The Best Female Vocalists of the 21st Century

If you ask music fans today, you may get a common refrain—who runs the world? Girls! Well, at least that’s what the newest country star Beyoncé has said. And with each passing day, we believe her. Indeed, there are so many incredible female vocalists in the world and so many of them have made their mark in the 21st century.

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Sure, there are stalwarts like Dolly Parton, Loretta Lynn, and Aretha Franklin. But there is a new generation of female singers who wow fans every single day, proving the fairer sex is very much leading the way when it comes to talent, skill and appeal. Here below, we wanted to celebrate many of these women and highlight just what makes so many of them special.

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Brandi Carlile

Brandi Carlile had long toiled in the Pacific Northwest, from busking at Pike Place Market in Seattle to endeavoring on bigger and bigger tours. She made a name for herself when her single “The Story” dropped but became a national phenomenon with her 2018 LP By the Way, I Forgive You, thanks to her powerful voice and the emotive single “The Joke.” Today, Carlile is playing shows with icons like Joni Mitchell and bringing the next generation along.

Taylor Swift

The most popular person on planet Earth. Taylor Swift came up in country music but more recently has become a pop star who is as adept at switching genres as she is connecting with fans all over the globe. Whether she’s showing up at NFL games, getting people registered to vote or releasing new music, Swift is a compelling, six-string playing, hit-songwriting wonder. On top of it all, she empowers young people everywhere. And she does it all with smart, self-aware songs like, “Anti-Hero.”


This summer, Queen B grossed half a billion dollars on her recent Renaissance World Tour. But for her, that wasn’t enough. She decided to drop a new album and take the country world by storm, highlighting the contributions of Black women in the genre, such as Rhiannon Giddens. With a satin-soulful voice that can fit in any genre—from country to pop to R&B to dance—Beyoncé in many ways is the gold standard when it comes to frontwomen.

Lady Gaga

A shape-shifter, a pop star, an operatic singer capable of compelling a crowd from the top of a football stadium or playing a grand piano, Lady Gaga is part classic performer and part chameleon. Not only that, she’s turned her talents into a movie star. She’s someone who shines on the silver screen, singing with her woodgrain voice that can shimmer like light bulbs.

Katy Perry

There’s popular and then there’s Katy Perry popular. She burst onto the scene talking about kissing a girl and cemented her legendary status roaring with the best of the best. In many ways, Perry sets the standard for spectacle in today’s music world and does so with a recognizable voice that can swing from the heavens. And she does it all while remaining odd and off-kilter in the kitschiest of ways.

Amy Winehouse

Maybe the most talented vocalist ever (certainly from this century), Amy Winehouse could merely open her mouth and a torrent of sound would tumble out. She was effortless and dynamic, so much so that the world seemingly didn’t know what to do with her. And maybe she didn’t know what to do with herself, either. Tragically, Winehouse passed away far too young, but her talent and landmark singing voice remains in the zeitgeist today.

Mariah Carey

Mariah Carey is way more than just the queen of Christmas. She also has a vocal range that is unparalleled and world-record setting. The eye-catching singer could also be an ear-splitting one, if she chose to, like some sort of superhero. But thankfully she uses her powers for good, creating sticky songs that inspire listeners year-round and especially during the holiday season.

Miley Cyrus

Does anyone have a better pure voice than Miley Cyrus? Some might be bigger, others might be more catchy, but Cyrus has a voice like a jagged edge that cuts right through any song. Her single “Flowers” last year proved again she could reign atop the pop charts, and every cover song she performs proves she could take any piece of music and make it her own. She can soar in any genre but more than anything, she’s perfect just as she is.

Christina Aguilera

Known for her teen years as a darling of the MTV Total Request Live show, Aguilera grew up to be so much more. Her voice is stunning. If you could bottle it, it could power a small country. Not only that, but Aguilera uses it with bilingual prowess, bouncing between English and Spanish, owning two sets of audiences along the way. Her voice is a landslide and it’s unavoidable in the best of ways.


If aliens could pick up a singing voice from outer space, it would be Adele’s. The singer boasts a voice that comes out like lightning, like a tidal wave, like a volcano exploding molten lava into the atmosphere. She is a weather system unto herself. With one word, “Hello,” she becomes the most significant singer of the modern era. There isn’t much more to say about Adele, other than she’s the leader in the vocal pack.

Norah Jones

It’s the mark of an excellent singer when they can offer a mere whisper and get into your soul. And that is exactly what the jazz artist Norah Jones can do. She is a message delivered by the gods straight to your heart. She is calm and composed, a natural. And someone you want to hear over and over again, whether weeping over heartbreak or enjoying a dinner for two.

Lainey Wilson

Lainey Wilson is one of the most important and one of the most popular singers in country music today. And she’s worthy of being on this list if for no other reason than her performance at the recent 57th Annual CMA Awards. Her hit single, “Wildflowers and Wild Horses,” showcases a voice that’s burning to be heard. A talent that glows within any darkness. She has attitude aplenty and even more talent.

Alicia Keys

Perhaps the most poised and graceful artist on this list, Alicia Keys is brilliant at being a human being. What that translates to musically is an artist’s favorite artist, someone who can walk in any circle and maintain elegance and strength. She seems like she knows the secret to the world, that thing that scientist Stephen Hawking was looking for in The Theory of Everything. Keys knows and expresses it in song but will never give the secret away.

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