocals over dope EDM beats.

The songs are fun, playful, and at times haunting. There are memorable hooks {5} that will leave you singing a Marian Hill song for days. I can’t remember a time when I finished listening to Marian Hill and I didn’t want more

The latest album, Unusual, was a spectacular follow-up to the smash 2016 LP, Act One, but there is no wrong choice. I recommend consuming everything Samantha Gongol and Marian Hill have created, especially their creative and artistic music videos.

4. Lorde

lorde sh
Courtesy of ibtimes.com

Speaking of wanting more, the Kiwi, Ella Marija Lani Yelich-O’Connor, AKA Lorde, dropped her first LP, Pure Heroine, at the age of seventeen. As the title suggested it was pure dope.

As with so many musical acts over the years, and particularly the amazing women featured on this list, I was so late to that party. Once I caught on I was addicted. Pardon the puns.

Song after song on Lorde’s freshman release include full, deep vocals and beautiful lyrical compositions. Lorde even wrote the music and oversaw the production of the album. This is a far-cry from many of the popular singers of late. Most just provide the vocals. Some don’t even write the lyrics to the tracks they are singing. Anyone with a discerning set of ears can hear the difference in the music where the singer is intimately involved in the production.

I impatiently awaited the four years for Lorde’s sophmore release, Melodrama, last year. It was worth the wait. Listen to Royals, Team, and my personal favorite, Homemade Dynamite.

5. Norah Jones

Norah-Jones.jpg
Courtesy of wnypapers.com

Many of the singers featured on this list are from the pop genre. Norah Jones is not. Norah is on an island of her own, in terms of genre in the modern world.

Her sound rides the edges of many genres. She doesn’t exactly fit into any. Her talent sings and plays for itself.

Her piano accompanied vocals are reminiscent of old school lounge singers. There are hints of country when she hits the high and low notes. She kind of reminds me of Dolly Parton, but not exactly.

While never hitting stratospheric status, Norah Jones’s renown is far-reaching. She received a shout-out from RA the Rugged Man, one of the dirtiest, and most talented rappers on one of his songs. She even created an album with super-produce Danger Mouse called, Little Broken Hearts. That was my personal favorite of her catalog.

I prefer Norah’s more recent releases over her old ones. I feel her sound and the personality has gained greatly from her time and experience. Choosing what to listen to in her catalog is dependent on mood. I can play any of her albums and I always come away from listening feeling good.

Warning, Norah Jones is on the lighter extreme of the music I am recommending in this article. I only recommend listening with an open mind or circle back on this one when you are ready.

6. SIA

The Creators Party Presented By Spotify, Cicada, Los Angeles - Arrivals
Courtesy of instyle.com

Where do I start with SIA?

Do I touch on her intense, strange, and sometimes humorous music videos? Move your Body comes to mind. As do all her more recent productions featuring the talented dancer, Maddie Zeigler. Do I mention the unusual fact that for many years she performed hiding her face behind some sort of obstructed view to avoid the modern day recognition of fame?

These are interesting parts of the SIA story, but the tale is really told through her songs. They are incredible. Her worst songs are better than most singers best songs in terms of talent and quality. I’m not kidding.

If I love Marian Hill and Lorde’s music, then I really, really love SIA’s.

Listen to Free the Animal and Reaper, my favorite SIA track, but really, listen to and watch anything done by SIA. Right now she releasing songs with Diplo & Labrinth and they’re fresh and unique in their own right.

7. Santigold

santigold.jpg
Courtesy of conversationsabouther.net

If SIA and Lorde and Lana are all on my list for the purity of their vocals, first and foremost, then acts like Janelle Monae and Marian Hill wowed me with their music’s eccentric and fun personality. Santigold’s music’s personality is unparalleled.

It’s funny really, up until the writing of this article I have always thought Santigold was a South American or Central American artist. It turns out she’s from the good old U.S. of A. {6} I couldn’t tell from her music.

Santigold takes about four years between album releases, but throughout the lay-off period her sound and creativity never cease to evolve. She could have made album after album following up formulaically from her debut self-titled record and still had a long and lucrative career. Fortunately for fans like me this wasn’t the case.

I must admit that Santigold’s somewhat strange sound can be misread and misjudged at the first listen-through. However, the more I hear her music, the more I recognize her genius.

Aside from Janelle Monet, Santigold is probably the most Hip-Hop of any of the singers I’ve presented. She’s been featured on tracks by the Beastie Boys, Major Lazer, and N.A.S.A, amongst others.

Listen to L.E.S. Artistes, My Superman, Disparate Youth, and The Keepers.

8. Sarah Barthel

sarah barthel.jpg
Courtesy of afsp.org

Aside from Samantha Gongol, Sarah Barthel will be the only woman I will recognize who is known because of her group. The group is called Phantogram.

If you read the about the author section from my website you’ll see that I literally say “If I was a band I would be Phantogram.” I would.

Sarah Barthel sings and plays the keys in the band with her partner, Josh Carter, who also sings and plays guitar. They are not a rock group, but they rock. They aren’t EDM, but I’ll be damned if you can’t dance to any of their tracks.

Their sound is sexy and a little dirty. Sometimes it’s a lot dirty. If you need a gateway drug to push you into an appreciation for female singers, Phantogram is it.

Once again there is no wrong Phantogram album to listen to, but Three is my favorite. You Don’t Get Me High Anymore and Calling All are both on that one. Listen to them and let me know what you think.

Phantogram also released an EP with Big Boi from Outkast under the name Big Grams. That one was off the hook {7} as well.

9. Halsey

Halsey
Courtesy of nytimes.com

We’ve rounded third now, but by no means does her being the ninth position on this list determine Halsey’s amazing talent as a singer and a musical act. Halsey’s the newest blood of the singers on this list. She only signed a record deal in 2014, but man, is her musical quality mature.

Like me Halsey is from New Jersey. There’s obvious lots of talent hailing from the garden state. 😉

If you won’t take my word for it, Halsey has almost thirty-three million monthly listeners on Spotify. That many people most likely cannot be wrong. Spotify has her ranked at 23rd in the world, not just in New Jersey.

Be sure to check out Halsey. You’ll get some credibility with the kids on this one even if you don’t play Fortnite or know how to use Snapchat. Listen to either and both of her albums, Badlands and Hopeless Fountain Kingdom.

10. Adele

adele.jpg
Courtesy of celebmix.com

This is the one I’m going to catch the most crap for, but I don’t care. You know I had to.

Much like Norah Jones, Adele is advanced classes for those trying to get into and understand female singers. Adele is the top of the line.

Her vocal range and strength are unparalleled. She exhibits soul like a black singer in the sixties and seventies. I don’t care if it isn’t politically correct. It’s true.

Adele is the modern day queen of divas. She exposes the low level talent of all the other top pop singers like Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Katie Perry, and anyone. If singers had battles like rappers, Adele would be the Eyedea or Eminem of the group. She wears the crown.

Cold Shoulder, Set Fire to the Rain, Lovesong, Skyfall; you pick. She doesn’t create low quality songs. She just doesn’t target everyone with her songs either.

You’re either going to get on board with me on Adele, or like my friend Evan Levy once said to me, “Why don’t you go home and cry into your pillow while you listen to some Adele?” Now that Evan’s a bit older I bet even he’s come around to Adele.


It should be abundantly obvious I didn’t spend time on who has what company’s endorsements or who any the singers are dating. The point of this piece has been to focus on the entertainment value and the art of these talented women’s music.

If you were hoping for me to dish rumors, there are plenty of publications in print and on the internet where you can find it. I don’t make much time for celebrity culture and rumors.

I sincerely hope you enjoyed reading this and checking out some of the attached links as much as I had in creating this article. I’d love to hear of any of the Alina Baraz‘s and Billie Eilish‘s that I missed or are just now up and coming.

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Alina Baraz courtesy of newsweek.com

I want to send out honorable mentions to Banks, Ellie Goulding, Florence + The Machine and Marina & the Diamonds. They are super-talented in their own right, but I stand strong on the ten acts I presented.

On a final note, this article is dedicated to the memory of Billie Holiday. If you haven’t taken the time to check her music out, do so now. It’s amazing.

This article is also dedicated to Kodid Laraque-Two Elk. She has a beautiful singing voice, but motherhood and life’s demands, such as editing my musings, prevent her from exploring and expanding on her talent. Kodid, those who know, know. I hope one day you can reacquaint yourself with song.


{1} New Jersey 101.5 no longer plays oldies. They are now a news station.

{2} Kodid showed me a cassette tape the other day. I swear I could not remember what it was called.

PS. People still buy cassette tapes on eBay!

PPS. Click the link in the previous sentence. I had to go down half the page before finding the first sold cassette by a female artist. FYI it was Sade. The tape sold for $10!

sade tape
Courtesy of eBay.com

{3}Shout outs to Jean Grae, Missy Elliot, Bahamadia, Apani B, Lauryn Hill, and Sister Soleil for their talent and originality. I was blessed to be exposed to their high quality music when I was younger. Women were making good music at the time. People either had to find it themselves or they just consumed the crapola that the music industry and the radio stations was selling them.

{4}EDM is the abbreviation of Electronic Dance Music.

{5} Hook is a cool way of saying chorus.

{6} Another in a long list of things my wife has told me that I didn’t believe. She gets so frustrated that I need to verify second sources. I love you, baby. You’re way smarter than I ever give you credit for.

{7} Off the hook here has nothing to do with choruses. It’s was slang figure of speech in the 1990’s; it refers to when the phone was ringing a lot.

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If you enjoyed this piece please check out more amazing content at:

MovingOnUpwards.com

facebook.com/JohnAndreulaJr

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