Females often do not get the credit or attention that they deserve, especially in the music industry. The sad reality is that the industry is primarily dominated by men, and it has been that way for decades.
In this article, we are going to shine the spotlight on some of the best outfits fronted by a female. This is by no means a comprehensive list. However, it is a great starting point to showing appreciation for the females that have successfully blazed their own trail.
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Alabama Shakes is a band that is fronted by guitarist and singer, Brittany Howard. This group was initially founded in 2009 and has received many accolades since.
For instance, Alabama Shakes had multiple nominations for a Grammy with their release, Sound and Color. This album, in particular, helped to propel the group into the spotlight, becoming a certified gold record.
You’ll find a nice mix of different styles in their musical catalog. There are plenty of expressive guitar parts and very haunting lyrical deliveries that are sure to induce goosebumps.
The group is on indefinite hiatus at the moment, but Brittany Howard is still active. She’s even performed at the White House during Obama’s administration years.
Yeah Yeah Yeahs
The band Yeah Yeah Yeahs has enjoyed a career of over 20 years of popularity and success. In fact, even if you aren’t familiar with the music, you’ve likely heard the name Karen O.
Karen O fronts the band with her iconic voice, and at times, plays the piano. Her voice is a great fit for the band’s mix of different sounds.
The band’s sound is primarily at home in the pop-rock sound. This isn’t just standard pop-rock though, as it’s saturated in an indie-rock aesthetic not found in the mainstream.
It’s rare to see a group be founded in 2000 and still actively playing shows over 20 years later. This is just a testament to the fact that Karen O will always be relevant, no matter the time period.
Any list covering female musicians would be incomplete without mentioning Sonic Youth. This band shares the spotlight with different people fronting the band depending on the song.
Sonic Youth played a very influential role in creating sounds that were the epitome of cool but never being mainstream. Bassist Kim Gordon had a very important part in the band’s sound, particularly with her lyrical delivery.
In fact, Kim Gordon could be named one of the most influential female musicians of all time. She has inspired millions of other females to pick up an instrument and create their own music. You’ll see her influence in others mentioned on this list.
Kim is an interesting individual, as she really got her start in the art world. She approaches music much in the same way that an artist would. Music is just another medium, like a canvas to a painter.
Unfortunately, Sonic Youth is not currently making any new music, and it remains to be seen if they ever will. Kim Gordon is still active and does perform on her own quite frequently.
You’ve likely heard of Fleetwood Mac before, as it would be hard to not have heard one of their songs. This band has seen many iterations, from an all-out blues band to an arena-rock tour de force.
It is the latter of these iterations that has been the most successful. This particular lineup features two females, Christine McVie and Stevie Nicks.
Stevie Nicks really made her mark on the music world with her role in Fleetwood Mac. She sings on many of their most famous songs, including Dreams, and Landslide.
However, you really should not overlook Christine McVie. She is a great pianist, singer, and songwriter in her own right. Some of her works with the band include You Make Loving Fun and Songbird.
Each of these two females has gone on to have their own solo careers. Stevie Nicks remains a cultural icon amongst audiences of all ages.
I know what you’re thinking…What is ABBA doing on a list of rock bands with female singers? Aren’t they more of a disco-pop group?
Sure, that point could be argued, and you wouldn’t be wrong. But, at its core, ABBA utilizes instruments found within a typical rock band of its era.
It could also be argued that ABBA would not have been quite as well-known if not for 2 females. Agnetha Fältskog and Anni-Frid Lyngstad were absolutely pivotal in propelling this Swedish group into international fame.
Not sure if you know ABBA? Maybe you’re familiar with songs like Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen, or Take A Chance On Me. All of these songs have been chart-toppers, and continue to be very popular today.
In the late 1960s, a new sound began to emerge from the San Francisco Bay area. This sound would be soaked in psychedelia and would come to revolutionize music, and the world, as we knew it.
Jefferson Airplane was one of the most famous groups at the forefront of this musical movement. This group was responsible for waving the large banner of this new sound that would become synonymous with the era.
At the center of it all was a voice with extreme power, belonging to the psychedelic queen herself, Grace Slick. This is a voice that was highly attractive and it helped launch the group into iconic status.
Eventually, Jefferson Airplane changed its sound (and its name). But, it could be argued that their earlier releases are some of the best of all time.
Many of the groups on this list feature male band members. You won’t find that with this group.
The Runaways is actually comprised of an all-female lineup and was the first successful band to do so. Their legacy may not be very well-known today, but it did consist of members you likely know of.
This lineup featured members such as Joan Jett, Cherie Currie, and Lita Ford. These three women have all gone on to have smashing success in their own right.
If you haven’t, be sure to check out some of their catalog. You’ll find that much of it has a raw sound. What’s interesting is that many were still learning how to play their instruments when they tried out for the band.
If you think of rock music in the 1990s, you’ll probably think of a few certain bands. The overall sound tends to be soaked in the grunge sound that was so popular at the time.
One band that tends to be overlooked is the band Garbage. This might not be a household name today, but in the 1990s, Garbage was extremely successful.
An important aspect of Garbage’s sound is no doubt the contributions of Shirley Manson’s vocals. This group even had Butch Vig as a member, who is famous for producing Nirvana’s Nevermind album.
Garbage has been fairly active as a group over the years. They are still releasing albums and touring at the time of this writing.
When it comes to female artists, there are few that have had the outright success that Blondie has achieved. Blondie is effectively a band fronted by Debbie Harris, who got their start in 1974 in New York City.
In fact, the iconic music venue CBGB’s hosted Blondie in the early days of the band’s career. It is no doubt that the group’s performances here helped Blondie to land a record deal to become cultural icons.
Blondie was certainly no one-hit-wonder by any means. This group has had many smash hits, including Heart Of Glass, Rapture, and Call Me.
Siouxsie And The Banshees
The 1970s was a fertile time for music of all genres. When you look at the hits of the era, the spotlight features many different influences, which is not common today.
One such band that had emerged from the 1970s is Siouxsie And The Banshees. Siouxsie Sioux fronted this group, drawing on many influences ranging from punk to goth, and everything in between.
You might even say that Siouxsie Sioux played a pivotal role in how fashion can play a role in music. She certainly has donned many different styles over her career.
Formed in the late 1980s, No Doubt exploded into mainstream music waves in the 1990s. This ska-influenced band was ultimately propelled by singer and frontwoman, Gwen Stefani.
Gwen had a very unique vocal delivery, which seemed to perfectly accentuate the music underneath. As such, the band’s music became infectious, with many of their albums being certified platinum.
Those who are younger might be more familiar with Gwen Stefani as a solo artist. While she has been successful in her own career, give a listen to No Doubt’s catalog. There was a time when you couldn’t turn on a radio without hearing one of the band’s songs.
Big Brother And The Holding Company
When it comes to female vocalists of the late 1960s, Janis Joplin is by far one of the most famous. Her performances were very raw and heartfelt, accentuated by her gravelly voice.
You might not have known that Janis was in Big Brother And The Holding Company. The reason is that she is often referred to simply as Janis Joplin. Her individual fame, alone, warrants the mention of her specifically.
Janis will likely continue to be a cultural icon, as she continues to inspire new generations of female singers. While she is a part of the 27 Club, her legacy lives on with unwavering strength.
When it comes to the 21st century, there have been a few female-led groups that have risen to prominence. One of these bands is the group Halestorm.
Halestorm is a sort of family band, fronted by Elizabeth “Lzzy” Hale, along with her brother on drums. The siblings actually founded the band in the mid-1990s but didn't release an album until 2009.
However, despite this gap, the group’s debut album was a smash hit. Halestorm was a force to be reckoned with, enjoying extreme mainstream success. The group is still active today and continues to tour and release new music.
The 1990s saw many female-fronted groups enjoying success. One Irish band, in particular, The Cranberries, rose to extreme prominence with their song Zombie.
The Cranberries features the vocal stylings of Niall Quinn. She really has a unique voice, utilizing certain inflections that are characteristic of her own performances. If you listen to some of the band’s catalog, you’ll find that her vocal style is often emulated by others.
Aside from Zombie, The Cranberries have had a handful of smash hits you might be familiar with. Some of these include the songs, Salvation, Linger, and Dreams.
In the early 2000s, you simply could not turn on the radio without hearing a song by Evanescence. This band had a very unique style, incorporating different styles of music into something of a breath of fresh air.
Evanescence was fronted by Amy Lee, who also held down piano/keyboard roles within the group. Her singing, however, is perhaps the most iconic aspect of this group’s sound.
Once Evanescence became the phenomenon they would be, many others started to emulate their sound. This would be proof that Evanescence was more than a mainstream band, but an influential role in generations to come.
Another band emerging from the late 1970s to prominently feature a female front person was The Pretenders. This group would help to play a pivotal role for females on the international music stage.
In fact, as the band would progress, The Pretenders essentially became a backing band for the group’s frontwoman. This would help to cement Chrissie Hynde as a cultural music icon, especially in the 1980s.
Some of the group’s biggest hits include Brass In Pocket, Back On The Chain Gang, and Message Of Love. Many of their songs still enjoy quite a bit of radio play on classic hits stations.
Florence + The Machine
The indie-rock genre has been a very fertile landscape for emerging groups fronted by females. Need proof? Take a look at Florence + The Machine.
This band exploded onto the scene around 2010, no doubt propelled by frontwoman Florence Welch. However, she’s not the only female in the band, as Isabella Summers is the group’s keyboardist.
Florence + The Machine are still extremely active in the music industry. The group continually releases new albums and music videos, and regularly plays on the road.
Heart is perhaps one of the most influential and iconic bands to emerge from the 1970s. This group was fronted by a group of sisters, Ann and Nancy Wilson.
The Wilson sisters demonstrated that females could have excellent voices and play instruments exceptionally well. Their contributions to modern music history have earned them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
What is so excellent about Heart’s music? Well, there are a number of things that people might say that give this band iconic status.
The first and foremost aspect is that the group’s musical stylings are some of rock music’s coolest compositions ever. In fact, much of the group’s songs are just as fresh today as they were when they were first released.
Today, you can still hear Heart on the radio quite frequently. Their songs Barracuda, Magic Man, and Crazy On You are some of their most well-known.
Back in the days when emo rock ruled the world, there was one female-fronted group that dominated the scene. No matter where you looked, you were bound to find images of a certain redheaded female vocalist.
That group in question is Paramore, and that singer is Hayley Williams. When Paramore hit the scene, the world was never the same. Their 2007 album Riot! remains as a popular fan favorite.
Paramore got its start in 2004 and is still quite active today. The band periodically releases new music and tours fairly frequently.
The inclusion of Portishead on this list might be a bit controversial to some. Especially so if you are dead set on holding this list to “rock” roots.
However, to exclude Portishead would be a crime, despite the hip-hop musical influences its catalog takes on. Furthermore, this group must be mentioned purely for the influence that vocalist Beth Gibbons has had on other females.
Portishead got its start in the early 1990s and achieved extreme critical success by the end of the decade. Some of their albums have been at the top of the charts in their respective yearly releases.
If you want a prime example of an excellent Portishead release, check out the Roseland NYC Live album. This has ranked as one of the best performances of all time.
When you think of death metal, you likely think of growling vocals. And when you think of growling vocals, you primarily think this is done by males.
For the most part, this assumption would be correct. To assume this about Arch Enemy, though, would make you dead wrong.
In fact, the band derives part of its unique sound from the delivery of these growling vocals done by females. This, in effect, helps to show that females can literally do anything that males do within the music world.
Arch Enemy has seen a number of different females in its lineup over the years. These include Angela Gossow and Alissa White-Gluz.
St. Vincent isn’t exactly a band. Rather, it is the musical project of Annie Erin Clark.
Despite this small discrepancy, St. Vincent has been at the forefront of modern music. With each release, she redefines herself much as David Bowie did throughout his career.
St. Vincent has had an excellent track record for a musician. She actually performed with Sufjan Stevens when he went on tour before she launched her own career. One of her albums also features a collaboration with music legend David Byrne.
Believe it or not, St. Vincent actually has her own signature guitar, produced by Ernie Ball Music Man. These guitars have been renowned for their excellent playability and unique design.
Otep is a metal group that was founded in the early 2000s. This group may not be as well known as some of the others on this list. However, their inclusion is an excellent example of how females can transcend across genres.
This group is fronted by singer Otep Shamaya, and their music is primarily based within the nu-metal genre. The vocal delivery of Otep Shamaya draws upon some famous vocalists, including the aforementioned Kim Gordon.
As a group, they are still fairly active, releasing new albums every couple of years or so. If you’re into heavy music fronted by a female, make sure this band is on your radar.
When it comes to influential female-led music of the 1990s, one cannot ignore the band Hole. You might know of this band’s singer, Courtney Love, as Nirvana frontman Kurt Cobain’s wife.
One might also assume that Hole only became popular because of Courtney’s involvement with Kurt. In reality, Hole got its start in 1989, with its first record released in 1991.
Believe it or not, Sonic Youth member Kim Gordon also had a role in this initial release. She produced the album, which helped to bring the band into the spotlight of success.
One of the most famous female-fronted groups of the early 2000s was Crystal Castles. This electronic group was known for its rowdy performances as well as its music.
Alice Glass was one of the original co-founders of the group. In recent years, she left the group due to abuse-related issues with member Ethan Kath. Vocalist Edith Frances is currently fulfilling vocal duties in the outfit.
The original lineup released quite a number of albums that received high accolades amongst critics. Alice Glass has gone on to have her own solo career as a performer.
Many have chosen to leave Crystal Castles in the dust now that much of the abuse allegations have become public. This reaction is probably fitting, as Glass has mentioned she hardly receives any royalties for streams.
Best Rock Bands With Female Singers, Final Thoughts
As music continues to morph into new genres, females are likely to be just as involved. Females have fought hard for equality, and it is time that they have equal space in the music industry.
The industry is primed and waiting for the next generation of females to come in and make their mark. Many of these groups on this list will have played an influential role in the next generation’s development.
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