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31 Best & Most Memorable Female Singers EVER!

Author:

In her 20s, Jo was the lead singer for a band. She plays drums, guitar, & harmonica. She's so glad she never threw away any of her vinyl.

There are, of course, bajillions of fabulous female voices out there. And, of course, it is insane to compile a list of just twenty. So, to limit the scope here, I focused not only on singers who hit the right notes, but those who...

  • have the most haunting voices, those that have endured the test of time
  • write songs with themes that are important historically, politically, or emotionally
  • have unique, original, and memorable vocal styling
  • and those who "sing their hearts out," with deep expression and feeling.
  • I tried to include those who are not only singers, but singer-songwriters and musicians in their own right and those with a large body of work, but I did bend these rules!

The following is a list of the best, most memorable and evocative female vocal artists from any genre (opera, rock, punk, etc.). I've included videos of live performances so that you can get a sense of what they are really capable of, untuned and unedited. Although the list is numbered, it doesn't necessarily mean that any one singer is objectively better than another. These are simply my preferences.

Top 10 Female Singers

  1. Aretha Franklin
  2. Maria Callas
  3. Patsy Cline
  4. Lhasa de Sela
  5. Ella Fitzgerald
  6. Björk
  7. Astrud Gilberto
  8. Kathleen Hanna
  9. Billie Holiday
  10. Lauryn Hill

Once, Johnny Cash thought he might be more successful if he learned how to sing better, so he hired a teacher, who told him, "Don't take voice lessons. Do it your way. You're a song stylist. Always do it your way." That's the kind of singer included on this list—not necessarily the most famous ones, not the ones who achieved popularity or packed audiences, but those who really do their own thing, regardless of fame or fortune.

20 More Great Female Singers!

11-2021-30

11. Etta James

21. Whitney Houston

12. Rickie Lee Jones

22. Tina Turner

13. Janis Joplin

23. Stevie Nicks

14. Lianne La Havas

24. Beyonce

15. k.d. lang

25. Pat Benatar

16. Annie Lennox

26. Gladys Knight

17. Joni Mitchell

27. Édith Piaf

18. Bonnie Raitt

28. Jennifer Hudson

19. Nina Simone

29. Patti Smith

20. Amy Winehouse

30. Karen O

1. Aretha Franklin

Born: March 25, 1942 in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.

Years Active: 1956–2017

Aretha Franklin is the quintessential singer, with a voice that leaves no doubt whatsoever. With power and passion grounded in the gospel tradition, she has a rare voice type called "falcon" that's part soprano and part mezzo-soprano, a richer and more dramatic sound. She performs melisma with startling accuracy and nuance. She can hold notes so long and so powerfully that you start to wonder if she's breathing some magic stuff. Her voice could do anything she told it to do.

My Favorite Songs by Aretha Franklin

  • "A Natural Woman"
  • "You Send Me"
  • "Baby I Love You"

Aretha Franklin Quote

I sing to the realists; people who accept it like it is.

— Aretha Franklin

2. Maria Callas

Born: December 2, 1923, Manhattan, New York City, NY

Years Active: 1939-1977

Even people who don't like opera love the way Maria Callas sang it. She had extraordinary range, with low, dark notes and high notes (much higher than most sopranos). Critic Claudia Cassidy described her as "part oboe, part clarinet" and her middle register had a unique "bottled" sound, as if she were singing into a bell jar. Her execution was astonishingly smooth and she made even the most complicated and difficult runs and notes look easy.

By her forties, her voice was already starting to fail. Callas's voice didn't last long, but while it lasted. . . wow!

My Favorite Songs by Maria Callas

  • "Carmen"

Maria Callas Quote

Don't talk to me about rules, dear. Wherever I stay, I make the goddam rules.

— Maria Callas

3. Patsy Cline

Born: September 8, 1932 in Winchester, Virginia, U.S.

Years Active: 1947–1963

Associated Acts: Kitty Wells, Jean Shepard, Jimmy Dean, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Brenda Lee, Loretta Lynn, Jan Howard, Dottie West, Willie Nelson

Cline was the first major country star to succeed on the pop charts. Even though her style was always country, her delivery was something else: a husky alto that swells with emotion and skips and breaks with aching melancholy.

My Favorite Songs by Patsy Cline

  • "Crazy"
  • "I Fall to Pieces"
  • "Three Cigarettes in an Ashtray"

Patsy Cline Quote

I recorded a song called 'I Fall to Pieces,' and I was in a car wreck. Now I'm worried because I have a brand-new record, and it's called 'Crazy'!

— Patsy Cline

4. Lhasa de Sela

Born: September 27, 1972, Big Indian, New York, NY

Years Active: 1985–2009

Lhasa, who was both American and Mexican, sang in Spanish, French, and English and in many genres, including folk, in a voice that was husky and emotive. She only recorded three albums, but there are no bad songs or B-sides on those albums which sold over a million copies. She died in 2010, too soon to gain the recognition and international prestige she deserved.

My Favorite Songs by Lhasa de Sela

  • "Con Toda Palabra"
  • "Abro la Ventana"
  • "What Kind of Heart"

Lhasa de Sela Quote

Don't be afraid. It's just a small song.

— Lhasa de Sela

5. Ella Fitzgerald

Born: April 25, 1917, Newport News, VA

Years Active: 1934–1993

Ella Fitzgerald, "The First Lady of Song," was the most well-known and loved female jazz singer in the U.S. for more than fifty years. Her pure tone and inventive styling made her famous worldwide and recorded over 200 albums in her lifetime and was the first African-American woman to win a Grammy in 1958. She was a master scat singer who sang everything from sultry popular ballads to swing, bebop, and jazz. She said, "I sing like I feel."

My Favorite Songs by Ella Fitzgerald

  • "Dream a Little Dream of Me"
  • "Lullaby of Birdland"
  • "Night and Day"

Ella Fitzgerald Quote

The only thing better than singing is more singing.

— Ella Fitzgerald

6. Björk

Born: 21 November 1965 (age 52) Reykjavík, Iceland

Years Active: 1975–present

Associated Acts: The Sugarcubes. Kukl, Exodus, Megas, Mark Bell, Tappi Tíkarrass, Björk Guðmundsdóttir & tríó Guðmundar Ingólfssonar, Dirty Projectors, Sjón, 808 State, Thom Yorke, Death Grips, Brian Chippendale, Arca, Anohni, Plaid, Michel Gondry, Matmos, Gabríela Friðriksdóttir

Some people don't like Björk's voice. They say it's odd and grating. Admittedly, her sound is unique and dominating and it might not be for everybody.

Björk's unique voice is assertive, pyrotechnical, emotional, and throttled. She compares her sound to the country she comes from: Iceland. "You have the lava, almost no trees, almost no animals and almost no people, so things are very stripped down. It's very naked."

My Favorite Songs by Björk

  • "All is Full of Love"
  • "Human Behavior"
  • "Hunter"

Björk Quote

There’s definitely, definitely, definitely no logic to human behavior.

— Björk

7. Astrud Gilberto

Born: March 29, 1940 (age 78 years), Salvador, Bahia, Brazil

Years Active: 1963–present

Associated Acts: João Gilberto, Antonio Carlos Jobim, Vinicius de Moraes, Stan Getz, Walter Wanderley, Stanley Turrentine, James Last Orchestra, Frank Sinatra

Astrud Gilberto, the Brazilian samba and bossa nova singer, has a quiet, thoughtful, melodic, lilting, and utterly romantic voice. It has a tentative quality, as if she were listening as she sung. Her sound was like a new kind of mellow jazz instrument that attempted to blend in with the saxophone in the background.

My Favorite Songs by Astrud Gilberto

  • "The Girl From Ipanema"
  • "Fly Me to the Moon"
  • "Agua de Beber"

Astrud Gilberto Quote

Bim bom bim bim bom bom. . . bim bom bim bim bom bim bom.

— Astrud Gilberto

8. Kathleen Hanna

Born: November 12, 1968 (age 49) in Portland, Oregon, U.S.

Years Active: 1990–present

Associated Acts: Bikini Kill, Le Tigre, Julie Ruin, The Julie Ruin

Critics don't talk about Kathleen Hanna's voice. They usually focus more on what she's saying, as if she were making statements rather than singing songs. When she sings, her voice often sounds rather pissed off and possibly violent. Like the best punk singers, she shrieks, yelps, screams, and taunts. Her vocals might rip your head off. Some call her the voice of feminism.

My Favorite Songs by Kathleen Hanna

  • "Rebel Girl"
  • "Hot Topic"
  • "Deceptacon"

Kathleen Hanna Quote

I wanna be a legend; I wanna be a cult hero. I do!

— Kathleen Hanna

9. Billie Holiday

Born: April 7, 1915 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.

Years Active: 1933–1959

Associated Acts: Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Lena Horne, Carmen McRae, Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Artie Shaw, Lester Young, Tony Scott

Billie Holiday had one of the most personal and distinctive voices ever. She first became famous in 1939 with her song "Strange Fruit," a haunting protest of the lynching of Black people.

Her style was swinging, innovative, percussive, and inventive. She had a genius for emotion and uncanny knack for evocative phrasing. In Billie Holiday's songs, the sound and the story always danced.

My Favorite Songs by Billie Holiday

  • "Don't Explain"
  • "Crazy He Calls Me"
  • "That Ole Devil Called Love"

Billie Holiday Quote

If I'm going to sing like someone else, then I don't need to sing at all.

— Billie Holiday

10. Lauryn Hill

Born: May 26, 1975 (age 43) in East Orange, New Jersey, U.S.

Years Active: 1989–present

Associated Acts: Fugees, Nas

Ms. Hill is one of the first female rappers whose voice appealed beyond hip hop's borders. She's an amazing MC who also incorporates elements of R&B, soul, and reggae. She rarely performs in the U.S., and she almost never gives interviews. She only has one studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but fans are still on pins and needles, waiting for more.

My Favorite Songs by Ms. Hill

  • "Zion"
  • "Everything Is Everything"
  • "Killing Me Softly"

Lauryn Hill Quote

My emancipation don't fit your equation.

— Lauryn Hill

11. Etta James

Born: January 25, 1938 in Los Angeles, California, U.S.

Years Active: 1954–2012

Associated Acts: Harvey Fuqua, Johnny Otis, Sugar Pie DeSanto

Etta James, who bridged the gap between R&B and rock, is "the ultimate Blues mama" with a brassy, sassy voice that really moves. She wails, croons, rasps, trills, groans, and peals it out with extraordinary musicality, power, and finesse. It's hard to sit still when you're listening to Etta James.

My Favorite Songs by Etta James

  • "At Last"
  • "Something's Got a Hold On Me"
  • "Pushover"

Etta James Quote

I sing the songs that people need to hear.

— Etta James

12. Rickie Lee Jones

Born: November 8, 1954 (age 63) in Chicago, Illinois, United States

Years Active: 1979-present

Rickie Lee Jones's voice is bruised-sounding, unearthly, and plaintive, with unique phrasing. Critic Simon Hattenstone calls it "so strange—little-girlie sweet, sleepy and nasal."

In her sound, a jazz background can always be heard through the rock, R&B, blues, soul, and pop. She became famous for writing songs that read like short stories populated with memorable characters, then branched into political themes and jazz. She was even the voice for the Blue Fairy in an animated Pinocchio film.

My Favorite Songs by Rickie Lee Jones

  • "My One and Only Love"
  • "We Belong Together"
  • "Last Chance Texaco"

Rickie Lee Jones Quote

You can't break the rules. . . until you know how to play the game.

— Rickie Lee Jones

13. Janis Joplin

Born: Janis Lyn Joplin, January 19, 1943, Port Arthur, Texas, U.S.

Years Active: 1962–1970

Associated Acts: Big Brother and the Holding Company, Kozmic Blues Band, Full Tilt Boogie Band, Grateful Dead, Kris Kristofferson

Nobody can belt it out quite like Janis. Nobody combines such intense and rough rasp with vulnerability and emotion in quite the same way, either.

She was the first woman to make it big as a rock star. She started with folk, then spent some time emulating great blues artists before she became the queen of rock and roll. She said, "It's just about letting yourself feel all those things you already have inside of you but are trying to push aside because they don't make for polite conversation or something. [...] That's the only reason I can sing. Because I get up there and just let all those things come out."

My Favorite Songs by Janis Joplin

  • "Piece of My Heart"
  • "Try"
  • "Summertime"

Janis Joplin Quote

Singing—it's like loving somebody. It's a supreme emotional and physical experience.

— Janis Joplin

14. Lianne La Havas

Born: 23 August, 1989 (age 28), London, England, United Kingdom

Years Active: 2011–present

Associated Acts: Paloma Faith

Probably the youngest and newest on this list, Lianne La Havas is an English singer-songwriter who plays guitar, bass, and piano. Her style blends folk and soul with something completely new. She says she wants to get rid of genre: “I don’t think it helps. The music is what it is."

In a time when auto-tuning has become the norm, it's thrilling to find someone who sounds this good unplugged.

My Favorite Songs by Lianne La Havas

  • "Wonderful"
  • "Is Your Love Big Enough"
  • "Unstoppable"

Lianne La Havas Quote

When I write, I find a quiet place.

— Lianne La Havas

15. k.d. lang

Born: November 2, 1961 (age 56), Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

Years Active: 1981–present

k.d. lang is a Canadian pop and country singer-songwriter and mezzo-soprano with an astonishing panoramic, cinematic, formidable voice. Once, she was in a Patsy Cline tribute band. She has sung country music and played cowgirl performance artist. She's collaborated with a long list of noted musicians. Many say that her cover of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah" is the best.

My Favorite Songs by k.d. lang

  • "Hallelujah"
  • "Constant Craving"
  • "Save Me"

k.d. lang Quote

Even through the darkest phase

Be it thick or thin

Always someone marches brave

Here beneath my skin.

— k.d. lang

16. Annie Lennox

Born: 25 December 1954 (age 63), in Aberdeen, Scotland

Years Active: 1976–present

Associated Acts: The Catch, The Tourists, Eurythmics

According to Rolling Stone, her voice is "operatically powerful"—"crystalline in tone, yet sultry." "She can sound like a beautiful angel—or she can make it sound like she's gargling glass." She plays 20 different instruments, including the accordion, dulcimer, and African drums.

My Favorite Songs by Annie Lennox

  • "Why"
  • "Walking on Broken Glass"
  • "Here Comes the Rain Again"

Annie Lennox Quote

There are two kinds of artists left: those who endorse Pepsi and those who simply won't.

— Annie Lennox

17. Joni Mitchell

Born: November 7, 1943 (age 74) in Fort Macleod, Alberta, Canada

Years Active: 1964–2007

Associated Acts: Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, James Taylor, L.A. Express, Jaco Pastorius, Wayne Shorter, Herbie Hancock, Charles Mingus, Larry Klein, Thomas Dolby, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash, Robben Ford, Neil Young, The Band

Joni Mitchell is on most peoples' lists of best female vocalist. Her speaking voice is husky but when she sings, she is a vibrato-laden mezzo-soprano (and calls herself a "psuedo-soprano" to accommodate her higher notes). As a songwriter, she has written a long list of memorable, poetic songs. She plays the piano, the guitar, and the Appalachian dulcimer.

My Favorite Songs by Joni Mitchell

  • "River"
  • "Woodstock"
  • "California"

Joni Mitchell Quote

I see music as fluid architecture.

— Joni Mitchell

18. Bonnie Raitt

Born: November 8, 1949 (age 68) Burbank, California, U.S.

Years Active: 1971–present

Bonnie Raitt, who plays guitar, slide guitar, and piano, is mezzo-soprano who incorporates elements of country, rock, blues, and folk in her music. She claims that her voice never had "enough gravitas or experience to convey the depth of emotion I wanted to express," but still she managed to earn 10 Grammy awards.

My Favorite Songs by Bonnie Raitt

  • "I Can't Make You Love Me"
  • "Something to Talk About"
  • "Nick of Time"

Bonnie Raitt Quote

I would rather feel things in extreme than not at all.

— Bonnie Raitt

19. Nina Simone

Born: February 21, 1933 Tryon, North Carolina, U.S.

Years Active: 1954–2003

Nina Simone has the whole brass section in her throat. Trained as a classical pianist, her musical style melded classical music with gospel and pop. Rolling Stone remarked on "her honey-coated, slightly adenoidal cry." Her jazzy contralto moved audiences and inspired many during the Civil Rights Movement.

My Favorite Songs by Nina Simone

  • "Feeling Good"
  • "I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl"
  • "I Put a Spell on You"

Nina Simone Quote

Sometimes I sound like gravel and sometimes I sound like coffee and cream.

— Nina Simone

20. Amy Winehouse

Born: 14 September 1983 in Southgate, London, England

Years Active: 2003–2011

Associated Acts: Tony Bennett, Dionne Bromfield, The Dap-Kings, Tyler James, Mark Ronson, Salaam Remi

Amy Winehouse said that "If you play an instrument, it makes you a better singer. The more you play, the better you sing, the more you sing, the better you play." She played the guitar and drums and her voice became one of the most recognizable and applauded of the last century. Rolling Stone called her deep contralto a "sultry, crackly, world-weary howl."

My Favorite Songs by Amy Winehouse

  • "Back to Black"
  • "Rehab"
  • "You Know I'm No Good"

Amy Winehouse Quote

Every bad situation is a blues song waiting to happen.

— Amy Winehouse

21. Whitney Houston

Born: August 9, 1963 in Newark, New Jersey, U.S.

Years Active: 1977–2012

Associated Acts: Jermaine Jackson, Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, George Michael, Brandy Norwood, Bobby Brown

Whitney Houston is the most awarded female act of all time. She is one of the best-selling music artists of all time, with over 200 million records sold. Houston's crossover appeal on the popular music charts influenced many African-American women artists who followed in her footsteps.

My Favorite Songs by Whitney Houston

  • "Greatest Love of All"
  • "I Wanna Dance With Somebody"

Whitney Houston Quote

I like being a woman, even in a man's world. After all, men can't wear dresses, but we can wear the pants.

— Whitney Houston

22. Tina Turner

Born: November 26, 1939 (age 78) in Nutbush, Tennessee, U.S.

Years Active: 1958–present

Associated Acts: Ike & Tina Turner, The Rolling Stones, Beyond, David Bowie, Bryan Adams, Rod Stewart, Eros Ramazzotti, Cher

Tina Turner rose to prominence as a featured singer with Ike Turner's Kings of Rhythm. Later she recorded hit singles as a solo performer. She is one of the world's best-selling artists of all time, she has been referred to as "The Queen of Rock 'n' Roll" and has sold more than 200 million albums worldwide.

My Favorite Songs by Tina Turner

  • "What's Love Got to Do With It?"
  • "Proud Mary"

Tina Turner Quote

Physical strength in a woman—that's what I am.

— Tina Turner

23. Stevie Nicks

Born: May 26, 1948 (age 70) in Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.

Years Active: 1966–present

Associated Acts: Fleetwood Mac, Buckingham Nicks, Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, Don Henley, David A. Stewart, Sheryl Crow, Joe Walsh, Vanessa Carlton, Walter Egan, John Stewart

She is best known for her work as a songwriter and vocalist with Fleetwood Mac, but she also had a chart-topping solo career. She is known for her distinctive voice and poetic, symbolic lyrics. Her work, both as a member of Fleetwood Mac and as a solo artist, has sold over 140 million records, making her one of the best-selling music acts of all time. Nicks has been named one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time by RollingStone.

My Favorite Songs by Stevie Nicks

  • "Landslide"
  • "Edge of Seventeen"

Stevie Nicks Quote

I am pretty fearless, and you know why? Because I don't handle fear very well; I'm not a good terrified person.

— Stevie Nicks

24. Beyonce

Born: September 4, 1981 (age 36) in Houston, Texas, U.S.

Years Active: 1997–present

Associated Acts: Destiny's Child, Jay-Z, The Carters

Beyoncé rose to fame in the late 1990s as lead singer of the R&B girl-group Destiny's Child. The group became one of the world's best-selling girl groups in history. Beyonce is also an accomplished actress having starred in several big budget films. Her debut album hit number one on the US Billboard 200 chart, earning five Grammy Awards.

My Favorite Songs by Beyonce

  • "Crazy in Love"
  • "Run the World (Girls)"

Beyonce Quote

I'm a human being and I fall in love and sometimes I don't have control of every situation.

— Beyonce

25. Pat Benatar

Born: January 10, 1953 (age 65) in Greenpoint, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.

Years Active: 1972–present

She is an American singer, songwriter, actress, and four-time Grammy Award winner. She has two multi-platinum albums, five platinum albums, three gold albums, and 15 Billboard Top 40 singles. Pat Benatar inspired several female rock 'n' roll and punk rock singers to come.

My Favorite Songs by Pat Benatar

  • "Hit Me With Your Best Shot"
  • "Heartbreaker"

Pat Benatar Quote

Love and pain become one in the same in the eyes of a wounded child.

— Pat Benatar

26. Gladys Knight

Born: May 28, 1944 (age 74) in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.

Years Active: 1952–present

Associated Acts: Gladys Knight & the Pips, Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Natalie Cole

Known as the "Empress of Soul", Gladys Knight is an American singer, songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian and author. She is a seven-time Grammy Award-winner as well. With her group, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Knight recorded many memorable hits for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels. She is still regarded as one of the greatest soul singers of all time.

My Favorite Songs by Gladys Knight

  • "Midnight Train to Georgia"
  • "Love Overload"

Gladys Knight Quote

Soul is just that inner spirit. I use that inner spirit for whatever it is I do.

— Gladys Knight

27. Édith Piaf

Born: 19 December 1915 in Belleville, Paris, France

Years Active: 1935–1963

Associated Acts: Théo Sarapo, Jacques Pills, Yves Montand, Charles Aznavour, Les Compagnons de la chanson

She is a French vocalist, songwriter, cabaret performer and film actress. She has been noted as France's national chanteuse and one of the country's most widely known stars.

Since her death in 1963, several biographies and films have studied her life. Piaf is one of the most celebrated performers of the 20th century.

My Favorite Songs by Édith Piaf

  • "La Vie En Rose"
  • "La Foule"

Édith Piaf Quote

I want to make people cry even when they don't understand my words.

— Édith Piaf

28. Jennifer Hudson

Born: September 12, 1981(age 36) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Years Active: 2004–present

Associated Acts: Ne-Yo

She rose to fame in 2004 as a finalist on the third season of American Idol. Oddly enough, she placed seventh. Hudson made her film debut as Effie White in Dreamgirls (2006), for which she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. In 2015, she made her Broadway debut starring as Shug Avery in the revival of The Color Purple. She is widely regarded as one of the best singers and performers of her generation.

My Favorite Songs by Jennifer Hudson

  • "If This Ins't Love"
  • "Spotlight"

Jennifer Hudson Quote

I used to sing in the church choir. People would say it was unusual for such a small girl to have such a big voice. They would say, 'She sounds like she's grown.'

— Jennifer Hudson

29. Patti Smith

Born: December 30, 1946 (age 71) in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.

Years Active: 1971–present

Associated Acts: Tom Verlaine, Blue Öyster Cult

She is an American singer-songwriter, poet, and visual artist who became an influential component of the New York City punk rock movement.

She is regarded as the "punk poet laureate." During her career she has fused rock and poetry in her work. Her most widely known song is "Because the Night," which was co-written with Bruce Springsteen. Smith was named a Commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Ministry of Culture. In 2007, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Patti Smith's poetic style inspired many groups, including Sonic Youth.

My Favorite Songs by Patti Smith

  • "Dancing Barefoot"
  • "Free Money"

Patti Smith Quote

Never let go of that fiery sadness called desire.

— Patti Smith

30. Karen O

Born: November 22, 1978 (age 39) in Busan, South Korea

Years Active: 2000–present

Associated Acts: Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Native Korean Rock, Swans

Karen O is a South Korean-born American singer, songwriter, musician, and record producer. As the lead vocalist for the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Karen O has reignited punk music in the new millennium and has become one of the highest selling punk rock females of all time.

My Favorite Songs by Karen O

  • "Down Boy"
  • "Heads will Roll"

Karen O Quote

I feel like every five to seven years I really need to put myself in this position of discomfort and exploration, just to survive. Otherwise I feel like I'm falling asleep, like I'll go crazy if I don't do it.

— Karen O

31. Ann Wilson

Born: June 19, 1950 (age 68) in San Diego, California, United States

Years Active: 1967–present

Associated Acts: Heart, The Lovemongers, Alice in Chains

Ann Wilson is best known as the lead singer and songwriter of the hard rock band Heart. Wilson was listed as one of the "Top Heavy Metal Vocalists of All Time" by Hit Parader magazine. Wilson has a dramatic soprano vocal range which is perfectly showcased on such iconic songs as "Crazy on You."

My Favorite Songs by Ann Wilson

  • "Crazy on You"
  • "Straight On"

Ann Wilson Quote

It was darn near impossible for women in rock in the '70s. There wasn't a mold if you were a woman and you were in entertainment. You were probably a disco diva or a folk singer, or simply ornamental. Radio would play only one woman per hour.

— Ann Wilson

Young, Up-and-Coming Female Singers

NameAlbumsAge

Lana Del Rey

"Lana Del Ray," "Born to Die," "Ultraviolence," "Honeymoon," "Lust for Life"

33

Adele

"19," "21," "25"

30

Chelsea Cutler

"Sleeping With Roses"

21

TYSM

N/A

21

Astrid S

N/A

21

FKA Twigs

"LP1"

30

Grace VanderWaal

"Just the Beginning"

14

Tarriona “Tank” Ball

"Thinktank"

29

Jhene Aiko

"Souled Out," "Trip"

30

© 2018 Jo Tucker

Comments

Tip on August 09, 2020:

Come on, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion Not on the list? Poor ranking... Even Dian Ross, Shirley Bassey, Dione Warwick, Barbra Streisand were missing. And Whitney not on the top 3? This is funny

Dick Hogan on July 16, 2020:

Where is Peggy Lee?

Chris on July 09, 2020:

If this or any list of the greatest female singers of all time doesn’t include Linda Ronstadt it’s complete dog s..t!!!

Nick on December 31, 2019:

Ann Wilson

Joseph on October 20, 2019:

Where TF is Mariah Carey and Celine Dion? And, WHY is Whitney not in the top three?

Diana on September 19, 2019:

I am not a fan of these lists, but I keep hoping to find a good one. I've seen Avril Lavigne and Miley Cyrus noted, and they are NOT good singers. And where in the world os Judy Garland, the most incredible legend of all???

Pablo on August 11, 2019:

Where is Donna Summer?

Sherif on July 08, 2019:

The fact that Mariah Carey isn't on this list makes me doubt the integrity of the entire list. She's considered the greatest vocalist ever by quite a number of people and she's not even here.

babah on July 06, 2019:

lots of singers not included karen carpenter, cher, ect

me on July 06, 2019:

Aretha would say Mahalia Jackson was the greatest and she`s not even on the this list

MrMe on May 27, 2019:

Kathleen Hannah is Trash, being a lesbian doesn't make you a great singer, all she did was rip off Belinda Carlisle who has way more range than she does.

Kevin Armstrong on April 28, 2019:

Karen Carpenter should be top 5 and she is not even on this list pfft.

This list is a scam on April 06, 2019:

Where is Mariah? The woman with a 5-octave range who has been credited for influencing and inspiring some of the artists on this list ?????? explain

Red on February 15, 2019:

Stevie Nicks is so not better than Ann Wilson. Ann deserves to be higher than 31. This list is a joke.

Kid kong on January 29, 2019:

"Karen Carpenter had not even 3 octaves range"

That is maybe the most ridiculous thing I have ever read. She had perfect pitch, and 4-Octave range. She just didn't try to sing unnaturally high notes all the time and sound like a screeching cat, which so many singers these days do.

Tour fan on January 27, 2019:

Where is Karen Carpenter? Is this list a joke?

OthelloNupe on December 23, 2018:

This is one of the most ridiculous lists ever. Any list that talks about the greatest vocalist of all-time and don't include Whitney Houston at least the top 3!!!!!-is irrelevant and somebody is smoking something.

Johny BG on December 03, 2018:

When i see other lists with Beyonces and Gagas and without Callas, Piafs and many other top singers, i go nuts.

Make lists with the female top """sellers/dancers/whatever""" and put Beyonce, Gaga and Houston right on top, i dont care!!

But dont call the list "top female SINGERS"!!!

Anyway, this is probably the first list i see that considers a lot of foreign superb singers. Congratulations for that.

You missed the greatest of all time: Amália Rodrigues!

You can have a small taste here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fZD5ol3rxI

(not the greatest sound quality, but the only video i found with english subs).

Nice list! Keep it up!!

mr on November 26, 2018:

Not having Kate Bush here is like having a list of the best bands and not including The Beatles,

Carlos on November 25, 2018:

Whitney #1

M.R. on October 25, 2018:

This list is a big joke but the biggest joke is putting Whitney Houston at 21 LOL. She is The Voice and she is in a league of her own. Nobody comes close to her.

Rg on October 16, 2018:

Whitney so low? SMH anyone who knows anything about music will tell you Whitney is the greatest voice of all time. Her range was everything. No note was beyond her ability. GOAT

Mano on September 27, 2018:

Glennis Grace top 3

Мария on September 11, 2018:

Amy Winehouse is good but her tone was not so rich, feminine and powerful like Whitney's so it will be correctly if you change their places!Whitney was one of Freddie Mercury's favourite singers and she even eclipsed and amazed Pavarotti when they sang together! And the 3 fans with multiple accounts who bring Karen Carpenter who is great too but her voice was nowhere rich and powerful like Whitney's should stop!

Jlover on September 09, 2018:

Jennifer Lopez should be one of the best. She can sing dance and act. How do you compare youngsters like Jennifer Hudson to a legend like J.lo

rockfan on September 07, 2018:

Laura Nyro?

Jeri on September 06, 2018:

I can not believe Barbara Streisand was not included in this lineup, probably one of the best voices ever.

J. Sydow on August 11, 2018:

Sorry, I cannot take any list of best female singers seriously if it does not include Ann Wilson of Heart. Top 5 of all time.

notsuretwo on July 27, 2018:

I vote for Judith Durham. The Seekers.

Todd on July 19, 2018:

This is a joke of a list, karen carpenter had the most beautiful voice ever, male or female.

Todd on July 19, 2018:

This is a joke of a list, karen carpenter had the most beautiful voice ever, male or female.

Габи on July 04, 2018:

Karen Carpenter's fan with 5 accounts should calm down! And for the one who says that she had the most beautiful voice ever,it is absolutely subjectively! I personally prefer Whitney's rich,feminine and mature voice at her prime!

Мария on July 04, 2018:

Donna Summer and Karen Carpenter had not even 3 octaves range so for the one who says that they top any list,it is your subjectively opinion!

Jessica on June 22, 2018:

P!nk. Powerful voice. Watch some of her live performances.

Fuldan Greene on June 21, 2018:

Kelsy Karter

Jarijari on June 08, 2018:

Judith Durham

Peter on June 05, 2018:

Beth Hart should be on this list

Joanne on May 30, 2018:

Lady Gaga & Beyoncé???

shibes on May 23, 2018:

Celine Dion? Whitney?

Steve on May 20, 2018:

Where is Barbra S????

Kevin W on May 07, 2018:

Donna Summer and Karen Carpenter should make any top list of best female singers

Sandy Borcom on May 04, 2018:

.How could you possibly have left out Laura Nyro? At least 5 of the women you mentioned on your list consider her a huge influence and many of them cosider her a Mentor. Not to mention her ground breaking work with many vocal tracks,and her frequent change of time signature is definitely a style that is still prevalent today and without a doubt attributed to Ms Nyro. I could go on telling you many more of her extraordinarily original quirks as they were once affectionately called that are now true cornerstones of modern Rock & Roll and Alternative music in addition to R & B which her album with Patti LaBelle “Gonna take a Miracle”show that Motown was perhaps her most significant influence, ergo the R&B. Most people are not aware of the plethora of hits recorded by other bands in the sixties and seventies that were written by her. And when I Die a huge hit for Blood sweat and tears, Eli’s comin,Three dog night, numerous songs from her first album were recorded by The fantastic Barbra Stretched and Laura was 16 when she wrote and recorded that first album, and of course The Fifrh Dimension had at least 6 top ten hits with her songs with great sustaining power, Wedding Bell Blues, Stoned soul picnic and Sweet Blindness to name just a few. Laura and Joni while very different had some significant similarities that greatly influenced their peers and the generations to come, They both were very personal in their songs often writing clearly about their own life although interestingly enough Joni wrote an incredible song about it, but never actually made it to Woodstock, a bit of Trivia. To the writer of this article more than half of these women you “ranked” if asked would most certainly insist that she, Laura have her Rightful place of respect AND recognition for her contributions and serious influence on many styles of singer/ songwriters in her generation and all of those to come. Laura Nyro was as eclectic as her music. Miles Davis one of them greatest jazz trumpeters of all time as well as being truly one of the MOST INFLUENTIAL MUSICIANS OF ALL TIME arguably but not by many, often expressed a serious interest in collaborating with Ms Nyro,they got together a few times and sadly as I understand it business, ie Has ‘limiting’ recording contracts and touring etc prevented what I can only imagine would have been a brilliant and potentially music and mind altering explosion with the untethered meeting of 2 creative GIANTS OF SLIGHTY DIFFERENT GENERATIONS, Both Clear individuals and quite eclectic and unpredictable, I’ve been told Laura often described what she wanted musically with colors I’ve been told by musicians who recrd3d with her including the late remarkably great jazz upright Bass player RICHARD DAVIS. MR MILES DAVIS AND MS LAYRA NYRO WHO MUSICALLY HAD IN COMMON THE UNUSUAL CONVICTION THAT THEY RECORDED THE MUSIC THEY WANTED TO,

RECORD ARRANGED AS THEY WANTED, WITH LITTLE THOUGHT TO THE COMMERCIAL ASPECT,LEAVING THAT TO OTHERS. They both wrote and created collages of sound and music, Often quite new and refreshing. Both innovators in their particular choice of music.. interestingly enough in the late sixties branched out incorporating his version or take on Rock and Roll into his jazz roots, I believe that he recorded a Bob Dylan Folk song turned Rock &Roll by Jimmy Hendricks and Dave Mason to name a few of dozens who covered “All along the watchtower “ Cemented as a classic that will live forever when Miles played the first note... ahh but I digress they both took us all to new places . I for one am so glad they did and while yes of course the commercial aspect is certainly relative neither artist had a lack of hits,sadly Laura opted for some reason to leave the brilliant Peter Geffen who at the time was her manager and truly dearest friend had been guiding her career since “The First Songs” album, a commercial success with just about every song covered by well respected quite established singers and musicians not once but each song covered numerous times. I don’t begin to know why Laura left Peter G, who went on to sign Joni and take her career to the highest levels possible from her peers to the press and finally the fans, she like Laura was adored, very different vocalizations, and yes both huge fans of a trend that emerged mostly due to the two them, the true Matriarchs of the female singer songwriter genre which is enormous exsisting in every form of music except perhaps Trance, although perhaps in a more obscure way... And still a huge and often made choice made by literally thousands of artists of all genres and their highly successful recordings today and likely in some form something like forever, I am speaking of course of multitrack harmonies recorded almost exclusively by themselves. Even up to eight tracks of their own vocals.

Yes an occasional few harmonies by friends and lovers; James Taylor, Carole King, Patti LaBelle, David Crosby Alice Coltrane, yes John’s wife actually on the Harp featured on Laura’s Tour de force Album, Eli and the 13th confession! It stands today as an amazing thematic highly original lyrically and most definitely musically from the actual orchestration to the musical feel and frequent time signature changes. I should add that while this was her second album that she began working on b4 her 18th birthday, it was her first where she and her people had artistic control and the music was recorded (often described I understand in colors) as Ms Nyro heard and envisioned in her mind. She was never at all happy albeit being an enormous success with the aforementioned “First Songs” that as I pointed had virtually every song covered numerous times over a span of at least ten years and they are still played today, sadly Laura I would have to use strong language here despised the album, and although it was my introduction to Laura Nyro and I happen to love the songs and covered 2 myself! When listening to all of her subsequent albums it’s easy to understand the sound and feeling, the openess,the expression of stories and deep emotion she used long pauses silence sometimes, that often led to extreme changes, often complete change of tempo and rhythm. Sometimes going from vibrant and steady 4/4 beat to a more lively and a bit less utized at the time in the Pop/Rock genre a lively highly orchestrated with”Very much Orchestra instrumentation at times 6/8 time signature, sounding like a fast waltz sometimes akin to a bit of Brazilian Samba of a sort. I Digress and I must go. I hope you correct this terrible oversight and give the nothing short of BRILLIANT AND AMAZING HER DUE POSITION IN YOUR VERSION OF FEMALE SINGER SONGWRITERS.SHE IS SIMPLY WAY TO SIGNIFICANT TO OVERLOOK. TRULY. IF YOU ARE NIT FAMILIAR WITH HER MUSIC DO WHAT WAS SUGGESTED TO ME AND I DID DO IT. I GOT SOME HEADPHONES MADE SURE I WOULD NOT BE BOTHERED BY ANYONE FOR AN HOUR. PUT ON SIDE ONE OF THE RECORD, THIS WAS ABOUT 1973. Followed the lyrics at the time written out in Laura’s hand,(Joni frequently wrote out her own lyrics as well on album covers, I wonder if they ever met, most likely it would be almost impossible not to.)

And my mind was completely blown,my life forever changed. Laura was to have gotten together with Todd Rundgren as well, however a second bout of Cancer, ovarian ended her life at the Far too young age of 49 about 20 years ago. I really hope someone reads this and someone hears me.

Reggie126 on May 03, 2018:

No Karen Carpenter? This list is a fraud.

Charlie on April 27, 2018:

When I saw Bjork, I just stopped reading and came to comments. Where the Hell is Karen Carpenter. Your list is invalid.

Kaila on April 05, 2018:

Really?? No Stevie Nicks, that’s just crazy.

Paul on March 30, 2018:

I can’t believe that Karen Carpenter isn’t on the list she had the smoothest most beautiful voice I have ever heard .

Martin on March 24, 2018:

Where are Whitney Houston, Tina Tina Turner, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion? Without them this list is shit!

Dipak Kumar on March 20, 2018:

Their song has made the listener attached. They are the great singer which we can also classify by their popularity. Know the fact at www.imnepal.com

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