Seal: Defying easy categorization, Seal has combined pop, rock, dance, and soul into a unique mixture. His debut, 1991's Seal, spun off the popular single "Crazy" (not to be confused with the Gnarls Barkley tune of the same name), a hard-hitting dance song that still held rock appeal. Today, the entire album exemplifies intelligent dance music. His 1994 followup, Seal II, sold even more due to the huge hit, "Kiss from A Rose," also featured on the Batman Forever soundtrack. Like the first album, Seal II contained elements of dance, folk, and rock, all anchored by Seal's smooth yet soaring voice. 1997's Human Being did not fare as well, being widely panned by fans and critics for its uneven quality. But he returned to form in 2003 with Seal IV, an underrated collection of dance and rock that solidified his reputation as an original artist who possessed a broad appeal.
Lauryn Hill: Her 1998 solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, resounds today, with cuts such as "Ex- Factor," "Doo Wop (That Thing)," and "Nothing Even Matters" still receiving radio airplay. Fresh from the groundbreaking rap group The Fugees, Hill took on the daunting task of writing and producing much of the album herself. Her gospel-tinged voice, rap capabilities, and ability to combine a variety of musical elements into a fresh, modern sound made her a force in late-'90s music. She even produced other artists such as Aretha Franklin and Whitney Houston, giving them slight hip-hop makeovers that never overpowered their distinctive voices. Fans continue to wait for her followup, although she released Unplugged No. 2.0 in 2001.
Fiona Apple: Looking slightly dangerous yet fragile, Fiona Apple tantalized audiences with her haunting voice and provocative videos. Her 1996 CD Tidal yielded two memorable singles: "Sleep to Dream," an angry tirade against an unknown protagonist, and "Criminal," a creepy plea for forgiveness to her lover. Her singular singing style and deeply personal lyrics indicated a new type of singer-songwriter—one not afraid to show aggression and reveal her inner angst. 1999's When the Pawn... (shortened from the original title, which filled the entire cover) involved Apple expanding her sound, particularly on the intriguing "Fast as You Can." Rapidly changing tempos and mood, the track showed Apple pushing her voice to its emotional limits. After undergoing personal changes, Apple resurfaced in 2005 with the critically acclaimed Extraordinary Machine, reemerging as a creative force.