Look man, I am not going to blame you for not being a fan of girl-fronted bands. Tori Amos’s lyrics might make you feel guilty for being male and the deafening wail of Evanescence’s Amy Lee is like an attack on your eardrums. But that’s not a gender thing; we’ve also got the likes of M.I.A. and Nicki Minaj, women who represent their sex proudly and embrace their multi-gender appeal. And then of course there’s Bjork, who after decades of awesomeness is as prolific and genius as she was when she made her solo debut, with an album so-cheekily entitled Debut. (Bjork, you little spritely otherworldly savant, you).
Here’s a guide to a few other awesome lady-fronted bands tearing up the scene. These femme fatales (and just-as-important bandmates) will have you shaking and moving and grooving and possibly even contemplating getting in touch with your feminine side.
POP! Happy, dancy, whimsical POP! Little Dragon has succeeded in taking all the best parts of the often-ridiculed tween-soaked genre and creating a sound that appeals to adults from both Mars and Venus. There’s no other way to describe Little Dragon but pop, but it’s pop with a mind and a soul, pop with a serious beat, pop that makes it ok to no longer be a “youth in revolt”. It’s pop that is constructed smartly and features the strangely sexy voice of frontwoman Yukimi Nagano. With a tight drum line and jumpy keyboard riffs, Little Dragon is by far Sweden’s best musical import. And not a single sign of ABBA in sight!
Recommended first-listen: Machine Dreams (2009)
I’m not going to deny it, guys, Blonde Redhead is pretty emotional stuff; romantic, moody but then also edgy and at times hard. Don’t let the voice of Kazu Makino fool you. Her siren-like sound travels over twin brothers Simone and Amedeo Pace’s guitar and drums like a bird. A vicious bird ready to unleash its eye-pecking fury on its next victim! But man, is Blonde Redhead so good. You see they’ve been doing this for a while. Born in the 90’s New York indie rock scene, Blonde Redhead has grown up into a full-fledged internationally-known musical act, often pairing up with the likes of LCD Soundsystem and the Arcade Fire. A sort-of Sonic Youth mirror existing on an alternate plane, Blonde Redhead’s dream pop blends romanticism and rock to create a soundtrack to the unending cycle that is Love, from the utter beauty of lust-at-first-sight to the ugly tragedy of the final break-up.
Recommended first-listen: Penny Sparkle (2010)
Armed with her weapon of choice, the upright bass, Esperanza Spalding slaughtered her competition in 2011 when she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist, and deservedly so. Recognized at a very early age for her natural talent, the self-taught Spalding graduated from the Berklee College of Music where she had already received much-lauded attention for her improvisational skills not only on the bass but also as a vocalist. Quick like Fitzgerald and smooth like Vaughan, Spalding is anything but a one-genre talent. Claiming jazz as her medium and first love, her performances evoke a style that mixes R&B, vocal standards, and a self-created not-easily-identified experimental sound. Spalding aggressively propels jazz into the future and along the way fuses it with unexpected musical forms.
Recommended first-listen: Radio Music Society (2012)
Ghostly, menacing. Those words so aptly describe the electronic-laden and harsh soundscapes that Zola Jesus creates. In Nika Danilova’s world she is either the hunter or the hunted, but she pursues her prey or escapes her enemy with a fierce and unrelenting energy. Her low, dark, ominous voice leads the music along a path that is rough and dangerous. The apocalyptic sound of Zola Jesus is born from the clashing of other powerful music forms; Goth, electronica, industrial, even opera. That Danilova is a small-framed, blonde-haired wisp of only 22 years adds to the haunting quality of her voice and the band’s transgressive sound. Zola Jesus is a force, a musical force, unapologetically modern, and beautifully unnerving.
Recommended first-listen: Conatus (2011)
Dark horse Bocian’s debut video, “Don’t Love You,” popped last summer, and though its Catholic school miniskirts and half-buttoned sweaters are easy on the eyes, don’t let them distract you from the classically trained voice. (Can Britney Spears even read music? Or, for that matter, sing?) The Pennsylvania native trained in both opera and jazz, and somewhere in the middle of those broad-ranging talents, decided to show pop music how it’s done. She is to radio pop what butter is to partially hydrogenated, soybean oil-based, non-margarine butter substitute foodlike product spread. We only have the one single to go by, but does this newcomer have what it takes to break through? We think so.
Recommended first-listen: “Don’t Love You” (2011)
She’s Karen O and she’s rock ‘n’ roll. It’s that pure and it’s that simple. And we recommended that you listen to all of it.
Recommended first-listen: Fever to Tell (2003)
There you have it, duders, a very fine list of a very fine group of musical ladies, vetted and approved for guys who often shy away from lady-bands. Whether it’s through rock, pop, jazz or electronica, every single one of these artists deserve your attention. Give them a listen and we promise they’ll put a spell on you. Oooh, BARRACUDA!
Cesar Guadamuz will never deny the badassery of these female artists; especially because Karen O could kick his ass. Any additions to the list? Tweet Cesar @LetCesarSpeak