Women Who Rock: America’s Top Female Performers

International Women’s Day is right around the corner, and in preparation Music & Arts would like to take the time to celebrate the cultural impact women have made on music. There are thousands of women working in the music industry today, from managers and radio DJs to music teachers and studio musicians. From the 1960s to present day, this list highlights just a few of the women who rock. Have a favorite who didn’t make the list? Sound off in the comments and we’ll include her the next time around!

Janis Joplin

She’s been called the greatest white urban blues and soul singer of her generation and her powerful voice transformed her from drifter to superstar in San Francisco’s psychedelic scene. According to critic Lillian Roxon, ”[Janis Joplin perfectly expressed the feelings and yearnings of the girls of the electric generation—to be all woman, yet equal with men…to [reject] every outdated convention.” Does it get more empowering than that? Her 1971 album Pearl was released after her death, and held the number one spot on the charts for nine weeks, proving the legend of Janis Joplin would live on well after her death.

Joan Jett

Joan Jett was one of the first women to play hard rock, and it’s all because she never took “no” for an answer. After label after label refused to release her debut solo album, Jett decided to take matters into her own hands and released the album on her own, making her one of the first women to own her own record label. And the hard work paid off–the demand for the album was so high that it eventually had to be re-released by a larger label. Known for bringing defiance and attitude to the rock scene, she’s never been afraid to speak her mind (and stand up for animals). Now, that’s something every girl can look up to. 


Acclaimed for her thrilling vocals, videos, and live shows, Beyonce Knowles is a multi-platinum, Grammy Award-winning recording artist known for her solo work and her time with the 90s girl group Destiny’s Child. Her first solo album Dangerously in Love was a huge success, both commercially and critically. It sold millions of copies and earned Beyonce five Grammy awards, and each subsequent album has topped the Billboard charts. Nicknamed “Queen Bey”, Beyonce is also one of the highest-earning female musicians, earning over $100 million in 2017, due in part to the success of Lemonade.

Britney Spears

Britney Spears has been one of the most successful–and controversial–solo acts in pop music. Six of her first seven albums reached the top position on the Billboard charts, and she sold more than 37 million albums before even turning 20. Just like many other women on this list, Britney Spears has a philanthropic spirit. From spearheading the Britney Spears Foundation to donating hundreds of thousands to the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation during her 2013-2017 Las Vegas residency at the Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino, she enjoys giving back to those in need. 

Mariah Carey

She may have her ups and downs (her infamous New Year’s Eve performance, anyone?), but one thing is for sure: Mariah Carey is one of the most successful female musicians in the world. She currently holds the record for most #1 debuts in Billboard Hot 100 history, including the perennial holiday favorite “All I Want for Christmas Is You”, and is the third-best-selling female artist in the United States, with 65.5 million certified albums. Something that sets her apart from many other female musicians is her proclivity to write her own music and the fact that her voice spans more than five octaves. We can’t give you a perfect voice, but we can help you learn to read and write music, just like Mariah–sign up for music lessons today!


She may be relatively new to the music scene, especially compared to the rest of the women on this list, but Adele has carved a space for herself in the music industry with her soulful sound and one-of-a-kind voice. In the decade since she released her first album, Adele has sold millions of albums and has won a total of 15 Grammys and one Academy Award for the song she wrote for Skyfall. In 2011, 2012, and 2016 Adele was named Artist of the Year by Billboard and in 2012 and 2016 Time magazine listed her as one of the most influential people in the world. Her 2016-2017 tour broke attendance records in a number of countries, and with sales exceeding 100 million, she’s one of the best-selling musicians in the world.


With a career that has spanned five decades, Madonna is known for her constant reinvention as a performer. In 1984, Madonna broke the mold and became one of the few successful female entertainers in a male-dominated music scene with the release of her second album, “Like a Virgin”, which went on to become a worldwide hit and a pop culture phenomenon. Since then, she’s released 11 albums, has acted in over 20 films, and has tried her hand in everything from clothing design to artist management. In 2008, Forbes named her the world’s wealthiest female musician, the same year she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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