Kiesza Sound of a Woman

Kiesza Sound of a Woman
Of all the singles that have triumphed in the mainstream this year, Canadian artist Kiesza's deep house viral hit "Hideaway" is a peculiar standout. Yes, it boasts the same borderline sterile production of today's biggest pop songs, but its distinct '90s throwback influences a la CeCe Peniston and Robin S are something that almost none of her contemporaries reference, let alone find major success with.

The Calgary-born singer and songwriter showcases an even wider palette on her debut full-length, Sound Of A Woman. On it, Kiesza (born Kiesa Rae Ellestad) explores different styles of dance music, merging her interests in Chicago house with contemporary techniques being flexed by the likes of Disclosure or Diplo, the latter of whom Ellestad has since collaborated with. "No Enemiesz" and "Giant In My Heart" are great complementary tracks to "Hideaway," both confidently pairing rhapsodic beats with Ellestad's rousing voice, which emerges as the true star of the album.

Ellestad extends her prowess further yet with a serious nod to Aaliyah on "Bad Thing," a last-minute addition to the album featuring rapper Joey Bada$$ that proves she suits R&B and hip-hop production just as well as dance. The minimalist and soulful refrain of "So Deep" also find her in the same ranks as peers Jessie Ware and Jessy Lanza.

Popular dance music is often criticized for being a male-dominated genre that simply uses women as interchangeable, faceless vocalists, which is what makes Kiesza's Sound Of A Woman an important statement. In this case, not only is Ellestad asserting that she has a voice, but an exceptionally strong and versatile one at that. (Universal)