Sad fact: I typically don’t gravitate towards female singers. Their voices often sound too perfect- too clean– and in the great words of David Byrne, “The better the singer’s voice is, the harder it is to believe what they’re saying.”
Only the ladies with stories to tell in their voice and lyrics such as Janis Joplin and Stevie Nicks, or the ones who challenge gender norms such as Annie Lennox and Patti Smith, or the ones who are just as gritty as they are beautiful such as Deborah Harry and Chrissie Hynde are of interest to me. As for the the Gwen Stefanis, the Beyonces and the Taylor Swifts: I will not argue their talent, but their music does absolutely nothing for me.
To me it is all pop drivel.
It has been a very long time since I had a contemporary female music idol.
I wasn’t very familiar with Nicole Atkins’s music until recently. Why? I’m not sure, other than that I’m really bad at checking out new music (side note: Nicole Atkins is not new new; her first full-length album was released in 2007).
I stick with my old standbys- Talking Heads, Elvis Costello, David Bowie and Fleetwood Mac- and rarely pay attention to what is new or hot in the indie world, which is too bad since I end up looking like an asshole amongst my peers in “The Live Music Capital of the World”.
It was the song “Heavy Boots” that pulled me in. The song, with permission, was featured in our film and I absolutely fell head over heels in love with Nicole’s voice.
It broke my heart, it made me cry, it made me smile- her voice did everything that no contemporary singer ‘s voice has done to me in a long time.
She’s been compared to the female Roy Orbison and has the vocal strength of a classically-trained musician, but the character of someone who has lived a life.
An if being compared to Roy Orbison is fantastic enough, she’s from New Jersey- Neptune to be exact.
And she didn’t release her first full-length album until she was 29.
And she spent most of her twenties trying to make it.
And she went to college for illustration. And she writes her own music.
And she has the best damn look: ombre hair, big blue eyes, Stevie Nicks attire and crooked teeth.
And her career is exactly where I’d want to be if I were a musician: respected and beloved by fans and musicians, saved from the netherworld of Top 40.
As you can tell, I’m now a huge fan and if you aren’t familiar with her work, check out a couple of my favorite songs below.
What is your favorite Nicole Atkins song?
I’m OBSESSED with music (hm…maybe I should’ve moved to Austin instead of Dallas??); but do agree, female vocalists are mostly hit or miss. Though Janis Joplin and Annie Lennox are definitely standouts in my book. If a woman has a unique (read: bizarre) quality to her voice, I tend to listen more than if she sounds squeaky clean and all bubblegum, pop-like.
But I’d never heard of Nicole Atkins. I just listened to “Heavy Boots” and do think her voice is cool. I’ll have to listen to some of her other songs!
I’m anti-mainstream, as well, so I’m happy she’s a little more obscure.
Have you ever listened to PJ Harvey or Fiona Apple? I have plenty more even newer female singers that will fit the bill of being the modern day Stevie/Chrissie/Janis/Annie/Patti. I completely get your reluctance to newer stuff and wanting someone with an interesting voice/story and I can intro you to them. My first thought is Neko Case. But I have plenty more.
Favorite song from Mondo Amore is Cry,Cry,Cry and she did awesome solo version on tour opening for The Eels, hopefully she will tour with a band soon. She’s one of my favorite singer/songwriters. Crazy thing I found out about her from an American Express commercial she did about laptop being stolen but was paid with AE so she was ok, so then I looked up more of her music, because I liked the song used on commercial was great.
That’s a great song! I hope she tours again soon, too!
As a serious geezer, I saw Janis Joplin on stage at the Fillmore, Winterland and other Bay Area venues during the Sixties. I also saw a lot of Grace Slick, Laura Nyro, Joni Mitchell and the other female heroes of that era. I must say that I’m a bigger fan of Nicole Atkins than any of the iconic singers mentioned above. I’ve loved Nicole’s voice and persona from the first time I heard her sing, “The Way It Is.” I’ve seen her all of the five times she’s passed through the Bay Area in recent years. Every show has been a revelation. That her genius continues to go unrecognized is an indictment of our current pop music machine.
I completely agree with your insights vis-a-vis Nicole!
Wow! You’re not a serious geezer- you’re awesome! I wish I could have seen Janis Joplin live!
Hadn’t heard of her until now. Can’t wait to listen when I get the chance!
[…] As some of you may know, I’ve gushed about her before with a blog post titled “Lady Crush of the Day: Nicole Atkins.” […]