When Taylor Swift was a brand new artist at 16 years of age, her very first single out of the gate was quite interesting and the perfect choice for a rising star. The song was called “Tim McGraw” and while that was an odd title of a song…its theme would be common of most of Swift’s songs. They were autobiographical in some form or fashion. The song named after the country artist was all about the things that she and her senior boyfriend experienced during their time of young love…including the romantic music of Country superstar Tim McGraw. After that, I would lose interest in Swift while everyone just about continues eat out of her hand….and one radio jock went too far…if you know what I mean. Eventually she began to transition to pop with her fourth album “Red” and the follow upalbum “1989” (named after the year she was born) would complete the transition. While I admit she is much better as a Pop artist than a Country artist, that does not mean I am a big fan of her either. I never was back then and I am certainly not now. There are women that I think that are much better than Swift and for the record not everyone that I have listed here, I am a not necessarily a big fan off. However, I do admit that they are talented in their skills as an artist, and deserve any credit they truly deserve.One more thing, keep your hands to yourself…OK…lets go.
If anyone brought back blue-eyed soul back to mainstream pop, that would be English singer-songwriter Adele Adkins. Fresh out of Music College, Adele began to publish her own songs and recorded a three-song demo for a friend. That friend posted it on Myspace (which was still a popular social network site back in 2006) and it caught the attention of UK Indy label XL Recordings. Adele never heard of XL, which has been an active label since the early 1990’s and was quite skeptical if they were truly serious. According to Adele the only record company she knew about was Virgin Records (now Virgin EMI in the UK). She did her homework and found XL to be legit, and is actually one of several labels owned by Beggars Group which its roots trace back to the Beggars Banquet record shops and record label.Nick Huggett who worked at XL at time signed Adele to the label. Her first album “19” was released to critical success and peaked at #1 on the UK Album chart and going 7X Platnum. Adele signed with Sony Music to distribute her album in the United States. Slowly but surely Adele was becoming an international star. Her recent release “25” is among the bestselling albums of all time.
2. Christina Aguilera
For a pop music singer, Christina Aguilera has one of the best voices out there. Growing up in thePittsburgh suburb of Rochester in the 1980’s, Aguilera was known as the little girl with the big voice. She would regularly sing at block parties during her childhood. She won her first talent contest around eight years of age, with her take of Whitney Houston’s smash hit at the time; “I Wanna Dance With Somebody.” She made it as a contestant on “Star Search” but was eliminated in the semifinal rounds. She would still make local appearances in the Pittsburgh area most notably on Larry Richert’slocal morning show on CBS affiliate KDKA-TV. She was too young when she tried outthe first time for the Mickey Mouse Club in 1990, but would win a spot three years later in the final two seasons of “MMC.” She sent a demo covering another Whitney Houston hit “Run To You” to the motion picture division of Walt Disney in hopes of recording the pop version of the song “Reflection” from Disney’s 1998 animated release “Mulan.” She hit the right note that in that song, earning her the chance to record the famed Disney song.
The song revived minor airplay on Adult Contemporary/Lite Rock radio stations, and Aguilera signed with RCA Records soon after, and began work of her official first album, which would have more songs appealing to her own peer group. Her breakthrough hit with that peer group “Genie In A Bottle” would become a #1 smash. Aguilera like many young pop starlets around the turn of the century tried to move away from the “bubble gum” pop and towards more sexual themed pop music. Her 2002 “Stripped” would go 4X’s Platinum in the United States. Her success would begin to wane in 2006 with her “Back to Basics” album, although would go Platinum. After her six years of being a judge/coach on the talent contest The Voice, Aguilera is trying her hand at other TV projects and movies.
3. Mariah Carey
Her mother Patricia was a Classically trained singer, and even gave Mariah a few singing lessons of her own, but she knew that her daughter (named after the Lerner &Loewe song “They Called the Wind Maria”) was not interested in doing Opera productions for herself. While she was in high school Mariah teamed with R&B singer-songwriter Gavin Christopher to work on song material. Soon Carey would send it to record companies and deal with the typical rejections. She would eventually meet Brenda K. Starr and would contribute backing vocals on Starr’s self-titled album which was recorded around 1986-87. Starr’s only hit “I Still Believe” would hit Top 20 on both the Pop and Adult Contemporary charts in the late spring/early summer of 1988. Carey’s friendship with Starr however allowed her to attend a record executives’ gala and Carey would come in contact with Tommy Mottola who at the time was the head of Columbia Records. Carey handed Mottola her demo and after hearing two of her songs, Mottola wanted to touch base with Mariah which took him two weeks to do.
Mottolaimmediately signed Mariah to a recording contract and was being groomed of being Columbia’s ‘female artist.’ Her first single “Vision of Love” was released in May of 1990, and her full album released the next month…but her next single almost did not make it in time in spite of the title “Love Takes Time.” That song was being planned for her next album, but the suits said it would ‘make her’…and they were provenright. Carey was indeed a 1990’s pop diva and her music appealed to the CHR, Adult Contemporary and Urban formats in that decade. While her star dimmed with her failed contract with Virgin Records, she would bounce back by signing with Universal’s Island-Def Jam label. By 2005, she scored a smash with the R&B/Pop ballad “We Belong Together.”
4. Randy Crawford
She was born in Macon, Georgia and her Pop music success would be found in the UK rather than her native country. She was the winner of theBest British Female Solo Artist award at the 1982 Brits (their equivalent of the Grammys). Her biggest hit in the UK was the 1980 single “One Day I’ll Fly Away” which peaked at #2. However, if you were a fan of the Smooth Jazz radio format which is all but dead in America, she was hands down a core artist in that respected format. She does great Smooth Jazz covers of many great rock and pop songs including Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now,” Bob Dylan’s “Knocking On Heaven’s Down” and a laid back version of George Benson’s “Give Me The Night” which was written by the late Rod Temperton who was a member of Heatwave.
Her full name is Sade Adu, and her band goes by her namesake. The fans don’t seem to mind, and most of her band have performed with her from the days they were in the Jazz band ‘Pride.’ Before Sade became a singer, she was a fashion designer of men’s clothing and even worked as a model. During her time with Pride, record companies were taking an interest in Sade’s smooth vocals. It was this high interest that convinced Sade and several Pride members (Paul Anthony Cook, Paul Denman and Stuart Matthewman) to form their own musical outfit. They signed with Epic Records in the UK and sister label Portrait in the U.S. (they would be shifted to Epic in the States when Portrait became inactive). They went to work on their first album “Diamond Life” in the year 1983 and it only took six months to make. “You Love Is King” was the very first single released by Sade in early 1984 and it would peak at #6 on the UK pop chart.
The Full “Diamond Life” album was finally released in July of that same year. Sade and her band would get American exposure when their single “Smooth Operator” was finally released to American audiences a year later. While it only peaked at #19 in the UK, the song went Top Five in America peaked at #5. Sade had seven Top 40 hits altogether in the UK, with their last single released in 2000 “By Your Side.” The musical outfit did not do so bad in the States, with five Top 40 hits altogether. Sade was all about Jazz Soul, and not about 150 bpm’s or music that made you dance like Madonna’s did, and before her Donna Summer. Speaking off which….
6. Donna Summer
She was called the Queen of Disco, and while disco was on borrowed time, her legacy is still one to be remembered. Before she graduated from high school, Donna joined a blues band called “Crow.” When the record company only wanted to sign Donna, she turned them down and the group parted ways. She won a role in a New York production of the hippie musical “Hair” and eventually moved to Germany to do the musical in that respected country. She would make Germany her home for most of the 1970’s. It was in Germany in which Donna would meet the producers who would help her achieve stardom; Giorgio Moroder and Pete Bellotte. They worked on the song, “Love To Love To You Baby” which was a hands down sexual song. Summer had her doubts, but Morder was impressed with how Summer could enact sexual pleasure on the recording that he convinced her to release the song which she did. It caught the attention of Neil Bogart and he played the song at record industry parties.
The attendees enjoy the song and soon enough Donna Summer was signed to Bogart’s Casablanca Records. The single peaked at number six in Germany and peaked at number two in America. She would gradually put some good distance between herself and her first hit. But would still release some great material regardless with songs like “I Feel Love,” “Heaven Knows,” “On the Radio,” “Dim All The Lights,” and “Bad Girls,” and those where just the songs that she co-wrote. Disco however was dying and Donna knew she had to make a change in spite of Bogart’s objections. She would be very first artist to be signed by David Geffen’s namesake label, and released “The Wanderer.” The title track would peak at #3. Donna did owe Casablanca Records one more album. That album was released in 1983 by Polygram’s Mercury imprint (Casablanca was distributed by Polygram Records) called “She Works Hard for the Money.” The title track would be Donna’s final top five hit in the U.S. She would release her final album of original material in 2008 called “Crayons.” Two of songs on the album were co-written Neil Bogart’s son Evan. Summer would pass away at the age of 62 in 2012.
7. Hayley Westenra
At the age of six, Hayley was cast into a key singing role of her school’s Christmas play. A teacher who watched the performance told her parents Jill and Gerald Westenra that Hayley had perfect pitch. That same teacher encouraged Hayley to play an instrument (she learned to play violin, piano, guitar, and recorder). She also took voice lessons and by age 11 Hayley performed up to 40 times on some kind of stage. She would enter a professional recording studio to record a demo album for friends and family a year later. Soon after Hayley and her sister Sophie were busking in their native city of Christchurch, New Zealand.
They were able to draw a large crowd including a journalist who worked at Canterbury Television who managed to get Hayley an appearance on the respected TV station. Concert promoter GaryBartlett saw that appearance and was interested in working with her. This relationship also led to a record deal with the New Zealand division of Universal Records. After releasing two albums with Universal Records New Zealand opera singer Dame Malvina Major offered Hayley voice lessons which she accepted. Hayley soon aimed for international stardom and signed a deal with Universal’s internationally known imprint, UK based Decca Records to release what would be her crowning achievement “Pure” in 2003. The album was finally released in America in 2004. Recently Hayley was keeping a low profile, but as of last year, she uploaded a video on Youtube of herself singing “Greener Lands” somewhere in Los Angeles and is planning a tour of Japan in November 2017.
8. Tre Principesse
This American based trio of three young women have been trying to keep the Classical Crossover genre alive especially in the United States. The trio consists of sisters Anastasia Lee and Tatiana Marie from Green Bay, Wisconsin along with AgneGiedraityte (or simply Agne G.) out of Chicago, Illinois. They just released their independent release “Getting to Know You” which can only be purchased via their website. However, they were able to become their own reporters for Nielsen Media Research’s Soundscan (which tracks sales of music audio and music video) and that allowed their album to debut and peak at #2 on the Billboard’s Classical Albums chart. After falling out completely for a few weeks, the album has managed to hovered in the top 20 of the Classical Album chart.
Tre Principesse(Tre Principesse is Italian for Three Princess)takes a page from the Celtic Woman stage shows in which the individual talents of the women are highlight and their strengths. Only two tracks on the album feature all the women. The rest are solos along with a few duets. Anastasia, who is the only Contralto in the group feels her strength is in the ballads, while the strengths of the group’s sopranos Tatiana and Agne are in Folk/Country and in Opera and the Musical Stage respectfully. Musically Tatiana is the black sheep of the group, because her solos on the album were all were at one time #1 songs on the Country Songs chart…. but Anastasia and Agne don’t care…she’s family. Still it makes the album inconsistent with the overall Classical Crossover sound. However, all three ladies I can say beyond reasonable doubt are much better than Taylor Swift. Maybe that is why Rick Barker has decided to manage Anastasia Lee. Barker was once Swift’s manager.
9. Whitney Houston
In 2009, Guinness World Records cited Whitney as the “most awarded female act of all time,” and was the one ina family of singers (her mother Cissy was a Gospel singer) who achieved the great stardom of them all…other than cousins Dionne Warwick and Dee Dee Warwick. She had a middle class upbringing in her native state of New Jersey, and was exposed to the music in African American Baptist and Pentecostal churches. She did solos with the junior gospel choir at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, and even learned piano. At age 15 she was a background vocalist for Chaka Khan (and one of her big influences) and Lou Rawls. In 1980 Houstonworked as a fashion model and while she made the pages of Seventeen, Glamour, and Cosmopolitan she still wanted to have a career in music. Cissy was protective of her daughter and wanted her to finish high school before signing any recording contract. Eventually Houston signed with Arista Records and Clive Davis (who was the head of the label) made sure that Houston had all the right material and producers for her first release. It would be a hard process and it took just about all of 1984 to make Whitney Houston’s first record a reality. In the meantime, she recorded a duet with famed R&B singer Teddy Pendergrass called “Hold Me.” The song got exposure of Urban radio and crossed over to Adult Contemporary radio airplay. While that song was on Pendergrass’s album “Love Language” it was also be featured as the final song on Houston’s debut album as well.
Eventually that debut album from Whitney Houston was released in the winter of 1985, with the first single “You Give Good Love” intended for the R&B market (going to #1) but crossing over to Hot 100 and Adult Contemporary charts and scoring top five on both of those respected surveys. Her follow up “Saving All My Love For You” would be #1 across the board and truly making Whitney Houston a superstar. She tried her hand at acting and winning a role in the movie “The Bodyguard” which would give her signature hit that was already a hit for Country Superstar Dolly Parton. That being “I Will Always Love You” which Parton originally wrote for her duet partner Porter Wagoner but was given new meaning when Houston covered it. She also covered the Chaka Khan classic “I’m Every Woman” (written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson) and it should be noted that on the original version recorded by Khan, Cisssy Houston was a background vocalist. Sadly, with many superstars and their rise in popularity Houston also dealt with the isolation that many superstars had to cope with. Houston’s battle with her inner demons would end in a loss with her passing in February 2012.
10. Jackie Evancho
The film adaption of “The Phantom of the Opera” starting Emmy Rossum and Gerard Butler was a critical flop, but it would gross $154.6 million and surpass its $70 million budget. Why talk about this movie? Cause it’s the movie that inspired Jackie Evancho to sing in the genre of Classical Crossover. Her parents eventually bought Jackie her copy of the movie and soon enough she was singing the musical’s famous numbers ranging from “Think of Me,” to “Music of the Night.” Those songs by the way were recorded and performed in public by Jackie Evancho. “Think of Me” was officially recorded twice…first on her independent release in 2009 and five years later in 2014. In-between that time famed record producer David Foster discovered her and featured her in his “David Foster & Friends” concert in New Jersey. She would become a contestant on the talent contest “America’s Got Talent” (which was created by Simon Cowell) via its YouTube competition.
People had their doubts, but Jackie sang impromptu voice exercise to prove that she is the real deal. She would make it to the finals but would not win the top prize. However, she did get a record deal with Sony Music, which she renewed just recently. While Jackie Evancho did online schooling her focus on Classical Crossover did allow her to attend public school from 2014 until 2017 since her peers were not familiar nor with the music she recorded and performed. Oh well, shows you how most teenagers are. Even Jackie to a certain degree.