They say that the voice of a woman can be enough to soothe both the savage beast in man, as well as serve as proverbial nails on a chalkboard.
Nowhere has this been more true over the years than in music. My own relationship with women in music over the years has been, well let's just say that as in life, it's been complicated.
The first time I can remember falling in love with a woman's voice was when as a pre-teen boy I first heard Grace Slick sing "White Rabbit" with the Jefferson Airplane. Even though I nary understood a thing that Grace was talking about with all her talk about pills that made you either larger or small, there was still something about her sweet, yet seductive voice that made me really want to fall down that particular rabbit hole.
Even so, I would grow to develop a certain love/hate relationship with the various women of rock over the years as I grew older. For every Janis Joplin or Aretha Franklin who were able to touch some unrealized yearning deep within my soul, or for every Ronnie Spector who was able to light the flame of innocent, unconditional romantic love — there would be those angry feminist singers who could just as quickly extinguish it.
This reached an apex in the nineties, during the era of the Cranberries, the Breeders, and especially Alanis Morisette — a singer whose songs more often than not left me wondering "hey, what'd I ever do to you?" than anything else.
Right around this time, I can remember going to an outdoor Neil Young show where The Pretenders were opening, and Chrissie Hynde — an artist whose toughness I always respected — going all ballistic on people barbecuing burgers, due to the "meat is murder" factor. I mean, it's a festival already! What the f...?
And then there was the Ani DeFranco show a friend dragged me out to, where me and him stood alone in a stadium full of angry feminists glaring menacingly at us. Never before or since have I gone to a concert where I felt more like the enemy than I did a mere spectator. I've been less scared as the lone white dude at an NWA show.
This was about the point I began asking myself "when did all these chicks get so damn angry?"
Thank God, that in between the angry feminism of the Anis and the Alanises — not to mention the empty trilling of the Mariahs and the Whitneys — there have still been some great female singers whose ability to soothe the soul have stood out from the rest.