Female singers have made significant contributions to the musical world. These female voices have inspired millions of people around the globe. Their work and contributions to society changed lives and continue to inspire countless people every day.
Read on to know more about the best female singers of all time and their impressive careers and accomplishments.
1. Shania Twain
Shania Twain’s empowered country-rock-pop anthems ruled the music world for most of the ’90s and 2000s. One of the most successful crossover artists of all time, she won five Grammy Awards and was awarded the American Country Music Awards Artist of the year distinction in 1999. Unrelated, she also had a residency in Las Vegas. Her biggest hit, and first video, is “You’re Still The One.”
Critics and fans honor Adele as one of the most successful artists in recent history. Her album “21” is one of the UK’s best-selling albums. “Someone Like You” and “Rolling in the Deep” are just a few of her hits.
You can hear her music on soundtracks for films like Skyfall, the James Bond movie, for which she won an Academy Award, and The Great Gatsby.
3. Alicia Keys
Alicia Keys is a singer-songwriter, actress, and philanthropist who has won 15 Grammy Awards. She rose to prominence with her debut album, “Songs in A Minor,” in 2001.
Keys has since released several more albums, including “Unplugged,” “As I Am,” and “Girl on Fire.” She has also appeared in films like The Nanny Diaries and Smokin’ Aces. Her style ranges from RnB on tracks like “Fallin'” to soulful ballads like “If I Ain’t Got You.” She’s collaborated with so many artists in the music industry and has become a household name because of it.
4. Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift released her first album in 2006, and the world hasn’t been able to get enough of her ever since. The pop-country crossover artist has won 11 Grammy Awards. She’s also won American Music Awards, Country Music Association Awards, Academy of Country Music Awards, and one Emmy Award.
She is the only female solo artist to win the Album of the Year Grammy three times.
The contemporary artist has some of the most devoted fans in the industry, with “Swifties” following her every move. “Love Story” and “You Belong With Me” are just a couple of her radio hits.
5. Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand is an American icon. The actress, singer, and director has won Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony Awards throughout her 50-year career.
Barbra Streisand’s career is remarkable, having sold more than 65 million albums in the United States. Some of her most popular songs include “The Way We Were,” “Woman in Love,” and “Memory.”
Beyoncé, or Queen Bey, as she is known, is one of the most successful female vocalists ever. The RnB superstar has won 22 Grammy Awards and is the most nominated woman in the award’s history.
She began her music career as a girl group Destiny’s Child member before going solo in 2003. Her albums include “Dangerously in Love,” “Lemonade,” and “Beyoncé.”
She’s also an accomplished actress, with roles in films like Dreamgirls and Austin Powers Goldmember.
Beyonce has also won an Emmy Award, an MTV Video Music Award, and a BET Award. In addition, her album “Lemonade” is considered one of the best albums of all time.
7. Celine Dion
Celine Dion’s work encompasses more than 27 albums in both English and French. Her music career started in childhood. Her parents owned a club in Canada, where she performed.
While she’s best known for her recording “My Heart Will Go On” from the Titanic soundtrack, her career spans decades.
She began work on her first album at 12 and participated in many music competitions as a child, teenager, and young adult.
Dion’s Las Vegas residency was the top-earning series in 2011.
Dion worked to help with various charitable organizations. She is also an ambassador to the Canadian Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
Cher is an American singer and actress who has won an Academy Award, a Grammy Award, an Emmy Award, and three Golden Globe Awards.
She began her career in the duo Sonny and Cher before embarking on a solo career in 1965. Her hit song “Believe” won her a Grammy Award in 1999.
Cher has also appeared in films like Moonstruck, for which she won an Academy Award, and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again.
Cher also worked with many charities in her career. Notably, she is a chairperson of the Children’s Craniofacial Association.
9. Christina Aguilera
Christina Aguilera is a singer, songwriter, and actress who has won five Grammy Awards. In addition, she was a child star and a member of the kid’s series The Mickey Mouse Club. Her 1999 self-titled debut album was a hit, which featured the hit single “Genie in a Bottle.”
Aguilera has since released several more albums, including “Stripped,” “Back to Basics,” and “Liberation.” She has also appeared in films and television, featured in Burlesque and The Voice. In addition, her vocal range and powerful voice have earned her widespread acclaim.
10. Diana Ross
Diana Ross is an American singer, songwriter, and actress who has won Grammy, Emmy, and Tony Awards. Her music career began as a member of the Motown girl group The Supremes. She then started a solo career in 1970. Her hit songs include “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “I’m Coming Out,” and “Endless Love.”
11. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston was one of the greatest singers of all time. Her rendition of “I Will Always Love You” stayed at the top spot of the Billboard Hot 100 charts for 14 weeks.
She won six Grammy awards and an Emmy. Also, she was the first artist to have seven number one hits in a row. In addition, Houston was the first woman to enter #1 on the Billboard 200 with the song “I Look to You.”
12. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey is an American singer, songwriter, and actress who has won five Grammy Awards. She became a sensation after releasing her self-titled debut album in 1990, which boasted the hit single “Vision of Love.”
Carey has released several more albums, including “Daydream,” “Butterfly,” and “Charmbracelet.” She has also appeared in films like The Princess Diaries and Precious. In addition, Carey has the highest number of Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles of any female artist.
She won the World Music Award for the Best Female Artist of the Millennium. In addition, Mariah Carey won a Congressional Horizon Award to honor her work in helping disadvantaged children. She also set up Camp Mariah, which brings the arts to inner-city youth.
13. Allison Krauss
Allison Krauss is an American singer and songwriter who has won 27 Grammy Awards, making her the most awarded female in the history of the Grammys. Krauss is known for her clear, pure voice and mastery of traditional and modern bluegrass styles. In addition, she is a talented multi-instrumentalist and plays violin, mandolin, and guitar.
Krauss became a member of the Grand Ole Opry in 1993. Her albums include “I’ve Got That Old Feeling” and “New Favorite.” She collaborated with artists such as Robert Plant and Brad Paisley. Krauss has an Honorary Doctorate of Music from the Berklee College of Music.
14. Stevie Nicks
Stevie Nicks is an American singer and songwriter who rose to fame as a member of Fleetwood Mac before starting a solo career in 1981. Her hit songs include “Edge of Seventeen” and “Stand Back.”
Nicks has also appeared in films like The Wiz and Radio Flyer. In addition, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Nicks as a member of Fleetwood Mac in 1998.
15. Britney Spears
Britney Spears is an American singer and actress who has won multiple Grammy Awards. She rose to fame with her debut album, “Baby One More Time,” in 1999.
Britney Spears has worked with many philanthropic efforts. Many of her efforts focus on helping children. For example, she donated $1 million in 2017 to help support a children’s cancer hospital in Las Vegas.
Spears has released several more albums, including “Oops!… I Did It Again,” “Britney,” and “In the Zone.” She has also appeared in films like Crossroads. She is an international superstar, having embarked on many world tours and winning numerous awards.
Shakira is a Colombian singer, songwriter, and dancer who has won three Grammy Awards. She rose to fame with her fourth studio album, Laundry Service, in 2001.
Shakira has released several more albums, including “Oral Fixation Vol. 1 and Vol. 2,” “She Wolf,” and “El Dorado.” She has also appeared in films like Zootopia.
Shakira started the Pies Descalzos Foundation to assist Colombian children in receiving an education.
The Pies Descalzos Foundation organization partnered with Educate a Child in 2020 to help more than 54,000 Colombian children.
Shakira is also a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She advocates helping navigate political initiatives to give children a better education.
17. Norah Jones
Norah Jones is an American singer, songwriter, composer, and actress who has won multiple Grammy Awards. She rose to fame with her debut album, Come Away with Me, in 2002, which reached triple platinum.
Her smooth, bluesy vocals compare to Etta James and Aretha Franklin.
She is the daughter of the famous musician Ravi Shankar. Her sister, Anoushka Shankar, is also a renowned musician.
She collaborated with Billie Joe Armstrong from Green Day on a joint album in 2013.
Her other albums include Feels Like Home, Not Too Late, and Day Breaks.
18. Carole King
Carole King is an American singer, songwriter, and pianist who has won four Grammy Awards. She rose to fame with her debut album, “Tapestry,” in 1971.
King has released several more albums, including “Music, Rhymes & Reasons” and “Really Rosie.” She was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 1987 and the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990.
19. Dolly Parton
Dolly Parton is an American singer and songwriter who began her career as a child performer on the television show, The Jimmy Dean Show. She rose to prominence in 1967 with her debut album, “Hello, I’m Dolly.” Parton has released more than 52 studio albums and has had 25 number one singles. The Country Music Hall of Fame inducted Dolly Parton in 1999. In 1986, Parton opened Dollywood, a theme park in Tennessee.
Parton has also been active in philanthropy, particularly concerning children’s literacy. She has donated more than 100 million books to schools and libraries through her Imagination Library program. Another one of her projects worked to reduce the high school dropout rate in Sevier County, reducing it to just 6%.
20. Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin is an American singer and songwriter who has won seventeen Grammy Awards. She’s known as the “Queen of Soul” and came to fame with her album “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” in 1967.
Her first top song is the hit “Respect.”
She signed her first record deal at 14 and signed to Columbia Records at 18. For 40 years, Franklin held the record for the most Billboard Hot 100 singles.
Franklin has released several more albums, including “Lady Soul,” “Aretha Now,” and “Amazing Grace.” The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted her in 1987.
Aretha Franklin’s career includes many impressive accomplishments. She has honorary doctorates from Yale and Harvard. Also, she won the Grammy for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for eight years consecutively, between the years 1968-1975.
Franklin was a civil rights activist and worked with Martin Luther King.
21. Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald was an American singer and songwriter who won thirteen Grammy Awards. She’s known as “Lady Ella,” “Queen of Jazz,” and “First Lady of Song.” Fitzgerald came to fame with her album “A Portrait of Ella Fitzgerald” in 1957 and released more than 2000 songs throughout her career. She worked with Louis Armstrong, Count Basie, Duke Ellington, and Joe Pass. She received an honorary doctorate from Dartmouth, Howard, Yale, and Talladega Universities.
22. Dua Lipa
Dua Lipa broke records as the most-streamed British artist on Spotify.
Dua Lipa is an English singer and songwriter who rose to fame with her self-titled debut album in 2017. The album spawned the hit singles “Be the One” and “IDGAF.”
Lipa has released several more singles, including “New Rules,” “One Kiss,” and “Don’t Start Now.” In addition, she won the Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 2019.
23. Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish is a modern music artist who is the first born in the 21st century to top the Billboard 200 charts.
Her song “Ocean Eyes” has been certified platinum. She released her debut album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?,” in 2019, and it debuted at number one on the Billboard 200.
Eilish has won five Grammy Awards, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year.
She was the youngest artist nominated for all four major Billboard Grammy Awards. In addition, her success with digital downloads and streaming platforms prompted Billboard to change how they count their top albums.
Rihanna was born Robin Fenty in Saint Michael, Barbados, and is of Afro-Caribbean descent. She began singing at a young age and rose to fame with her debut album, Music of the Sun, in 2005.
She grew up with modest beginnings and is now one of the most successful women on the planet.
Rihanna was named the Harvard Humanitarian of the Year in 2017.
Rihanna’s career began in 2005 when she released her self-titled debut album, Music of the Sun. She has released several more albums, including Good Girl Gone Bad, Rated R, and Anti. Her hit singles include “Umbrella,” “Diamonds,” and “Work.” The Songwriters Hall of Fame inducted Rihanna in 2020.
Some of her most significant career accomplishments include being the “best selling digital artist of all time.”
She had a child with rapper A$AP Rocky in 2022, and we’re sure this pop queen will continue to make headlines in the near future.
25. Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill is an American singer, songwriter, and rapper whose career began as a member of the Fugees. She released her solo album, “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill,” in 1998.
Lauryn Hill’s most popular songs are “Doo Wop (That Thing),” “Ex-Factor,” and “Everything Is Everything.”
She helped popularize melodic rapping and brought neo-soul and hip-hop elements to pop music.
She also starred in Off-Broadway performances as well as Hollywood Movies. Lauryn Hill starred in the films As the World Turns and Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit (1993).
Her inspirations include Nina Simone, Billie Holiday, and Aretha Franklin.
The album was a critical and commercial success, winning five Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. Hill has released several more albums, including MTV Unplugged No. 2.0 and The Life of Lauryn Hill. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Lauryn Hill as a member of the Fugees in 2005.
She has five children with Bob Marley’s son, Rohan Marley.
26. Billie Holliday
Billie Holiday was an American singer and songwriter who performed in the 1930s.
Holiday’s career began in the 1930s with her debut album, “Lady Sings the Blues.” Some of Billie Holliday’s most well-known songs include “God Bless the Child,” “Strange Fruit,” and “Lady Sings the Blues.” The Grammy Hall of Fame inducted Billie Holliday in 1973.
She released several more albums, including “Strange Fruit” and “All or Nothing at All.” Holiday died in 1959.
Artists inspired by Billie Holliday include Nina Simone, Amy Winehouse, and Adele.
Filmmakers created several films about her life. The most recent one was “The United States vs. Billie Holliday.”
In her childhood, her mother owned a restaurant called “East Side Grill,” where she worked after dropping out of school at 11.
27. Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell’s style of folk music blended elements of jazz and rock.
Joni Mitchell is a Canadian singer and songwriter whose career began in the 1960s. She released her debut album, “Song to a Seagull,” in 1968.
Some of Mitchell’s most famous songs include “Big Yellow Taxi,” “Woodstock,” and “Both Sides, Now.”
“Big Yellow Taxi” was covered by many artists, including Judy Collins, Amy Grant, and the Counting Crows.
Mitchell’s style of folk music blended elements of jazz and rock. She worked with artists like Jaco Pastorius and Miles Davis. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inducted Joni Mitchell in 1997.
28. Nina Simone
Nina Simone was an American singer and songwriter whose first album, “I Put a Spell on You,” in 1965, put her on the map.
Simone’s style ranged from classical to jazz to blues. In addition, she was a civil rights activist.
Other albums Simone released include “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” and “Ain’t Got No/I Got Life.” Simone died in 2003.
She is an inspiration for artists like Alicia Keys, Lauryn Hill, and John Legend.
29. Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple’s first album, “Tidal,” established her as a critical darling.
The album was a critical and commercial success, winning Apple a Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance. The pianist uses her music to explore personal life experiences and emotions.
Apple has released several more albums, including “When the Pawn…”, “Extraordinary Machine, and The Idler Wheel…”
30. Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande is an American singer and actress whose career began on the Nickelodeon television show Victorious and she quickly became one of the most successful female artists. She has released several albums, including “Yours Truly,” “My Everything,” and “Sweetener.” Grande’s hit singles include “Problem,” “Side to Side,” and “No Tears Left to Cry.” She won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Album in 2019.
Grande broke 20 Guinness World Records. These include “most streamed track on Spotify in a single day,” “Most streamed album on Spotify in one week,” and “the most number ones on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart by a female artist”.
31. Sheryl Crow
After being an elementary music teacher and a backup speaker for Michael Jackson, Sheryl Crow started her career. She went on to become one of music’s most successful artists. She has won nine Grammy Awards. Some of her famous songs are “If It Makes You Happy” and “All I Wanna Do.”
These best female vocalists have changed history with their exceptional contributions to the music world. Many have made their dreams come true and helped others with charitable efforts. From record-breaking smash hits to starring in award-winning movies or even opening theme parks, they truly exemplify the phenomenal potential many artists have.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.