Katrina

Written by Katrina

Modified & Updated: 21 May 2024

Sherman Smith

Reviewed by Sherman Smith

female singer

Women have always been an integral part of the music industry. And with so many successful and famous female singers today, it might be hard to believe that most of them do not receive recognition for their works.

In a 2019 study, researchers discovered that only a few women held key roles in the music industry. After collecting data from Billboard charts and the Grammy Awards, they found that only 21.7% of artists were women. Even fewer than that, only 12.3% were female songwriters and only 2.1% were female producers.

Despite how hard it is for women to break through into the industry, many of them persevered. In fact, most of them have now become some of the most famous female singers ever.

Keep on reading to learn more about these amazing women’s success stories!

Table of Contents

Adele

Nationality: English
Years Active: 2006–Present
Famous Songs: “Chasing Pavements”, “Rolling in the Deep”, and “Hello”

Adele
Image from Getty

Adele Laurie Blue Adkins, or simply Adele, is a singer and songwriter from London, England. Born on May 5, 1988, Adele started singing at a young age. In May 2006, she graduated from the BRIT School for Performing Arts and Technology.

After graduation, Adele rose to fame when a song for her class project went viral on Myspace. Shortly after, she signed with the label, XL Recordings.

Aside from being one of the most famous female singers of all time, Adele is also one of the world’s best-selling music artists. Two songs from her debut album, 19, became UK top-five singles. Her second album, 21, is the world’s best-selling album of the 21st century. Adele also has 15 Grammy Awards and 12 Brit Awards.

Amy Winehouse

Nationality: British
Years Active: 2002–2011
Famous Songs: “Rehab”, “Back to Black”, and “Stronger Than Me”

Famous Female Singers: Amy Winehouse
Image from Flickr

Among the most famous female singers, Amy Winehouse is best known for her deep, contralto voice. Amy Jade Winehouse is another female singer from London, England.

She signed with the record label 19 Management, but she began her music career even before that as a member of the National Youth Jazz Orchestra. The singer mixes different genres of music together, such as soul, R&B, and jazz.

Amy Winehouse released her debut album, Frank, in 2003. Aside from critical success, Frank received a Mercury Prize nomination. Her second album, Back to Black, became an international hit. It also won her five Grammy Awards in a single night.

Unfortunately, Winehouse suffered from drug and alcohol addiction. At the young age of 27, she died of alcohol poisoning. Her music, however, lives on. Winehouse ranked 26th on the list of VH1’s 100 Greatest Women in Music.

Aretha Franklin

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1954–2018
Famous Songs: “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman”, and “I Say a Little Prayer”

Aretha Franklin
Image from NBC News

Aretha Franklin isn’t just one of the most famous female singers ever. She’s also the “Queen of Soul”. On March 25, 1942, Aretha Franklin was born in Memphis, Tennessee. Her father is a minister at New Bethel Baptist Church, where she sang the gospel as a child.

She signed with Columbia Records when she was 18 years old, but met little success. When she signed with Atlantic Records in 1966, however, she found international recognition. She released hits after hits.

Throughout her career, Aretha Franklin recorded 122 charted singles. She won ‌18 Grammy Awards, including a Grammy Awards Living Legend honor and Lifetime Achievement Award. On Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”, Aretha Franklin ranked first.

She is also a part of several halls of fame, including the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame, and the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

Ariana Grande

Nationality: American
Years Active: 2008–Present
Famous Songs: “The Way”, “Problem”, and “Break Free”

Ariana Grande
Image from Hello Magazine

Next on this list of famous female singers is Ariana Grande. Ariana Grande-Butera is an American singer from Boca Raton, Florida.

Her musical career began at age 15 when she played the role of Charlotte in the 2008 Broadway musical 13. In 2010, she starred in the Nickelodeon TV series, Victorious. She debuted as a singer with the album Yours Truly in 2013.

Grande’s impressive four-octave vocal range impressed listeners all over the world. People often compare her to other top female singers, such as Mariah Carey. Aside from her voice, fans also love Grande’s open support for gender equality and her other political and social campaigns.

Grande is now considered a pop culture icon. She is one of the world’s best-selling music artists with several accolades. In 2018, Billboard named Grande “Woman of the Year”.

Beyoncé Knowles

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1997–Present
Famous Songs: “Crazy in Love”, “Irreplaceable”, and “Single Ladies”

Beyonce
Image from ELLE

When talking about famous female singers, one can’t forget about Beyoncé. Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a singer from Houston, Texas. Her music career began as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child. During their hiatus, she released her debut album as a solo artist.

She quickly rose to fame upon the release of her next albums, especially Beyoncé (2013) and Lemonade (2016). Aside from being considered one of the best female singers ever, Beyoncé is also an actress. Some examples are Dreamgirls (2006) and The Lion King (2019).

Beyoncé has received 28 Grammy Awards, 26 MTV Video Music Awards, and more. Billboard also named Beyoncé as “Top Female Artist of the Decade” because of her success in the 2000s.

Billie Holiday

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1930–1959
Famous Songs: “Riffin’ the Scotch”, “Embraceable You”, and “What a Little Moonlight Can Do”

Billie Holiday
Image from Lifetime

If you’re a fan of jazz music, then you probably already know who Billie Holiday is. Billie Holiday is a jazz and swing music singer from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Holiday’s unique vocal style inspired jazz musicians, and her improvisational skills opened new doors for interpreting music. With such a refreshing take on music, she often performed in sold-out shows. Unfortunately, Holiday suffered from drug abuse, ending what could’ve been a prosperous career. In 1959, the beloved singer passed away at age 33.

To this day, Holiday’s influence on jazz music is clear. In fact, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame states, “Billie Holiday changed jazz forever”. In 2021, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, a film about Holiday’s life, premiered.

Britney Spears

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1992–Present
Famous Songs: “…Baby One More Time”, “Oops!…I Did It Again”, and “Toxic”

Britney Spears
Image from People

Dubbed the “Princess of Pop”, Britney Jean Spears is a singer from McComb, Mississippi. Spears started her music career at 15 years old. Before that, however, she was already acting in different stage and TV projects.

Spears is a pop icon, who revived the teen pop trend with her debut album …Baby One More Time. . Aside from singing, Spears has also acted in several commercials and TV shows. In 2004, she launched her perfume brand.

Spears is also a fan of other famous female singers. According to her, Madonna, Janet Jackson, and Whitney Houston are the greatest influences on her music.

Unfortunately, Spears faced immense criticism throughout her career. After the release of her 2007 album Blackout, Spears was put under conservatorship. Spears later revealed that her conservatorship under her father was abusive. Enraged, many fans took to Twitter and other platforms to express their support for the “#FreeBritney Movement”. In late 2021, Spears’ conservatorship finally ended, much to the delight of the fans and the popstar herself.

Celine Dion

Nationality: Canadian
Years Active: 1980–Present
Famous Songs: “The Power of Love”, “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now”, and “My Heart Will Go On”

Celine Dion
Image from Hello Magazine

If you’re looking for a powerhouse vocal in this famous female singers list, then Celine Dion is a top contender. Céline Marie Claudette Dion is a singer from Quebec, Canada.

Before becoming an international star, Dion started as a French teen singer in the 1980s. After learning English, Dion signed with a US label and released her first English-language album, Unison.

With five Grammy Awards, Celine Dion is the best-selling Canadian recording artist and French language artist of all time. She is also the best-selling international artist in South Africa. Billboard also dubbed Dion the “Queen of Adult Contemporary”.

Chaka Khan

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1970–Present
Famous Songs: “I Feel for You”, “I’m Every Woman”, and “Disrespectful”

Chaka Khan
Image from Loud and Quiet

As the “Queen of Funk”, Chaka Khan is one of the most famous female singers ever. Khan, whose birth name is Yvette Marie Stevens, is from Chicago, Illinois.

Chaka Khan is a prolific musician whose career has spanned over five decades. In the 1970s, she was the lead vocalist of Rufus. In 1978, she released her solo debut album. It included the disco hit, “I’m Every Woman”. Since then, Khan has achieved four gold and two platinum albums.

Throughout her career, Khan has received many accolades. This includes ten Grammy Awards, two Soul Train Awards, and two UK Music Video Awards. VH1 also ranked Chaka Khan at No.17 in their 100 Greatest Women of Rock & Roll list.

Cher

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1963–Present
Famous Songs: “Bang Bang (My Baby Shot Me Down)”, “Believe”, and “I Found Someone”

Cher
Image from Rolling Stone

Among the famous female singers, Cher is the “Goddess of Pop”. Cherilyn Sarkisian, or simply Cher, is a singer and actress from California.

Cher’s career is running for six decades and counting. She has released several hit singles and albums, and also starred in Broadway shows and films. Some of her most famous films include Burlesque (2010) and Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again (2018).

Cher is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, and she has many awards for her name. This includes awards for music and film. She is also the only artist with a record of holding a Billboard chart number-one single for six consecutive decades.

Christina Aguilera

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1992–Present
Famous Songs: “Genie in a Bottle”, “Beautiful”, and “Fighter”

Christina Aguilera
Image from Biography

Known as the “Voice of a Generation”, Christina Aguilera is a singer from New York City. As a child, her potential was already shining through as she performed in several singing competitions.

In 1983, she joined the cast of Disney’s The Mickey Mouse Club alongside other icons such as Ryan Gosling, Britney Spears, and Justin Timberlake. In 1998, she signed with RCA Records, and her debut album had three songs charting on the Billboard Hot 100.

Since then, Aguilera has had a very successful music career. She has five Grammy Awards, a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and even a Guinness World Record for “Largest TV Audience for a Performance” with 340 million viewers!

Diana Ross

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1956–Present
Famous Songs: “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” and “Come See About Me”

Diana Ross
Image from Getty

Diana Ross is a singer and actress from Michigan. She started out as the lead singer of the Supremes, the best-charting female group in history. They had twelve hit singles on the Billboard Hot 100.

While it certainly started with the Supremes, Ross’ music career didn’t end with them. After she left the group, Ross had a prolific career as a solo artist. She had sold-out tours, and she released hit after hit.

It’s safe to say that Diana Ross is one of the most famous female singers of the ’70s. In 1976, Billboard named Ross “Female Entertainer of the Century”. The Guinness Book of World Records also declared her the “greatest female artist in US and UK chart history”.

Dionne Warwick

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1955–Present
Famous Songs: “Alfie”, “Don’t Make Me Over”, and “Walk On By”

Dionne Warwick
Image from Getty

Marie Dionne Warwick is a singer from Orange, New Jersey. She studied at the Hartt College of Music to pursue a music career in 1959. Her hard work finally paid off in 1962, when she debuted as a solo artist.

Like most famous female singers, Warwick has won many awards. She is also a part of the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Apollo Theater Walk of Fame, and the R&B Music Hall of Fame. The Grammy Hall of Fame also inducted her and some of her songs.

In 2002, Warwick became the Goodwill Ambassador of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization.

Dolly Parton

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1956–Present
Famous Songs: “Jolene”, “I Will Always Love You”, and “9 to 5”

Famous Female Singers: Dolly Parton
Image from NBC News

Dolly Parton is a country singer from Tennessee. Before releasing her own album, Parton had a successful career as a songwriter. To this day, she has over 3,000 song credits.

In 1967, she debuted with her own album, Hello, I’m Dolly. Her success soon followed as she topped sales charts in the 1970s and 1980s. Parton set the record for any artist with 44 career Top 10 country albums.

She has also starred in many films, such as The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas (1982). Aside from being one of the most famous female country singers ever, Parton is also a businesswoman. She co-owns The Dollywood Company, which manages entertainment venues.

Etta James

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1954–2012
Famous Songs: “Something’s Got a Hold on Me”, “The Wallflower”, and “Tell Mama”

Etta James
Image from Showbiz Cheat Sheet

Jamesetta Hawkins, who goes by the stage name Etta James, is a singer from Los Angeles, California. This famous female singer has performed in many genres, especially R&B and rock and roll.

Aside from releasing hit songs, James also has TV appearances, such as guesting on Dancing With the Stars. In 1984, she sang at the opening ceremony of the Summer Olympics.

James has won six Grammy Awards and also ranked 22nd on Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Singers of All Time.

Throughout her career, James suffered from heroin addiction and several illnesses. James was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2008 and leukemia in 2011. Unfortunately, she did not recover from the latter and died on January 20, 2012.

Gwen Stefani

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1986–Present
Famous Songs: “Hollaback Girl”, “Don’t Speak”, and “What You Waiting For?”

Gwen Stefani
Image from Hello Magazine

Gwen Stefani is a singer, songwriter, and fashion designer from California. She started her music career as the lead vocalist of the band No Doubt. During its hiatus, Stefani released a solo album, which became a commercial success.

She has several awards for her name. One example is her 2016 Hero Award from the Radio Disney Music Awards. This award is for those who have done exemplary charity work.

Stefani has also influenced many other famous female singers. Some examples are Paramore’s Hayley Williams, Katy Perry, and Kesha.

Janet Jackson

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1974–Present
Famous Songs: “Nasty”, “That’s The Way Love Goes”, and “All for You”

Famous Female Singers: Janet Jackson
Image from Flickr

Janet Damita Jo Jackson is a singer from Indiana. She is the tenth and youngest child of the Jackson family, and like her siblings, started her career at a young age. She made her screen debut in The Jacksons.

Several other TV appearances followed until she released her debut album, Janet Jackson. The album received little promotion, but it still appeared on Billboard’s Top Black Albums of 1983.

Jackson has had a successful music career, despite criticisms against her provocative image. Her performances were often suggestive, and many see Jackson as one of the world’s most erotic performers.

Like many famous female singers, Jackson has many awards. She has won five Grammy Awards and even has eight entries in the Guinness World Records.

Lady Gaga

Nationality: American
Years Active: 2001–Present
Famous Songs: “Poker Face”, “Bad Romance”, and “Born This Way”

Lady Gaga
Image from Getty

If you ask people to cite an iconic female singer, many of them will surely name Lady Gaga. Known for her flashy appearances and unconventional performances, Lady Gaga is a singer from New York City. Her real name is Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta.

When Gaga debuted with The Fame, she shocked audiences with her eccentric costumes and music videos. One of her most famous outfits was a dress made of meat!

Gaga also starred in the musical film A Star Is Born (2018), for which she helped make the soundtrack. For the film, Gaga became won an Academy Award, a BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Grammy Award, making her the first woman to win all awards in one year.

Throughout her career, Gaga has been vocal about her support for women and the LGBT community. She also advocates for mental health awareness through her Born This Way Foundation.

Madonna

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1979–Present
Famous Songs: “Like a Virgin”, “Vogue”, and “4 Minutes”

Madonna
Image from the Today Show

Madonna Louise Ciccone is a singer, actress, and businesswoman from Michigan. Among the most famous female singers, she is the “Queen of Pop”.

She debuted with the single “Everybody” in 1982. Madonna often explores controversial themes in her songs, including political, sexual, and religious themes. She is the best-selling female music artist of all time.

Unfortunately, Madonna’s film career is not as successful. Most of her films received bad reviews. Evita (1996), however, won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress.

Mariah Carey

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1988–Present
Famous Songs: “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, “Always Be My Baby”, and “Emotions”

Mariah Carey
Image from Stockvault

Yet another famous female singer from New York is Mariah Carey. Carey debuted in 1990 with her album Mariah Carey. Her impressive five-octave vocal range shined through in her songs, and listeners immediately fell in love with her.

Since then, she has continuously released chart-topping albums, such as Music Box and Merry Christmas. Many know her as the “Queen of Christmas” because of her iconic Christmas ballad, “All I Want for Christmas is You”.

Aside from her awards, Carey has received several titles. In VH1’s list of the “100 Greatest Women in Music”, Carey ranked second. She also received the “bestselling female pop artist of the millennium” title from the World Music Awards. Furthermore, Billboard named Carey the “Artist of the 1990s Decade”.

Shania Twain

Nationality: Canadian
Years Active: 1983–Present
Famous Songs: “Any Man of Mine”, “You’re Still the One”, and “Ka-Ching!”

Shania Twain
Image from Rolling Stone

Shania Twain is a country singer from Ontario, Canada. She is the “Queen of Country Pop”. As the best-selling female artist in country music history, she undoubtedly deserves that title.

Her career, however, had a rocky start. Her debut album did not do well commercially. Thankfully, her second album did much better. In 1995, Twain released The Woman in Me, with the song “Any Man of Mine”. This won her a Grammy Award.

After this, Twain’s career only soared. Her third album became the best-selling studio album ever. Unfortunately, she had to go on a hiatus in 2004. She suffered from a medical condition that weakened her voice.

Stevie Nicks

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1966–Present
Famous Songs: “Landslide”, “Edge of Seventeen”, and “Go Your Own Way”

Stevie Nicks
Image from Rolling Stone

You might know her as a solo artist or the lead singer of Fleetwood Mac. Either way, Stevie Nicks is one of the most famous female singers ever. Nicks is a singer and songwriter from Phoenix, Arizona.

Together with Fleetwood Mac, Nicks sold over 120 million records worldwide. She started her solo career in 1981. However, she did not leave the band. Instead, she continued to promote herself as a solo artist while she was a member.

In 2015, Rolling Stone named Nicks as one of the “100 Greatest Singers of All Time”. Rolling Stone also called her album Rumours the seventh-greatest album of all time.

Taylor Swift

Nationality: American
Years Active: 2004–Present
Famous Songs: “Love Story”, “Shake It Off”, and “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together”

Taylor Swift
Image from Rolling Stone

Taylor Swift is one of the top female pop singers of the 21st century. She started off as a country singer, and quickly won fans over for the storytelling in her lyrics.

Since then, she has dabbled in several music genres. Some examples include rock, synth-pop, and pop. Regardless of the genre, however, Swift continued to dominate the charts. She also has many awards. This includes 11 Grammy Awards and 56 Guinness World Records.

Swift also played minor roles in films, such as Valentine’s Day (2010) and The Giver (2014). In 2020, she directed her first musical film, Folklore: The Long Pond Studio Sessions.

Tina Turner

Nationality: American-Swiss
Years Active: 1957–2009; 2020–Present
Famous Songs: “A Fool in Love”, “River Deep – Mountain High”, and “Proud Mary”

Tina Turner
Image from Entertainment Weekly

If you’re looking for the “Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll”, then here she is. It’s Tina Turner, whose real name is Anna Mae Bullock.

Turner began her music career as one-half of the singing duo Ike & Tina Turner. Their electrifying live performances were loved by many, which prompted them to release songs. In 1976, they disbanded after Tina filed for a divorce.

As a solo artist, Turner was highly successful. Her comeback in the 1980s produced her greatest hits, such as “What’s Love Got to Do With It”. This is her only song to peak at No.1 on Billboard’s Hot 100, however.

Whitney Houston

Nationality: American
Years Active: 1977–2012
Famous Songs: “Saving All My Love For You”, “Where Do Broken Hearts Go”, and “I Will Always Love You”

Whitney Houston
Image from Biography

This list of famous female singers wouldn’t be complete without “The Voice”. Whitney Houston is a singer and actress from Newark, New Jersey. With her soulful voice, she is one of the best female vocalists ever.

Upon the release of her debut album, Houston immediately rose to fame, and every album that followed was a success. The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) named Houston the best-selling female R&B artist of the 20th century.

She has also starred in successful films. Her first film, The Bodyguard (1992), was a commercial success. Houston is also a film producer, and she produced films such as Cinderella (1997) and series like The Princess Diaries.

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