Melissa Etheridge

Over the course of 20 years and nearly a dozen albums, Melissa Etheridge has been through quite a lot: breast cancer, a struggle with her sexuality, fickle fans, and the difficulties of being a high profile (out) entertainer in a conservative society. Etheridge has taken these hurdles and employed them to great effect — eventually moving beyond her niche market and carving out a commercially supported catalog. Entire albums have been dedicated to chronicling her ups and downs, from 1993's defiant Yes I Am through 2001 and 2004 flip-sides, Skin and Lucky, to her most recent outing, last year's The Awakening. 2008 finds her in good form, if not reinventing the wheel. As she tours in support of The Awakening, fans can expect quality sets of her signature playing style — often intimate, folk-tinged, grown-up pop. In a world where pop-radio caters more to the MySpace generation, it's nice to have a reliably competent, mainstream artist playing radio-friendly music for the over-25 set. Now, if only she could find a way to get "Bring Me Some Water" on Guitar Hero...

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Nicholas Hall