Kat Bjellan

The "best vocalist" category is always a suspect one, particularly when it comes to women. "Good" singing has less to do with great pop pipes than some people pretend. In fact, one of the biggest musical breakthroughs of the past half-century has been the move away from traditional ideas of vocal prowess and prettiness toward a wider appreciation for idiosyncratic and even ugly vocalizations. As you might expect, though, the Dylans and Johnny Rottens and Ol' Dirty Bastards outnumber the rough-voiced ladies. Kat Bjelland belongs on the short list of women willing to mangle conventional ideas of vocal femininity, especially as she honed her songwriting skills with her band Katastrophy Wife. Bjelland has endured (and brought upon herself) innumerable personal and professional problems, to be sure. But each time her bark elevates to a full-on screech, she effectively declares, "This is unacceptable, because I say so." In the process, she nonverbally responds to ages of female degradation as surely as a JB whoop does for African Americans. Since Babes in Toyland faded away mid-decade, so many Astronaut Wives and other safe, sweet-voiced young things have dominated the local soundscape. Wait, dominated is certainly the wrong word. Let's say, instead, that they were lifted up. On pedestals. Makes you wanna holler.


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