25 Most Influential Women In Pop Music

01
of 25

Patsy Cline

Patsy Cline
Patsy Cline. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Patsy Cline was a trailblazer in both country and pop music. She and Kitty Wells were two of the first solo women to be country music superstars. She broke through into the mainstream pop arena with her first major country hit single "Walkin' After Midnight." Her pop career peaked in 1961 when "Crazy" hit the top 10. Her uniquely emotional way of presenting a song has influenced singers for generations. Patsy Cline died on March 5, 1963 in a tragic plane crash at the age of 30. Her artistic impact far outweighs the relatively short length of her career as a star.

Watch Patsy Cline sing "Crazy" 

02
of 25

Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin
Aretha Franklin. Photo by Paul Natkin / Getty Images

Having grown up singing gospel music in her father's church in Detroit, Michigan, Aretha Franklin became one of the most successful female recording artists of all time. Her soulful voice and gospel-influenced piano playing are national treasures. In the late 1960s she crossed over from R&B into the mainstream pop charts with the top 5 charting smash hits "Respect," "Baby I Love You," and "Chain of Fools." After a low point in her recording career in the late 1970s and early 1980s, she came roaring back in 1985 with the top 10 smashes "Freeway Of Love" and "Who's Zoomin' Who." Aretha Franklin's achievements are recognized by such honors as membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and a Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Watch Aretha Franklin sing "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman"

Aretha Franklin's 9 Best Pop Songs

03
of 25

Dusty Springfield

Dusty Springfield
Dusty Springfield. Photo by GAB Archive / Redferns

Born Mary O'Brien in London, England, Dusty Springfield defined female blue-eyed soul music in the late 1960s. She traveled to the US to record the 1969 album Dusty In Memphis, and it is considered to be one of the top pop albums of all time. Among her top 10 smash hits in the US are "You Don't Have To Say You Love Me" and "Son Of a Preacher Man." After fading success in the 1970s and 1980s, she returned to the upper reaches of the pop charts in 1987 collaborating with Pet Shop Boys on "What Have I Done To Deserve This?" She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame just weeks after death from cancer in 1999.

Watch Dusty Springfield sing "Son Of a Preacher Man"

04
of 25

Carole King

Carole King
Carole King. Photo by Richard E. Aaron / Redferns

Carole King is one of the most successful pop songwriters of all time. In the 1960s with her husband Gerry Goffin she wrote more than 20 hits for other artists. They include such legendary songs as "Up On the Roof," "Pleasant Valley Sunday," and "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman." In 1971 she released the solo album Tapestry, and it became a landmark in the singer-songwriter movement. It held the record for the most weeks at #1 on the album chart by any female artist until broken by Whitney Houston in 1993. It spent more than 300 weeks overall on the album chart and earned Grammy Awards for Album of the Year, Song of the Year, and Record of the Year. Carole King has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award.

Watch Carole King sing "I Feel the Earth Move"

Top 10 Carole King Songs

05
of 25

Janis Joplin

Janis Joplin
Janis Joplin. Photo by Tom Copi / Michael Ochs Archives

Janis Joplin rose to fame as lead vocalist of the psychedelic rock band Big Brother and the Holding Company in the 1960s. She found even greater fame as a solo artist. Janis Joplin's dramatic stage performances utilizing a blues-drenched gravelly and eminently soulful voice electrified audiences at both the Monterey Pop Festival and Woodstock. She climbed to #12 on the pop singles chart in 1968 with "Piece Of My Heart" leading Big Brother and the Holding Company." After her tragic death in 1970 at age 27, she went to #1 with the posthumous single "Me and Bobby McGee." Janis Joplin was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995.

Watch Janis Joplin sing "Piece Of My Heart"

06
of 25

Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell. Photo by Jack Robinson / Getty Images

In the mid-1960s Canadian singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell earned acclaim for writing such folk-pop classics as "Both Sides Now" and "Chelsea Morning." In the early 1970s she became a pop star with the top 10 hit single "Help Me." Not content to rest on her laurels, she ventured into jazz influenced pop in the late 1970s breaking new ground. Joni Mitchell is frequently ranked as one of the most influential singer-songwriters of the latter half of the 20th century. She has earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Watch Joni Mitchell sing "Both Sides Now"

07
of 25

Karen Carpenter

Karen Carpenter
Karen Carpenter. Photo by Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Along with her brother Richard, Karen Carpenter was one half of the pop duo The Carpenters. They were key architects of the sound of adult contemporary music. Beginning with the #1 hit "(They Long To Be) Close To You" in 1970, the duo released a string of 12 top 10 pop hits through 1975. Between 1970 and 1981, they hit #1 on the adult contemporary chart 15 times. Karen Carpenter's distinctively melancholy singing voice has only grown in appreciation since her untimely death in 1983 at age 32. The Carpenters sold over 100 million records and earned three Grammy Awards including Best New Artist in 1970.

Watch Karen Carpenter sing "Superstar"

08
of 25

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand
Barbra Streisand. Photo by Photoshot / Hulton Archive

Barbra Streisand is the bestselling female pop artist of all time having sold over 245 million records worldwide. However, it is her ability to transcend the boundaries of traditional easy listening pop and mainstream pop music that make her a standout artistically. Her distinctive singing has led to superstar status for more than 50 years. Among her #1 pop smash hits are "The Way We Were," "Woman In Love," and "Love Theme From A Star Is Born (Evergreen)." She has reached #1 on the album chart in six different decades. Barbra Streisand has won 10 Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement honor. In addition to her recording career, she is an accomplished filmmaker as both actor and director.

Watch Barbra Streisand sing "Somewhere"

Top 10 Barbra Streisand Songs

09
of 25

Linda Ronstadt

Linda Ronstadt
Linda Ronstadt. Photo by David Redfern / Redferns

In her early career, Linda Ronstadt was part of the development of the folk rock and country rock movements in the 1960s. In 1974 she stormed the pop charts with her #1 smash hit album Heart Like a Wheel and the #1 single "You're No Good." Her music crossed boundaries between pop, country, and even new wave influenced rock on the 1980 release Mad Love. As her commercial fortunes began to fade in the early 1980s, she came back with a critically acclaimed bestselling album of pop standards What's New that influenced such later artists as Barry Manilow and Rod Stewart in their explorations of pop standards. Linda Ronstadt has earned a dozen Grammy Awards including a Lifetime Achievement honor. She has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Watch Linda Ronstadt sing "Blue Bayou"

10
of 25

Patti Smith

Patti Smith
Patti Smith. Photo by Gjisbert Hanekroot / Redferns

Patti Smith's 1975 debut album Horses rocked the music world. It fused punk, rock and roll, and beat related poetry into a stunning package. The album climbed into the top 50 on the US album chart making Patti Smith instantly a widely known figure in rock circles. In 1978 she broke into the top 15 of the pop chart with her hit single "Because the Night." It also reached #5 in the UK and was included on the top 20 charting album Easter. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the 2010 National Book Award for Just Kids.

Watch Patti Smith sing "Because the Night"

11
of 25

Donna Summer

Donna Summer
Donna Summer. Photo by Michael Ochs Archives

Donna Summer earned the title Queen of Disco. Her rise as one of the top pop stars of the late 1970s was synonymous with the rise of disco. Between 1975 and 1979 she hit the top 10 on the US pop chart with 10 songs. "MacArthur Park," "Hot Stuff," and "Bad Girls" all went to #1. After the fall of disco at the end of 1979, she continued her career but never had the same level of success. However, in the 1990s she once again became a major figure on the dance charts. She hit #1 on the dance chart 19 times in her long career. Donna Summer died in 2012 at age 63.

Watch Donna Summer sing "Last Dance"

Top 10 Donna Summer Songs

12
of 25

Debbie Harry

Debbie Harry
Debbie Harry. Photo by Peter Still / Redferns

As lead vocalist of the group Blondie, Debbie Harry helped spearhead the punk and new wave scenes in the US. When their single "Heart of Glass" hit #1 in 1979, it was arguably the first new wave song to accomplish that feat on the pop chart even though the sound of the song is more disco than new wave. The band's fourth #1 hit single "Rapture" brought hip hop music into the mainstream in 1981. Blondie broke up in 1982. In 1999 they came back with the single "Maria" and topped the UK pop singles chart. In 2006 Blondie were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Watch Debbie Harry sing "Heart Of Glass"

13
of 25

Tina Turner

Tina Turner
Tina Turner. Photo by Rob Verhorst / Redferns

Tina Turner first gained fame through her energetic live shows and recordings with husband Ike Turner in the 1960s and early 1970s. They hit #4 on the pop singles chart in 1971 with their version of "Proud Mary." Following incidents of domestic abuse, she divorced Ike Turner in 1978. She returned to the pop charts in the 1980s with the #1 smash "What's Love Got To Do With It" off the #3 charting album Private Dancer. Tina Turner continued to have major pop hits through the rest of the 1980s and became an icon for women seeking survival of domestic violence after the release of the 1993 film What's Love Got To Do With It. Tina Turner was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has earned eight Grammy Awards. She is credited with selling more than 100 million records worldwide.

Watch Tina Turner sing "What's Love Got To Do With It"

14
of 25

Madonna

Madonna
Madonna. Photo by Peter Noble / Redferns

When Madonna Ciccone first hit #3 on the dance chart in 1982 with her debut single "Everybody," no one expected she would become one of the biggest pop recording stars of all time. She is credited with selling over 300 million records worldwide. She has been a trailblazer for women controlling their own careers in music. She has also pushed societal boundaries for sexual and political content in her pop music. Madonna made music videos a key part of promotion of her music. She has reached the pop top 10 with 38 songs, more than any other recording artist in history. 12 of her songs have gone all the way to #1. Eight of Madonna's 13 studio albums have gone to #1. All of the rest have reached the top 10. Madonna has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and received the MTV Video Music Awards' Video Vanguard Award.

Watch Madonna sing "Like a Prayer"

Madonna's 38 Top 10 Hit Songs

Top 10 Madonna Music Videos

15
of 25

Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Whitney Houston is one of the most commercially successful female recording artists of all time with her record sales nearing 200 million worldwide. Her singing voice has been widely celebrated as one of the best of all time. She became the only artist to release seven consecutive #1 pop hit single. Among her smash hits are "I Will Always Love You," "How Will I Know," and "Saving All My Love For You." In 1992 and 1993 her soundtrack to the film The Bodyguard spent a phenomenal 20 weeks at the top of the album chart. Whitney Houston died tragically in 2012 at age 48.

Watch Whitney Houston sing "I Will Always Love You" 

Top 20 Whitney Houston Songs

16
of 25

Gloria Estefan

Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan. Photo by Dr. Billy Ingram / WireImage

With a string of 1980s pop hits with her group Miami Sound Machine and her early 1990s comeback as a solo artist after a tour bus accident nearly ended her career, Cuban-American Gloria Estefan tore down boundaries for Latin singers in mainstream pop. Miami Sound Machine hit the top 10 with seven singles including the #1 hit "Anything For You." As a solo artist, Gloria Estefan released three more top 10 pop hits including the inspirational #1 hit "Coming Out Of the Dark." Gloria Estefan has earned seven Grammy Awards and a Presidential Medal of Freedom. She is estimated to have sold somewhere in the range of 100 million records worldwide.

Watch Gloria Estefan sing "Can't Stay Away From You" 

17
of 25

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey. Photo by Paul Morigi / WireImage

Mariah Carey rose to the top of the pop charts in 1990 with her debut single "Vision Of Love." Ultimately, she became one of the most successful recording artists of all time, and her vocal style has influenced decades of female pop artists. Her single "One Sweet Day" with Boyz II Men is the longest reigning pop hit of all time spending 16 weeks at #1. Her 18 #1 hit singles rank her second only to the Beatles. No other artist matches her total of having spent 79 weeks at #1 on the US pop singles chart. Her five octave vocal range and melismatic style are distinctive to the sound of Mariah Carey. She is credited with worldwide record sales exceeding 200 million.

Watch Mariah Carey sing "Without You"

Mariah Carey's 18 #1 Hit Songs

18
of 25

Britney Spears

Britney Spears
Britney Spears. Photo by KMazur / WireImage

Although her recorded music and performances have at times been met with almost equal praise and scorn, Britney Spears is one of the most successful female pop recording artists of all time. She followed in the tradition of Madonna by challenging boundaries of sexual content in mainstream pop and cleared the way for later artists like Miley Cyrus. After her career seemed to have drowned in negative tabloid attention in 2005 and 2006, she engineered one of the most stunning pop comebacks of all time with seven top 10 pop hits between 2007 and 2011 including the #1 smashes "Womanizer," "3," and "Hold It Against Me." Britney Spears has sold more than 100 million albums worldwide. 

Watch Britney Spears sing "...Baby One More Time" 

Top 20 Britney Spears Songs

19
of 25

Beyonce

Beyonce
Beyonce. Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Beyonce Knowles first gained fame in the 1990s as a member of the female R&B group Destiny's Child. They sold more than 50 million records worldwide and hit #1 with the singles "Bills, Bills, Bills," "Say My Name," "Indpendent Women Part 1," and "Bootylicious." As the group began to fall apart, Beyonce turned to developing a solo career. She went to #1 with her first single "Crazy In Love" and the album Dangerously In Love. Beyonce has gone on to sell more than 100 million records a solo artist and is one of the most successful female R&B vocalists of all time. All five of her solo albums have hit #1 and she has five #1 hit singles to her credit including "Irreplaceable" and "Check On It." She has performed live twice at the Super Bowl. 

Watch Beyonce sing "Drunk In Love"

Top 10 Beyonce Songs

20
of 25

Kelly Clarkson

Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson. Photo by George Pimental / WireImage

Following her victory in the first season of American Idol, Kelly Clarkson proved that a TV competition show could produce a pop superstar. She became a consistent pop hitmaker with seven consecutive solo albums reaching the top 3 on the album chart. Her singles "My Life Would Suck Without You" and "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)" both went all the way to #1. She is frequently ranked as having one of the best voices in pop music. Kelly Clarkson paved the way for American Idol contestants like Carrie Underwood, Chris Daughtry, and Phillip Phillips to become stars.

Watch Kelly Clarkson sing "Piece By Piece"

Top 10 Kelly Clarkson Songs

21
of 25

Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse. Photo by Chris Christoforou / Redferns

With the release of her second album Back To Black in 2006, Amy Winehouse became one of the most celebrated female soul singers in the world. Her first album Frank was a hit in the UK and earned a Mercury Prize nomination. However, Back To Black was a worldwide smash going to #1 in the UK, #2 in the US, and #1 in many other countries around the world. It included the top 10 hit single "Rehab." She won five Grammy Awards including Best New Artist, Record of the Year, and Song of the Year. Amy Winehouse died in 2011 of alcohol poisoning at age 27. The film Amy won the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

Watch Amy Winehouse sing "Valerie"

Top 10 Amy Winehouse Songs

22
of 25

Rihanna

Rihanna
Rihanna. Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris / Getty Images

Barbados native Robyn Rihanna Fenty first hit the pop charts in the US in 2005 at age 17 with "Pon de Replay." It peaked at #2 and was the first of 27 top 10 pop hit singles. She has reached #1 on the US pop chart a phenomenal 14 times placing her third on the all-time list behind only Mariah Carey and The Beatles. She has sold more than 200 million records worldwide. Rihanna is noted for pushing in new directions with her music while building a loyal core audience.

Watch Rihanna sing "Diamonds"

Top 20 Rihanna Songs

23
of 25

Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift
Taylor Swift. Photo by Anthony Harvey / Getty Images

Taylor Swift moved to Nashville, Tennessee at age 14 to pursue a career in music. At age 17 her single "Our Song" made her the youngest artist to write and perform a #1 country hit on their own. From the beginning her country hits also did well on the pop charts, but when she switched entirely to pop with her 2014 album 1989, she put an exclamation point on her status as one of the top female recording artists of all time. She has helped clear a path for many other country artists to cross over into pop territory. Her first five albums have sold a combined total of more than 25 million units in the US alone, and she has sold nearly 100 million digital singles. Among them are the #1 smash hits "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Shake It Off," "Blank Space," and "Bad Blood."

Watch Taylor Swift sing "Love Story"

Top 10 Taylor Swift Songs

24
of 25

Lady Gaga

Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga. Photo by Gregg DeGuire / WireImage

Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, emerged out of the Manhattan experimental pop underground in 2008 with the single "Just Dance." It went to #1 on the pop chart and kicked off a string of 11 consecutive top 10 pop hit singles including the #1 smashes "Poker Face" and "Born This Way." All four of Lady Gaga's studio albums have reached either #1 or #2 on the charts. She has sold nearly 150 million singles worldwide. In 2016 she became the first artist to perform live at the Super Bowl, Grammy Awards, and Academy Awards in the same year. 

Watch Lady Gaga sing "Bad Romance"

Top 10 Lady Gaga Songs

25
of 25

Adele

Adele
Adele. Photo by Fred Duval / FilmMagic

Two of Adele's three studio albums rank among the bestselling pop albums of all time. Her first studio album 19 was well received and earned Adele a Grammy Award for Best New Artist. However, it gave no indication what kind of blockbuster her second release 21 would become. That album has sold more than 30 million copies worldwide and earned six Grammy Awards including Album of the Year. In 2015 her third studio album 25 became the first to sell more than three million copies in its initial release week. The lead single "Hello" was the first single song to sell more than one million digital copies in a week. 

Watch Adele sing "Hello" 

Top 10 Adele Songs