Music Recommendations From a Sexist Pig
by Bryan Berlin (Media Studies), published November 8th 2011
What I am about to say will make me sound like a jerk. I’ve had good friends criticize me for it: I don’t like (most) female singers. Many times, I’ve been listening to a new band with a great intro, when suddenly a girl’s voice starts singing and I’m instantly turned off. I don’t know why. I’ve tried to figure it out for years. I know one element is that it’s much easier and more fun for me to sing along to a guys voice, since I am a guy (although singing along to Passion Pit and The Format is a stretch sometimes).
It’s not that I don’t like women musicians, because I do. I think a girl who can shred on guitar or play some rock violin (I’m looking at you, Arcade Fire and The Head And The Heart) is a total badass. For some reason though, when a girl goes up to the microphone, I quickly lose interest.
But wait! It’s not the case for every girl. On occasion, a girl slips by my sexist music radar. I’m pretty sure Natalie Imbruglia’s “Torn” is one of my Top 25 Favorite Songs Ever. In that case though, it’s really just that song. There are a few female musicians that I not only enjoy and listen to on a regular basis, but also actually recommend to people. Here are the big names on that list.
Jenny Owen Youngs
The first time I saw Jenny Owen Youngs was probably one of my top three concert experiences all time. She opened for Jukebox The Ghost at The Bowery Ballroom in New York City. She was magnificent. I was blown away by how she could go from sounding so intimate to sounding so powerfully awesome from one song to the next. She’s also a total babe. I left that concert with one line stuck in my head from her song “Transmitter Failure”: “There’s a lot of words in the English language and I’m just getting started baby – we could be here all night.” It was so poetic. I went home and listened to all of her stuff and was hooked. She is definitely the top female singer I listen to, and when I saw her again live last year, I was not disappointed.
Mates of State
Okay, I’m stretching it with this one. Technically, Mates of State isn’t a band with a lead female singer. Mates of State is made up of married couple Kori Gardner and Jason Hammel, and they split singing duties. Considering Kori sings at least 50% of the time though, I figured this could count (I made a point not to use The New Pornogrpahers because AC Newman does more of the vocals than Neko Case). Also, I’m making up these rules as I go along, so of course it counts. Mates of State is a simple sound of drums and piano/synth, and their voices carry the music. Kori has a really relaxing voice that actually pairs perfectly with her husband. The best songs are the ones that share vocal duties and chime in back and forth over the course of the song.
Regina Spektor has been a part of my iTunes library for a while, but I only got into her about a year ago. There were two factors that caused this. The first was a song off of Ben Fold’s album Way Too Normal. Overall, this album was pretty lackluster, but one song on it has become my favorite Ben Folds song. The song is called “You Don’t Know Me,” and it features Regina Spektor. It’s amazing. Go check it out now. They are a perfect vocal combination. The other factor that led to my appreciation of Regina was the movie (500) Days of Summer. The soundtrack featured two songs by her. After getting into the soundtrack, I really started getting into Begin To Hope. The album has a great range of musical styles and she takes advantage of her extensive vocal range. I’m also a sucker for good piano, and she does it well. I also feel like she could be a pretty impressive rapper if she attempted it.
So it wasn’t that extensive of a list. Technically, it’s only 2.5 girls. That doesn’t mean there aren’t more that I listen to, I just omitted them for various reasons – Feist because I really only like The Reminder, The Head and The Heart because of the The New Pornographers reasoning, She & Him and the Civil Wars because I like them, but not enough to make the list since they also hit the Mates of State category. What the list above gives you are the three essential female vocalists to check out if you are as skeptical about female musicians as I am. And finally, I would love to find some more awesome chick singers, so if you read this and have some suggestions, let me know!