The Greatest Female Singers of All Time, Ranked

Music has given us many memorable voices including the number of incredibly talented women who have stepped up to the mic to bring us some remarkable songs. Out of the thousands of female singers who have recorded songs, these are the top talented women…

55. Doris Day

Beginning her career in 1939 as a big band singer, Doris Day found mainstream success in 1945. The blonde-haired beauty then left Les Brown & His Band of Renown to embark on a solo career, recording more than 650 songs from 1947 to 1967.

55. Doris Day

54. Joan Baez

Born in 1941, Joan Chandos Baez grew up to become a singer-songwriter, musician, and activist. She was incredibly popular during the ’60s counterculture era. Although much of her music was associated with folk, it also encompassed rock, pop, country, and gospel. She also recorded the songs of many of the most popular bands of the day, and was even the first to record Bob Dylan. Internationally celebrated, Baez got her introduction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April 2017.

54. Joan Baez

53. Debbie Harry

Born in Miami, Florida, Debbie Harry worked many jobs as a secretary and dancer before finding mainstream success for decades. In 1974, Harry formed the band Blondie and two years later they released their first album. Blondie released many albums throughout the decades. Most recently, the band’s 2017 album, Pollinator, actually topped number four in the United Kingdom, showing just how big of an impact Harry and Blondie have had.

53. Debbie Harry

52. Cyndi Lauper

With a career spanning over 40 years, it’s safe to say that many have loved the music of Cyndi Lauper. Her first album, She’s So Unusual, was released in 1983 and became the first debut album by a female artist to hit the top five most popular songs on the Billboard Hot 100. Two years later, Lauper got a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. Since then, not only has she won many awards but she’s also sold over 50 million records around the world.

52. Cyndi Lauper

51. Sarah Vaughan

Sarah Vaughan has gone by many names throughout her career including “The Divine One” and “Sassy.” She got into music from a young age due to the fact that she was raised by two parents who were both very musically inclined. Her father was a guitar player while her mother preferred singing in the choir. That talent was clearly inherited by their daughter, Sarah, who went on to record over 50 albums and won four Grammy Awards. By the end of her career, she was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award.

51. Sarah Vaughan

50. Sia Furler

Born in Australia, Sia Furler soon became better known as just Sia. While she’s an undoubtedly talented singer, she’s also a very gifted director, actor, and songwriter. After forming a band called Crisp with a few of her friends, Sia moved from Australia to London before heading to New York in order to try and make it on her own. She struggled for years before making it big with two major albums. She has since written many popular songs including “Titanium” for David Guetta, “Diamonds” for Rihanna, and “Wild Ones” for Flo Rida.

50. Sia Furler

49. Norah Jones

Growing up, Norah Jones had been introduced to many different types of music, which no doubt helped to give her the unique sound that she has today. When she was a child, Jones learned to play many different types of instruments including guitar, piano, and saxophone. In 2002, the brown-eyed bombshell released her debut album, Come Away With Me, which sold over 27 million albums and even won five Grammy Awards. Still, we can’t say that we’re surprised considering that we could sit and listen to that album over and over again — it’s just that good.

49. Norah Jones

48. Carole King

Carole King is known for many things including her incredibly powerful voice and her talent for writing songs that captivate audiences. We’re not just saying that either — of the innumerable songs that King has written, 118 of them have made it to the Billboard Hot 100. These songs have arguably become some of the most recognizable for many people across many generations. Her album, Tapestry, held the record for the first place on a U.S. chart, staying there for 20 years.

48. Carole King

47. Sarah McLachlan

Originally from Canada, Sarah McLachlan discovered her love for music as a child and began enrolling in classes for guitar, classical piano, and singing. Her vocal range is undoubtedly one of the most impressive things about her, with an incredible ability to start at mezzo and go all the way up to soprano. She also fights on behalf of other female artists, hosting the Lilith Fair music festival, which earned tens of millions of dollars all donated to women’s charities.

47. Sarah McLachlan

46. Gladys Knight

Even people who haven’t listened to Gladys Knight have no doubt heard of her name. She was, after all, known as the “Empress of Soul” during her time performing on stage. Her band, Gladys Knight & the Pipe, was actually started with a few close friends and family members, but ended up being responsible for many of the hits that went on to earn Grammy Awards. She has also gone into business, opening a chain of restaurants called Gladys Knight & Ron Winans’ Chicken & Waffles.

46. Gladys Knight

45. Cher

It’s tough to say which title is the most impressive when it comes to women in music, but if Cher isn’t the clear winner, then she’s definitely in the running. Her title as the “Goddess of Pop,” is definitely earned after she made a major splash in an industry that is still considered to be very male-dominated. Not only is she a talented singer, but her ability as an entertainer has even won her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

45. Cher

44. Patti Smith

While she might not be the biggest household name on this list, Patti Smith certainly put her stamp on the world of music, especially in the ’70s. It was during this time that she became an important figure in the New York City punk movement with her debut record Horses. Known by many as the “punk poet laureate,” Smith was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007 and is still performing until this very day.

44. Patti Smith

43. Chaka Khan

There is no denying that Chaka Khan is one of the most synonymous figures with disco and funk. With a career spanning five decades, Yvette Marie Stevens burst onto the scene as the lead singer of the successful funk band Rufus. However, her solo career was just as successful, becoming the first R&B singer to have a crossover hit with a rapper, with 1984’s “I Feel for You.” Khan has had a staggering amount of critical and commercial success, selling over 70 million records globally and winning ten Grammy Awards to her name.

43. Chaka Khan

42. Dusty Springfield

One British pop star who made an easy transition to American airwaves was the one and only Dusty Springfield. A prominent figure on the blue-eyed soul scene, Springfield had hits such as “Son of Preacher Man” and “I Just Don’t Know What to Do with Myself.” She was also famous for performing in evening gowns and ushering in the Swinging Sixties. After battling cancer on and off for five years, Springfield passed away in 1999. Her music still lives on and has been used in films such as Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction.

42. Dusty Springfield

41. Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande didn’t actually start out as a pop star. Her early years were spent on Broadway before she landed a role on the Nickelodeon show, Victorious. After six years on Broadway, the young star decided to put out an album in 2014, which mixed the sounds of EDM and R&B. This album made her one of the most recognizable voices with songs like “Problem,” “Love Me Harder,” “Thank U, Next,” and “Bang Bang” hitting the top of the charts.

41. Ariana Grande

40. Diana Ross

Diana Ross isn’t just an amazing voice for audiences to listen to. In fact, some of the biggest names in the industry cite her as their main source of inspiration including Michael Jackson, Beyoncé, and Madonna. Ross’ first songs were released with her vocal group The Supremes and included songs like “Love Child,” “You Keep Me Hangin’ On,” “Where Did Our Love Go.” As a solo artist, many of her songs became major hits such as “Upside Down” and “I’m Coming Out.”

40. Diana Ross

39. Gloria Estefan

Everything could have gone so terribly wrong for Gloria Estefan early on in her career. The Cuban-American singer fractured her spine after a truck collided into her tour bus in 1990. Amazingly though, Estefan returned to her tour 10 months later after a rapid recovery. The woman responsible for hits such as “Conga” and “Anything for You” became the first performer to have an album that was certified as Diamond in Spain with 1993’s Mi Tierra. She is believed to have sold over 120 million records worldwide.

39. Gloria Estefan

38. Stevie Nicks

There is no denying that Stevie Nicks has had a rollercoaster ride of a career. Famous for her work as a vocalist for Fleetwood Mac, Nicks’s role in the band became more prominent as the years progressed and she is front and center of the band’s most successful singles, “Dreams.” Rolling Stone named Nicks as one of the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. She has also had some acting credentials, having featured in shows such as Up All Night and American Horror Story.

27. Stevie Nicks

37. Amy Winehouse

“If you don’t throw yourself into something, you’ll never know what you could have had.” These wise words are from Amy Winehouse, one of the most prolific singers and guitarists who earned praise from figures like Bob Dylan in which he described her as, “the last real individualist around.” Her time on stage and with the guitar resulted in two albums from which she became the first British woman to win five Grammy Awards. Some of her most popular songs are “Stronger Than Me,” “Love is Losing Game,” “Rehab,” and “Back to Black.”

19. Amy Winehouse

36. Janis Joplin

Many consider Janis Joplin to be one of the most famous female rock stars of her era. She got her start on stage in front of live audiences, playing at numerous festivals before releasing two albums and earning her a spot at the historic Woodstock music festival. Many have considered her to be a major inspiration. According to Stevie Nicks, “Janis put herself out there completely, and her voice was not only strong and soulful; it was painfully and beautifully real.”

23. Janis Joplin

35. Freda Payne

It’s amazing to think that Freda Payne was never signed to Motown. The talented singer is most famous for hit singles such as “Band of Gold” and “The Unhooked Generation.” It seems like singing ran in the family as Payne’s younger sister Scherrie was a member of The Supremes, along with Diana Ross. Freda Payne has also had some experience as an actress, appearing in movies such as Nutty Professor II: The Klumps and Ella: First Lady of Song. She still performs until this very day.

35. Freda Payne

34. Sheryl Crow

To say that Sheryl Crow has been a crossover hit over the years would be quite the understatement. Known primarily for her country music, Crow has ventured into a variety of other genres and mediums. Famous for songs such as “All I Wanna Do” and “If it Makes You Happy,” Crow had the honor of singing the theme song for the 1997 James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies. As of 2020, Crow has sold over 50 million albums globally and has a staggering nine Grammy Awards to her name.

34. Sheryl Crow

33. Dionne Warwick

This might come as a surprise, but Dionne Warwick is actually one of the top 40 most successful singers of the latter half of the 20th century. With hit singles such as “Walk On By” and “I Say a Little Pray for You,” it’s not hard to see why. Between 1962 and 1998, 56 of Warwick’s singles made the Billboard Hot 100. Outside of music, Warwick is a successful philanthropist having been a United Nations Global Ambassador for the Food and Agriculture Organization. Warwick’s second son, Damon Elliot, is also a talented record producer.

33. Dionne Warwick

32. Gwen Stefani

Many music fans will know Gwen Stefani for her role as the lead singer of ’90s rock band No Doubt. Over the years though, the talented singer has transitioned into mainstream pop and built a successful solo career. Stefani had a myriad of huge hits such as “Hollaback Girl,” which became the first US download to sell one million copies. Stefani is still as relevant as ever, having been a host on The Voice over the last few years, as well as having a high profile relationship with country star Blake Shelton.

32. Gwen Stefani

31. Lauryn Hill

A truly versatile performer, Lauryn Hill seems to have done it all in the entertainment industry, especially in the ’90s. Having originally made a name for herself alongside Wyclef Jean and Pras in the Hip-Hop group The Fugees, Hill eventually embarked on a successful solo career. She received critical acclaim for her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Over the last two decades though, Hill has been out of the public eye but has been in the headlines after pleading guilty to tax evasion.

31. Lauryn Hill

30. Annie Lennox

One of the quintessential figures of the synthpop scene during the ’80s, Annie Lennox is best known for being one of half of the successful band Eurythmics. She was always known for pushing the envelope, most notably for wearing orange-dyed cropped hair and a suit in the music video for “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This).” Lennox also had success as a solo artist and contributed songs to soundtracks of blockbuster movies such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula and The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

30. Annie Lennox

29. Janet Jackson

There is no denying that Janet Jackson comes from musical royalty. Despite being the younger sister of Michael Jackson and the rest of the Jackson Five, this never stopped Janet from reaching for the stars. She burst onto the scene as both a young actress and as a recording artist, starring in TV shows such as Good Times and Diff’rent Strokes. Jackson has sold over 100 million records worldwide and has numerous hit singles such as “Rhythm Nation” and “All for You.”

29. Janet Jackson

28. Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige is widely regarded as one of the most respected singers of the last 30 years. She has numerous hits such as “Family Affair” and “Without You,” with the latter being named by Billboard as the most successful R&B/Hip-Hop song of all time. Over the years, Blige has also ventured into the world of acting, having prominent roles in films such as Mudbound, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. She also recently starred in the Netflix series The Umbrella Academy.

28. Mary J. Blige

27. Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson is both an incredibly successful singer and the first-ever winner of the reality competitive singing show, American Idol. Being the first winner of the show allowed her the opportunity to record her first album, which became a major success. In fact, a single from that album, “A Moment Like This” even became the best selling single in the U.S. back in 2002. She didn’t stop there, though. Her two songs, “Because of You” and “Since You’ve Been Gone” have each earned her a Grammy.

38. Kelly Clarkson

26. Dolly Parton

Dolly Parton actually got her start, not as a singer, but as a songwriter for other artists. That time spent helping other artists reach success worked out for her, as she saved some of her favorite lyrics for herself and became the worldwide sensation that she is today. Her career reached its apex during the 1970s and ’80s, and even though it reached a bit of a low point in the ’90s, it seems as though Parton is making a comeback.

26. Dolly Parton

25. Judy Garland

Even though Judy Garland was a talented singer, most people don’t remember her as such. When asked, many people would likely respond that they recognize the name from one of the biggest films in history, The Wizard of Oz. That being said, Garland was actually a very gifted singer with an incredible range. She had a very versatile approach to music, being able to easily pull off singing and performing jazz, soul, and blues. All this, we might add, she learned entirely on her own.

25. Judy Garland

24. Shania Twain

Shania Twain isn’t just a singer — she’s also a Queen, although not the queen of any country or kingdom. According to her fans, Twain is the undisputed “Queen of Country Pop.” Her love for country runs deep, and in her own words, “Country music is still your grandpa’s music, but it’s also your daughter’s music. It’s getting bigger and better all the time, and I’m glad to be a part of it.” Since her new 2017 album, Twain has been busy touring the world.

24. Shania Twain

23. Ann Wilson

Ann Wilson — founder and lead singer of Heart — and her younger sister, Nancy, have worked together to produce 16 different albums and sell more than 35 million copies of those incredible albums. These albums have established Wilson as an incredible rock and metal singer so much so that she was even inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. In her own words, “Artists make art. Singers sing. Players play. Gypsies travel. Music lights fires everywhere. It’s like oxygen!”

36. Ann Wilson

22. Nina Simone

Nina Simone didn’t get into the music industry because she dreamed of being in the spotlight and making millions. For her, it was a necessity since her family needed the money. She began by playing piano in nightclubs before eventually getting spotted and offered a contract deal, which helped her to become a household name. During her career, she recorded over 30 studio and live albums. She had a talent for being able to “belt barroom blues, croon cabaret, and explore jazz.”

22. Nina Simone

21. Lady Gaga

Ever wondered what Lady Gaga’s real name is? It’s Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta so, we can understand why she might have shortened it to a much more pronounceable stage name. She has certainly made a name for herself as an incredible singer. Beyond that, though, her choice of costumes and wardrobe — as well as her alluring performances on stage — have made her a topic of many conversations. She got her start working at clubs throughout New York before taking to the world stage and becoming the icon that she is today.

21. Lady Gaga

20. Etta James

Etta James is more than just a talented musician and singer — for many, she is what incredible soul, jazz, and blues music is supposed to sound like. Her songs, “The Wallflower,” “Tell Mama,” “Something’s Got a Hold on Me,” “I’d Rather Go Blind,” and “At Last,” have become unforgettable hits. James is also credited for bridging the gap between R&B and rock and roll. By 1993, Etta James got her well-deserved spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

20. Etta James

19. Toni Braxton

While she may have been overshadowed slightly by contemporaries such as Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey, there is no denying Toni Braxton’s influence on R&B music. Famous for hits such as “Un-Break My Heart” and “You’re Makin’ Me High/Let it Flow,” Braxton has sold over 67 million records worldwide and has seven Grammy Awards to her name. Braxton also has success on TV, having starred in reality series Braxton Family Values and also competing in the seventh season of Dancing With the Stars.

37. Toni Braxton

18. Patsy Cline

One of the biggest artists to make a very successful genre cross, Patsy Cline began as a country music star before moving on to pop where she continued to entertain millions. Cline is still considered to be one of the most influential artists of the 20th century as many fans point to her diverse music styles and her “emotional expression and delivery of lyrics.” To this day, she has continued to be an inspiration for many artists.

18. Patsy Cline

17. Alicia Keys

Alicia Keys is considered to be the “Queen of R&B” although she didn’t begin as a pop or R&B star. In fact, Keys started out as a classically trained pianist who actually started writing her own music when she was just 12 years old. By age 15, she’d already been signed with a major record label and produced a debut album, Songs in A Minor, which earned her 16 million copies and a Grammy Award. Can you imagine being that young and successful?

17. Alicia Keys

16. Donna Summer

Born as LaDonna Adrian Gains, Donna Summer earned major fame and recognition during the disco music era. Not one to sit back and let others outshine her, Summer was the first artist in history to have back-to-back albums reach number one on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. Some of her biggest hits are still played at disco parties and include “Love to Love You Baby,” “I Feel Love,” and “Hot Stuff.”

16. Donna Summer

15. Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell isn’t afraid of blending together different sounds, and has experimented in a range of genres including folk, jazz, pop, and rock. Her music is often described as poetic, with particular attention being paid to her ability as both a singer and a songwriter. Her songs reflect deep and profound emotions including love, social, and personal critiques of society. Madonna once said of her, “I would have to say of all the women I’ve heard, she had the most profound effect on me from a lyrical point of view.”

15. Joni Mitchell

14. Billie Holiday

Billie Holiday got her start in music by singing in music clubs in Harlem. It was there that she was discovered by John Hammond, a record producer who helped her record her first songs. She found immense success during the 1930s and 1940s with her song, “What a Little Moonlight Can Do,” becoming a standard in the world of jazz. She never did have any formal musical education, but more than made up for it with improvisational skill and an incredible voice.

14. Billie Holiday

13. Madonna

What else can be said about Madonna? Having been the quintessential pop star of the ’80s, the singer of hits such as “Material Girl” and “Like a Virgin” has constantly reinvented herself over the years. She has incorporated a variety of sounds into her music and is just as recognized for her image as she has been for her voice. Madonna has also had a fairly successful career in Hollywood, having starred in movies such as A League of Their Own and Evita.

13. Madonna

12. Julie Andrews

Julie Andrews isn’t just a talented singer. In fact, she might be one of the most talented women in the entertainment industry. She is both a successful singer, starring on Broadway in shows like My Fair Lady and Camelot — earning the title of “Britain’s Youngest Prima Donna.” Besides that, The Sound of Music star is an Academy Award-winning actress and a successful novelist as well. Andrews is considered to have a voice for opera, but she prefers to sing music that she describes as being more “bright and sunny.”

12. Julie Andrews

11. Tina Turner

Rising to fame as part of the band, Ike & Tina Turner Revue, Tina Turner became known by both her fans and her critics as the “Queen of Rock and Roll.” Over the course of her career, Turner won an astounding 12 Grammy Awards and a Life Achievement Award. She is known for many things such as her incredibly energetic style and powerful voice. Some of her biggest hits include “Nutbush City Limits,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” and “Private Dancer.”

11. Tina Turner

10. Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter grew up in New Haven, Connecticut where she ended up forming the band, The Carpenters, with her brother. She has received mountains of praise for her three-octave contralto vocal range and her drumming skills, which are remembered to this day. Although most of her music was released as a member of the band, she did produce many solo works as well although they didn’t end up getting released until 1996. Legendary Paul McCartney even admitted that Karen had “the best female voice in the world: melodic, tuneful and distinctive.”

10. Karen Carpenter

9. Christina Aguilera

Born and raised in New York, Christina Aguilera became a musical sensation during her teenage years when she released her single “Genie in a Bottle,” an international hit. Although she has made many pop albums throughout her career, she also experimented with other genres including jazz and blues. Aguilera has been compared to Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston but finds Etta James to be her biggest influence with Aguilera even saying that she’s her “all-time favorite singer.”

9. Christina Aguilera

8. Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand was raised by her mother in New York who had also been a soprano singer when she was growing up. With her help, Streisand’s interest in music grew and she took the first steps into her career. Over the course of that career, the Funny Girl star has released 36 studio albums and has won numerous awards including 10 Grammy Awards, as well as a Lifetime Achievement Award. Even though Streisand primarily sings pop music, her powerful voice has led her to be labeled as semi-operatic.

8. Barbra Streisand

7. Ella Fitzgerald

Although she doesn’t have the official or unofficial title, it’s safe to say that Ella Fitzgerald could be referred to as the “Queen of Jazz Performance.” Often collaborating with musicians like Duke Ellington and Louis Armstrong, Fitzgerald managed to stand out and earn 14 Grammy Awards for songs like “Cheek to Cheek,” “Dream a Little Dream of Me,” and “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing).” By the end of her career, Fitzgerald earned the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

7. Ella Fitzgerald

6. Adele

Adele didn’t begin her career in any professional capacity. In fact, she actually got her start playing in parks throughout the city of London. Imagine looking back now and being the club owner who turned Adele away. In 2008, she released her first studio album, 19. Three years later, her second album — 21 — was released. That album made her one of the biggest stars in music earning her incredible amounts of praise, not to mention the six Grammy Awards that came her way as well.

6. Adele

5. Beyoncé

Also known as “Queen B,” Beyoncé has become one of the most beloved and popular R&B artists of all time. She’s so good that for years, fans would put out videos of them reacting in disbelief to friends who said that she wasn’t the best ever. After a successful career start with Destiny’s Child, Beyonce went on to start a solo career in 2006 where she earned the most Grammy Awards in history — a remarkable 26 times.

5. Beyoncé

4. Celine Dion

Originally from Quebec, Canada, Celine Dion went on to find worldwide success. Her start in Canada helped her immensely, with many of her albums being sung in both French and English. In 1988, Dion got her biggest boost to fame when she won the Eurovision song contest in which she represented Switzerland. Although her albums got their start in only French and English, Dion has also recorded songs in Italian, Spanish, German, Chinese, Latin, and Japanese and has been bestowed with the title, “Queen of Adult Contemporary.”

4. Celine Dion

3. Aretha Franklin

No list of impressive female singers could ever be complete without the incomparable Aretha Franklin. Known as the “Queen of Soul,” Franklin actually got her career as a gospel singer in her church choir. Even though she probably never imagined becoming the musical sensation that she is today, she signed a deal with Columbia Records at age 18 and — throughout her life — has released 38 studio albums, as well as 131 singles. She became the first woman ever to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1987.

3. Aretha Franklin

2. Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is known for many things including her five Grammy Awards and over 200 million records sold. But, out of all those things, one of the most renowned aspects of her career is her incredible voice — which is able to hit an incredible range of five octaves. That unique ability has helped to propel her to incredible heights, with many considering her to be one of the original pioneers of contemporary pop and an inspiration to generations of singers.

2. Mariah Carey

1. Whitney Houston

Not only does Whitney Houston have an incredible voice but she also has the nickname of “The Voice.” Is there really much more we can add to that? To say that Whitney Houston is an award-winning artist is like saying the ocean is vast — both are true but neither capture the true scale of either thing. Whitney Houston is actually in the Guinness World Record as the most awarded female artists of all time, with a total of 415 throughout her career.

1. Whitney Houston