Boys Will Be Girls & Girls Will Be Boys: Our 10 Favorite Androgynous VoicesBy Xavier Aaronson
In a time when "foofoo-looking" dudes are moving in on female modeling gigs at the same rate that well-coiffed lesbians are döppelganging Bieber, one might try to rely on sound for gender cues rather than resorting to frisk-greeting people à la Crocodile Dundee, but no—even ears can be deceiving, as more and more often, a singer’s voice doesn’t always match the curvature of their groin.
When the black-caped siren of a frontwoman you imagined from listening to the album turns out to be some bearded singer who looks like a disgraced geography teacher, the mistakes can be amazing. (I’m looking at you, Bear in Heaven.)
From the unique to the eunich-sounding, I bring you a kaleidoscopic account of my 10 favorite, most androgynous-sounding singers in music.
With a name like Vinnie, a voice like pound cake, and short hair like Julia Roberts as Tinkerbell in the Hook movie, how can I be sure?
“How Can I be Sure”
Jana Hunter of Lower Dens
Listening to Jana sing is like imagining what smoke would sound like if it could talk. And might I add that “smoke” is a neuter word.
When an artist’s first name is actually just one letter, which looks like it’s teetering between the symbols for male ♂ and female ♀, it’s almost too strange that the vocals also seesaw between light tenor and husky mezzo-soprano.
With fellow bandmates of WhoMadeWho out of the picture, Tomas can whisk into his mushier side with this chime-luring, blippity gem called “Broken Glass.” Bright layers of effects and fragile vocals smother any smidge of gender, so it’s best to just shut up and vibe out.
Jon Philpot of Bear in Heaven
The greatest accomplishment of the Beast Rest Forth Mouth record was Jon Philpot’s ability to sing like a bone-chilling Sapphic. And for that, I keep listening to that record with grinning disbelief.
“You Do You”
Arca is a shinier, newer player to burst onto the scene of gender-stumping vocals. His vocal effects are beastly feminine and his beats are seductively twisted—kind of like the pink skirt-speedo and a see-through rhinestone tank top outfit worn by the singer this summer’s MoMA PS1 Warm Up.
Shannon Funchess of Light Asylum
Light Asylum is the juggernaut of the ungendered soundscape. The singer’s steel-toed diaphragm can churn her voice into a howl that sweeps through my system causing a stampede of goosebumps.
“End Of Days”
Nikolaj Manuel Vonslid of When Saints Go Machine
The beauty in Nikolaj’s ethereal voice is that it sounds like flapping butterflies surround his uvula. His voice is one enormous flutter and reminds me of another life form. Anything that evokes thoughts of aliens is an androgynous marvel to me.
Fanning the flames of hyper-androgyny is a singer whose lusty and throaty voice is as trans-sounding as her actual physique.
Brittany Howard of Alabama Shakes
Can you feel the thrust? Rip the lid off these soulful rock vocals and you’ll find a mighty songstress with the heavy-hitting powerhouse pipes.
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