20 of the Most Popular Female Singers of All Time
Where do you start when it comes to the most popular female singers of all time? Ever since Billboard magazine posted its first list of the most popular songs in 1936, female singers have been a driving force in the music industry.
Over the years women vocalists have been a massive part of the music business and helped shape what we listen to today. Spanning multiple genres and countries from around the world, the most popular female singers have topped the charts and sold millions of albums and singles worldwide.
Women such as Mariah Carey, Ariana Grande, Whitney Houston, Katy Perry, Billie Holiday, Selena Gomez, and Billie Eilish have all made their mark on the music industry.
To celebrate these incredible women and their popularity amongst the general public, here are 20 of the most popular female singers of all time.
Starting her career as a country singer, it didn’t take long for Taylor Swift to cross over into the mainstream. She quickly established herself as one of the most popular musicians in the world. Still only in her early 30s, Swift has released nine albums, selling over 200 million copies worldwide. She is a bonafide pop star in every sense of the word and every release she puts out is greeted as an event. She has won almost every award conceivable, including a Grammy Award, Brit Award, Country Music Award, and even an Emmy Award.
While Taylor Swift likes to keep her private life just that, private, many of her songs detail her high-profile relationships with different celebrities, including John Mayer, Joe Jonas, and Jake Gyllenhaal. Pubic battles with Kanye West and Justin Bieber’s manager Scooter Braun have only helped raise her profile and showed a more human side to Swift.
Lady Gaga changed pop music with her debut album The Fame. Released in 2008, the album is influenced by 80s pop and modern electronica and features hits Just Dance, Poker Face, and Paparazzi. The record was a monster success and turned Gaga into an overnight star, although she had spent many years as a struggling artist and songwriter for others before getting her big break.
Unlike many of her peers, Gaga is always willing to try something new and continually reinvents herself as an artist. While her first album is pop, she has dabbled in many other genres and even released a jazz album with Tony Bennett.
While she continues to make music, Lady Gaga is also forging a successful film career, having received rave reviews for her lead performances in A Star is Born and House of Gucci.
It’s hard to define Californian-born Doja Cat. She’s both a rapper and a singer with a kooky personality who has quickly become one of the most popular singers in the world. Signed after being discovered on Soundcloud, her first big hit was in 2018 the viral sensation Mooo!, a ridiculous song featuring Dojo Cat rapping about being a cow. She also moos a lot during the song.
It’s incredible to see how far she has come since then, with Dojo Cat having won a Grammy Award and an American Music Award, had a number one single with the Nicki Minaj collaboration Say So, and become a social media star thanks to her crazy TikTok videos and Instagram Live sessions. With her next album set to be a double with one record of singing and one record of rapping, Dojo Cat’s grasp on the pop and hip-hop charts doesn’t look like stopping anytime soon.
Part of the new breed of young, popular female artists, Ariana Grande got her start at the age of 15 in the 2008 Broadway musical 13. She then transitioned to television, starring in Nickelodeon shows Victorious and Sam & Cat, before signing a record deal with Republic Records and releasing her R&B flavored debut Yours Truly in 2015.
A mild success, it’s follow-up albums My Everything and Dangerous Woman that propelled her to superstardom. She is the first artist and only woman to have all five of her albums debut at number one on the Billboard charts and is one of the most streamed artists in history. She’s also one of the top ten most-followed people on Instagram, further proof of how popular she is with fans.
Popular female singers don’t get any bigger than the great Mariah Carey. While her Christmas album has kept her in the end-of-year charts since its release in 1994, Carey has had plenty of other big releases. Early 90s albums Music Box and Daydream contain hits Hero, Without You, Fantasy, Always Be My Baby, and One Sweet Day.
While her career faltered in the early 00s with the release of the movie Glitter and several personal problems, Carey never lost the support of her fans. Comeback album The Emancipation of Mimi was one of 2005s biggest releases and cemented Carey’s pop star status.
Although it’s been four years since Carey has dropped a record, she continues to be a much-loved vocalist who pops up on other artists here and there while concentrating on her other business ventures. A true diva.
She might not be familiar to younger generations, but Rosemary Clooney was a huge star during her day. The aunty of actor George Clooney rose to prominence in the 50s as both an actress and a singer. She had a huge hit with Come On-a My House and followed this with chart-toppers such as Mambo Italiano, Tenderly, Hey There, and This Ole House.
Although she went through a bit of a slump in the 60s caused by addiction and depression, Clooney made a comeback in the 70s as a jazz singer and released an album every year up until her death in 2002. Despite her passing 20 years ago, Clooney is still popular and selling records.
Known as “the Voice,” Whitney Houston is one of the greatest singers in music history. The gospel singer turned pop star was a dominant force throughout the 80s and early 90s and is the only artist to have had seven consecutive number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100.
Listing her achievements could take up an entire article, with Houston having won many major music and movie awards. She has been the inspiration for many modern pop stars and has a discography most are jealous of. Going through her discography, it’s plain to see why she was such a star. I Will Always Love You, How Will I Know, Greatest Love of All, I Wanna Dance with Somebody (Who Loves Me), Didn’t We Almost Have It All, and Where Do Broken Hearts Go are all massive hits that showcase Houston’s incredible vocal range.
Sadly, like many famous artists, Houston had a troubled personal life. Drug addiction and a tempestuous marriage to bad boy singer Bobby Brown impacted her career in the early 00s, resulting in a six-year hiatus. When she returned in 2009 with the album I Look to You, Houston topped the charts once again, but the good times wouldn’t last. Just three years later Houston accidentally drowned in a bathtub, bringing her troubled life to an unfortunate end.
Billie Eilish seemingly came out of nowhere in 2016 when her first single, Ocean Eyes, started to make waves. It took a further three years before she released her full-length album, When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?, but by then Eilish had become one of the biggest stars in the world.
Writing and recording with her brother Finneas O’Connell, Eilish creates dark pop music that resonates with today’s kids. Despite only having just hit her 20s, Eilish has established herself as a popular artist, having written and performed the James Bond theme No Time To Die, won seven Grammy Awards, and featured in Time magazine’s “Top 100” list of 2021.
Another popular female singer taken too soon, Amy Winehouse exploded onto the scene in 2006 with the single Rehab. Taken from her Grammy Award-winning sophomore album Back in Black, the song is a reflection of Winehouse’s real life, with the star plagued by substance abuse issues until her death at just 27 from alcohol poisoning.
While her career was short-lived, Winehouse’s popularity never wavered. The professional jazz singer had several big singles and won numerous awards for her work, with thousands of fans turning out for her live performances.
Disco is back! English songstress Dua Lipa has managed to merge her love of disco and 80s pop with the contemporary pop sound to become one of the breakout stars of the past decade. Her most recent album, Future Nostalgia, has been a massive success, spawning hit singles Don’t Start Now, Physical, and Levitating.
She holds two Guinness World Records for most tickets sold for a live-streamed concert by a solo female artist in 2020 and for most monthly listeners on Spotify for a female artist in 2021. This year Lipa has released her own podcast series, collaborated with the likes of Calvin Harris and Megan Thee Stallion, and is said to be working on her next album, making sure she continues to stay popular with fans.
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No list of famous female singers is complete without including Katy Perry. The Teenage Dream and Fireworks singer has consistently dropped chart-topping albums and singles throughout her 20-year career.
After failing as a gospel singer and having her debut album shelved, Perry finally hit pay dirt in 2008 with sophomore album One of the Boys. Lead single I Kissed a Girl hit number one on the Billboard charts and turned Perry into a star.
Since then she has released several more huge albums and singles and sold-out tours around the world. She is also the third most followed person on Twitter and the most followed woman, cementing her popular status.
Judy Garland might have passed away over 50 years ago, but she remains one of the world’s most popular singers. An actress, singer, and dancer, Garland kicked off her career as a child actor before becoming a star in films such as TheWizard of Oz and A Star is Born. She released seven studio albums and countless singles, with arguably her biggest being Over the Rainbow from The Wizard of Oz.
Despite her success, Garland was another artist who suffered from personal demons. Her success impacted her mentally and physically and she turned to alcohol and drugs to cope, dying of an accidental overdose at the age of 47.
American singer Selena Gomez’s popularity comes from both her singing and acting. She got her start on the children’s show Barney and Freinds and teen sitcom Wizards of Waverly Place before her music career took her to another level. Gomez has released six albums – three with the band the Scene and three solo – has over five billion song streams, and has released 37 songs that have entered the Billboard Top 100.
All three of her solo albums have gone number one, with Gomez recently spending more time on her acting, appearing in the Hulu comedy series Only Murders in the Building alongside Steve Martin and Martin Short.
You can’t think of the movie Titanic without Celine Dion’s My Heart Will Go On playing in your head. The Canadian singer’s biggest hit is a mammoth ballad that won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, a Billboard Music Award, and four Grammy Awards. But there is more to Dion than just that song.
The talented artist’s career spans over four decades and includes 27 albums (in north French and English), over 52 million album sales, and hundreds of millions of dollars in revenue, making her the third richest woman in the entertainment business. She currently has a residency at Resorts World Theatre in Las Vegas where she continues to draw sell-out crowds.
Olivia Rodrigo seemingly came out of nowhere. The Californian native hit the big time with singles Drivers License, Deja Vu, and Good 4 U. Her 2021 debut solo album, Sour, became a critical and commercial smash, winning three Grammy Awards and selling millions of copies.
Learning to sing and dance at the age of six, Rodrigo was playing guitar at age 12 and soon found herself starring in the Disney Channel comedy Bizaardvark. She then scored a lead role in High School Musical: The Musical: The Series. This exposure led to Rodrigo starting her singing career which has gone from strength to strength.
It’s easy to forget just how popular Jennifer Lopez’s music career really is. The New Yorker hasn’t put out an album in eight years and is more known for her performances on the big screen, but that shouldn’t stop you from appreciating what she has done in the world of music.
One of the driving forces behind Latin music going mainstream in the 90s, Lopez has released eight albums, with 2001s J.Lo reaching the top spot on the Billboard charts. Some of her biggest hits include If You Had My Love, Waiting for Tonight, Let’s Get Loud, I’m Real, Ain’t It Funny, Play, and Jenny From the Block.
J Lo is one of the few artists to conquer both the movie and music worlds, which is one of the reasons why she is such a popular performer.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame called Etta James “one of the greatest voices of her century,” and it’s hard to dispute this fact. The blues singer has a voice like no other and performed in a multitude of different genres. Rising to fame in the 50s, James became a heroin addict and had many legal issues throughout the 60s and 70s, but this didn’t stop her from releasing music and becoming an in-demand performer.
While she didn’t perform as often during the last 30 years of her life, James continued to release music and found new fans thanks to many of her classic songs being used in advertising campaigns.
Front woman of early 00s rock act Evanescence, Amy Lee’s popularity has only increased over the past couple of years with the resurgence of her band. Originally formed by Lee and guitarist Ben Moody, Evanescence found fame with young teens thanks to hit singles Bring Me To Life, Going Under, and My Immortal.
The band has gone through numerous line-up changes over the years, with the one constant being Lee, whose powerful vocals hold the band together. As well as performing with Evanescence, Lee has released her own solo album and contributed to several other musical projects.
The most popular singer to come out of Spain since Enrique Iglaisis, Rosalia has taken the world by storm these past few years. Her third long-player, Motomami, has been touted by many as one of the best albums of 2022. Infusing traditional Spanish music with Afropop and reggaeton, Rosalia is creating exciting music that connects with fans.
Not only does her music make you want to dance, but Rosalia’s lyrics are forthright and topical, with the singer often talking about sexuality and feminism. Rosalia has won a Grammy Award along with eight Latin Grammy Awards and an MTV Video Music Award.
Few female artists suffered as much during their early career as the great Tina Turner. While she found fame in the 60s and 70s with her husband Ike Turner in the duo Ike & Tina Turner, Ike’s controlling behavior and physical and emotional abuse culminated in Tina suddenly leaving Ike before a show in Dallas in 1976.
Turner found herself in the musical wilderness for many years as she tried unsuccessfully to kickstart her solo career. Capitol Records took a chance on her and Turner recorded her debut album, Private Dancer, over two weeks in 1983. Released a year later, the album reached #3 on the Billboard charts and went on to sell 10 million copies worldwide. Single What’s Love Got to Do With It became a monster hit, with Turner finally achieving her goal of being a famous solo singer. She released four more albums over the next 15 years and sold out many world tours before retiring in 2000.
While she has performed sporadically since then, Turner has kept to herself, happy to live out her twilight years with husband Erwin Bach in Switzerland.
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