I hate this girl’s voice. Lord knows I do. I used to joke that she sang everything in a Flat ‘C’. But since being a hit-maker is part of being a singer, even I can’t front. “Pour It Up“? Smash. Not to mention she’s been a mandatory guest on every top MC’s first single since “Live Your Life“.
9. Janet Jackson
Yes, I used to masturbate to “Funny How Time Flies” because I thought she was singing it just to me. Sue me. And yes, the “Pleasure Principle” video caused me to have unrealistic expectations about how women should look in black jeans. She could sing too, tho.
8. Mariah Carey (tie) Whitney Houston
With Mariah, “Vision of Love” is her best joint and she crushes “Fly Like a Bird“, but I’ve never been a huge fan. This is more of a credibility pick. I’d look fucking crazy if I didn’t have Mariah on this list. And with Whitney, there was too much screaming for my taste. Of course, “You Give Good Love” was bananas and her very last album was surprisingly dope, but all that stuff in the middle, with the notable exception of “I Have Nothing” was obviously for the type of mass audience that I try consciously to avoid.
7. Anita Baker
Now, we’re getting somewhere. There’s no way I can put into perspective for those who weren’t there the effect of Rapture dropping when it did. Hip Hop head that I was, I didn’t even know the Songstress album or the dynamite single “Angel“, but “Sweet Love” blew the doors of anything else happening at that time.
6. Mary J. Blige
If for no other reason than I used to get pissed when “You Bring Me Joy” came on expecting as I would be Barry White’s “It’s Ecstasy When You Lay Down Next to Me” until one day “Ecstasy” did come on and I was like, “Da fuq?” But no, too many hits to name, and “Family Affair?” Come on.
5. Sarah Vaughan
Range. Those low notes sound like a dude’s singing. Then she takes it up high and you would swear she switched mics with somebody. The perfect jazz singer. Want me to play “Misty” for you?
Never gets enough credit for her voice which is still probably her greatest asset. Monster hit-maker too. My preference is “Get Me Bodied” but “Formation” has a great a chance to be this era’s “What’s Going On?”
3. Chaka Khan
I once drove into Manhattan with my homie while a superstar journalist with a phat ass and a soon-to-be best selling novelist with a beautiful face were dancing in my back seat to “Ain’t Nobody.” Think that colored me a little toward Chaka? Not really. My other faves from her are little-known Rufus stuff like “Stay” and “Smokin’ Room“.
2. Erykah Badu
And if this list was “favorite” and not “best” she’d be number 1. Mama’s Gun is a Top 5 album and stuff like “Fall in Love” and “Master Teacher” – which coined the politically conscious term “woke” are just others among the many standouts and gems.
- Aretha Franklin
If we’re fair, Aretha created ‘Soul’ music all by herself; that’s why she’s The Queen. There was already Blues, R&B, Rock, Jazz And ‘Race’ music. “Till You Come Back to Me” is a fave, but Aretha is also the first to literally snatch somebody bald-headed when you consider what she did with “A Natural Woman” versus what the song’s writer and original singer, Carole King, did with it.
*** Honorable Mention to Nina Simone (of course)***