Wednesday, April 08, 2020

My List of the 100 Best Albums by Women (21-40)


Year of Release: 1981
Labels: Modern, ATCO
Key Tracks: "Edge of Seventeen," "Bella Donna," "Leather and Lace," "Stop Draggin' My Heart Around"

Even as vocalist of the iconic Fleetwood Mac, Stevie Nicks was a true rock diva. She cements her status as one of the all-time greats with her debut album as a solo artist, Bella Donna, which is worth the purchase even just for the fabulous "Edge of Seventeen." The rest of the album shows her to be as fierce a songwriter as she is a vocalist.


Year of Release: 1982
Label: Tara Music
Key Tracks: "An Túll," "Na Buachaillí Álainn," "Bruach Na Carriage Báine"

The Irish band Clannad has 16 albums, all of which showcase their beautiful Celtic music, but Fuaim is extra special for fans of this genre because it has Enya joining her sister Moya Brennan and the band as vocalist and keyboardist before embarking on her phenomenally successful solo career. A true highlight in the album is the track "An Túll," which of course has Enya on vocals. Moya has a deeper voice and lends her own ethereal beauty to the other songs.


Year of Release: 2000
Labels: Atlantic, 143
Key Tracks: "Breathless," "Give Me a Reason," "Irresistible," "Somebody for Someone," "All the Love in the World," "Rebel Heart"

Fans of The Corrs in Europe and Asia already knew how great they were with their earlier albums. The rest of the world caught up with the crazily infectious and uplifting "Breathless," which deservedly snagged the band a Grammy nomination. Blending traditional Irish music with modern pop has always been the greatest strength of The Corrs, and here they stray further into the pop realm with truly unforgettable modern pop gems.


Year of Release: 1996
Key Tracks: "Comfort in Your Strangeness," "Insomnia," "Malaya," "Hiroshima," "Hello Baby"

Comparisons were immediately drawn between Cynthia Alexander and Joni Mitchell when this, her heavenly debut album, came out in 1996, around the time when women took over music all over the world. I remember hearing "Insomnia" and "Comfort in Your Strangeness" on the radio and wondering who this new foreign artist was. With this powerful debut, which won loads of awards from the local music industry, it was clear that Alexander was a musical icon in the making: a brilliant songwriter and musician that deserves global recognition. "Comfort in Your Strangeness" might be one of the best Filipino songs ever.


Year of Release: 2001
Labels: One Little Indian, Elektra
Key Tracks: "Hidden Place," "It's Not Up To You," "Unison," "Pagan Poetry"

Like her or not, I think it's difficult for anyone to deny that Björk is a singular talent. No one else sounds like her, or writes songs like she does. Her later albums, including Vespertine, are masterfully crafted innovations of sound and concept. This album is sonically beautiful, a tapestry of various styles with a common underlying crystalline sound. It's fragile and haunting. "Hidden Place" is a strong opening track that anticipates the flavor of the rest of the album.

35. 21 (ADELE)

Year of Release: 2011
Labels: XL, Columbia
Key Tracks: "Rolling in the Deep," "Turning Tables," "Rumour Has It," "Set Fire to the Rain"

This multi-award-winning album, Adele's second, is easily the best in a great discography. Her powerful voice is best showcased in "Rolling in the Deep" and "Turning Tables," with "Rumour Has It" lending the album a playful break among the songs about heartbreak. It's a vocal masterclass.


Year of Release: 2006
Label: Drag City
Key Track: "Monkey and Bear"

When I first heard this album a few months ago, I went: "Where have you been all my life?!" Joanna Newsom's Ys is just the kind of odd, folksy, somewhat mystical album that I usually love, and her fragile voice and harp-playing take you on a journey through her stories. The album consists of only five tracks, ranging from 7 minutes to a whopping 16:53 minutes. All are precious gems, but "Monkey and Bear" is phenomenal in its imagery and musicality.


Year of Release: 2000
Key Tracks: "Frost and Glass," "Walk Down the Road," "Knowing There is Only Now," "I Don't Mind," "The Weather Report"

As with any Cynthia Alexander album, every song is a precious work of art. Casual fans would know this one most for "The Weather Report," "Motorbykle," and "U and I," but those who've watched her live performances have a special place in their heart for "Frost and Glass" and "Walk Down the Road." Truly mesmerizing.


Year of Release: 1995
Labels: One Little Indian, Elektra
Key Tracks: "Hyperballad," "Army of Me," "It's Oh So Quiet," "Isobel," "I Miss You"

My first ever Björk album, which I bought because of "It's Oh So Quiet" and it's kooky video! I had no idea what kind of a musical treat I was in for until I listened to the whole album. Of course, it's her elfin voice that gets you first. There's a certain rawness and roughness to this project that's virtually absent from her future works, but the righteous anger of "Army of Me," the lonely solitude of "Hyperballad," and the crazy obsession of "I Miss You" are major reasons why many consider this one of her all-time bests.


Year of Release: 1970
Labels: Reprise, Warner Bros.
Key Tracks: "Woodstock," "Big Yellow Taxi," "The Circle Game"

"Woodstock" is one of my all-time favorite songs, so its inclusion here is a good enough reason to include Ladies of the Canyon in my list. But then you also have the ubiquitous and oft-covered environmentally-conscious "Big Yellow Taxi" and the inspiring "The Circle Game" to make one of the legendary Joni Mitchell's most underrated albums.


Year of Release: 1998
Label: Righteous Babe
Key Tracks: "Little Plastic Castle," "Fuel," "Gravel," "As Is"

My introduction to Ani DiFranco was "As Is" being played on local radio. Good as it is, it didn't really prepare me for the genius of this album, the best tracks of which are the first three. "Fuel" is a spoken word gem! DiFranco is one of the most respected independent artists in the US, and Little Plastic Castle is probably the best intro to her music.


Year of Release: 1995
Label: Geffen
Key Tracks: "Stay (I Missed You)," "Do You Sleep?," "When All the Stars Were Falling," "Taffy"

Who doesn't remember the phenomenally successful song "Stay?" Or its simple but effective music video? Lisa Loeb's is another of those instantly recognizable voices, and she uses hers to great effect here, whether it's in straight up love songs like "When All the Stars Are Falling" and "Waiting for Wednesday" or in a barbed ode to truth manipulation in "Taffy." Come for "Stay," and stay for everything else.


Year of Release: 2016
Labels: Monkey Puzzle, RCA
Key Tracks: "Cheap Thrills," "Alive," "Bird Set Free," "Move Your Body," "Unstoppable," "Sweet Design" 

So inspiring and liberating! "Bird Set Free," "Unstoppable," and especially "Alive" are anthems of empowerment, and the conviction behind Sia's powerful vocals sends chills down my spine. Sia is recognized in the music industry for her songwriting capabilities, which other big artists have benefited from. Her first album as a solo artist is good stuff, too, but this one, fueled by the thrilling single "Cheap Thrills," is downright excellent.


Year of Release: 1988
Label: Elektra

Key Tracks: "Fast Car," "Baby Can I Hold You," "Talkin' 'bout a Revolution"

Unlike most others, who fell for Tracy Chapman with "Fast Car," my first experience of her music was with the 1995 record "Give Me One Reason." It's by backtracking through her discography, to her self-titled debut album, that I realized how she's more than just those two songs. The whole album is magnificent, certainly one of the best in the contemporary folk genre. Deservedly, it was nominated for seven Grammys and won three, and also appears in many all-time best lists.


Year of Release: 2005
Labels: EMI, Columbia
Key Tracks: "King of the Mountain," "A Coral Room," "Sunset," "Nocturn," "Bertie," "Mrs. Bartolozzi," "π" 

Two for the price of one, from one of music's most interesting artists! This double album consists of 16 tracks, all thematically strung together by their dream-like quality and bird sounds made by Bush herself. It's mellower and maybe less exciting than many of her kookier past works, but tonally it's one of her best and it's quite personal. Listen to "A Coral Room" for six minutes of just Bush and her piano singing about her mother, or "Bertie" for a song about her son. But there's also "π" if you want to hear her singing the number pi up to the 137th decimal place. Amidst the masterful artistry that has made her a true icon, she has not lost that other thing that she is known for: her sense of humor.

Brief Note: I had the hardest time ranking the next three albums, all of which are in the Japanese pop genre. Ultimately, I had to go for how much they personally resonated with me.


Year of Release: 2002
Label: Toshiba-EMI
Key Tracks: "Final Distance," "Sakura Drops," "Traveling," "Deep River," "Letters" 

Deep River is easily the most polished in an exciting discography. It contains some of her best ballads, like the sober "Final Distance" and "Sakura Drops," and "Traveling" one of her most infectiously upbeat. Truly, this is Utada at the height of her songwriting and vocal prowess.


Year of Release: 1999
Label: Avex Trax
Key Tracks: "You," "Poker Face," "A Song for xx," "Trust," "Depend on You," "For My Dear..."

For quite a while, there were no bigger artists in Japanese pop than Utada Hikaru and Hamasaki Ayumi. Production-wise, Deep River may be the greater achievement, and Utada's voice may be more universally palatable, but there's something absolutely charming about Hamasaki's shrill, elfin voice with this heavenly dance-pop confection. It was difficult identifying just a few key tracks because practically all the songs can stand on their own as a single. This is also personally an important album for me because it's the first J-pop CD that I ever purchased.


Year of Release: 2006
Label: Sony Music Japan
Key Tracks: "Home," "This Love," "MUSIC," "Love is Over Now," "Hareruya," "Uchū"

I fell in love with Angela Aki with her song "Home" and its utter, beautiful simplicity. I think it's pretty obvious from the appearance of Tori Amos, Kate Bush, and Alicia Keys in this list that I like a woman and her piano. No one's a match for Aki in that department in Japanese pop. "Home" is actually 12th in the 13-track lineup, but don't skip to that! All of the songs that come before it, as well as the 13th, are absolutely beautiful, especially "Love is Over Now" and "MUSIC." "Uchū" is a real treat for those who want to hear Aki possessed by the spirit of Tori Amos.


Year of Release: 1994
Label: Atlantic
Key Tracks: "Cornflake Girl," "God," "Pretty Good Year," "Past the Mission," "The Waitress"

Tori Amos's follow-up to Little Earthquakes is the excellent Under the Pink, which solidifies her status as an uncompromising artist of true intelligence and fertile femininity. One of Amos's most popular and well-loved songs, "Cornflake Girl," is here alongside the naughty "God," the beautifully subdued "Pretty Good Year," and the angsty "The Waitress," among other jewels. Compared to her other albums, this is one of her most bare and stripped down, just Amos and her piano. Which are really all you'll need.


Year of Release: 1967
Label: Atlantic
Key Tracks: "Respect," "I Never Loved A Man (The Way I Love You)," "Dr. Feelgood," "Good Times," "Do Right Woman, Do Right Man"

Aretha Franklin ain't the Queen of Soul for nothing! Listening to this album will quickly dispel all doubt as to whether or not she deserves the title. "Respect" alone does that, actually, but the other tracks are just as convincing, including her own compositions like "Dr. Feelgood." Franklin is a vocal powerhouse here. Quite simple, she shows us that she's the best at what she does.

TOP 20
Numbers 41-60
Numbers 61-80
Numbers 81-100

Image Sources:
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By The cover art can be obtained from Geffen Records., Fair use,
By Source (WP:NFCC#4), Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
Fair use,
By Source, Fair use,
Fair use,