Top 10 Female Artists in Music History

Top 10 Female Artists in Music History

The level of talent from female musicians that has emerged in our record store throughout the decades make it difficult to narrow down to a select few. However, certain accolades, awards, and record-breaking album sales arguably cement the status of certain performers as the best in music history. Here is Victrola’s list of the top female artists, which spans various musical genres, styles, and decades. 

Mariah Carey

When Mariah Carey hit the scene as a female singer with a five-octave vocal range, it was immediately apparent that she was a new force to be reckoned with. Carey was the first music artist in history to have their first five singles reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. 

The worldwide success of her debut album was only superseded by her follow-up albums, Music Box and Daydream. During her rise to fame, she also debuted a holiday album, Merry Christmas, which featured one of her best-selling singles of all time, “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” 

Throughout her career, she has nabbed the record for most number one singles by a solo artist, female songwriter, and female producer. Mariah Carey has also won five Grammy Awards, 19 World Music Awards, and 15 Billboard Music Awards and was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2020.


If Mariah Carey was the female artist of the 90’s, Madonna is arguably the top female artist of the 80’s when her career began. She’s a female singer often referred to as the “Queen of Pop” and has reinvented her sound and image throughout the decades, creating an eclectic mix of pop, electronica, and rock music to incorporate in much of her anthem music

This American singer has been certified as the best-selling female artist of all time by Guinness World Records and is known as the most successful solo artist in the history of the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Madonna’s music has been well-received across the globe, and she has sold upwards of $1.5 billion in concert sales in the U.S. She remains the highest-grossing solo touring artist of all time. 

Among her many achievements, Madonna has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Rolling Stone magazine added her name to their list of 100 Greatest Artists of All Time and the 100 Greatest Songwriters of All Time. 

Aretha Franklin

Lovingly dubbed as the “Queen of Soul,” African American singer, songwriter, and actress Aretha Franklin started her career as a gospel singer in church before expanding into the popular Motown sound of the 1960s. Her talents got her to be the first female performer in the music industry to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in addition to being the recipient of the National Medal of Arts and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. 

With multiple studio albums and numerous hit singles to her name, such as “Respect”, “(You Make Me Feel Like (A Natural Woman)” and “Chain of Fools” her musical talent lives on and continues to inspire emerging artists today. 

Missy Elliott

Rapper and record producer Missy Elliott has earned her place among the top female artists in music history for her chart-topping hits and numerous accolades. Her debut hip-hop album Supa Dupa Fly was the highest-charting debut for a female rapper at the time on the Billboard 200. 

Missy received a Grammy Award for Best Female Artist for a Rap Solo Performance for her single “Work It” from her 2002 Under Construction album. She worked to become the first female rapper in the music industry inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame and received the MTV VMA Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award in 2019 for her creativity and contribution to the music video landscape. 

Dolly Parton

For many, Dolly Parton is considered the best-selling female artist of all time. Though rooted in country music, her popularity spans all music interests. Her debut album, Hello, I’m Dolly was released in 1967 and her musical fame continues to today as she records on her own Dolly Records music label. 

Dolly Parton has successfully sold over 100 million records worldwide and has had 25 songs reach number one on the Billboard Country Music charts. She has recorded 44 top 10 country albums with 110 career-charted singles over the past several decades. 

Parton has also earned 50 Grammy Award nominations, resulting in 10 Grammy Award wins, including a Lifetime Achievement Award. She won the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award and was introduced into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 1999.


Beyonce holds the title as one of the world’s best-selling recording artists, selling over 118 million records around the globe. Her debut album, Dangerously in Love featured four Billboard Hot 100 top five songs, including her number one singles,"Baby Boy" and “Crazy in Love.” 

The music legend was recognized by the Recording Industry Association as America’s Top Certified Artist of the Decade (2000s) and has also been named Billboard Magazine’s Top Female Artist of the Decade and Top Radio Songs Artist. Beyonce has won 24 Grammy Awards and is the most awarded artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, also with 24 wins. 

In 2014, Beyonce became the highest-earning Black musician and was listed as one of Time Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for the second consecutive year. 

Whitney Houston

A top female music artist list wouldn’t be complete without naming Whitney Houston. She was certified by the Guinness Book of World Records as the most awarded female artist of all time and is seen by many as the best-selling female artist of all time. 

She sold over 200 million records worldwide, with music spanning across seven studio albums and two motion picture soundtracks. Houston is the only artist to achieve seven consecutive number-one singles on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 Chart, which included “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” and “Saving All My Love for You.” 

Among her long list of awards, Houston won seven Grammys during the span of her career, including Best Female Artist for an R&B Vocal Performance and Album of the Year. After her unfortunate death, she was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2020.


Adele stormed the international music scene with her debut album, 19, in 2008. It is certified 8x Platinum in the UK and Triple Platinum in the U.S. It features the radio hit, “Hometown Glory,” which she wrote at the tender age of 16. She went onto greater success with her follow-up album two years later, aptly named 21, which earned her six Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year. 

21 went onto become 17x Platinum in the UK and is the overall fourth best-selling album in the country. The record held the number one position in the U.S. longer than any other album since 1985 and is certified Diamond. It is known as the best-selling album of the 21st century, selling over 31 million copies. 

Additionally, Adele became the first female in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 to have three simultaneous top-ten singles. And, her third studio album, 25, lived up to its predecessors by instantly breaking first-week records sales and becoming the year’s best-selling album in 2015.

Reba McEntire

Country legend Reba McEntire has had a monumental career, which began in 1977 with the release of her self-titled, first solo album. Her follow-up, My Kind of Country, produced two number one singles and brought her immediate success, leading to a series of top-charted albums and number one singles throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. 

Recognized as the “Queen of Country,” McEntire has sold more than 75 million records worldwide and has earned numerous music awards, in addition to awards for her acting. She’s made history via the CMA Awards with a record 48 nominations for Top Female Artist.

Her 2005, double-disc compilation album, Reba #1s, consists of 33 number-one hits with two new songs added to the tracklist. Within two years, the album was certified 2x Platinum by the RIAA and continues to be a favorite of her fans.

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson’s career was launched into superstardom, thanks to being the inaugural winner of American Idol in 2002. Since then, she has nabbed multiple top-ten singles and numerous awards. Her debut single “A Moment Like This’” topped both the Billboard Hot 100 and became the best-selling single in 2002. 

Her second studio album, Breakaway, sold over 12 million copies worldwide and won two Grammy Awards. She gained even wider acclaim with her fourth and fifth studio albums. Her Hot 100 number-one single, “My Life Would Suck Without You” became a record holder for the biggest jump to number in Hot 100 history, and “ Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)”, off her fifth studio album, became her best-selling single worldwide. 

Clarkson was the first artist to win a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Album twice and became the first American female artist to release a best-selling holiday album of the year with Wrapped in Red in 2013. 

Women in Music Making History

It’s tough to compete in the music space as a female with so many icons raising the bar. There have been countless prolific female musicians throughout the decades and spanning multiple music genres that have shaped the sound of popular music today. 

Regardless of your music preferences, there’s no disputing the historical significance of the albums these women have produced. Their songs and performances are memorable and deserve a place among all record collections. Victrola recognizes this, which is why we provide the records and albums of these great artists in our record store! 

Whether you feel like you're in the need for some inspiration to get some work done, or just trying to expand your ever-growing collection of albums to play on your vinyl record player, Victrola’s record store has everything you could be looking for and more, with thousands of records sitting at your fingertips. All you need to do is visit our record store to begin your search! 

Source: (cross-checked with chart listings and album release dates)