MUSIC :: My Top 20 Artists

Following on from my Top 20 Bands list, and after realising that so many of my favourites are solo artists, here are my top picks. Just like with the bands, these are the ones I’ve either loved the longest or listen to the most. Some take me back in time while others are definitely of the here and now.

And it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the majority are female.


the old friends

Prince, Madonna, Kylie Minogue, Michael Jackson

These are the ones I grew up with, maybe Ms Minogue the least of the four, but she still counts because I was about twelve when her first single was released. Prince, Madonna, and Michael Jackson were the holy trinity of pop rulers in the ’80s, and I could not get enough. Funnily enough these four are still the ones whose music gets me up and dancing quicker than any other artists anywhere.


first song heard: cannot for the life of me remember, but most likely something off Purple Rain. 

favourite album: Purple Rain.

comments: I’m not sure I’d want a ten year old of mine listening to Prince, but when the older cousins {and biggest musical influencers of my childhood} went nuts for His Purple Highness there was no way I was missing out. Probably the first of my major musical obsessions, I was absolutely devastated at his passing. I sneakily, because of course I wasn’t allowed, watched Purple Rain countless times, memorised every line and song lyric, and wanted more than anything to be Apollonia. {I tried to swing it as a confirmation name but no dice}. Definitely the most beloved artist of my young years.


first song heard: Burning Up.

favourite album: Like A Prayer.

comments: I still remember so clearly the way Madonna burst onto the music scene, seemingly out of nowhere, with catchy songs, crazy outfits, and attitude with a capital A. I eventually drifted away from her music but some time in the last five years or so I seem to have tuned back in.

Kylie Minogue

first song heard: Locomotion.

favourite album: Rhythm of Love.

comments: Kylie was that curly haired actress on my favourite TV show when she released her first single. I didn’t exactly love that song but I did love Kylie, and it wasn’t long before her particular brand of pop chart toppers sucked me in. {The names Stock, Aitken, and Waterman ring a bell, am I right?}. She released the dancefloor-ready masterpiece that was Rhythm of Love right when sixteen year old me hit the clubs and her songs were the ones that always made my night. She will always be the queen of Aussie pop.

Michael Jackson

first song heard: probably The Girl Is Mine.

favourite album: Thriller.

comments: I remember being aware of MJ’s early music as well as some of the bigger Jacksons hits and loved it all, but seeing him moonwalk on stage while performing Billie Jean at the Motown 25 TV Special is something I’ll just never forget. Absolutely electrifying, and a true one in a million performer.

the trailblazers

Patti Smith, David Bowie, Iggy Pop, Johnny Cash

The names and the music that paved the way for so many who followed, with punk attitude in huge doses, these are the artists who did not conform to one single thing.

Patti Smith

first song heard: Land

favourite album: Horses.

comments: I’d heard about Patti Smith, knew that she had an album that was unanimously hailed as a classic and a must own, and sure enough on first listen I was gone. This was not music that needed to grow on me, not an artist I needed to be sold on, I loved it instantly. My only regret was not seeking it out earlier.

David Bowie

first song heard: Let’s Dance.

favourite album: Aladdin Sane.

comments: rightaround the time I first heard his music on the radio I was fascinated with an LP lurking in my uncle’s vinyl collection. With shocking red hair and a thunderbolt on his face, I was captivated. But it was only much later on, when I delved deeper into the music, that I discovered the true genius behind Aladdin Sane.

Iggy Pop

first song heard: Real Wild Child.

favourite album: Lust For Life.

comments: the crazy old punk guy with the kinky spine handed me a parenting moment to remember forever when we took our two oldest sons to see The Stooges and Iggy invited all the kids up on to the stage. I’ve said it before but I’ll never stop saying it: seeing my boys dance around with Iggy fucking Pop was one of the best moments in my life.

Johnny Cash

first song heard: Ring Of Fire.

favourite album: Essential Johnny Cash. {Maybe not playing strictly by the rules but it’s only rock n’ roll, right?}

comments: it took me a few listens to appreciate the man in black. But it was the combination of his rich deep vocals, catchy hooks, and more than anything else, his story telling, that won me over. And yet again, true punk spirit no matter what the labels or genre might suggest.

the rock chicks

Adalita, Joan Jett, Pink

Girls who rock the fuck out are my absolute favourite thing in the world, and the one consistent thing I’ve always loved musically regardless of crazes and phases. Maybe because they look impossibly cool doing it or maybe because they’re just talented af, rock chicks rock my world.


first song heard: Hot Air

favourite album: All Day Venus

comments: when your favourite rock chick from your favourite band announces she’s releasing some solo stuff you can safely assume you’re going to love it. And while it’s an impossible task to sound even remotely objective, she really is that good. But even better than her music, which really is fantastic and has enough rave reviews to back my love of it, is the woman herself. My husband and I have had the pleasure of meeting her enough times now that I’ve lost count, {because when I love you I WILL stalk you 😉 }, and she’s just gorgeous. Generous, friendly, and humble. She rocks, and I fucking love her.

Joan Jett

first song heard: I Love Rock ‘N Roll.

favourite album: I Love Rock ‘N Roll

comments: her biggest hit was everywhere when I was a kid, and I honestly can’t remember a time that I didn’t know every word. For some reason it took me a while to twig that she probably had lots of other good songs too, and she sure does. She was also an original member of 70’s punk rock band The Runaways, has collaborated with Kathleen Hanna, and is still as fierce and as full of fire as ever.


first song heard: Most Girls.

favourite album: I’m Not Dead.

comments: fearless, unapologetic, feminist, and funny. Don’t let all the Top 40 hits fool you, Pink is a punk rock icon.

three guys with zero in common

Evan Dando, Eminem, Rowland S. Howard

Definitely an eclectic grouping, all three of these artists are pretty awesome at what they do.

Evan Dando

first song heard: All My Life

favourite album: Baby I’m Bored

comments: I explained my deal with Evan in the Top 20 Bands post, but there’s no denying that his solo album is brilliant. And while my husband has at times seemed unfamiliar with the concept of too much of a good thing, his continuous playing of this album is always okay with me.


first song heard: My Name Is.

favourite album: The Marshall Mathers LP 2.

comments: admittedly an odd choice for me, and one I could blame on my son, who has long been a huge Eminem fan, but I’m cool with its place on my list. Yes, he’s very politically incorrect and often misogynistic, but if you don’t want to listen you don’t have to.

Rowland S. Howard

first song heard: Shivers.

favourite album: Teenage Snuff Film.

comments: back in 2007 when my husband and I traipsed along to see The Beasts of Bourbon play live one Friday night, I had no idea how important that night was going to be, and that it would have nothing to do with the headliners. Magic Dirt were second on the bill, their set that night ignited my love for that band, and the rest is history. But the first act that night was a skinny guy I’d never heard of, sitting on a bar stool with his guitar, lost in songs that most of the still-arriving crowd seemed to pay little attention to. My husband, music history lover and font of endless music facts, filled me in that the guy on the stool was an Australian music legend and a very big deal. Sadly he passed away not long after that, but as with so many music legends, the music lives on.

modern day riot grrrls

Taylor Swift, Rihanna, Lana Del Rey, Lady Gaga

They’re fierce, fearless, and steering their careers on their own terms. All are feminist icons whether they choose to label themselves as such or not {looking at you Ms Swift}, but above all I just really really really love their music.

Taylor Swift

first song heard: Love Story.

favourite album: 1989.

comments: back when my daughter and her cousins were bopping away to Love Story I had no idea I’d ever become such a huge fan, but then again I dare say no-one could have predicted the evolution of her music either. I couldn’t care less about the drama but I do like the way she stands up for herself. Team Swift for life.


first song heard: Umbrella.

favourite album: Good Girl Gone Bad.

comments: along with her frequent collaborator Eminem, at first glance maybe a surprising choice. But then you remember that she’s tough and talented and has cool songs and think, yeah makes sense.

Lana Del Rey

first song heard: Video Games.

favourite album: Born To Die.

comments: the dark brooding vibes and lush vocals get me every time. #sorrynotsorry

Lady Gaga

first song heard: Let’s Dance.

favourite album: Born This Way. 

comments: I cannot compile a playlist that’s meant for dancing and not include a bunch of Gaga songs. I’m less about the meat dress and more about her passionate activism, but at the end of the day it’s all about the music.

voice of an angel

Amaya Laucirica

Another support act that won me over, this Australian artist is so insanely talented that it pisses me off beyond belief that she’s not more widely known. She continues to evolve and every album brings with it something new, but that amazing voice always shines through.

first song heard: You’ve Got A Smile

favourite album: Early Summer

comments: I said it all above, so please, when she passes through your town, get yourself to her show. You won’t be sorry, I promise.

saving the best for last


Yeah maybe a bit of a cheeky choice but when I say I love this guy I really and truly do. Because, you know, I gave birth to him. And he makes awesome music that I actually pay for and listen to a lot.

first song heard: no idea, I have been hearing stuff coming from his room for years and never know the names of the songs.

favourite album: This World

comments: what can I say? Some might think I’m biased but I figure that if I love his music so much when it’s so far removed from anything I normally listen to then it must be pretty damn good. And while I could rave on forever about his innate talent and intuition for all things music I’ll just let you take a listen for yourself:

Surprisingly there weren’t really any names that I had to leave out, because the other artists I love are all in bands and made it to that list already.

Do you have a favourite artist or is it just too hard to pick only one?

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