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Top 20 Best Female Singers of All Time

Updated on June 1, 2017

Best Female Vocalists and Musicians

In the music world, there are many great female singers, but only a few have risen to the level of greatness that these giants of American pop culture have. The women listed below have written some of the greatest songs ever and their voices have blown us away over the many decades. Here are some of my favorite female singers of all time. This list is based upon vocal power, range and uniqueness. Some of the artists on my list may have had less success than others, but their voices are just as great. I believe these women are the best singers in American history. I would like to note that this list has been recently changed. I have taken Fantasia off my list of the greatest female singers and added Adele in her place because I feel her music career has made a much bigger impact on popular culture. I have also included a new updated list. You can still vote in my last updated list. I haven't closed it yet. Let me know what you think as always, I look forward to hearing from you. I may make more changes in the near future based upon your feedback with that said please check out these amazing female singers.

#20 - Janet Jackson: Pop Royalty

Janet Jackson is one of the most famous women in the world and also one of the most successful female entertainers of all time. Like Madonna, she has dominated the pop landscape for more than two decades now. Although she is not known for her voice, her unique artistry, legacy, and influence on popular music has made her one of the greatest female artists ever. Ms. Jackson have sold over 150 million records worldwide and has inspired a generation of female singers from Britney Spears to Ciara. Janet has left a tremendous mark on pop culture. Her many hits include “Control,” “Rhythm Nation,” “What Have You Done for Me Lately,” and “If” among numerous other successful singles.

In her long career, she has won over 300 awards, including 33 Billboard Awards (The most in Billboard history), 15 American music Awards, one Emmy, six Grammys and numerous other international awards. In 1990, Janet was honored with her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame alongside her famous older brother Michael Jackson.

#19- Cher: Pop Goddess


Cher's career spans five decades. She is one of the greatest artists music has ever produced. The diva first began her career singing alongside her husband Sonny. Together they were known as the pop duo Sonny and Cher. The two sold more than 80 million records together as a group. After their split, she went solo and have since become one of the greatest female singers in history. To date the woman simply known as the Goddess of pop have sold more than 100 million records as a solo artist and holds the record for the most successful tour of all time (Her 2005 Farewell Tour).

She is also the only artist in history to reach number one on the Billboard charts in each of the past six decades. Cher still holds the record for the longest hit -making career span (33 years). She have also won an Oscar, Grammy, Emmy and three Golden Globe awards in her amazing career. Her many hits include "Believe," "If I Could Turn Back Time," "Heart of Stone," and "Love Hurts" to name a few. As a pop and television icon, Cher continues to defy the boundaries of style, music, film, and pop culture.

Toni Braxton first hit it big with the release of her self-titled studio album Toni Braxton (1990). The album spawned several hit singles such as "Another Sad Love Song," "Breathe Again," and "You Mean the World to Me" among many other successful songs.

The R&B superstar first studio album to date has sold over 8 million copies in United States and over ten million worldwide. Her second studio album Secrets gave the diva her first number-one single on the Billboard Hot 100 with the mega-smash single "Unbreak My Heart." The song became the most successful record in Billboard history behind Whitney Houston's mega-hit "I Will Always Love You." Other successful songs from the iconic album include "You're Makin Me High," "Let it Flow," and "How Could An Angel Break My Heart?" Her second studio album has also sold over 8 million copies in the United States and more than 15 million worldwide.

After a long hiatus, motherhood and a public battle with Lupus, she returned to music again in 2000, this time with her third studio album The Heat. This album also spawned many hit singles such as "He Wasn't Man Enough," "Spanish Guitar," and "Just Be A Man About It" to name a few. In her long career in music, Ms. Braxton has sold over 40 million records and have won six Grammy Awards. On September 18, 2011, the mega-star was inducted into the Georgia Music Hall of Fame .

#17 - Linda Ronstadt: Rock Queen


Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile singers in music history. She first rose to fame as a member of the folk-rock group the Stone Poneys. She then launched a solo career in 1969 and became one of the most successful female rock musician of the 1970s. Known as the First Lady of Rock, she has gone on to define the genre. Linda have also been successful in other styles of music. Her debut solo album Hands Sown....Home Grown was hailed as the first alternative country album by a female. She has released many successful albums in her long career and has won 11 Grammys awards. Ronstadt have sold over 100 million records worldwide and is considered the highest paid female rock musician in the world. Her many hits include "You're No Good," "Blue Bayou," "When Will I be Loved," and the duet with Aaron Neville "Don't Know Much," to name a few. The diva was recently inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.

#16 - The Amazing Teena Marie

Mary Christine Brockert better known as Teena Marie was one of the greatest singers of her generation. Her distinct rich and soulful voice defined American pop music in the 1980s. Known for her powerful vocals and amazing song-writing skills, she became one of the most celebrated voices in R&B despite being of Italian, Irish, Portuguese and Native American descent. African Americans embraced her unique and iconic sound of rhythm and blues music. With hits such as “Square Biz,” “I Need Your Lovin,” and “Lovergirl," Teena became the most successful white solo act in Motown history. Her labelmate Rick James further helped the young songstress to cross over to black audiences. The two were very close up until his death in 2004. She passed away just six years later in December 2010.

Teena will forever be remembered for her distinct talent, unforgettable voice and numerous hit records.

Amy Winehouse was a British singer who first rose to international fame in 2006 with her monster hits "Rehab" and "You Know I Am No Good." She went on to win numerous awards and other accolades. Her voice was very unique and edgy and so was her style. Though she was a young singer who died tragically a few years ago, she will forever be remembered for her unforgettable hit records and amazing voice. Her distinctive jazz sound was truly a treasure.

#14 - Beyonce: The Dream Girl

Beautiful Beyonce Giselle Knowles is one of the most talented stars of her generation. She first rose to fame as the lead singer of the all-girl group Destiny's Child who later became the best selling female vocal group of all time. Ms. Knowles have sold more than 100 million records worldwide and won more than 15 Grammys in her amazing career.

In 2009, she was ranked by Forbes as the most powerful and influential musician in the world.This diva has received over 200 awards in her ten years in music. It is why she is my 14th pick for best female singer of all time.

#13 - Madonna: The Queen of Pop


What is there left to say about the force of nature known as Madonna? According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she is the most successful female artist in the history of music with more than 300 million albums sold to date. Her distinct voice and musical style have shaped popular culture for more than two decades now. Though not a powerhouse singer, her unique sound and artistry make her one of the greatest artist's ever. What can we not love about the great Madonna? If this countdown was simply about talent, Madonna would have been a much higher choice but since it is about the voice first, I had to make her my number 13 pick.

#12 - The Great Barbra Streisand


After much thought, I decided to include the great Barbra Streisand to my list of the top 20 best female singers of all time. Although not one of my favorites singers, she definitely belongs on the list. Ms Striesand have sold over 140 million records worldwide and is considered the most successful female artist in the United States with more than 71 million records sold to date. She holds the record for the most top-ten singles in Billboard history with 32 in her half-century-long career. She is also one of the few female artists to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony). Her many hits include "Woman in Love," "What Kind of Fool," "You Bring Me Flowers," among many others successful singles.

#11 - Donna Summer: Queen of Disco

Donna Summer was arguably the most prolific musical artist in American history. She was the first and only musical act to release three double number-one albums on the Billboard charts. She was also the first woman to have four number-one singles on the Billboard charts within a one-year period. In her three decades-long career, she have amassed five Grammys, six American Music Awards and numerous other accolades. Ms. Summer was also the first female artist to have a #1 single and #1 album on the Billboard charts at the same time. During her amazing run in the music business, she has had 89 singles, 32 compilations albums, 17 studio albums, and 2 live CD's to her credit. Her many hits include "She Works Hard For the Money," "Last Dance," "Hot Stuff," "No More Tears," and "On the Radio" to name a few.

#10 - Adele: Vocal Powerhouse

Adele is an English singer and songwriter. She first rose to fame in 2008 with her smash international debut album 19 which sold over seven million copies worldwide. The artist simply known as Adele is one of the most amazing singers in today's music world. Over the past few years, she has released a string of major hits which include "Rolling In The Deep," "Someone Like You," and "Skyfall which earned the diva an Oscar, Grammy and Golden Globe award. Adele is also the holder of several Guinness Book of World Records. She is the first woman in Billboard history to have three simultaneously top ten singles and the first woman to have two top ten albums as well as two top ten singles on the Billboard chart at the same time. Her second album 21 has sold an amazing 31 million copies worldwide. 21 is the longest running number one album by a female artist in US and UK chart history which earned the diva another world record.

Adele music career maybe relatively new compared to the other women on my list but she is definitely one of the greatest singers that I have ever heard. She was named by Time magazine in 2012 as well as 2016 as one of the most influential musicians in the world. The music icon album sales to date have recently surpassed 100 million records making her one of the best selling female artist ever

#9-Etta James: Jazz and Soul Legend

Etta James is one of the greatest R&B and jazz singers in history. Once considered a neglected musical performer, recent years have brought her work renewed attention. Ms. James has been inducted into many musical halls of fame which include the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (1993), the Blues Hall of Fame (2001), and the Grammy Music Hall of Fame (1999).

With her powerful voice and distinct sound, she has inspired numerous musical acts which include the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Adele, Amy Winehouse, Diana Ross, Rob Stewart, and Joss Stone to name a few. In her 40-year career, she won six Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards.

Some of her greatest hits include "Something Got a Hold on Me," "At Last," "The Fool that I am and "All I do is Cry."

#8-Christina Aguilera: The Pop Diva

Greatest Female Voice of this Generation
Greatest Female Voice of this Generation | Source

Christina Aguilera has been called one of the greatest singers of this generation. She have also sold over 50 million records worldwide, making her one of the best-selling female artists of the new millennium. She is one of the youngest artists to have appeared on Rolling Stone's list of the 100 Greatest Singers of all Time.

Ms. Aguilera recently received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and have won numerous awards in her decade-long career. Her hit singles include "Beautiful," "Come on Over," and "Genie in a Bottle" to name a few. The pop superstar has inspired many young musical performers. It is why I have named her the eighth best female singer of all time.

#7 - Celine Dion: The Voice of an Angel

Celine Dion is a French-Canadian singer, who first rose to fame in the early 1990s. She is one of the most successful female artists in history with albums sales surpassing 200 million. In her 20-year career, she have amassed a string of hit records and have won numerous awards. Her major hits include "Because You Love Me," "My Heart Will Go On," from the Titanic movie soundtrack, and "I am Your Angel" to name a few. Her voice has such a beautiful tone to it that her fans describe it as the voice of an angel. She continues to dazzle audiences with her great ballads and beautiful music. The pop superstar is one of the most accomplished female singers in history.

Celine has won an Oscar and multiple Grammy Awards in her great career. She was also listed on Blender Magazine's "Greatest Singers of All Time" list.

#6 - The Great Patti LaBelle

Patti Labelle born Patricia Louise Holte- Edwards is an award-winning singer and actress. Her musical career spans five decades. The diva has shaped popular culture now for nearly half of a century. Known for her distinct voice, she has continued to inspire numerous performers in today's musical landscape.

Ms. Labelle was also an inductee into the Apollo Theater Legends Hall of Fame and have been given the Songwriters Hall of Fame Sammy Cahn Lifetime Achievement Award for her longevity in the music industry. Ms. Patti is best known for her powerful voice and great stage performances. Her many hits singles include "Lady Marmalade," "New Attitude," "On my Own," and "Stir Up" to name a few.

#5 - Tina Turner: Queen of Rock 'n Roll

Tina Turner is widely recognized as the Queen of Rock n Roll. She has sold more concert tickets than any other live performer in history. Tina's album sales to date have surpassed 180 million making her one of the most successful female artists of all time. She was also inducted into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame.

In her successful career, she has won eight Grammys and numerous other awards. Two of her monster hits "Proud Mary" and "River Deep, Mountain High" were entered into the Grammy Music Hall of Fame.

#4 - Janis Joplin: Rock Legend

Janis Joplin has been called one of the greatest voices of American music and an icon of her generation. She was once the dubbed the Queen of Rock and Roll and the Queen of Psychedelic Soul. Her singing style was once compared to that of the great Aretha Franklin. Over the many years, her popularity have significant grown. Though, she was a tragic figure who died way before her time, her musical legacy has continued to inspire many female artists.

Time Magazine described Janis as “…probably the most powerful singer to emerge from the white rock movement” (

She is best known for her hits "Try," "Cry Baby," "Piece of My Heart," "Summertime," and "Mercedes Benz." Her voice is unbelievably great as was her distinctive style of music.

#3 - Aretha Franklin: The Queen of Soul

The Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin have redefined American popular music for more than four decades now. Her incredible voice, sound, and style have inspired numerous R&B and contemporary artists. Aretha has sold more million-selling singles than any other female artist in history. She has also won 18 Grammy’s and two honorary awards.

During her long career, Aretha have amassed 20 number-one singles on the Billboard R&B charts and two number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100. She also had 10 albums reach number one on this particular chart, the most by a female artist. But her achievements don't stop there. She was also the first woman to enter the US Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame in 1987 and the second woman to be inducted into the UK's Rock 'n Roll Hall of Fame.

The music icon has been honored by several US presidents during her long career. She received The National Medal of Arts Award from President Clinton in 1999 and the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush in 2005. Most recently, she was selected to sing at Barack Obama's first presidential inauguration in 2009.

Her many hits include "Respect," "Chain of Fools," "Think," "You Make Me Feel like ( A Natural Woman)," "Rocksteady," and the Dionne Warwick hit, "I Say a Little Prayer."

#2 - Mariah Carey: The Songbird


Mariah Carey is one of the best singers ever. She has more number-one hits than any other female performer in history. With 18 number-one singles under her belt, she ties Elvis and trails only the Beatles who have twenty number one hits to date. Her voice have continued to inspire a generation of female performers, including Rihanna, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, and Kelly Rowland to name a few. The diva's signature vocal style of whistling is just as amazing as her hit records. Her many smash singles include "Honey," "Fantasy," "Vision of Love," "My All," and "One Sweet Day" among numerous other successful singles.

Mariah Carey holds the record for the highest vocal range in music with her whistle register, which is said to be between five to seven octaves.The pop diva has sold over 265 million records worldwide making her one of the best-selling musical artists ever. Only The Beatles, Madonna, and Michael Jackson have surpassed her in album sales.

While Mariah has the highest range, my number one choice edges her out in vocal power and purity of tone. The next entrant has the most powerful voice that music has ever produced.

#1 - Whitney Houston: The Voice


Simply known as "The Voice," Whitney Houston was the greatest female singer of all time. The sheer power of her vocals is second to none. Ms. Houston has inspired a generation of musical artists in her long career, including Lady Gaga, Monica, Celine Dion and also Brandy.

The diva have sold more than 200 million albums and singles worldwide, making her one of the best-selling female artists in history. Some of her greatest hits include "How Will I Know," "I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me)" and powerhouse ballads such as "Run To You" and the "Greatest Love of All." Ms. Houston still holds the record for the top three greatest vocal performances in history, which include her rendition of the "Star Spangled Banner," her remake of Dolly Parton country song "I Will Always Love you" from the Bodyguard soundtrack, and the mega hit "I Have Nothing," another successful single from the iconic album.

The pop icon was a global superstar. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, she remains the most awarded female artist in the history of popular music with more than 415 recognized awards. Her many accolades include two Emmys, six Grammys, thirty Billboard Awards and 22 American Music Awards just to name a few. There is no one who can out sing her. Though the pop queen vocals are said to be between 3 to 4 octaves in actual range, the power of her voice has reached the G3-G5 register, which is among the highest in vocal power. The greatest vocal note is the G7.

Ms. Houston was truly the greatest singer ever to live, and this is why she is my number one pick for the best female singer of all time. May she rest in peace.

Whitney Houston Live: "I Will Always Love You"

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      fbfanatic 2 days ago

      @Scott One of the issues here is so many who belong have been gone for a long time, and if the individual who started the subject is quite young, then it stands to reason there is no memory or knowledge of past great singers.

      This subject should be entitled "pop" singers because the great voices from classical/opera are kind of in another category. In any event, there is no doubt Carpenter had a very beautiful/gifted voice. Of the entire group here, I'd have about only five listed from the entire group.

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      Scott 3 days ago

      Karen Carpenter blows away more than half of this list. Omitting her makes this list a farce and discredits the author. She was undeniably the best female vocalist for more than a decade during a period when popular music was reaching its peak.

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      Carmen A 3 days ago

      The awards for Whitney Houston as of 2017 is over 600,:)

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      Tito 4 days ago

      Where is Karen Carpenter? Good grief.

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      10 days ago

      wheres shakira

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      DanilieDeGracia 10 days ago

      Where's Charice Pempengco?

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      Esteban 11 days ago

      Where's Ann Wilson or Diana Ross?

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      Yet another 13 days ago

      Karen Carpenter.

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      Another Poster 2 weeks ago

      Karen Carpenter, the best woman drummer singer who ever lived!

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      MIB 2 weeks ago


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      IACLO 2 weeks ago

      Adele is lovable no doubt! But if this list is truly made for the greatest female singers, Then you should forget about who has more fans and truly make the list musically... otherwise, with my musical knowledge and ears, Adele came too early on the list and if she could make the list, then what happened to Mary J and Alicia keys?

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      Anita 2 weeks ago

      Seriously? No Karen Carpenter? Karen Carpenter definitely better than anyone on that list, especially Rhianna, Madonna, and Arianna Grande. How easily the industry forgets about the greats!

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      fbfanatic 2 weeks ago

      @acouvis I agree many great vocalists have been left off this particular list although I don't agree that CK should be included from the five you referenced in your post. And of course "singers" like J. Jackson and Madonna should not be on any "greatest" list. LOL. It's hard to exactly quantify talent and rank singers like we do in a sport's standing list.

      I do believe you're seriously underestimating Houston. She was a great gospel singer. Just check out "A Quiet Place" on You Tube. It's a gospel masterpiece. And she was a genius pop singer. She possessed not only great power but incredible note and lyric clarity. She had great range and a beautiful tone.

      When she passed, Jon Pareles, an ivy league educated, experienced senior pop music critic for The New York Times said she was one of the greatest voices in his lifetime and probably in history. "She was a Stradivarius." He said the above on Charlie Rose. People need to separate the commercial pop she largely recorded from her talent. In addition, she was a truly great live singer in her prime when she was "on." How many singers are actually better live than in the studio?

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      acouvis 2 weeks ago

      !Tim, I couldn't agree more.

      Not on this list: (Among MANY others who arguably deserve a spot)

      Karen Carpenter,

      Carole King,

      Billie Holiday,

      Ella Fitzgerald,

      Maria Callas...

      And claiming Whitney Houston as number 1? Seriously?

      Frankly the author of this piece really needs to expand his musical horizon. It's a very limited group of people, many of whom have some degree of fame in a common time period.

      Here is (imo) a FAR better list of someone's top 100 female vocalists - Granted, most of the names on this list appear on there somewhere, but definitely NOT in the order the author did.

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      !Tim 3 weeks ago

      OMG!! ... What criteria did you use? "Great Vocalists" Madonna, Cher, Amy Winehouse and Janis Joplin and leave off people like Karen Carpenter.

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      Amos 3 weeks ago

      Why the Heck is Alicia Keys???

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      Are you kidding? 3 weeks ago

      In what world does Alicia Keyes miss this list?

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      Dom 3 weeks ago

      Why is Amy Lee not here

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      Adam 4 weeks ago

      No Carole King? Ella Fitzgerald? Nina Simone?

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      Lisa Bertonazzi 4 weeks ago

      What about Dinah Washington, Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald

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