The hardest thing in music is to be recognizable. There is talent everywhere. So many people can play like whirling dervishes on piano or guitar. So many have lovely singing voices, from Mariah Carey to your mother-in-law.
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But the hardest thing is to turn on a song and within .5 seconds know exactly who it is.
Well, these six artists below have done just that and without having to sit in some box, pigeonholed into some form that doesn’t quite fit. No, these artists are genres unto themselves.
1. Cat Power
With a powerful-yet-delicate, raspy singing voice, Cat Power may be the quintessential artist who is a genre unto herself. This is why she’s so adept at doing covers. It’s like putting a timeless song through a lens of its own. Just check out this cover of “New York.” Could anyone else do this? No. Do you know it’s Cat Power immediately? Yes.
2. Jack Johnson
When he first started out, Jack Johnson wanted to play all the parts of a song on his acoustic—Rhythm, bass, melody. Well, he’s achieved that ability in spades. He’s also one of those performers who you recognize who it is within seconds of the song starting. He has a voice like the waves of Hawaii, where he was born, and a guitar style like that of no one else.
3. Tom Waits
When Tom Waits was coming up, he was compared to Bob Dylan. He and Bruce Springsteen were the next two chosen ones. But he thwarted those efforts at the comparison, changing from his crooning voice to his gravely, vaudevillian one. As such, he became one of a kind and will live in history forever.
4. Cardi B
Cardi B has more energy than Niagra Falls. She’s biting, brilliant, and truly herself. She has more attitude than every high school student on the planet put together. As such, you know it’s her as soon as she starts spitting on a track. Yes, she’s a rapper. But she’s also not. She’s Cardi B first, last, and only.
5. Nina Simone
Famously, Nina Simone talked about her music, saying she plays Black classical songs. It’s not pop, and it’s not rock, it’s timeless Nina. She’s a master on the 88-keys and her voice is like heaven opening up, full of thunder and lightning and love for her craft. She’s incredible and a genre unto herself.
The Icelandic-born songwriter and performer is a blend of the surreal and pop. She’s riveting, unique, and often showcasing a high-voiced queen-like sensibility. There is no one like Bjork, which is the true definition of this piece. Whether she’s solo or with her group, the Sugarcubes, Bjork is a one of a kind to be certain. And that’s a great, great thing.
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