CB Top 5: Chick Lead Singers

By Mack Rawden 2007-11-19 22:22:33
Let’s face it: most female-fronted bands are goofy novelty acts, skanking it up for the crowd in the hopes it will somehow increase their artistic credibility. Unfortunately for these talentless teeny-boppers, the internet has made porn way to accessible to warrant shelling out twenty dollars for concert tickets just to see choreographed, sensual dancing. But all is not lost. Over the last fifty years, a select group of ladies have roped in music fans with their beautiful voices and go-to-hell attitudes. It’s about time they got their due.

In an effort to pinpoint the five best, I humorously locked all my writers in a dank storage room, blasting Yoko Ono noise pieces ad nauseam to speed up the process. One of the prisoners, err writers, hung himself after a particularly heinous Ono scream, but the remaining five escaped with their lives and an above-average list. Here’s what they came up with.

Cinema Blend Top 5: Chick Lead Singers

5. Joan Jett


Nikki Pierce:Philadelphia born Joan Jett packed a punch of spunk and attitude in her music, and she might as well have been the sister of the Ramones. Her voice may not have been particularly melodic, but that wasn’t the point. Punk was more than just the music: it was the style, the attitude, and the confidence, all of which Joan Jett embodied in her vocals, leather pants and signature white Gibson Melody Maker. “Bad Reputation” is one of my all time favorite songs. Even now, it is so refreshing to hear a female vocal, just as raw and “punk” as the boys in the game, over tracks that were so crudely and fundamentally punk. The chords are simple, as they are with most hardcore punk songs, but the message comes clear, it comes hard, and it comes straightforward—just like Jett herself.

Mack Rawden: Joan Jett is not the blushing, virginal wife-to-be. She’s the dangerous bridesmaid confidently grinning in the corner, the one you pounded whiskey shots with before escorting her to the men’s room for raunchy, bruising sex. She’s not going to call you back, but she will continue to ravish your seedy wet dreams. For the last twenty years, the vixen with the bad reputation has been thrashing out punk classics with her husky, menacing snarl. I was fortunate enough to catch a live show a few years back. Clad in little more than seducing black leather pants and a bra, she punish-fucked the entire crowd for over an hour before throwing her guitar down and exiting to a standing ovation. And you thought Lemmy was a badass.

4. Deborah Harry


Nikki Pierce:In the late 70s, punk was on the rise with a DIY mindset that spread from Britain to the U.S. like wildfire among angst-ridden teens and young adults. In the midst of the windstorm of Mohawk-sporting misfits, a band called Blondie took punk tenets and sprinkled it with a hint of Studio 54 attitude. And so, a fresh genre called new wave punk emerged with the cutting edge band, and the face of this newborn genre belonged to Blondie front woman Deborah Harry. Their hits “Call Me” and “One Way or Another” were punk tracks with the vocals of a glamorous platinum blonde vixen—the original Gwen Stefani. Tracks like “Rapture” and the ever-so-famous “Heart of Glass” had more of a new wave, electronica feel with Harry’s airy, seductive soprano vocals steering them. Without her voice, those songs would have just been dance tracks playing in the background at Studio 54. It was Harry who breathed life into them and single-handedly led the way for and put a face on new wave punk. Without her, the genre would have been a joke. Such an inventive musical style needed the punk sound Blondie delivered and the voice of someone who could rock it at CBGB and Studio 54—that voice belonged to Deborah Harry alone.

Rema Rahman:She may have succumbed to that old Hollywood I'll-never-look-a-day-over-25-look, but Deborah Harry will always maintain her status as chick rocker extraordinaire, fronting New York punk band Blondie. Garnering a significant downtown following by basically fore-fathering CBGB's, Harry's signature bottle-blonde tresses captured attention with "Heart of Glass" when her distinctive vocals and sultry glare seduced millions in 1979. With talent, style and an all around aura of ultra-cool, the band is credited for having the first song with rap music to reach number one on the charts in 1981 when Harry sauntered through the video of "Rapture" jiving about Fab Five Freddy in a lace shawl and tube top. Honestly, who could ever forget lines like- and don't stop/sure shot/go out to the parking lot/ and get in your car/ and drive real far.

Mack Rawden: With long, flowing golden locks and an unassuming smile, Deborah Harry cast an enchanting new wave, punk rock spell over popular music during the late seventies and early eighties. The lead singer of Blondie looked like a modern day cross between Helen Of Troy and Thelxiepeia and her beautiful voice begged listeners to call her, call her anytime. During both Harry and her influential band’s heyday, they traipsed back-and-forth through genres at will, inspiring future musicians not to get comfortable. Ferocious, underground punk riffs emanated from their guitars one day and funky, new-wave sensibilities were employed the next. I love Deborah Harry, and if your ear drums work properly, you do to.

3. Grace Slick


Karl Spork:Balls. Gigantic ones. Rock gods have them. Rock goddesses need them. Grace Slick epitomized them (rock goddesses). The frontwoman for the psychadelic acid-rock movement of the late 60s in San Francisco, she had a voice like an electric guitar and redefined the role of women in rock. She appeared in blackface on the Smothers' Brothers Comedy Hour in 1968. Instead of getting soaked while performing outside in the rain, she routinely took her blouse off. She was invited to a tea party at the White House by Richard Nixon's daughter, prior to the release of the scathing single "Mexico", targetting the president's anti-drug policy. She brought a "bodyguard" in the form of Abby Hoffman...and planned to lace Tricky Dick's tea with LSD, had they been allowed in. I shall now close with an ode in the form of haiku to the mythically huge balls of Grace Slick:
Bigger than mine, but
Jim Morrison still liked them.
Kasaba melons.

Jessica Grabert:While I can’t knowingly condone anything that Jefferson Starship ever added to the world of music; during the psychedelic rock era of the 1960’s, Jefferson Airplane, led by Grace Slick, epitomized its genre. Besides contributing lyrically intense ballads about everything from drugs to life experiences, Grace Slick was one badass musician who lived life for the moment (And I’m all about impulse decisions). Slick slept with other rock stars, including Jim Morrison; she inserted mass amounts of a variety of drugs into her body; she even randomly had a child with fellow bandmate Paul Kantner. She is bold and saucy and Jefferson Airplaine reflects that. And as long as I can disregard certain blips like “We Built This City,” I’m perfectly fine with that.

Mack Rawden: Like a drugged up Snow White or an oversexed Cinderella, Grace Slick was a fairy-tale beauty come to life. Picture Anne Boleyn eating mushrooms and referring to a group of nuns as cunts. Yeah, that’s probably a good start. Her voice was confident and angelic, her demeanor often times crass and raucous. She despised the establishment and openly rallied against some of her own hippy fans. One pill made her large, one pill made her small, but none of them could stop her from crooning scathing critiques on the Vietnam War. She is and will always be the coolest chick ever to plug in a microphone. Suck on that, Charlotte Church

2. Janis Joplin


Rema Rahman:With an undeniable gift of desperately belting out the blues, Janis Joplin left behind a legacy of being one of the best female singers born out of the 1960s. Joplin famously performed her raunchy, raspy vocals donning the signature hippie style of the time with a mop of long frizzy brown hair often stuck to her face with sweat. Her vocal capability, coupled with heartful songwriting, unmistakably shook her fans with her shrill rhythms. Despite a crippling drug addiction that eventually took her life in 1970, she managed to never miss a performance or even be late to any appointments – Amy Winehouse, are you listening?

J.D. McNamara: Whether she was rocking out on her own or fronting Big Brother and the Holding Company, Janis Joplin brought an unprecedented psychedelic flare to her music. With her distinct raspy voice, outlandish fashion sense, and flamboyant personality, Joplin fused jazz with the blues and wrapped it all in a blanket of rock n? roll that has come to characterize a decade. Joplin’s hard-luck upbringing and willingness to publicly defend her outspoken opinions endeared her to fans all across America, and there’s no telling how successful she could’ve become had she not overdosed at the tender age of 27. Still, Janis Joplin is not only one of music’s finest female leads, but also one of rock’s all time greatest talents.

Mack Rawden: On a warm summer day in 1967, Janis Joplin barreled through the Rock N Roll boys’ club entrance and spread her delicate curves all over the establishment. Her Monteray Pop Festival performance ripped up the old rule book and ushered in a new sunrise, a glorious daybreak in which women were free to be just as boisterous, outspoken, and progressive as their male counterparts. Fueled by cheap whiskey and a Southern upbringing, her voice was a raspy blend of heartbreak and rugged individualism. In one of the last songs she ever recorded, the singer, affectionately dubbed Pearl, asked God for a Mercedes Benz. I’d plead with him to send her back.

1. Chrissie Hynde

Karl Spork:The road to female rock supremacy ends with Chrissie Hynde. Her distinctive Anglophilic sensibilities ushered in a new era in post-punk. After moving to London from Ohio (where she attended Kent State during the infamous shootings), she was in bands with Mark Mothersbaugh (Devo) and Mick Jones (The Clash) before forming the Pretenders, which released two ground-breaking albums which revitalized a neo-British invasion. Worthy of note, she bore a child by Kinks frontman Ray Davies. She pioneered a style of low-key sensuality and punk attitude which earns her a place in rock legend, regardless of sex.

Jessica Grabert:When I was a mere middle school child, I was enamored with bands I considered to epitomize punk rock. I “like loved” bands like Green Day and NOFX, I wore combat boots, and was covered with more eyeliner than clothing. Than high school kicked me in the ass, and I eventually graduated to greater, more realistic musical loves. When I first heard the confident, “Brass in Pocket,” by The Pretenders, Chrissie Hynde immediately became one of my favorite tougher-than-thou idols. I still wore the eyeliner, but I kicked my boots and my ridiculous look, focusing more on how music could fit my mood and change my attitude. I’m not sure if Hynde empowered me because she was such a self-assured female or simply because I fell in love with her frequently noted unique voice and sound, but, either way, I changed from a silly girl to one who was excited and opinionated regarding music. That, my friends, is impact.

Mack Rawden: If you lack a Y chromosome and plan on joining a band, go out and buy The Pretenders’ entire discography. Chrissie Hynde is everything a female lead singer should be. She’s astoundingly attractive, has a self-assured, melodic voice, and could drink men twice her size under the table. I’m not even sure if I’d rather hang out with her or fuck her backstage before an encore. She set out to make you, make you notice and became the mold for all chick frontwomen that came later. Here’s to you, Chrissie Hynde, Cinema Blend’s overwhelming number one choice.

Nominated but didn’t make the cut: Wendy O. Williams, Gwen Stefani, Shirley Manson, Beth Orton, Jenny Lewis, Haley Williams, Dolores O’Riordan, Annie Lennox

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