No doubt when people think of blue-eyed soul singers, Dusty Springfield is the first artist that comes to mind. In her wake, a trail of talented vocalists continue to carry the torch with Annie Lennox, Lisa Stansfield, Teena Marie, and others bridging the decades between Dusty and the latest generation. Now, they are here and they are great.
In no particular order:
1 Christina Aguilera
If there were ever any doubts that Christina should top this list, she set them to rest with her performance of James Brown’s “It’s a Man’s World” at the 2007 Grammy Awards. Even the Godfather of Soul would have been proud. One reason she’s so powerful, Christina sings with her entire body. She feels and enlivens the songs with every fiber of her being. Interestingly enough, she’s the only American in the bunch.
This award-winning British upstart has taken the world by storm with her sophomore release, 21, which was made when she was only you guessed it 21. Tunes like “Rolling in the Deep” owe no small debt to the pioneers of soul, including the aforementioned Dusty Springfield, as well as Unfortunately, the young singer wasn’t caring for her instrument as well as she should have and ended up having to cancel a number of tour dates earlier in 2011 due to a bout of laryngitis. Now recovered, Adele’s tour is set to resume in August.
3 Joss Stone
Rather than going the powerhouse route, a la Aguilera, Joss takes her contralto/mezzo-soprano voice on a slinkier, sultrier road and to great effect. Still, she’s not afraid to funk it up when the mood strikes. Her 2003 debut (The Soul Sessions) and 2004 follow-up (Mind, Body, & Soul) both were multi-platinum, award-winning efforts. All told, her first four releases have sold more than 11 million records worldwide. A fifth album by the English singer/songwriter, co-written and co-produced by Eurhythmics founder Dave Stewart, is set for a release on July 26, 2011.
4 Amy Winehouse
If she weren’t such a disaster in her personal life, Amy might rank higher on the list. But, her bouts with drug addiction, mental health issues, and rehab make her an unreliable, inconsistent artist. And it’s a shame. Regardless, her edgy take on the genre has proven successful, including the horn-infused hit, “Rehab”, from her 2006 sophomore effort, Back to Black. The album, which won five Grammy awards, features Winehouse backed by The Dap Kings, soul/funk icon Sharon Jones’s long-time band. Such is Amy’s wide appeal and deep talent that Tony Bennett included her on his Duets II release.
This Welsh songstress may well be the most traditional of the batch, stylistically speaking. The Duffy-Dusty connection is loud and clear as evidenced in the video for her tune “Mercy.” Duffy’s 2008 debut, Rockferry, debuted at the top of the UK chart. “Mercy” followed suit. The next year, her efforts were further rewarded with the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album and three Brit Awards British Breakthrough, Best Female Solo and Best British Album. Late in 2010, Duffy released her second set, Endlessly. The effort didn’t do quite as well, only hitting number nine on the UK album chart. Before diving into her third record, Duffy has decided a hiatus is in order.