To mark International Women’s Day 2019, we’re celebrating the achievements of five influential and inspiring female singers.
Franklin was and still is the ultimate vocalist. An inspiration not just for those who want to sing gospel or soul, but to anyone who wants to sing, full stop.
Many have tried to imitate her emotive high belt, impeccable phrasing and tasteful riffs, but no one has ever been able to do it all, quite like she did.
Franklin was a dominant musical force, earning 20 Grammys and serving as a figurehead for the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s.
Her later hit Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves, a belter which paired her with the Eurythmics, became an anthem for the women’s movement.
A true songwriting great, Mitchell inspired everyone from Prince and Chaka Khan to Bjork and Bob Dylan. Her 1971 album Blue is often – and for good reason – listed as one of the greatest of all time. She followed it up with another four incredible albums (all self-produced) in five years, a remarkable musical feat.
Mitchell’s work seamlessly combines sophistication and simplicity. Her songs Both Sides Now, Big Yellow Taxi, Help Me and River are proof that in the right hands the humble pop song can be elevated to a work of art.
For many years the Canadian’s achievements as a composer and lyricist were under-appreciated, while male contemporaries such as Leonard Cohen were granted almost mythical status. Now 75, Mitchell is finally and rightfully being recognised as one of the greatest songwriters of the past 50 years.
When Destiny’s Child broke through two decades ago who suspected the pretty lead singer of this popular girl group would become a global superstar with a political edge?
Since those early days, Beyonce has sold 120 million albums in her own right and weighed into the conversation about race (her Malcolm X inspired performance at the Superbowl in 2016 left parts of middle America squirming) and women’s rights.
Her career has been propelled by a relentless work ethic. Even after enjoying huge commercial success with Destiny’s Child, Beyonce kept working on her singing (sharpening up her vocal tone which at the beginning of her career could be rather nasal) and dancing.
Musically she’s pushed herself by collaborating with other artists and incorporating different genres of music into her work.
Over the past decade technology has completely transformed the music game, and eroded artist revenue in the process.
This new digital landscape has caused many in the music business to scratch their heads in frustration. But not so Imogen Heap.
The classically trained singer-songwriter is developing a digital platform to empower artists in this brave new world. Her idea? To connect musicians to decision makers, directly enabling them to arrange deals themselves using blockchain technology.
The Mycelia Creative Passport, currently in the alpha testing phase, is a digital container for profile information, IDs, acknowledgements, works and payment mechanisms. It will, Heap hopes, simplify and democratise collaborations. Go grrrl.
Skin from Skunk Anansie
Bolshie bad-ass British rocker Skin has been an outspoken critic of the establishment for 25 years.
The lead singer of cult band Skunk Anansie, she’s best known for her powerful vocals on tracks such as Intellectualize My Blackness and Yes It’s Fucking Political. The queer artist has always blazed her own trail. She campaigned against racism and for LGBT rights way before it was woke to do so. And she did it with humour.
When Britpop was as its peak, she distanced herself from the predominantly male scene and declared herself part of the “Clitpop” movement instead.
Skin is currently promoting Skunk Anansie’s new live album 25LIVE@25 and gearing up for a UK and European tour this summer.