What makes a music artist great, stand the test of time, and attain legendary status? Could it be strong vocals, life stories, songwriting ability, or an energetic stage presence? Most often, it is a combination of all three elements. Irrespective of the music genre, be it rock, jazz, country, rap, or pop, a great artist always oozes musical ingenuity.
Considering these elements, chart positions, and global appeal, here are some legends of modern female musicians worth learning from.
Growing up, Lady Gaga did not have so many people who believed in her. She was considered a misfit and was mocked for being too provocative and too eccentric. However, these are traits that would later propel her into the limelight. Her impressive and equally eccentric career has held us spellbound for over a decade now. Right of the bat of her 2008 album "The Fame," Gaga has forged her path and captured the attention of many with her voice, amazing piano skills, and eclectic fashion sense.
While Gaga is vocal about her mental health challenges and sexual abuse at a young age, she has not let it define her career. It has been interesting watching Lady Gaga grow in her career, sharpening her songwriting and performance skills. Gaga has also become one of the best-selling and most awarded musicians. In 2019, Lady Gaga became the first female artist to win all five big awards in one season for the song "Shallow" from her movie "A Star is Born."
Interestingly, Adele has released only three albums, yet the records she's broken have been amazing. For instance, in 2017, her album "21" surpassed Carole King's "Tapestry" to become the best-selling album from a female artist ever. "21" also charted for 319 weeks on the Billboard 200. The emotions in every song are expressed by Adele's powerhouse voice, making her music universally appealing.
There are no gimmicks with Adele's music, no flashiness; it is all about her voice. Adele is synonymous with several modes of songwriting that tell personal stories that resonate with listeners. She has made over 120 million record sales, won an Oscar, Grammys, and a Golden Globe, all while operating within the context of her talent. However, it hasn't always been smooth sailing for Adele. For instance, she suffered a vocal-cord haemorrhage in 2011, which required throat microsurgery. Luckily, she has risen above these challenges and gone on to release her third album, 25.
Interestingly, Alicia Keys started her career as an actress, appearing in an episode (titled "Slumber Party.") of The Cosby Show in 1985. However, she rose to fame as a best-selling artist in 2001 after her debut album "Songs in A Minor" was released at age 20. Her dedication to her art has always been evident right from a young age. For instance, she graduated top of her class from the Professional Performing Arts School in New York at age 16.
Alicia has not always had it easy growing up. In the past, she has been open about her insecurities growing up in a broken home and rough neighbourhood and details it all in her book, "More Myself." Over the years, this talented and classically trained pianist with spectacular songwriting skills and a soulful voice has been awarded over 15 Grammy Awards, an award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, among others.
Though Sia has been in music since 1990, her breakthrough as a solo recording artist came in 2014 with her sixth studio album, 1000 Forms of Fear. Growing up in a musical home, she always had an interest in music from a young age. Although through the years, Sia has suffered from a series of ailments, addictions to painkillers and alcohol, depression, and worse. She went into rehab, got clean, and stepped back into writing songs for others and turned her life around. Sia has written hit songs for top female artists like Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Kylie Minogue, and Rihanna.
In addition to her songwriting craft, she has infused her emotionally charged vocals and instrumental skills to create amazing music. Sia's music also comprises performance-art-like shows that involve dance and theatrical effects. A perfect example is a video to her single Chandelier (off the "1000 Forms of Fear" album), which has over 2.2 billion views on YouTube.
Although she's relatively new to the music industry, Billie Eilish has taken the internet by storm. Her expressive vocals, eerily beautiful lyrics, and production have made her online music streaming success. Billie Eilish's musical catalog consists of a variety of styles, ranging from electro-pop to alternative rock.
She's garnered a lot of attention with the 2016 track "Ocean Eyes" and her 2017 EP, "Don't Smile at Me." Her chart-topping success came in 2019 after releasing her debut album, "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" At just the age of 19 and one studio album, she has already won seven Grammys.
Another inspiring thing about Billie was when she opened up on her experience living with Tourette syndrome. She speaks on how the disorder has helped her better connect with fans. Billie says she has learned that several of her fans have it. Thus it has made her feel more at home speaking about the syndrome.
From leading one of the most successful female groups to having an iconic solo career, Beyoncé's impact in music has been resounding, especially in black excellence and girl power. Right from childhood, her talent, work ethic, professionalism, and strength have always made her stand out and raise the bar with everything she does. The road to success, however, was not always easy. She had to endure a series of broken contracts while she was with Destiny's Child. And likewise, overcome depression from doubting if she will be taken seriously as an artist. But her records today show how far she has come in her career.
At the recent 63rd Grammys, Beyoncé received her 28th Grammy making her most awarded female artist. With several chart-topping albums and sold-out shows, Beyoncé's music always has an important statement, influencing so many across the globe. Her widely varied catalogues include catchy anthems like "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on it)" and "Run the World (Girls).
Rihanna broke into the music scene with hits like "Pon the Replay," "SOS," and "Umbrella." Beyond bringing the dancehall genre and her Caribbean roots to the forefront of popular music, Rihanna has become influential to both pop culture and the music industry. Regardless of being bullied as a kid, she has grown into a confident, strong woman. Using her vocal talent and engaging performances, she uses her platform to stand up for what she believes in.
Her unapologetic nature, voice, hard work, and energy have gotten her an industry-wide appeal. Her collaboration with Calvin Harris on "We Found Love" has spurred similar Electronic dance music (EDM) DJ collaborations among pop stars. However, Rihanna's recent focus has been her cosmetic and fashion line, an interest she probably picked up while selling clothes with her father back in Barbados. We are still looking out for a 10th studio album from her, fingers crossed.
Lana Del Rey
One female artist who can hit the feminine high notes and jazzy low notes with ease is Lana Del Rey. She can effortlessly captivate her audience with a cinematic quality that has a retro touch. Lana's ballads-styled songs have themes covering melancholia, glamour, tragic romance, and vintage pop culture.
Although Lana had been actively performing since 2005, finding the right record deal had been a struggle. But with perseverance and hard work, her breakthrough came with her "Born to Die" album in 2011. Billboard also stated that Del Rey influenced her peers and the next generation of alternative-leaning pop stars, like Taylor Swift and Billie Eilish.
Mariah Carey's music has helped to influence other big female superstars of today like Beyoncé, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Mary J. Blige. With a music career that has been on for over three decades, Mariah's impressive vocal range is just one of her several unique qualities. Right from elementary school, Mariah had a love for the arts and excelled in music and literature. She also began writing poetry and lyrics in high school. All of these would set her on the path towards a stellar music career.
Mariah's music journey has not been without hurdles, especially between 2001- 2004, when she had to overcome personal and professional struggles, like exhaustion and mental health challenges. During this period, her albums like Glitter and Charmbracelet, released under Virgin Records, had dismal sales, and her vocals were heavily criticized. However, Mariah has managed to keep reinventing herself amidst her struggles. She has been able to help set trends that are common in music today. This is seen from her five-octave vocal range to popularizing rappers as feature acts in pop music through her post-1995 songs. Her songwriting prowess has given us hits like "All I Want for Christmas Is You," which has become a classic holiday song.
Rolling Stone hailed her a "pop prodigy." She has also toured with Imagine Dragons and Florence and the Machine. Grace VanderWaal started off her musical career by posting videos of covers and her original songs on YouTube.
At age 12, the young ukulele-wielding singer and songwriter shot to fame after winning the 11th season of NBC's America's Got Talent (ATG). Growing up in the limelight, Grace has been vocal about her struggles on becoming her own artist post AGT. She also speaks on how she handles fame at a young age by staying grounded and leaning on her family and loved ones to help her through.
She has gone on to release her best-selling EP, "Perfectly Imperfect." Her songs are well-balanced ballads full of energy and have amassed more than 675 million streams worldwide.
Whether it's belting out hit tunes, topping chats, winning awards, or fighting for a good course, there is something worth learning from these female music artists. And of course, there are so many more amazing female musicians out there we didn't mention that you can also learn from.
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