Wednesday, July 8, 2015

9 Women You Should Be Listening to on Spotify

One of the things I really have fun with at my job in a gift shop is messing with the stereo. We use Spotify, a program I always liked the idea of, but could never get to work on my WinXP desktop computer from 2006. (Typing on it now. Great for word processing and playing the Sims2. Not so much for newer programs.) It's opened up a whole new world, and now I can get it at home on my new SurafePro! 

Spotify has been great for finding new artists and exploring what artists I used to listen to and had sort of moved past have been up to since I last listened to them. Here are 10 women I've been listening to lately that I have really been loving! Some are old favorites I am rediscovering. Some are local or independent artists. Some are people you may already be listening to, which is totally cool. If you have anyone you'd like to share, post in the comments!

Yup, I'm starting off with someone most people of my generation are probably already familiar with. Her first single "A Thousand Miles" debuted in 2002. It's the one with the video of her playing a piano while "driving" through town. I know, there were a lot of young female singers who came out at that time (Michelle Branch, Avril Lavigne, Norah Jones...). I remember people mixing up Michelle Branch and Vanessa Carlton all the time, and I feel like Michelle got more attention (liked her first album, not so much the second). But Vanessa is the one who stuck out to me. She was abundantly talented and quietly edgy with an attitude that wasn't overt or showy like Avril Lavigne's skater girl thing. Her cover of "Paint It Black" is probably my favorite version of that song. I listened to Vanessa's album Be Not Nobody over and over for years. And in 2010, she came out as "a proud bisexual woman." YES!! So I looked her up on Spotify last year, and it turns out she just kept getting better as I had moved on to other artists. 

The single "White Houses" from her second album Harmonium (2004) was banned by MTV for referring to "sexual intercourse." (Gasp! My innocent ears!) This album also includes the song "San Francisco," which I listened to a ton leading up to my vacation this past March. It was the first I'd been back to SF since moving away in 2010, so the song hit me right in the feels spot. Heroes & Thieves (2007) is a great album that I listen to a lot on Spotify. My two favorite tracks are the title song and the first track, "Nolita Fairytale." Her fourth album Rabbits on the Run (2011) is another winner with tracks like "Carousel," "I Don't Want to Be a Bride" (which has another "sexual" reference in the line "I don't want to wear white, you know it's too late for that"), and "Dear California," a song that I think many of my friends who have moved in and out of California can relate to: "Dear California, it's been nice to know ya. Tell me, will you miss me when I'm gone?" (I don't think it does. But I still miss it!)
Unless you were a big anime/Jpop dork about 10 to 15 years ago, like me, you probably don't know her. (She did the themes to the Kingdom Hearts video games, if that helps.) If you were, she apparently now goes by simply Utada, her surname (I know, weird, right?) which is how you will find her on Spotify. I don't think her new work is totally up to the same level as the old stuff in Japanese, but it is in English, making her more accessible to a wider audience. She is still our Pop Princess Hikki that we all fell in love with. And if you've never heard her before, give a listen! 

"Come Back to Me" is groovy and sounds like rain should be falling outside the window. I like the lyrics because the perspective is of a woman who cheated on her lover and now wants to get back together, not something I hear often. Part confession, part love letter, I love it. Another one I enjoy is "Apple and Cinnamon," a song about a relationship on the way out, because that simple imagery says so much about feelings of things going together easily and joyfully (the line goes "chemistry like apple and cinnamon"). "Easy Breezy" is fun, if a bit repetitive, and features the line "You're easy breezy and I'm Japanesey" that makes me giggle just a little bit. 
If you watched Glee, you may recognize Charice as Sunshine, Rachel's brief competition in an early season (two, I think). Since coming out as lesbian (and possibly trans? can't find much info here), her look has shifted to more the masculine side, so not much like the cutesy Sunshine, which I am 100% ok with. Charice is a powerhouse! She's smoking hot! Her voice is so amazing! I love her!

Her most popular song on Spotify is "Pyramid" featuring Iyaz. "Before It Explodes" is actually the first one I heard that hooked me. She also did a song for The Swan Princess: a Royal Family Tale, a direct to DVD release in the Swan Princess series for kids. The song is "Right Where I Belong" and is so happy and dancey-dancey I can't help but like it. "Unexpected Love" is a beautiful song that gives me warm and fuzzy, lovey dovey feelings. A lot of her love songs are that way, and when she really gets going and belts out the lyrics, I get tingles. Like I said above, a powerhouse!

Speaking of women who can sing out, Ameriie (also Amerie, which gets you more results on Spotify). She hit the stage in the early 00s, as well, but I don't think I was aware of her at the time. I discovered her in an article I was reading earlier this year about Asian women singers (her mother is Korean and father American). Her single "Gotta Work" (2006) really gears me up to, well, work! There is so much energy here! (In the video, too.) It's incredibly motivating. Her most popular song on Spotify is "1 Thing," a fun and funky track that she sings in a higher range. "I Just Died" is a softer song. I suggest just listening to her 2009 album In Love & War for a good groove. 

I swear, every song I hear from her sounds completely different. If I weren't looking at the screen confirming that they are all indeed by the same person, I never would guess it. I have no idea where I first got the song "Arithmetic," but it has been on my computer for years and been one of my favorites. I use it a lot for different characters I am writing. It's soft, pretty, and the lyrics feel heartfelt. Much more recently, I was introduced to the song "Something in the Water" (I forget how). I learned it was by Brooke Fraser, and it actually took me a while to connect the dots between these two songs. My mind went "Bwuh?" and I immediately looked her up on Spotify where I found "Magical Machine," which sounds absolutely nothing like the previous two songs. "Jack Kerouac" has a Caribbean beat. Her sound versatility quite blows me away, and I am loving every minute of it. Maybe there's something in New Zealand's water.

I discovered Christine Kane on a Putumayo CD of American folk music that we play at the bookstore, where we do not have Spotify. The song is "She Don't Like Roses." It's a song I can relate to on an emotional level if not literal (I like both roses and champagne), and the acoustic guitar pairs magically with Christine's ever-so-slightly rough voice and evocative - and sexy! - lyrics. Check out this first chorus:

And her bed is under her window,
And the sun's going down in the west.
And her voice whispers softly, "Go real slow."
And you watch the rhythm of her breath.

Hot! The night progresses from there, if you know what I mean. Here is another part of the song that really gets me:

And if all your dreams come true,
Do your memories still end up haunting you?
Is there such a thing as really breaking through,
To another day and a brighter shade of blue?

"How to Be Real" is another song to listen to, as well as "Falling in Love With the Wind." Really, all of them, but you can start there.

I actually wrote about Angela last summer when I saw her perform live in the Crazy Wisdom Tea Room. She is based out of Metro Detroit, so I put her in the "local artist" category. Her fourth album Will was just released July 1st. Download the free track "Natural" on her site here. (You can listen to a lot of her songs there, as well, if you don't have Spotify.) I recently heard her perform "Vinyl Voodoo," another off the new album, and loved it, so I am excited to finally be able to listen to it repeatedly on Spotify. Angela's songs play on multiple playlists at work, not just mine (they were added from mine, though). Her music has a way of grabbing people and making them sing along. I often hear customers joining in after the second or third chorus, and I doubt it's because they've heard the songs before. "Life Is Gonna Be Great!" and "You Make Me Sing" are bright and bouncy (and often sung along to). Other songs are jazzy and moody. I don't think I've heard one yet that I haven't enjoyed.
When I first heard "Your Heart is as Black as Ice," I laughed. It's delightful and reminds me of more than one man from my past. The track that had played before it was "If the Stars Were Mine," a decidedly jazzier and happier track off the same album, My One and Only Thrill. "If I Tell You I Love You" is another fantastic song. Check these lyrics: 

There are so many things I could do, my love
To convince you my love is divine
There are so many words I could tell you
There are so many moments in time
But I say 'fore we go to the land down below
If I tell you I love you, I'm lying

Now that's what I call honesty. The song is so flirty and sexy and her voice sweet and seductive. But if she tells you she loves you... It doesn't matter. I love her! The story of how she got into making music is also interesting. (I'll let you look that up yourself.) 

Does anyone remember the song "I Kissed a Girl" from the mid-90s? No, not the club hit by Katy Perry. That was 2008. I'm talking about the 1995 shocker by Jill Sobule with Fabio in the video. (Girls kissing?? Sin!!) She also did the song "Supermodel" featured in the movie Clueless. I reconnected with Jill's music when I saw her album Pink Pearl (2000) at Best Buy and bought it without listening to it first. (That was a common thing to do back then.) It remains to this day one of my favorite albums. 

Each song tells a story, including one about a teacher who goes to prison for having sex with her thirteen year old student called "Mary Kay." (Ring a bell?) There is another called "Lucy at the Gym" about a woman who is probably anorexic. Jill has famously battled with anorexia and depression in her life and these themes appear frequently in her music. The opening song to Pink Pearl, "Rainy Day Parade" is about someone with depression "getting back on [her] medication." Another song lists various ways of committing suicide. Obviously, this struck a chord with me. Jill is also openly bisexual - listen for it in her songs - a quality that endears almost anyone to me. (Yup, I'm totally biased toward my peeps.) 

Some more tracks I've enjoyed are "Resistance Song" (1995) and "San Francisco" (2009). (California is another theme I enjoy after living there for 3 years. Jill has an album called California Years that is pure poetry.) I use her song "Rock Me to Sleep" for writing a lot of my characters, also. As a writer, I love stories, and I especially love songs that tell stories. Jill is more than a singer-songwriter, she's a storyteller and her stories are real.

If you want to check out more of my music reviews, click the tag What am I Listening to?

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