Music is one of the arts, having the power to shift our mood, thoughts and feelings. Indie, Rock, Metal, Pop, R&B, etc., there’s a genre for everyone. A large part of how this music impacts us depends on the singer’s rendition of the song, which can make or break it. Just like any other sphere, music was a domain that was subject to the ill effects of racism and stereotyping. However, multiple singers fought their way through the ranks to establish themselves in the music industry. Here is our list of the 16 most popular black female singers of all time!
1. Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston’s powerful voice belting ‘I Will Always Love You’ is music that nearly every person has heard at some point in their lives. The singer is regarded as one of the greatest singers of all time, with multiple hits like I Have Nothing, Greatest Love Of All, How Will I Know, All The Man That I Need, etc. She created an irrefutable legacy before her untimely demise in 2012 at the age of 48.
2. Aretha Franklin
The “Queen of Soul” is one of the best-selling artists of all time, having carved a niche for herself with her gospel, blues and rhythm renditions. Her career hit off in 1966 when she was signed onto Atlantic Records and her music still lives on today, after her death in 2018 at the age of 76. Some of her most famous hits include I Never Loved a Man (the Way I Love You), Freeway of Love, I Say a Little Prayer, etc.
3. Ella Fitzgerald
Ella Fitzgerald, another one of the most popular black female singers, shot to fame at the age of 21 after her rendition of the nursery rhyme ‘A-Tisket, A-Tasket’ gained popularity. Since then, she was dubbed the “Queen of Jazz” and even made singers like Frank Sinatra famous during collaborations due to her immense talent. Some of her hits include Dream a Little Dream of Me, Lady is the Tramp, Mack the Knife, Misty, etc.
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4. Billie Holiday
One of the best jazz singers of the time, Billie Holiday’s name is synonymous with some incredible hits that earned her four posthumous Grammy awards. She was called “Lady Day” and was one of the first African American singers to perform with an all-white band, Artie Shaw and his Orchestra. Her song “Strange Fruit” is considered one of the first protest songs of the civil rights movement.
5. Nina Simone
A versatile singer who sang a range of genres including gospel, jazz, folk, cabaret, etc., Nina Simone was musically gifted. She studied classical music at the prestigious Juilliard School of Music. She also began singing protest songs, often at civil rights demonstrations and eventually moved out of America due to her resistance to the prevalent racism. Her most famous hits include I Put a Spell On You, Feeling Good, Sinnerman, Mississippi Goddamn, etc.
6. Etta James
Another singer who sang a variety of genres, Etta James had a career spanning over 50 decades, filled with multiple hits. She had a number of hits like At Last, If I Can’t Have You, Sugar on the Floor, etc. She died in 2012 at the age of 73.
The 41-year-old singer is one of the most well-regarded singers of our time. Affectionately called Queen Bee, she was once a part of the famous musical group Destiny’s Child. She then went on to have an immensely successful solo career with hits like Halo, Crazy in Love, If I Were a Boy, Drunk in Love, etc. She has been performing since the age of 7.
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8. Alicia Keys
The singer from New York is one of the most talented vocalists, songwriters and pianists of her time. Alicia Keys was signed to a record label at the age of 15 and currently has 9 Grammy awards to her name. She has also been a judge on the show ‘The Voice.’ Her hits include Girl on Fire, If I Ain’t Got You, Empire State of Mind, etc.
The 33-year-old singer’s most recent hit is the song ‘Kill Bill’ that got immensely popular on Instagram and TikTok. She is a singer and songwriter that has collaborated with and written songs for a number of artists like Rihanna, Kendrick Lamar, Cardi B, etc. Some of her other hits include Good Days, All the Stars, Drew Barrymore, Broken Clocks, etc.
10. Doja Cat
Doja Cat is a singer, songwriter and rapper who shot to fame after her 2018 song ‘Mooo!’ went viral on social media. Since then, many of her songs were used for TikTok dances, especially during the 2020 lockdown and became very popular like Say So, Kiss Me More, Get Into It, Tia Tamera, etc.
Lizzo is a 34-year-old singer who is known for her performances during which she also plays the flute. She gained mainstream attention in 2019 for her album Cuz I Love You. Her hits include Juice, Truth Hurts, Good as Hell, etc. She is good friends with singer Harry Styles.
Rihanna is one of the most popular black female singers in today’s time, despite rarely releasing music anymore. Her song ‘Pon de Replay’ released in 2005 was a success; however her song Umbrella is easily one of the most famous songs that also led to her winning her first Grammy award. Today, she also owns her billion-dollar brand Fenty.
Tinashe is a singer, songwriter and dancer from Kentucky, USA. Earlier, she was in a girl group called The Stunners. Her songs delve into a variety of genres like pop, hip-hop, alternative R&B, etc. Her famous songs include All Hands on Deck, Body Language, Company, Ride of Your Life, etc.
Normani Kordei Hamilton, known mononymously as Normani, was a member of the famous musical group Fifth Harmony. She had auditioned for the X Factor in 2012, following which the group was formed. However, her solo career began after the band disbanded in 2018. Her song Motivation was a commercial success, along with collaborations like Dancing with a Stranger with Sam Smith.
15. Jhené Aiko
The 35-year-old singer is famous for her distinct vocal style and lyricism. The R&B singer has contributed vocals to the band B2K before her own songs hit off. Some of them include Stay Ready, None of Your Concern, While We’re Young, etc.
16. Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s ‘All I Want for Christmas’ rendition is one that has made her a household name and continues to do so every year. Her vocals are infamous for its range and her incredible capacity to wow audiences with her whistle notes. Her songs Obsessed, We Belong Together, Bye Bye, Shake It Off, are only some of her best hits.
Who is your favorite among the most popular black female singers listed here?