Good Influences: Florence + The Machine

floBy turns commanding and vulnerable, Florence Welch has become one of the most compelling musical figures of the past decade. As primary songwriter for Florence + The Machine, she crafts anthems that necessitate sing-alongs, as well as introspective hymns that would guide anyone through a dark night of the soul. Her powerful voice and idiosyncratic style have brought Flo piles of accolades, and landed her spots on soundtracks like this summer’s The Great Gatsby, where her song “Over the Love” provides a moving contrast to the glitz of the other tracks. While Florence + The Machine have conquered the world with their original sound, they still call upon a vast array of influences to blend an assortment of styles into their own:

British superstar Kate Bush has had a long and storied career, refusing to tour and releasing albums sporadically. Her distinctive vocals and ever-evolving musical style have kept fans on their toes, while providing Kate with a dozen hit songs. Beginning with 1978’s “Wuthering Heights”, Kate has shown a flair for the dramatic, something that Florence has evidently taken to heart. In her most popular Hounds of Love-era incarnation, Kate pioneered the use of heavy percussion in pop songs—an element Florence + The Machine use extensively in their own work. With its innovative use of background vocals and strings, Kate’s “Hounds of Love” single provided a template for Flo to follow.

Florence + The Machine draw heavily from late 80’s and early 90’s pop music, with an emphasis on the big and the dramatic. Annie Lennox, formerly of the Eurythmics, released her album Diva in 1992. Her strong and soulful voice was a perfect fit for the larger-than-life songs on the album, and it was one of the year’s biggest hits. The ornate “Walking on Broken Glass”, with its video that seemingly inspired Flo’s clip for “Shake It Out”, is just the sort of pop song that influenced “Rabbit Heart” and “Hurricane Drunk”.

Flo’s mystical style, with flowing dresses and magical props, calls back to the style of Stevie Nicks. Flo has gleaned some melodic inspiration from Fleetwood Mac, particularly their unusual Tusk-era songs, but her on-stage persona recalls Stevie, especially. The natural elements that populate Stevie’s songs pop up in Flo’s (“What the Water Gave Me”), along with elements of the supernatural (“Breaking Down”, “Leave My Body”). Flo’s aesthetic can be summarized with the video for Stevie’s Fleetwood Mac song, “Gypsy”.

Born and raised in the suburbs, Siouxsie Sioux eventually joined forces with the Banshees in 1976. The band originally played punk music, which slowly morphed into an early example of goth pop. Siouxsie eventually became known as the Queen of Goth, to Robert Smith’s King. Flo’s darker songs, including “Seven Devils” and “Howl”, owe a debt to Siouxsie and her moody, atmospheric albums.

Flo’s self-professed “hero” is Jefferson Airplane frontwoman, Grace Slick. A former model, Grace stalked the stage like it was a catwalk, and her emphatic vocals drove hits like “Somebody to Love”, “White Rabbit”, and “Crown of Creation”. Flo admires Grace for her stage presence and her ability to work the crowd, but they share something else: the ability to inspire adoration.


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