Intimate and hushed, Sharon Van Etten's folk tunes tend to quiet any room she plays them in. These are the type of nuanced songs that can render a crowd breathless.
Van Etten was introduced to an eclectic blend of folk and rock 'n' roll while growing up in Nashville. She worked her way to Brooklyn, and after a national tour in support of her debut album, Because I Was In Love, she turned to Epic, a seven-song LP that was one of NPR Music's favorite records of 2010.
A 62-year-old soul singer, Charles Bradley has a story you can hear in his voice. But for most of his life, he wasn't a singer.
Born in 1948, Bradley spent most of his childhood in Brooklyn. One day, his sister invited him to come to the Apollo Theater in Harlem, where she was going to see James Brown. At the time, Bradley didn't know who Brown was, but his sister offered to pay his way.
There's no one way to define a great voice: Genius might lie in the phrasing, the range, the power, the control, the words themselves, or some sort of indescribable something else. But one way to diagnose genius for sure is to have a singer walk into a crowded room with little to no accompaniment, open his or her mouth, and command breathless attention in a matter of seconds.
British singer Adele arrived on the world stage three years ago with her debut album, 19. Now, two Grammy Awards and millions of records sold later, she's out with her second release, 21. Adele herself is now 22, but her powerhouse voice and '60s glam look — hair sleek and teased up high, fake eyelashes out to there — belie her young age.