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From Beyoncé to Badu: The 20 greatest female recording artists since 1993


For much of the second half of the 20th century, the artists that most dominated popular music tended to be men. From Frank Sinatra to Elvis Presley to The Beatles to Michael Jackson, more often than not, the title of “biggest pop star in the world” tended to be handed to male superstars.

That all began to change in the 1980s. With the emergence of Madonna, Whitney Houston and Janet Jackson, more female artists began to stand elbow-to-elbow with men, not only in terms of chart success–but also in terms of their influence and dominance of pop culture. From the mid-1980s through today, women have been at the forefront with dominating record sales, sellout tours and blockbuster endorsement deals.

In the last 20 years, in particular, it has been unquestionably the women at the vanguard of popular music — in a myriad of genres.

In celebration of the queens that have been at the forefront of that shift and in recognition of the great music that they created while knocking down doors, we’ve decided to list the Twenty Greatest Female Recording Artists Since 1993.

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  1. Natari on April 28, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    How can Beyonce have churned out hit singles and albums with the greatest frequency of anyone since Madonna when even Rihanna has had more hit singles and albums despite having a shorter career? Or when WHitney, Mariah, and Janet have all had much more number one hits and major albums? I don’t get what logic (certainly not the logic of statistics) you’re using in making such unfounded statements. In fact, Beyonce has yet to have a truly BIG album like Madonna, Whitney, Mariah, Britney, Adele or even Gaga has. She’s being overhyped (by a stan, I presume?) in this article.

    In fact, where IS Britney? Britney’s peak far eclipses Beyonce’s peak and Britney deserves to be on this list.

    Otherwise, it’s still a silly list full of random selections, a list that lacks any coherence or good sense, which is typical of lists ranking pop culture figures, I have to say.

    • Kev E On on April 28, 2013 at 9:10 pm

      Babe…Beyoncé Has had 2 Huge Albums…Dangerously in Love, and I am Sash Fierce…Both went Diamond!!! 9 Grammys between them…10 hit singles between them Worldwide!!!

      • Greggers on May 28, 2013 at 10:22 am

        Actually Beyonce doesn’t have any diamond selling albums, not even in the USA or with Destiny’s Child. Diamond selling albums are 10 million plus domestically and she’s no where near that. At least Britney has two certified diamond selling albums domestically with Baby One More Time and Oops I Did It Again.

        • Jhem Basas on January 4, 2014 at 6:50 am

          i totally agree with you.. this is just random choices.! i was searching for Britney too 🙁

  2. Danii Cooper on April 30, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Lets talk numbers and facts then shall we.. With both Destiny’s Child’s and her solo work, Beyonce is the front runner and has sold well over 100 million albums world wide. Both Dangerously In Love & I Am Sasha Fierce have 10 Grammys between them. She has 17 Grammys! More then any of the women on this list. Beyonce’s voice has been featured on more then 8 albums. Where she’s either co-wrote or wrote on them. I do agree Britney should have been number 3 on this list, but their is a reason why Britney wasn’t crownd artist of the decade from 2000-2009! This list is wrong though. As Rihanna has the most #1 singles. She’s passed up Mariah. She is a singles artist. Her albums don’t sell very well.

    • Greggers on May 28, 2013 at 10:31 am

      Um I have to correct you, Soundscan does not count solo and group artist sales together since they’re considered separate entities. So Beyonce selling 100 million is false. If that were the case Justin Timberlake would have sold the same if not more with NSync. Beyonce has sold around 55 million world wide which is still great but not close to the number you said.
      As for Rihanna having the most number one singles, once again not true. Rihanna has 12 number one singles while Mariah has 18 which is the most for a solo artist period. Rihanna is tied with Madonna for the second most female singles and 4th overall on the top 10. 🙂

  3. Towanda Savage on April 30, 2013 at 2:32 pm

    I love all of these ladies.. I love Janet Jackson fan for life… if she never sang or performed again I would still dance and enjoy the old… Ladies keep up the good work. You all have brought joy, at some points reality pain, strength, dance, laughter and sometimes you evoked tears, I love all of you beautiful black artist. Continue to do what you were born to do. Awe and amaze US

  4. Questionable on May 11, 2013 at 3:35 pm

    Sorry, I can’t take this list serious if Whitney Houston is not included in the top 20.