One of the things I’ve rediscovered at the library is the love of trying new music. It’s free; it’s painless; and it lets me just grab CDs on a whim and wander away. The most recent album I picked up is ZZ Ward’s When the Casket Drops, and it’s been really interesting listening to her.
In writing, we talk about “voice” a lot. That thing that slips through the narrative, informs the character, and leaves a distinct flavor in the reader’s mind. Even when an author changes plots or characters, that voice most likely remains. With singers, “voice” gets mixed up with their actual voice, but there is a similar concept. Something that speaks directly to the listener, saying “this is who I am, and these are my songs.”
One of my favorite types of singer is the scratchy, edgy, big-voiced woman and of late, I’ve been spoiled for choice. From Amy Winehouse all the way to ZZ Ward. I’ve been sampling as many as I can.
And the thing is: I love ZZ Ward’s singing voice, but I don’t think she has a “voice” yet. Her songs are… fine. But they’re sort of all over the place, and that makes the album weirdly unsatisfying for me.
Elle King’s album Love Stuff is more shallow musically, more pop-oriented, and definitely more repetitive, but hell, can I sing along to it! ZZ Ward? Not quite so much. Right now, my favorite ZZ Ward song is the Lindsey Stirling song which features Ward: Hold my Heart.
But the singer I’m utterly adoring right now is Gin Wigmore. Similar in style–scratchy voice, hard-bitten attitude, but so singable. Her songs drip with “voice”; her songs feel raw and earnest. She’s not trying on different personas. All her songs feel connected somehow, even when the styles are varied. She moves from sass to heartbreak and back again. She just blows me away.