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100 Best Female Rock Singers of the ‘80s and ‘90s

I have been an online writer for over six years. I am passionate about books, philosophy, music, and the music industry.

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While every decade in music has had its share of incredible rock singers, the ‘80s and ‘90s propelled female singers to a whole new level. A new brigade of talented female crooners emerged in the realms of rock music breaking new pathways for female-fronted bands of the future. Indeed, the paradigm shift for female musicians began in the ‘80s and ‘90s.

The list below showcases an epic collection of female rock vocalists from the ‘80s and ‘90s. If you are a music buff, you will have something to say. Feel free with your view, opinion, or suggestion in the comments section.

Top 10 Best Female Rock Singers of the '80s and '90s

  1. Ann Wilson (Heart)
  2. Tina Turner
  3. Stevie Nicks (Fleetwood Mac)
  4. Bonnie Tyler
  5. Tori Amos
  6. Annie Lennox (Eurythmics)
  7. Cyndi Lauper
  8. Joan Jett (Joan Jett & the Blackhearts)
  9. Alanis Morissette
  10. Grace Slick (Starship/Jefferson Starship)

How It All Began for Women in Rock Music

The ‘60s catapulted women power to new heights. Freestyle musical expressions paved the way for new musical ideas of the future. Thanks to the folk movement, a number of teenage girls took to new forms of experimentation through music. As the psychedelic subculture became prominent, a number of young female musicians emerged with a theatrically diverse influence of musical styles in mainstream rock.

Female vocalists made a splash with their emotionally-churned voices in the realms of blues rock, acid rock, psychedelic rock, folk rock, and garage rock. Although the ‘60s played a pivotal role in launching and shaping the careers of women in rock, it was in the ‘80s that bestowed commercial success and fame for a number of female musicians.

#11—20

11. Joni Mitchell

12. Chrissie Hynde (Pretenders)

13. Debbie Harry (Blondie)

14. Pat Benatar

15. Dolores O’Riordan (The Cranberries)

16. Linda Ronstadt

17. Suzanne Vega

18. Kate Bush

19. Laura Branigan

20. PJ Harvey

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Female Vocalists in the ‘80s

The early glam rock movement of the ‘70s led to an awakening of new wave female bands. As theatrical acts gained momentum, a number of female musicians diversified their rock sound with a pop-influenced architecture. As all-female bands and female fronted bands came to the forefront in the ‘80s, a number of female singers also embarked on a solo career. Although certain vocalists made a big impression with their trademark soprano and contralto voices in their respective bands, they failed to attract attention of record labels who favored male-dominated rock bands.

However, as many female artists started embarking on solo careers, their brand of radio-friendly rock ballads made a big impact on charts. High-pitched female singers stamped their authority with their mesmerizing voice tonality on heart-wrenching ballads. Suddenly, major record labels started taking keen interest in the female rock movement that opened new pathways in music. Some of the most memorable rock anthems emerged through the ranks of the female rock fraternity in the ‘80s. Women in rock music took the glam image to a whole new level. The lipstick and leather attire of many female musicians showcased with visual elements became iconic and paved the way for a new subculture in the ‘90s.

#21—40

21. Siouxsie Sioux (Siouxsie and the Banshees)

22. Belinda Carlisle The Go-Go’s

23. Nancy Wilson (Heart)

24. Bjork

25. Tracy Chapman

26. Susanna Hoffs (The Bangles)

27. Alannah Myles

28. Patti Smith

29. Lita Ford

30. Kim Carnes

31. Suzi Gardner (L7)

32. Patty Smyth

33. Debbie Gibson

34. Liz Phair

35. Shirley Manson (Garbage)

36. Joan Armatrading

37. Suzi Quatro

38. Katrina Leskanich (Katrina and the Waves)

39. Sinead O’Connor

40. Bonnie Raitt

Female Vocalists in the ‘90s

With the dawn of the ‘90s, a number of female musicians emerged through the ranks of alternative music. Bands with female vocalists added a distinctive flavor in the realms of alternative and indie music. A number of female musicians started breaking away from the radio-friendly sound and exploring concepts and ideas with diverse musical influences. This experimentation led to a highly refined sound structure that comprised of classic rock embellishments with the raw aggression of alternative sounds.

While gravely vocal textures dominated the alternative scene, the indie scene blossomed with its signature whisper-styled vocals. Although certain female artists did secure recording contracts with major record labels, a number of female musicians released their music independently at gigs and concerts. Certain female musicians came into the limelight as backing vocalists for bands and later perusing successful solo careers. Music videos of few female vocalists were aired regularly on MTV in the ‘90s. A number of female musicians made major breakthroughs with their debut albums in the decade.

Although the ‘80s and ‘90s are long gone, memories from that magical era rekindle nostalgia in strange ways.

#41—60

41. Donita Sparks (L7)

42. Marie Fredriksson (Roxette)

43. Gwen Stefani

44. Aimee Mann

45. Sheryl Crow

46. Cher

47. Lee Aaron

48. Kat Bjelland (Babes in Toyland)

49. Nina Hagen

50. Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama)

51. Juliana Hatfield (The Blake Babies)

52. Marianne Faithfull

53. Hope Sandoval (Mazzy Star)

54. Melissa Etheridge

55. Kim Gordon (Sonic Youth)

56. Meredith Brooks

57. Lisa Germano

58. Elizabeth Frsaser (Cocteau Twins)

59. Skin (Skunk Anasie)

60. Edie Brickell

female-rock-singers-of-the-80s-and-90s

#61—80

61. Andrea Corr (The Corrs)

62. Sarah McLachlan

63. Courtney Love (Hole)

64. Fiona Apple

65. Azalia Snail

66. Nina Persson

67. Kathleen Hanna (Bikini Kill)

68. Sophie Ellis- Bextor (Theaudience)

69. Natalie Merchant

70. Carole King

71. Nina Gordon (Veruca Salt)

72. Carly Simon

73. Juice Newton

74. Beth Gibbons (Portishead)

75. Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins)

76. Kim Deal (The Breeders)

77. Jane Wiedlin (The Go-Go’s)

78. Tracey Thorn (Everything but the Girl)

79. Jennifer Charles (Elysian Fields)

80. Chan Marshall (Cat Power)

#81—100

81. Sophie B. Hawkins

82. Joan Osbourne

83. Lydia Lunch

84. Sharleen Spiteri (Texas)

85. Anne Preven (Ednaswap)

86. Elkie Brooks

87. Chrissy Amphlett (Divinyls)

88. Toya Willcox

89. Ani De Franco

90. Leigh Nash (Sixpence None the Richer)

91. Terri Nunn (Berlin)

92. Lisa Loeb

93. Rachel Goswell (Slowdive)

94. Julianne Regan (All About Eve)

95. Wendy James (Transvision Vamp)

96. Johnette Napolitano (Concrete Blonde)

97. Cherie Curie

98. Laetitia Sadier (Stereolab)

99. Kim Shattuck (The Muffs)

100. Ana da Silva (The Raincoats)

Other Notable Female Rock Singers of the ‘80s and ‘90s

  • Emma Anderson (Lush)
  • Caroline Azar (Fifth Column)
  • Brett Anderson (The Donnas)
  • Diana Anaid
  • Laura Stoica
  • Rachel Carns (Kicking Giant)
  • Cia Berg (Whale)
  • Astrid Young
  • Toni Childs
  • Holly Woods (Toronto)
  • Mary Timony (Autoclave/Helium)
  • Linda Perry (4 Non Blondes)
  • Diamanda Galas
  • Rickie Lee Jones
  • Dinah Cancer (45 Grave)
  • Tiffany Darwish
  • Martha Johnson (Martha and the Muffins)
  • Josie Cotton
  • Amy Ray (Indigo Girls)
  • Beki Bondage (Vice Squad)
  • Danielle Dax
  • Naoko Yamono
  • Toni Halliday (Curve)
  • Edyta Bartosiewicz
  • Mary Ramsey
  • Suze DeMarchi
  • Danielle Dax
  • Theo Kogan (Lunachicks)
  • Justine Frischmann (Elastica)
  • Honey Bane
  • Paula Pierce (The Pandoras)
  • Chi Coltrane
  • Melanie Doane
  • Tasmin Archer
  • Joanna Dean
  • Tina Root (Switchblade Symphony)
  • Cristina Llanos (Dover)
  • Saffron (Republica)
  • Hazel O’Connor
  • Mia Zapata (The Gits)
  • Tanya Donelly (Throwing Muses)
  • Kristy Thirsk (Rose Chronicles)
  • Aime Echo (Human Waste Project)
  • Linda Thompson
  • Alannah Currie
  • Eva O (Christian Death)
  • Clare Grogan (Altered Images)
  • Lauren Laverne
  • Emily Saliers
  • Anita Lane
  • Joyce Kennedy (Mother’s Finest)
  • Carla Bozulich (The Geraldine Fibbers)
  • Bette Bright
  • Sonja Kristina (Curved Air)
  • Nena (Nena)
  • Holly Beth Vincent
  • Poly Styrene
  • Amanda Rootes (Fluffy)
  • Carol Decker (T’Pau)
  • Jill Sobule
  • Mary Lu Zahalan
  • Inger Lorre (The Nymphs)
  • Frances McKee
  • Annie Haslam
  • Penelope Houston (The Avengers)
  • Julie Doiron
  • Ellen Foley
  • Heather Nova
  • Dale Bozzio (Missing Persons)
  • Sass Jordan
  • Robin Beck
  • Lydia Canaan
  • Melissa Ferrick
  • Christine McVie (Fleetwood Mac)
  • Dalbello
  • Ari Up (The Slits)
  • Madigan Shive (Tattle Tale)
  • Tanita Tikaram
  • Cerys Matthews (Catatonia)
  • Lisa Kekaula (The Bellrays)
  • Exene Cervenka (X)
  • Holly Golightly (Thee Headcoatees)
  • Bobbie Eakes (Big Trouble)
  • Wendy O. Williams (Plasmatics)
  • Kristin Hersh (Throwing Muses)
  • Christina Billotte (Slant 6)
  • Allison Wolfe (Bratmobile)
  • Kaia Wilson (Team Dresch/The Butchies)
  • Poe
  • Jen Trynin
  • Michelle Malone
  • Anne-Marie Hurst
  • Thalia Zedek
  • Debora Iyall (Romeo Void)
  • Anna Burley (The Killjoys)
  • Maria del Mar
  • Jen Wood (Tattle Tale)
  • Shona Laing
  • Carolyne Mas
  • Janet Gardner (Vixen)
  • Anabella Lwin
  • Marjo
  • Laura Huber (Leslie Spit Treeo)
  • Jennifer Herrema
  • Rita Lee
  • Barbara Manning
  • Alison Statton (Young Marble Giants)
  • Kerri Kenney-Silver
  • Judie Tzuke
  • Maria McKee
  • Darby Mills (Headpins)
  • Lene Lovich
  • Annette Ducharme
  • Karin Wistrand (Lolita Pop)
  • Pauline Murray (Penetration)
  • Molly Johnson (Alta Moda/Infidels)
  • Lana Lane
  • Riki Michelle
  • Marijne van der Vlugt (Salad)
  • Holly McNarland

© 2021 Ansel Pereira

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