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Ranked: Top 50 Female Musicians Ever



Who runs the world? Well, when it comes to the music industry, we know it’s the girls. Beyoncé told us so herself. For decades, women have lit up the charts with their infectious hits, from wild rock anthems to quaint country hits. Many of them have made a name for themselves in the pop music industry, although their love for music knows no bounds. Just because they often make songs that you can sing and dance along to, that doesn’t mean they’re afraid to experiment with genres.
They’re always breaking boundaries that no-one even realized were there in the first place. With so many female musicians making their mark over the years, it’s hard to cut them down to the best of the best. However, all of these women have done incredible things with their career, and they continue to have an impact to this day.

50. Nicole Scherzinger

Girl groups usually have someone that’s considered the leader of the pack, but that was never clearer than in The Pussycat Dolls. Nicole Scherzinger seemed to get 90% of the vocals on their songs, with people often referring to the other members as her backup dancers. It’s understandable why Scherzinger was prioritized so much because she has the kind of powerful voice you don’t tend to find in a girl group. However, it’s no surprise that the group split up as quickly as they did, giving Nicole an opportunity to embark on a solo career and become a TV judge.

49. Kylie Minogue

It might not look it because the woman is forever young, but Kylie Minogue has been in the music business now for over 30 years. During that time, she’s achieved unimaginable success in both Australia and the UK, with some of her songs also performing well in the US too. It was the “Fever” era where she had her peak here, with “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” charting inside the top 10 of the Billboard Hot 100. The song sold over a million copies here, much like the accompanying album. What a year 2001 was for Kylie.

48. Nicki Minaj

For the longest time, the rap genre was solely dominated by men. However, that’s begun to change in recent years thanks to the likes of Nicki Minaj. With her colorful aesthetic and eccentric looks, the rapper doesn’t quite fit the hip-hop standard stereotype. However, as soon as you lay down a beat, Minaj can set fire to the track and take down anyone, man or woman. She’s now the female musician with the most Hot 100 appearances in any genre, so she clearly isn’t someone to be sleeping on. Misjudging her could be the last thing that you ever do.

47. Selena Gomez

It seems that you can’t transition from Disney star to mainstream success if you don’t have some struggles along the way. For Selena Gomez, that has included a challenging fight against lupus, as well as various struggles with mental health. Thankfully, the singer has jumped over every hurdle that’s come her way, no matter how high it’s been. She so deserves her continued success in the charts, with her latest release marking Gomez’s third consecutive number one album. We’ve got our fingers crossed that its sales will eventually match, if not exceed, that of its predecessors.

46. Dido

Born Dido Florian Cloud de Bounevialle O’Malley Armstrong on Christmas day, 1971, British singer Dido was never destined for a normal life. She sounds like she belongs in a storybook, and there’s definitely something fantastical about the direction her career’s gone in. Many singers hope that their music will be successful, but they never imagine that they’ll produce two of the best-selling albums in the world. Both “No Angel” and “Life For Rent” have reported worldwide sales of 15 million copies, with the albums previously peaking at four in the US. We suppose we have Eminem to thank for that.

45. Annie Lennox

When it comes to atmospheric music, Annie Lennox is your woman. There’s something about the Scottish star’s work that takes you to another place, and it’s been doing that for years. The woman has been in the industry since the ‘70s, achieving incredible success with Eurythmics in the ‘80s before going solo. While her music has had most of its success in the UK, the US 2x platinum-certified albums speak for themselves. Plus, there’s no forgetting the music she contributed to some major movie successes, including “Bram Stoker’s Dracula” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.”

44. Lizzo

She might not have been in the spotlight as long as some of these women, but that doesn’t mean Lizzo isn’t a musical icon. She’s very clearly the woman of the hour right now, with her songs “Good as Hell” and “Truth Hurts” having quite the impact on the charts. Neither of these is especially new, with the former coming out way back in 2016. However, something clicked recently, and the nation began listening to Lizzo and going crazy for her juice. Now, she’s raking in the money while the rest of us lose our minds over her music.

43. Debbie Harry

Before Blondie came along, Debbie Harry was another aspiring singer trying to break into the industry. Times were tough before she got her start, but as soon as she got her foot in the door, everything changed. Blondie really left their mark on the 1970s, with number ones like “Heart of Glass” and “Call Me” establishing Harry as a punk icon. That reputation served her well once she decided to go solo, and it’s kept her as a landmark figure in the music industry ever since. Now, Debbie’s back with Blondie and the group is still as big as ever.

42. Kelly Clarkson

Carrie Underwood might be “American Idol’s” most successful alumni, but she wouldn’t be where she is today if Kelly Clarkson hadn’t made the program a triumph. As the winner of the debut season, the singer’s post-Idol career was pretty much make or break for the show. Fortunately, the nation loved her. After over two million Americans bought her debut album, nearly triple that number went on to purchase the follow-up. Motivated by powerful hits like “Since U Been Gone” and “Because of You,” they bought her music in their masses, and they haven’t really stopped ever since.

41. Fergie

The Black Eyed Peas weren’t the first group that Fergie performed in. However, it was alongside,, and Taboo that the singer became a global sensation. She contributed vocals to the group’s most successful songs, including “Where Is The Love?,” “I Gotta Feeling,” and “Meet Me Halfway.” Of course, being part of a quartet wasn’t what Fergie wanted for her whole career. That’s why she took time to work on solo music too, eventually releasing her debut album “The Dutchess” in 2006. Selling over 6 million copies, this was evidently the right move to make.

40. Avril Lavigne

When it comes to pop-punk queens, no-one holds the title quite like Avril Lavigne. It might have been a few years ago now that she was singing about skater boys and things being complicated, but we’ll never forget those early days. Lavigne was the singer that many young people needed back then, especially girls. Seeing someone so rebellious topping the charts and being herself without worry was truly inspirational. Regardless of whether Avril was replaced by a lookalike named Melissa or not, she deserves the millions of album sales and the multitude of hits she’s had in her career.

39. Sia Furler

Before the release of Chandelier, plenty of people didn’t know that Sia Furler existed. However, the woman had been around for years, albeit spending most of her time working for other people. It’s incredible just how many songs have been penned by the Australian star, from Rihanna’s “Diamonds” to Beyoncé’s “Pretty Hurts.” Thankfully, now that everyone’s hearing Sia’s unique and stunning voice, she’s starting to get the credit she deserves. The fact that she has a gimmick of hiding her face certainly helps, although she has the vocal range to back up any eccentric behavior she might show on stage.

38. Demi Lovato

It’s not uncommon for Disney stars to try and break into the mainstream once they’re older. Unfortunately, their efforts aren’t always successful. However, Demi Lovato is one of the lucky few to still be riding high in the world, despite her Disney days being far behind her. It helps that her powerful voice and effortless enthusiasm make her so easy to love. Although she’s had her fair share of struggles over the years, Lovato has always come back fighting. The fact that she’s been so willing to admit her mistakes is just part of why people adore her so much.

37. Miley Cyrus

Miley Cyrus is another former Disney star who’s managed to break away from her squeaky-clean image to become a mainstream star. However, Cyrus’ transition wasn’t the smoothest, as evidenced by the “Bangerz” era of her career. While the album was a success, peaking at number one and selling millions of copies, the singer’s behavior at the time caused quite the controversy. In her attempt to put Hannah Montana behind her, Miley may have gone a little too far. However, it’s those outrageous antics and eccentric behavior that make us love her, something that we can’t – and won’t – ever stop doing.

36. Hayley Williams

If you were a teenager in the ‘00s, there’s a good chance that Paramore provided the soundtrack to your angsty years. The band’s mix of infectious and rebellious tunes were perfect for anyone who wanted to rock out in their bedroom. Their songs might not have been the most hardcore tracks around, but they did precisely what listeners wanted them to. A lot of that was down to Hayley Williams, the lead vocalist of the band who’s style also inspired millions of teenagers around the world. If it weren’t for her, Paramore wouldn’t have been – or still be – so successful.

35. Shania Twain

Country music will always have a place in the hearts of Americans, which is why performers in this genre usually have incredible careers. Although men typically dominate here, plenty of women have proven they’re just as capable as their male counterparts. Shania Twain, aka the “Queen of Country Pop,” is one such person. Since the ‘90s, she’s been working her magic in the genre and selling millions of albums as a result. Her total sales now stand at a reported 90 million, which is pretty impressive given she went on hiatus for a while. Her music is just that popular.

34. Kesha

If Cher hadn’t pioneered autotune in the ’90s, Kesha – then Ke$ha – might not have had a career. The singer’s early work was popular for its altered vocals, with songs like “Tik Tok” thriving on it. Of course, the singer had no reason to hide behind such technical trickery. As newer albums “Rainbow” and “High Road” have shown, her voice is flawless without it. Although their sales haven’t quite equaled that of her original material, they’ve been better received by far. The raw vocals, emotional content, and honest lyrics have shown exactly why she dropped the $ in her name.

33. Gwen Stefani

Gwen Stefani is another amazing talent who’s had success both with a band and by herself. Her musical career started out fronting No Doubt, a group that gave us unforgettable tracks like “Don’t Speak.” At their peak, the band’s music was selling in the tens of millions, but Stefani eventually walked away to carve her own solo career. This was just as successful, with her debut release reportedly selling 15 million copies worldwide and spawning more memorable songs for her back catalog. The tracks might have been too pop-infused for some of her fans, but you can’t always please everyone.

32. Taylor Swift

It’s not easy jumping from one genre of music to another. Luckily for Taylor Swift, she managed to do it with ease and success. Starting out her career as a lovable teen country star, she jumped into pop territory a few albums down the line and became a worldwide superstar. It might have hurt her reputation a little, but the singer has learned not to take what people say about her to heart. The millions of record sales and the money in the bank tell her everything that she needs to know. If someone doesn’t like her, that’s their loss.

31. Jennifer Lopez

Jennifer Lopez is one of those people who’s managed to be successful as both a singer and actress. At the turn of the century, she’d already played the Golden-Globe nominated lead in biopic “Selena” and released a multi-million selling debut single. Her first two albums later went on to shift a reported 8 million copies each, so by the end of the ‘00s, the world knew all about Jenny from the Block. Now it’s another decade later, and she’s lighting up Super Bowl halftime performances with insane moves and incredible vocals. Does this woman even know how to stop?

30. Lana Del Rey

It’s taken years for Lana Del Rey to get some proper respect, but we got there in the end. Five albums down and people have finally stopped criticizing her persona and started praising her for being a lyrical genius. Her last release was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2020 Grammy Awards and received universal acclaim from critics around the world. Although some people criticize Del Rey for sounding the same, the album proved that she’s as experimental as they come. It took her usual sound to a brand new level and transported listeners to somewhere truly incredible.

29. Carrie Underwood

Getting your foot in the door of the music industry isn’t easy, which is why a lot of people rely on reality TV competitions. That’s what Carrie Underwood did in 2005, and now she’s living the dream. Named the most successful contestant to ever compete on – and win – “American Idol,” she truly is one of the shining stars of the moment. She’s set so many records, both as a country singer and a female musician, and earned a ton of accolades too. Carrie’s even now a New York Times Bestselling author because her talents apparently know no bounds.

28. Bette Midler

Sometimes it’s hard to know where Bette Midler is more successful – singing or acting. She’s achieved great success doing both, with the latter earning her Golden Globe and Academy Award nominations. Of course, the films where she’s stood out the most are the ones where she’s also contributed songs to the soundtrack, like with “The Rose” and “Beaches.” These are where the songs “The Rose” – obviously – and “Wind Beneath My Wings” came from, both of which performed insanely well in the charts. The songs are still remembered fondly today, because why would you want to forget such iconic tracks?

27. Ellie Goulding

Ten years ago, Ellie Goulding had only just released her first album to critical success. A hit in her home country of the UK, it took awhile for it to have an impact in the US. However, as soon as her single “Lights” peaked at number two on the charts, everything came together. The follow-up album had much more of an impact here, peeking inside the top 10 and selling more than half a million copies. Her third effort chartered even higher, landing in at number three and giving us high hopes for her new release due in 2020.

26. Jennifer Hudson

Usually, not being a finalist in a reality TV competition means you don’t have a chance of becoming successful. However, despite finishing seventh in her season of “American Idol,” Jennifer Hudson proved to have immense staying power. She told the world she wasn’t going anywhere, and she was soon rewarded with a starring role in “Dreamgirls.” Her unbelievable vocal range did justice to every song that came her way, and it’s still putting food on the table now. It’s a shame Hudson has only released three albums so far because we need more of her voice in our lives.

25. Katy Perry

Raised in a very religious family, Katy Perry’s parents probably didn’t anticipate that their daughter would grow up to sing about kissing girls and squirting whipped cream out of her bra. However, those were some of the big moments that defined the beginning of Perry’s career, something that’s still going strong over ten years later. The outrageous behavior was part of what made the singer so easy to go crazy for, and we’re glad to say she’s never lost that sense of wildness. However, now that she’s becoming a mother, it may be toned down ever so slightly moving forward.

24. Ariana Grande

If God is a woman, then her name must be Ariana Grande. The last few years have seen the singer ascend to immense success following a life-changing experience at one of her concerts in 2017. “Sweetener” and its follow-up “Thank U, Next” were both number one hits that achieved critical and commercial success. They proved that Grande was a bona fide superstar and not just a standard pop singer with astounding vocal skills. It’s hard to believe that she got her start as a supporting character on a Nickelodeon show, but thankfully, Grande now plays second fiddle to nobody.

23. Shakira

Not everyone can maintain their success when they start their career young. However, Shakira – who was only 13 when she began working with a record company – has done well to keep her spot in the limelight. She’s now 11 albums down, with collective sales of roughly 75 million. That makes her Colombia’s biggest-selling artist in history, and rightly so. Who hasn’t let loose on the dancefloor to tracks like “Hips Don’t Lie” in the past? Shakira not only knows how to make infectious hits but also ones that get your body moving whether you like it or not.

22. Diana Ross

Before there was Beyoncé and Destiny’s Child, there was Diana Ross and The Supremes. The latter is considered the best-charting girl group in US history, and they defined the Motown genre during the ‘60s. Of course, as with any band, the members eventually decided to go their separate ways to embark on solo careers. Diana Ross fared incredibly well by herself, releasing number-one hits like “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and releasing several dozen albums. If that doesn’t scream musical idol, we don’t know what does. Diana Ross is basically the definition of success in the music industry.

21. Barbra Streisand

When you get awarded the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, you know you’ve done some great things with your career. It’s an accolade that Barbra Streisand definitely deserves given the contributions she’s made to music over the years. She’s the only artist to top the Billboard 200 in six different decades, with the singer also achieving number one singles in both the ‘70s and ‘80s. Her record sales are reportedly over 150 million worldwide, and Billboard now counts her as the most successful female artist ever when it comes to albums. A star really was born with Barbra Streisand.

20. Cyndi Lauper

What girl doesn’t want to have fun? Cyndi Lauper clearly does; otherwise, she wouldn’t have gotten famous off the catchy pop hit. The single was the first that she released as a professional musician, and it scored a number two spot on the charts. Three successive top five hits later, and Lauper had herself a reputation as one of the pop icons of the ‘80s. Although her greatest successes will always be those early tracks, she’s still making her mark today. Just look at everything that she’s achieved with “Kinky Boots,” a Broadway musical she helped create the music for.

19. Toni Braxton

The Braxtons might not have been that successful, but being part of the girl group did score Toni a recording contract. Out of that, she got to release her debut album, which peaked at number one and sold over 5 million copies in the US alone. Her follow-up was just as successful – albeit only peaking at number two – thanks to the inclusion of iconic tracks like “Unbreak My Heart.” Toni’s siblings have had to spend the last few decades living in her shadow because of these successes, but we doubt she’ll ever apologize for being a superstar.

18. Pat Benatar

Pat Benatar has been passionate about singing since she was young, and that really shows in her career. After she released her debut album in 1979, the rockstar strived to make music to be proud of. She’s defied limitations in a genre that hasn’t always been welcoming to women, and she’s achieved chart success at the same time. Her first six albums were all certified platinum at least once, with 1981’s “Precious Time” even peaking at number one. That’s a level of success that not many rockstars can live up to, hence why Benatar is such an icon.

17. Christina Aguilera

Just over 20 years ago, Christina Aguilera was a teen pop star on the rise, telling us she was a genie in a bottle. A lot has changed since then, but mostly for the better. She’s released some of the most popular songs of the 21st century, including the heart-wrenching “Beautiful,” which won a Grammy Award back in 2004. While there are plenty of female musicians out there with outstanding vocals, Aguilera’s ability to use melisma is impressive. Some people call it oversinging, we consider it a showcase of everything she can do with her voice. That girl has pipes.

16. Janet Jackson

It’s hard to find someone in the Jackson family who hasn’t been successful in the music industry. Although Michael’s triumphs exceed that of his siblings, he’s not the only one to achieve great things as an artist. His sister, Janet, has also had quite the career, racking up seven number one albums and topping the charts with ten different singles. Her global sales could be as much as 100 million, and that’s without having had the Jackson 5 to propel her forward. Her success mostly came without anyone’s help, and she’s a better musician because of it.

15. Tina Turner

If you’re looking for Tina Turner, you want to catch a flight to Switzerland. The singer has been enjoying a break in Europe for a while now, and we’d say it’s well deserved. After all, the woman spent years of her life building up a reputation as the Queen of Rock n’ Roll. She gave us hits like “Proud Mary” and “What’s Love Got To Do With It,” songs that we won’t be forgetting anytime soon. Her personal life might not have always gone smoothly, but at least she has millions of sales to soften the blow.

14. Alanis Morisette

Although she’s tried her hand at pop music, Alanis Morisette’s sound has always been at its best when its infused with rock. It was in this genre that the singer first stood out thanks to “Jagged Little Pill.” Largely considered one of the greatest albums ever made, it reportedly sold more than 33 million copies and became diamond-certified in the US. None of her follow-ups have ever matched that success, even though they’ve still been incredibly popular. We can’t say we’re surprised, though, because that’s the kind of triumph people only ever have once in their entire career.

12. Britney Spears

The mid-nineties weren’t a great time for Britney Spears, and most people who were alive at the time knew that. However, few people in the music industry are as strong as the former teen pop sensation. She came back with a bang, racking up top ten hits and selling millions as though nothing had ever happened. Several of her albums added to her tally of number ones, although they didn’t quite manage the 20 million+ sales of her early work. Who can keep up that kind of momentum after more than a decade as the world’s premier pop princess, though?

11. Stevie Nicks

Stevie Nicks is clear proof that you can’t try to write female musicians off as simply manufactured pop stars. The woman is part of one of the world’s greatest rock bands – Fleetwood Mac – who she helped propel to incredible success in the ‘70s and ‘80s. Their album, “Rumours,” is one of the best-selling releases in history, achieving claimed sales of 40 million, 27.9 million of which have been certified. It’s not just with the band that Nicks has been successful either. Most of her solo albums have been top ten hits, with 1981’s “Bella Donna” peaking at number one.

10. Rihanna

It’s been strangely quiet on the music-front for Rihanna recently, although there’s a promise of new music coming very soon. It’s strange to have such a long gap between albums given that the singer used to churn them out one after another. Between 2009-12, she released a new album every year, and they all peaked within the top five of the Billboard 200. Between them, they produced six number one singles and sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Those were the years where Rihanna dominated the music industry, and we’d love to see a repeat performance, please.

9. Mariah Carey

When it comes to divas, not many people can match up to Mariah Carey. The woman can take on anyone that tries to come for her spot, all while claiming she doesn’t know them. Of course, Carey’s behavior is hardly unjustified. Her impressive vocals have earned her reported album sales of over 200 million, making her one of the best-selling female musicians in history. There’s also the small matter that Carey practically owns Christmas, what with her music climbing up the charts at the end of every year. The singer might be a diva, but that’s why we love her.

8. Dolly Parton

You’re never too old to be in the music industry. Dolly Parton is clear proof of that, given she’s now in her mid-70s. No-one would even dare tell the country star to think about retirement, given how much she’s achieved in her career. From being a child of 12 in a low-income family to writing one of the world’s greatest songs – “I Will Always Love You” – she truly is an inspiration. She’s also a triple threat, too. Not only can she write hits and sing them beautifully, but she can also act. Really, is there anything Dolly Parton can’t do?

7. Lady Gaga

If Madonna was the game-changer of the 20th century, Lady Gaga is the equivalent in the 21st century. Her brand of eccentricity is reminiscent of the “Queen of Pop,” albeit entirely unique to the younger superstar. Over the last decade or so, the singer has made herself a talking point around the world, and with plenty of talent to back up her popularity. Almost everything she makes in the studio is gold, from her debut hit “Just Dance” to her most recent single “Stupid Love.” When Gaga sings, people listen, and that’s everything this evolutionary artist deserves.

6. Beyoncé Knowles

Speaking of Beyoncé, what a career she’s had. Usually, after girl groups split up, their solo careers never quite match the success of the band. However, the “Crazy In Love” singer has barely had time to take a break with all her musical triumphs. The woman’s forgotten what it’s like not to have a number one album, with all six of her acclaimed solo releases topping the charts. By herself, she’s now sold a reported 75 million albums worldwide, which is a few million more than what she managed as part of Destiny’s Child. No wonder she’s called Queen B.

5. Alicia Keys

At just 12 years old, Alicia Keys was already writing and performing her own music. Add to that her ability to play the piano, and she was a teen star in the making. It was only a few years later that she signed to a record label, with her debut album eventually coming when she was 20. From there, the rest was pretty much history. The album sold millions, as did the next one, and the next one, and the next one. Her soulful voice captivated the world and proved that, yes, this girl really was on fire.

4. Adele

It’s amazing how Adele can be one of the best-selling singers in history, despite only having three albums out. Her last two releases – “21” and “25” – completely dominated the charts, setting records all over the world and making Adele a superstar. Collectively, these two releases have claimed sales of nearly 50 million, and we can only imagine how many tears they’ve caused as well. With her soulful voice, Adele’s music is definitely something to turn to when you need a good cry. It’s just a wonder that she sounds like that when her speaking voice is so different.

3. Cher

Autotune crops up in a lot of pop music nowadays, and we have Cher to thank for that. Her 1998 mega-hit “Believe” was the first track to use this audio-processing software, and it changed the music industry forever. While the singer might prefer to utilize this effect on all her songs now, that hardly means she can’t sing. Just look at all the success that Cher had before autotune was even a thing. Songs like “Half-Breed,” “Dark Lady,” and “Gypsys, Tramps & Thieves” didn’t get to number one because the superstar had technical assistance, that’s for sure.

2. Céline Dion

Being a French-singing Canadian, there was no promise that Céline Dion would ever become a worldwide mainstream star. However, her manager – and future husband – believed in Dion’s talent. That’s why he took her under his wing when she was only a child and fought to make her an international star. He was the one who convinced her to record “My Heart Will Go On” for “Titanic,” and we saw how well that worked out. It sold an estimated 18 million copies, which is just a fraction of the 250 million albums that Céline has reportedly shifted during her entire career.

1. Madonna

Fourteen studio albums down, and Madonna still doesn’t have trouble topping the charts. As the “Queen of Pop,” this woman knows a thing or two about changing the world with her music. Ever heard of “Like a Prayer?” “Papa Don’t Preach?” “Vogue?” Madonna was responsible for all of these number one hits which once dominated the pop music landscape. Some of these tunes were released nearly forty years ago now, and they’re still as amazing as they were when they were brand new. That’s a sign of someone who knows what they’re doing with their music.

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