Sunday, March 15, 2020

My List of the 100 Best Albums by Women (61-80)


Year of Release: 1995
Labels: Trauma, Interscope
Key Tracks: "Spiderwebs," "Don't Speak," "Just a Girl," "Sunday Morning"

When Tragic Kingdom came out in 1995, its sound was completely new to many people, especially here in the Philippines. But the album is so much more than an experiment in ska punk sounds, though that's the beating heart that energizes many of the singles and most exciting tracks. "Don't Speak" is a straight out pop-rock ballad that could have found a home on a regular mainstream pop album, but only Gwen Stefani's unique tone could have it given it as much emotional power.


Year of Release: 2006
Label: Regal
Key Tracks: "Smile," "Knock 'Em Out," "LDN," "Alfie"

Such a naughty, foul-mouthed Brit, this Lily Allen! Well, her sophomore album It's Not Me, It's You one-ups Alright, Still with the wonderfully sweet "Fuck You," but there's still a lot here to offend easily offended sensibilities and please fans of just really good, catchy, mature pop-rock. The first three songs in the album are the perfect gateway to what Lily Allen is capable of. The ending song, "Alfie," is the perfect bookend, especially if you've seen with "Game of Thrones" and Jojo Rabbit how far her little brother has gone.

78. 1989 (TAYLOR SWIFT)

Year of Release: 2014
Label: Big Machine
Key Tracks: "Blank Space," "Style," "Shake It Off," "Clean"

As is (and will be) evidenced by its general absence in my lists, I'm not a big fan of country music. So it's probably not surprising that it's Taylor Swift's most pop release up to that date that made it in. It's a veritable list of hits and tracks that are just simply fun to sing to and dance to, the standout among those of course being "Shake It Off," which is so hard to shake off. A personal favorite of mine though is "Clean," her collaboration with Imogen Heap.


Year of Release: 2012
Labels: Clean Slate, Epic
Key Tracks: "Every Single Night," "Werewolf," "Hot Knife"

Full title: The Idler Wheel Is Wiser Than the Driver of the Screw and Whipping Cords Will Serve You More Than Ropes Will Ever Do. Not the longest title of a Fiona Apple album, believe it or not. If you think it's a bit pretentious, the music contained therein is anything but. Apple has always been a fiercely, unapologetically honest musician. While her angst is gentler and more refined here, her artistry is sharper than ever. Really, getting the album is worth it even just for "Hot Knife," probably her most creative and playfully sensual song ever and a new favorite for chorale groups to try out their harmonies.


Year of Release: 1996
Label: Mercury
Key Tracks: "I Am, I Feel," "Indestructible," "Alisha Rules the World," "Just the Way U Like It"

As I was looking at the tracks of this album to pick the Key Tracks, I realized that I fiercely like virtually all of the songs here. The album is so coherent in theme and flavor that the songs transition to each other very neatly, but you won't confuse one with the other. Each one is its own wonderful little monster. There's a sweetly sinister undertone to most of the songs, and the Poole sisters' sweet voices make that stand out even more. Sweet voice or no, "I Am, I Feel," "Indestructible," and "Alisha Rules the World" are girl-power anthems that long predate the #MeToo movement. The music videos are great, too! 


Year of Release: 1997
Labels: Quinlan Road, Warner Bros.
Key Tracks: "The Mummers' Dance," "Prologue," "The Highwayman"

It's interesting that I had to turn to a Canadian when I was looking for a more Celtic flavor than what Enya's newer albums were giving me. Add to that the fact that I had no idea who Loreena McKennit was when I saw the cassette tape of The Book of Secrets in a record store (remember those?); I just liked the cover and thought it gave a mystical aura. Lo and behold, it contained "The Mummers' Dance," which was a sort of crossover hit at the time. The dance version was cool and all, but the real thing was in this album and I was ecstatic. McKennit's albums take you on a journey to exotic markets, forgotten roads, lush vineyards, ancient forests, temples and groves of power. "The Mummers' Dance" gave this an edge over her other albums, but all of those will take you to realms that you may have thought only books can bring you to.


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Warner Bros.
Key Tracks: "Moonchild," "Lint of Love," "Sci-Fi Wasabi"

My love of Japanese culture probably plays a big role in why I love this album so much, but it's not as if you'd even know the singers are Japanese when you hear the outstanding, solemn "Moonchild," as I did on a local rock radio station (how I miss NU 107!). It becomes more obvious when they get cute and playful in their other tracks, such as "Lint of Love" and "Sci-Fi Wasabi." It's hard to classify it into particular genres, but at the end of the day, it doesn't and shouldn't matter. It's just pure joy, period.


Year of Release: 2009
Label: Island
Key Tracks: "Dog Days Are Over," "Rabbit Heart (Raise It Up)"

Whether you like their songs or not, it's hard to deny the hypnotic power of Florence Welch's immaculate voice. In a wonderful album that transcends genre boundaries, the animal-named singles are truly the standouts and the best showcase of Florence's vocal prowess and the band's musicality. But the rest of the album isn't a slouch, either.


Year of Release: 1995
Label: Elektra
Key Tracks: "Wonder," "Jealousy," "Carnival," "San Andreas Fault"

Natalie Merchant's is one of the most easily recognizable voices in music. She served 10,000 Maniacs well as its lead vocalist for 12 years, but thank the heavens that she went solo! Otherwise, we wouldn't have had the gem that is Tigerlily! "Wonder" is an enthusiastic anthem on self-worth that more people should be listening to nowadays. "Jealousy" has angst but never feels bitter (it's interesting that this album came out at around the same time as Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill). Most of the rest are slow tunes that won't excite a lot of people, but with Merchant's voice and lyrics, there's always so much to unpack. 


Year of Release: 1995
Labels: RCA, Arista
Key Tracks: "No More I Love You's," "A Whiter Shade of Pale," "Take Me to the River," "Thin Line Between Love and Hate"

An album of purely covers isn't always exciting unless it's experimental, but when you have a voice like Annie Lennox's that's capable of expressing so much emotion and is all her own, you can get away with just about anything. Each and every song here almost becomes an Annie Lennox original, the way she takes ownership of them with her characteristically powerful vocals. But really, it's mostly about "No More I Love You's," an odd song with an even odder music video. I can't understand how it became a hit; it likely wouldn't be one now. But it's absolutely fantastic and quintessential Lennox: melodic, strange, a tad dark, but undeniable beautiful.


Year of Release: 1989
Label: A&M
Key Tracks: "Rhythm Nation," "Miss You Much," "Black Cat"

I'm not really a fan of Janet Jackson. But considering her icon status, I felt that it wouldn't have been right for me to create this list before trying to listen to at least one of her albums. Most similar lists include Control, her third studio album. But I was drawn to Rhythm Nation 1814, her more personal and more political album. There's righteous anger here, and calls to arms, but there are also pop standards like "Miss You Much." It's a really solid collection.


Year of Release: 1966
Label: Verve
Key Tracks: "Sweet Georgia Brown," "Thanks for the Memory," "Old MacDonald Had a Farm," "Matchmaker"

I had a late jazz phase. I started really listening to the greats only less than five years ago. I started with Billie Holiday, Sarah Vaughan, and Ella Fitzgerald. It didn't take me long to realize who was my favorite. Lady Ella. The Queen of Jazz. First Lady of Song. She deserves each and every moniker that gives her a place of honor in the halls of jazz music. The way she interprets a song, playing around with it, especially when she does scat singing (no one better!)--it's pure joy to listen to. Her vocal control is astounding in tracks like "Thanks for the Memory," and the classic "Old MacDonald Had a Farm" is a perfect showcase of the playfulness that has endeared her to audiences during her live performances.


Year of Release: 2015
Labels: 604, School Boy, Interscope
Key Tracks: "I Really Like You, "LA Hallucinations," "When I Needed You"

This was a very pleasant surprise. I must admit that I had been quick to dismiss Carly Rae Jepsen as just one of many disposable pop acts because of her catchy but otherwise uninteresting (for me) hit "Call Me Maybe." I wanted to understand why so many people, including friends that I know to be sensible, worship her. So I listened to this album (and yeah, I had to get over the stylized way by which the title is written on the album). I got hooked. I'm not a devotee yet, but I can understand why now. This is probably the closest that an album has gotten to pure, unadulterated pop in a long while. And that purity shows me that Jepsen really knows herself, and her fans. Why change a winning formula when it's this sweet and blissful?


Year of Release: 2010
Label: Konichiwa
Key Tracks: "Time Machine," "Indestructible," "Dancing On My Own"

I have loved Robyn for a long time for her 1997 pop hit "Show Me Love," which for me is one of the all-time best pop songs. But that was the extent of my knowledge of her music...until I listened to Body Talk. Turns out I had known but a very, very small percentage of her genius. Body Talk is a brilliant dance/electro-pop project that really gets you going from the first track all the way to the end. I'm honestly not sure how I feel about "U Should Know Better," her collaboration with Snoop Dogg, but the rest makes you feel that you've gone to the trippiest club during a spontaneous trip to Europe. So enjoyable. 


Year of Release: 2013
Labels: Wondaland Arts Society, Bad Boy, Atlantic
Key Tracks: "Electric Lady," "Q.U.E.E.N.," "Dance Apocalyptic," "Dorothy Dandridge Eyes," "Givin' Em What They Love"

There are few artists today as exciting and as deserving of the label "artist" as Janelle Monáe. Her acting career aside, every Monáe album is a mosaic that would have been a dirty mess in the hands of a lesser artist. With The Electric Lady and her other albums, she weaves through jazz, rock, hip hop, soul, and punk like it has always made perfect sense for one person to be so good at all of them. Though there's no throw-away track in the entire album, the title single and her collaborations with fellow musical prodigies Erykah Badu, Solange, and Esperanza Spalding are particular highlights. Such an electric album!


Year of Release: 1997
Labels: Columbia, Epic
Key Tracks: "My Heart Will Go On," "To Love You More," "Tell Him," "Treat Her Like a Lady," "Immortality"

Celine Dion's albums are all showcases of her incomparable vocals; the inclusion of the Titanic theme song "My Heart Will Go On" and "To Love You More" here make it true for this album. Let's Talk About Love also showcases Dion's ability to gather some of the best artists in the industry to jam with her. Here we have Carole King, Barbra Streisand, the Bee Gees, Luciano Pavarotti, to name a few. All stellar, of course, but I have a special affection for her collab with Diana King on the reggae track "Treat Her Like a Lady." Essentially, Dion proved with that track that she can do just about everything and still be the ultimate pop diva that she is.


Year of Release: 2003
Label: J
Key Tracks: "If I Ain't Got You," "Karma," "Heartburn," "Dragon Days"

For me, this sophomore album is much stronger than her critically acclaimed debut. At this point, Alicia Keys has become a much more confident musician, her sound more complete and her voice more powerful. While "If I Ain't Got You" is the signature song of the album, and rightly so, "Karma" and "Heartburn" are strong anthems that drive the narrative force of this more personal release. As the title suggests, this is the album that gives audiences a better look at the soul of one Alicia Keys.


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Toshiba EMI
Key Tracks: "Automatic," "First Love," "Movin' On Without You," "Time Will Tell"

Twenty one years after its release, First Love is still the bestselling Japanese album of all time. With four fantastic, ultra-memorable singles, that shouldn't be surprising. Utada Hikaru defined J-Pop for a whole generation of fans. That fellow superstar Hamasaki Ayumi made an official cover of "Movin' On Without You" as part of a tribute album to her is a testament to how much of an impact she has had on Japanese music. And all those Kingdom Hearts and Evangelion Rebuild songs! That she would come up with even more tonally and lyrically accomplished albums than this one is almost a marvel, but this album will forever be treasured for introducing Utada to the world.


Year of Release: 2000
Label: Atlantic
Key Tracks: "Walk the Walk," "Haunted," "Control"

The criminally underrated artist Poe is probably still more famous for her debut album Hello, which is definitely a fierce and amazing album with a load of earworms, but true to its title, it's her second album that, well, haunted me with its dark lyrics, sick beats, and Poe's forlorn voice. It's a much more mature and thematic offering from Poe, whose brother Mark Z. Danielewski wrote the cult classic House of Leaves; the siblings, who have collaborated on several projects, consider their respective creations to be companion pieces of sorts. How I wish the label "cult classic" were also attached to this underappreciated gem.


Year of Release: 1974
Label: Asylum
Key Tracks: "Help Me," "Free Man in Paris," "Raised on Robbery," "Twisted"

This is the first of several Joni Mitchell albums that are in my list of the 100 best albums by women. If you've been following her discography, you'd probably know what the other ones are. While Court and Spark doesn't quite reach the status of those more iconic works, it has it own jewels displaying Mitchell's gravelly voice and intelligently poetic lyrics. Here, she's beginning to lean toward the jazzier parts of her musical resume, which would come to characterize most of her later career. "Help Me," "Free Man in Paris," and "Raised in Robbery" are just as good as her more famous singles in capturing the essence of Mitchell's music. "Twisted," which is a cover, is decidedly different in tone from the rest of the album and could give an idea as to why artists like Tori Amos were drawn to her.

TOP 20
Numbers 21-40
Numbers 41-60
Numbers 81-100

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