Playlist: Belle Voix
Updated: Apr 6, 2022
It can truly be a natural wonder when a beautiful voice is given the opportunity to expose itself, the proper tune, the instruments, the phrasing are all part of it but really just allowing a truly talented singer the space to add the soul to the song is one of the most precious things in music. While men have their space (and a separate playlist I already wrote an article about), this is a playlist of female artists that have some fucking chops because I think there is something special about the female voice that gives it a different passion. Surely men can sing passionately but for women it is different, if only because they have different struggles and their heart for it comes from a different place. This list isn’t made up of songs that are necessarily my favorites from these artists but the ones that I thought best put their pipes on display and allow them to put their soul into the song.
The playlist starts off with Etta James’ “At Last”, her signature song and one that is almost too perfect in the way the phrasing goes along with her lyrics but an entire orchestra couldn’t even keep up with Etta. A classic love ballad at this point, the song has almost become played out but it’s never been reason enough to ruin my favorite female voice of all time, no matter how many movies it’s in.
Belle Voix is French for beautiful voice and Édith Piaf is the singer I named this playlist after so “La Vie en rose” was basically a starting point for the idea behind it. Her vocals are so powerful and yet traditional, it’s almost like a sonic painting of the lyrics and even though I have no idea what she is saying, it’s almost better that way. As Red says of the music Andy plays for the prison yard in Shawshank, “I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. Truth is, I don’t want to know. Some things are better left unsaid.
I’d like to think they were singing about something so beautiful, it can’t be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it.”
“River” by Joni Mitchell is an extraordinary case of phrasing, as all of her songs are but the way she was able to craft this song with both subtle quiet parts and places for her powerful voice to go full range is her at her best. The album Blue is one of my favorite albums to listen start to finish but if I had to pick one song, this would be it.
One of the less classically beautiful voices, Tracey Chapman’s “Fast Car” is in many ways one of the most heart wrenching and personal. The lyrical story telling takes you on a tough path and Chapman’s voice really puts you in the place but also has this slight tone of triumph that gives the song a whole second meaning. I also have to say that I have a bias notion for this song because it was part of the best car jam out I’ve ever been a part of one night in college riding home from a toga party.
Many would have chosen “Respect” for their Aretha Franklin song (because there obviously has to be an Aretha song on a playlist about beautiful voices), and I have to admit I won’t sing the chorus in public, as it’s weird to be an man and sing about how you feel like a natural woman. That all being said, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman” is one of the most powerful songs I can think of, the way the verses build into the chorus and finally release into those final lines makes for a completely satisfying release.
“Who Will Save Your Soul” from Jewel is next and is another unique voice with her yodel style of singing, and it’s funny that in an interview she basically said she thought she sounded like Kermit the Frog, but truth is she rips on this song. Easily her best song, in my opinion, not only does she have a wide range but the lyrics carry a lot of weight in the way she points out the flaws and hypocrisies of our society. On the last chorus, she holds the word soul for what seems like forever and I think at that point you really feel and know the truth that she is singing from the soul (I know, a little cheesy).
Adele may be my favorite voice of anyone active today. It’s just so traditionally beautiful and pure and she is able to sing the blues so perfectly it almost is like curling up in a blanket with some coffee on a cold night. “Make You Feel My Love” is a Dylan cover but it’s one where I never even listen to the original anymore because the version by Adele is so much better, and that’s why it’s on this playlist.
Judy Garland was another one where she just had to be on the list and “Over The Rainbow” is a fairly quintessential song. There are other version’s this song that I have come to like because surprisingly this is a great song for the ukulele, but something about Garland’s version is perfect in it’s own way, like an old black and white movie.
“Landslide” is a song I’ve almost heard too many times, but I couldn’t let classic rock radio keep me from paying my respects to Stevie Nicks. Though the song is labeled as a Fleetwood Mac composition, we all know this is her song, sure Lindsay Buckingham is there and the guitar solo is on point but this is Stevie’s fucking song, and there’s a reason it become such a classic because never has a landslide sounded so poetic.
Norah Jones has become one of my favorite voices over her career that is almost two decades old at this point but she came out of the gate so hot that it’s been hard to top. That’s why for this list I had to go with her OG hit “Don’t Know Why” because it just doesn’t get much better than that.
One of my favorite music videos of all time is “If I Ain’t Got You” but it is really just because the song is so amazing. Sure in the video you’ve got Alicia Keys playing piano on a NYC roof in the middle of winter wearing a huge fur and sure it’s got Redman but the way she brings it vocally on this song paints a picture of its own without the video.
The last song is not as well known of a hit as any of the others on this list but I’ve become such a huge fan of Hundred Waters that it only made sense to put them on the playlist. Though most their music is in the indie-electronic realm, on some songs they let lead singer
Nicole Miglis take the reins which is the case with the song “Parade”. Basically, just her and her piano, this song is an amazing display of the talent she possesses and shows why she had to be a part of this list.
Etta James – “At Last”
Édith Piaf – “La Vie en rose”
Joni Mitchell – “River”
Tracy Chapman – “Fast Car”
Aretha Franklin – “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”
Jewel – “Who Will Save Your Soul”
Adele – “Make You Feel My Love”
Judy Garland – “Over The Rainbow”
Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”
Norah Jones – “Don’t Know Why”
Alicia Keys – “ If I Ain’t Got You”
Hundred Waters – “Parade”