1995 was a decade where music took many interesting turns. “Alternative” wasn’t just a new genre, it was a true description of the multiple choices listeners had, as new artists emerged with unique sounds, established artists went solo, and everybody pushed musical boundaries. Glam and bubble-gum were in the rearview mirror, grunge had turned mainstream, country was going pop, and hip-hop was starting to dominate, eventually finding its way into rock and roll. 25 years ago, these albums rocked our world and continue to remain in our consciousness, and on our playlists.
This list features 4 of the all -time best mainstream debut albums, and the solo debut from the former lead singer of 10,000 Maniacs. Shirley Manson, Natalie Merchant, Gwen Stefani, Jewel and Alanis Morrissette have been on the front lines fighting for female empowerment, respect and inclusion for 3 decades. Their voices have helped shaped a generation of strong women. Here are our Five Fave 1995 25th Anniversary Albums – Female Vocals.
#5 – Garbage – Garbage
Drummer Butch Vig had already reached legend status in the industry by producing “Nevermind” by Nirvana and “Siamese Dream” by The Smashing Pumpkins, when he decided to form a band that went beyond simple grunge, adding in sampling and searching for a powerful female vocalist. After enlisting Duke Erikson and Steve Marker, they created Garbage, ultimately recruiting Scottish singer Shirley Manson. The result was a killer album with a new variation on the rock sound, featuring hits “Stupid Girl”, “Queer” and “Only Happy When It Rains”.
#4 – Natalie Merchant – Tigerlily
10,000 Maniacs was one of the most successful alternative bands of their time, rising from college indie popularity in the 1980’s to pop superstardom in the 1990’s. They performed at President Bill Clinton’s inauguration gala. Their MTV Unplugged session led to an amazing album and huge hit cover of Bruce Springsteen & Patti Smith’s “Because The Night”. Then vocalist Natalie Merchant decided to go solo. Tigerlily was her solo debut, spinning out 3 hit singles “Wonder”, “Carnival” and “Jealousy”. It also contains several beautiful ballads, with sparse instrumentation and Natalie’s hauntingly stunning vocals.
#3 – No Doubt – Tragic Kingdom
It’s hard to imagine a world without Gwen Stefani in it, but until No Doubt dropped their 1995 album Tragic Kingdom, few outside of Orange County, California knew what a unique and special talent she was. Mega-hits “Just A Girl”, “Spiderwebs” and “Don’t Speak” feature a woman in charge of her own life, speaking her own truth.
#2 – Jewel – Pieces Of You
Jewel was living in a van, playing coffee houses in San Diego, California, strumming her guitar and crooning her deeply personal vocals, when she was discovered. She actually recorded several of the tracks on her debut album live at The Innerchange cafe, giving those tracks a raw, vulnerable touch. Other songs, which became hit singles years after the album’s release, were recorded at Neil Young’s ranch studio, using his band to fill out the sound. “Who Will Save Your Soul”, “Foolish Games” and “You Were Meant For Me” eventually became huge hits, but there are so many hidden gems on this album, touching on abuse, domestic violence, special needs and addiction.
#1 – Alanis Morrissette – Jagged Little Pill
After recording two albums in Canada as a teenager, a frustrated Alanis Morrissette found her way to Los Angeles to begin working with producer and multi-instrumentalist Glen Ballard. They wrote and recorded one song per day, with few vocal takes. This rawness and immediacy helped overshadow any imperfections through sheer force of will and honesty. Despite her youth, Alanis was able to capture the frustration and hypocrisy experienced by millions of people, at any age. Every song has its own spirit, spiced with hope, yet spiked with sarcasm. “You Oughta Know”, “Hand In My Pocket”, “All I Really Want”, “You Learn” and “Head Over Feet” were all massive hits, but every other track could have hit as well. The biggest song of all is the much-debated “Ironic”, whose lyrics are ironically not technically ironic at all, but maybe that was the point all along? This album was turned into a Broadway musical, showing its staying power and universal appeal.
Five Fave: 1995 25th Anniversary Albums – Female Vocals first appeared on Game On Media.