These are great singers who understand implicitly that music works best as a comforter, rather than as a confronter. Not that these same talented women don't have a capacity for expressing anger, of course...
A number of these amazing women come to mind right away, such as Sade — whose jazzy torch songs evoke a perfect mood of both longing and regret — and Annie Lennox, who just has an amazing voice period.
For me though, the female vocalists which left the deepest mark tend to fall into two categories, much as the females I tend to prefer in life do.
In category "A", we have the fiercely independent maverick, who also has the spirit of an angel. For me, there is no artist alive who epitomizes these qualities the way that Patti Smith does.
On the album Horses, and especially on extended tonal poems like her greatest song "Birdland," Patti effortlessly channels up both the spiritual and the profane in such a way as to take your head away to an entirely different sort of plane — at least if you are really listening. The fierce intellect and conviction Patti Smith brings to her work alone qualifies her as one of the true greats.
But when her unique vision is applied to an apocalyptic scenario like the one seen below in a scene from the short-lived TV series Millennium, it's as though every fear you ever had of the end of the world in your head was being split wide-open:
Speaking of great examples of music being wed to cinema, Angelo Badalamenti's soundtrack to David Lynch's TV cult-classic Twin Peaks is one of the best ever. But what was most key to this was the singularly angelic voice of Julee Cruise.
Lynch's hallucinatory vision of dark erotic danger in a small Northwestern town has often been imitated (most recently on ABC's Happy Town), but never equaled.
Perhaps the most key factor to this, was Cruise's haunting performance of the Twin Peaks theme, "Falling."
Set at closing time in the type of sleazy, smoke-filled lounge that no longer exists in these politically correct times, Cruise's rendering of this song suggests all of the possibilities, and all of the lingering erotic danger that exists in such a place as Twin Peaks.