A Few of My Favorite Female Singers

While movies and other categories of (primarily) non-musical programming dominate what we hear and see in our home theaters, it's a good bet that if you've been into this hobby for more than a few years it all began with music. And even now music is often in heavy rotation on our systems.

But as I've noted before, there's more to music than simply listening to it with no images involved apart from those in our head. But music is often sung by one or more singers who might also have written it, though not always. How those artists not only sing but also act out a song can be a critical part of the overall experience. Hearing only the sound of a music performance can be immensely rewarding, and for decades following the invention of the phonograph and/or radio it was the only way to experience many forms of music at home. But short of going to a concert or other type of musical performance, an important part of the musical experience remained heard but unseen. Television came around eventually but it has rarely offered as wide a range of music from all genres as has audio alone.

But with a home theater setup it doesn't have to be that way. The human voice is perhaps the king of instruments (with apologies to the pipe organs and organist), and there is often more to be experienced from a musical performance when the musicians, particularly vocalists, can be seen as well as heard.

Here I've chosen three of my favorite female singers. I'll cover the male side in a future blog. Most readers will instantly recognize one of them; the other two earned their fame outside of the usual pop-rock-country genres. No matter; they're two of my favorites and may come as revelations to some of you. Or not. Individual tastes in music, singers in particular, are notoriously varied. The Beatles produced a ton of great songs, but I've never cared for their own group sound. Call me a rock-heretic.

One of the requirements for inclusion here is that audio with video selections of the artist's work must be available so that the listener can both hear and see the performances. The musical selections must also be straightforward to locate without having to search for them endlessly. All of the music clips used here can be located on YouTube. YouTube audio and video isn't always of the highest quality, but it's often good enough to whet the reader's interest, which is the whole point of this exercise. If you're intrigued by the artist you can later search for more of his or her work.

The only down side here is that YouTube is notorious for breaking into the program material with short, nuisance advertisements — unless, that is, you pay extra for an ad-free viewing license. I've managed to resist this extra expense by keeping my TV's remote control handy to help limit those ads as much as possible, but it can't eliminate them entirely. Be ready to skip when a promotion for an air freshener or deodorant pops up mid-song and needs to be passed over as soon as possible.

There are two other YouTube quirks you need to be aware of. First, they sometimes delete posted material; if you later search for previously viewed content it may no longer be available. Second, the posting dates shown for each entry are often wildly inaccurate. That's true of most of the selections I've used here. Leontyne Price, for example, is now inactive as a public singer but still with us at 97 years young. She sings daily, but only in private. After turning 90 she noted that her voice was the only thing she has that still works!

Reba McEntire
I don't dislike country music, but I'm not a big fan either. You've probably heard the warmed-over joke about what happens when you play a country song backwards: You get your dog, your truck, and your wife back. Nevertheless, there's something compelling about a good country song, and Reba has a barrel of them, all flavored by unique vocal gymnastics I find extremely compelling. It's hard to describe, but the way she juggles a musical phrase, giving it just that right country twang or twist, puts her near the top of my favorite female singers.

Her songs work their magic best when accompanied by video clips related to the topics in the songs themselves. I've selected three of them here. They're all bittersweet in their own ways; getting back that dog, truck, and spouse won't be easy in any of these Reba songs. If you've ever lost a close relative or friend and don't choke up at least a little on Seven Minutes in Heaven, check your pulse.

Reba McEntire: ‘Fancy’ (Official Music Video)

Reba McEntire: ‘He Gets That From Me’ (Official Music Video)

Reba McEntire: ‘Seven Minutes In Heaven’ (Official Music Video)

Elaine Paige
Paige is very well known in the U.K., often called, with full justification, the first lady of British Musical Theater. She got her big break in the late '70s as the first singer to play the title role in the musical Evita. My introduction to her work was primarily through recordings, though later I did see her in the role of Norma Desmond in a New York production of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical version of Sunset Boulevard. She played the part in London as well.

There's more to singing in a stage musical than just the voice. You have to act as well, and not just in the spoken parts. Most of Webber's musicals are heavily sung-through, meaning that they're almost operatic with limited spoken dialogue. But Paige is such an accomplished musical actress that her sung vocals and facial expressions are awash with character.

I could emote further here but the recommended selections can speak for themselves. I haven't been to a musical play in years, but have previously seen enough to declare that Paige is as good as, or superior to, any other singing actress who has navigated her way through the shows listed here. (With the right material, an Elaine and Reba concert could be a hoot!)

Elaine Paige: ‘Don't Cry For Me Argentina’ (Evita)

Elaine Paige: ‘Memory’ (Cats the Musical)

Elaine Paige: ‘As If We Never Said Goodbye’ (Sunset Boulevard)

Leontyne Price
Okay, I hear you. Most of you don't like opera. An old audio-show chestnut suggests that the fastest way to clear an exhibit room is to play opera. I can't claim to be an opera buff. I've only been to two opera performances in my life (in London and Vienna — name dropper!) and only own perhaps a half dozen full performances on DVD or Blu-ray.

But this African American operatic soprano, now long retired but still with us, was impossible for me to resist from the first time I heard her on a recording. Her low voice is less powerful than some, but compensated for by a rich, seductive quality at the low end and pure magic higher up on the scale. She could hit the highest notes with apparent ease, and float a pianissimo (a high, extended, soft note) like no other singer I've yet heard. Her personal story, growing up in the pre-Civil-Rights south (Mississippi), is also compelling and well worth researching for additional details.

The recommendations here can't convey the entire story as there are fewer YouTube references to Ms. Price performances than from other, more recently active singers. But the links here are representative. Only one recommendation below involves full audio with video (the Farewell). It's a pivotal Aria from Verdi's Aida and was Price's last performance on the Metropolitan Opera stage in 1985 before retiring to concert work (which she continued for another 12 years managed by her younger brother, a retired Army general — quite a family!). Don't stop listening to this clip immediately after the last note fades; the raucous cheering and applause that follows apparently lasted for over 10 minutes (the recording here cuts off before it ends!). It's quite an experience and wouldn't be out of place after the winning touchdown in the closing seconds of a Super Bowl, except that here it lasts far longer here than any touchdown cheer I've ever heard! Opera fans aren't the reserved, laid-back, peel me a grape folks we're often led to believe.

Leontyne Price: ‘Deep River’

Leontyne Price: ‘Vissi d'Arte’ (Tosca)

Leontyne Price: Opera Farewell "O patria mia’ (Aida)


dommyluc's picture

Her 1963 RCA Living Stereo recording of Manuel de Falla's "El Amor Brujo", for which she won a Grammy, with Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, is one of my favorite recordings. Incredible performance and phenomenal sound.

jeff-henning's picture

The four greatest female singers ever in popular music:
Aretha Franklin, Chaka Khan, Whitney Houston and Tina Turner.

Since I don’t listen to opera, I can’t offer any opinion in that genre.

monkaw4481's picture

Táto mobilná aplikácia ma veľmi prekvapila. Vďaka tejto Aplikácia v telefóne môžem podávať stávky kdekoľvek, stačí mať prístup na internet a telefón pri sebe! Som veľmi spokojný, pretože táto mobilná aplikácia je z hľadiska pohodlia ešte lepšia ako bežná počítačová verzia! Ak ste si túto aplikáciu ešte nenainštalovali, odporúčam vám to.

laverneratwood's picture

It's always refreshing to celebrate talented female singers who bring unique styles and voices to the music industry. Just like Auto Parts Dealers - JFR Auto Parts offers a wide variety of quality parts, these artists offer a range of musical experiences. From soulful ballads to upbeat pop, their songs add vibrancy to our lives. We're proud to support these artists and encourage others to do the same!

Ehto's picture

Thank you for the suggestions. I'm not very familiar with these singers yet so I look forward to listening to them on the system. Myself and the team at Rose Tiling are all into our HiFi systems and we're always looking for new singers to listen to.

Rob1956's picture

Leave out Linda Ronstadt? Listen to her version of "Crazy".