Chrissie Hynde is to the Pretenders what Deborah Harry is to Blondie—lead singer, chief songwriter and tender-tough sex symbol. But attractive as Harry's bright, crystalline voice undeniably is, it pales alongside Hynde's smoky, haunting sound. Her vibrato is as soft and beckoning as a quilt, and the sweetness of the upper register (as when she sings "I kissed the eyes of my baby") evokes swoons. But Hynde, 28, from Akron, Ohio, can play the hard, jaded lady, too. In Private Life, her voice arches with cool scorn: "You've made a desperate appeal/Now save your breath." And her pause in Up the Neck on the phrase "The veins bulged on his...brow" is as brazen as they come. The only catch is that her songs are fairly shapeless. Her British-based band (she handles rhythm guitar) plays skillfully in a hoody minimalist style that sounds repetitious at first but grows in emotional force. For her explorative phrasing, sexually scathing lyrics and that voice, Hynde is the most exciting new female performer of the '80s.