Everywhere you look there are women breaking new ground, from Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez who won the primary in New York in what was described as the biggest political upset in the 2018 midterm election season to Ronda Rousey, who is the first woman to be inducted into the UFC Hall of Fame. But women have been pioneers in music for decades, and we’re here to celebrate them. From the 1960s to the present day, here are just a few of the women who rock.
She made history as the winner of the very first season of American Idol, and quickly took the world by storm. Her first single post-American Idol went from #52 to #1 on the charts almost overnight, and her second album earned her two Grammy awards. But she isn’t all glitz, glamor, and awards. She strives to be a positive role model for young girls and women around the world, and works with a variety of charities and non-profits serving a good cause. And, unlike some other American Idol winners, she’ll be in the spotlight to stay–with songs so good, there’s really no other place for her to go.
Everyone knows her older brother, Michael, but Janet Jackson’s career is just as impressive. The youngest sibling in the Jackson clan, she is one of the best-selling female artists in contemporary history. Known for her socially innovative and socially conscious records, her stage shows are elaborate and well planned. In December 2016, Billboard named her the second most successful club artist of all-time, behind Madonna (who is included in our first Women Who Rock blog.) Many young performers admire and are inspired by her, and her legacy and influence will live on for decades to come.
She may have started her career a demure church going gal, but her slew of recent hits are anything but innocent. Often controversial, Katy Perry broke onto the scene with her hit “I Kissed a Girl” and hasn’t stopped creating drama since. She is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having sold more than 40 million albums and over 100 million albums globally throughout her career. In 2018 she began serving as a judge on the reboot of American Idol, and has even dipped her toes in film; she voiced Smurfette in the 2011 film Smurfs and its sequel in 2013. Like Ms. Perry, all girls should feel empowered to try new things!
Although Whitney Houston passed away in 2012, she still serves as an inspiration for young female musicians around the world. She released her debut album at the young age of 22 and scored three number one hit singles from it. As with many of the other women on this list, she has a slew of accolades and awards under her belt, including being the only artist (male or female!) to have seven consecutive number one Billboard Hot 100 songs. She was also the first act to sell more than a million copies of an album within a single week period.
It’s hard to believe that Rihanna is in her early 30s–her career is so successful you’d think she’d be a lot older! Born in Barbados, she rose to fame with the release of her debut album, which included hits like “Pon de Replay”, “SOS” and “Unfaithful”. Recognized as a pop icon, she is one of the best-selling artists of all time, with 250 million records sold worldwide. She’s also the youngest solo artist to earn fourteen #1 singles on the Billboard Hot 100, and was named the Digital Songs Artist of the 2000s. If you dig Spotify, check her out on there–she’s the most streamed female artist of all time on the platform!
The youngest woman on this list, Taylor Swift made a splash in the country music world in 2006 and has gone on to become one of the most prolific acts in pop music. Although she was ranked as Forbe’s highest paid celebrity under 30 in 2012, she shared some of her fortune to help others–funding the $4 million Taylor Swift Education Center at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville. Unlike some of the other women on this list, Swift enjoys writing her own music–she was the sole writer of her 2010 album Speak Now, which debuted at number one and won two Grammy awards.
A highly versatile artist, Cher went from being one half of Sonny and Cher to a solo artist to an actress and so much more. In addition to winning tons of awards for her music, Cher won an Oscar for her role in Moonstruck. Commonly referred to in the media as the “Goddess of Pop”, she has been described as embodying female autonomy in a male-dominated industry. Throughout the years she has won tons of awards, from Grammys and Emmys to Academy Awards and Golden Globes, and is noted for her political views, philanthropic endeavors, and social activism, including LGBTQ rights and HIV/AIDS prevention.