Females have been a major part of the rock scene since the beginning, and the 90s were no exception. While the decade was heavily dominated by male rock bands, there were these female rockers who blazed a trail of their own in the rock world.
This list celebrates those incredible female rockers who took the world by storm in the 90s. From Alanis Morissette to Shirley Manson, these are the women who helped define the sound of the decade and continue to be an inspiration for female musicians today.
Top Best Female Rock Singers of the 90s
1. Courtney Love
First, on the list, we have the one and only Courtney Love, the queen of grunge and the ultimate rock chick of the 90s. A vocalist and songwriter, Love’s career has spanned over three decades and she is best known as the lead singer of the alternative rock band Hole. She has a voice that is unmistakable and has been cited as an influence by many artists.
- Known For: Her edgy fashion sense, outspoken personality, and being the lead singer of the iconic band, Hole.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Doll Parts”, a hauntingly beautiful song that showcased Courtney’s raw, emotional talent.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning critical acclaim for Hole’s album, “Live Through This”, which is widely considered one of the greatest albums of the 90s.
- Total Records Sold: Over 8 million worldwide.
- Extra: Courtney Love is not your average rock star. She’s unapologetic, uncensored, and totally badass. She’s also known for her tumultuous relationship with Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain, which only added to her mystique. But regardless of her personal life, Courtney’s music speaks for itself. From her powerful vocals to her fearless lyrics, she’s a force to be reckoned with.
2. Alanis Morissette
Next up, we have the iconic 90s singer-songwriter, Alanis Morissette. This Canadian goddess of alternative rock, Alanis Morissette has left an indelible mark on the music industry with her powerful vocals, raw lyrics, and unique style. Her breakthrough album “Jagged Little Pill” is still regarded as one of the greatest albums of all time, and with hits like “You Oughta Know” and “Ironic”, it’s easy to see why. She’s the kind of artist who makes you want to grab a tub of ice cream and cry your heart out while belting out her songs at the top of your lungs.
- Known For: Her angst-ridden lyrics, powerhouse vocals, and being the queen of breakup anthems.
- Memorable 90s Track: “You Oughta Know”, the ultimate breakup anthem that still resonates with listeners today.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning five Grammy Awards for her groundbreaking album, “Jagged Little Pill”, which has sold over 33 million copies worldwide.
- Total Records Sold: Over 75 million worldwide.
- Extra: Alanis Morissette may be known for her angsty, gut-wrenching tunes, but don’t be deceived – she’s far more than just the queen of breakup ballads. A true trailblazer, Morissette fearlessly tackles taboo topics and wears her heart on her sleeve with every note she sings. Not only is she a gifted musician, but she’s also a fierce activist and unapologetic feminist who has never shied away from speaking her truth. And let’s not forget her wicked sense of humor – just take a listen to “Ironic” for proof.
3. Dolores O’ Riordan
The music industry lost a true star when Dolores O’ Riordan passed away in 2018. As the lead singer of Irish rock band The Cranberries, she was one of the defining voices of the 90s. Her signature soft and sultry voice made her music stand out from the rest, and The Cranberries were one of the most successful rock bands of the decade.
- Known For: Her ethereal vocals, deeply personal lyrics, and unique sense of style.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Zombie”, a powerful protest song that remains one of the most iconic tracks of the decade.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Selling over 40 million records worldwide and being recognized as one of the most influential female rock singers of all time.
- Total Records Sold: Over 50 million worldwide with The Cranberries.
- Extra: Dolores O’ Riordan’s impact on the music world cannot be overstated. She was a true original, with a voice and style that were all her own. Her music spoke to a generation and continues to resonate with listeners today. Though she may no longer be with us, her legacy lives on through her timeless songs and the countless artists she has inspired. Dolores will always be remembered as one of the greatest female rock singers of the 90s – and indeed, of all time.
4. Gwen Stefani
The 90s wouldn’t have been the same without Gwen Stefani. She exploded onto the scene as the frontwoman of No Doubt and has since forged a successful solo career. Even more impressive is Gwen’s fashion sense – she’s a trend-setter who has defined 90s style for generations to come.
- Known For: Her powerful voice, rebellious attitude, and fierce style that made her an icon of 90s female rock.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Just a Girl”, an anthem for anyone who’s ever felt like they don’t fit in or are underestimated because of their gender. Plus, “Don’t Speak”, a heartbreaking ballad that still makes us all feel all the feels.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning three Grammy Awards and selling over 30 million records worldwide, both as a solo artist and with No Doubt.
- Total Record Sold: 30 Million Worldwide.
- Extra: Stefani was the ultimate 90s cool girl, with her crop tops, baggy pants, and bold lipstick. She could rock a ska beat like nobody’s business and her live performances were always electric. Plus, let’s not forget her stint as a coach on The Voice, where she proved that she’s not just a talented singer, but also a great mentor and judge. If you don’t love Gwen Stefani, then you’re just not living life to the fullest.
5. Shirley Manson
The fiery redhead who led the band Garbage to fandom, Shirley Manson is an absolute icon of the 90s rock scene. With her mesmerizing voice and fierce attitude, Shirley Manson proved that redheads don’t just have more fun, they also rock harder. And let’s face it, if anyone knows how to take out the trash, it’s Garbage.
- Known For: Her fiery red hair, unapologetic attitude and powerful stage presence.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Stupid Girl”, a feminist anthem that reminded us all not to let anyone define us.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Selling over 17 million records worldwide and being named one of the 100 Greatest Women in Music by VH1.
- Total Records Sold: Over 17 million worldwide with her band.
- Extra: Shirley Manson is a true rock star who exudes confidence and strength. Her music is an empowering blend of alt-rock and electronica, with her powerful voice at the helm. Manson has inspired generations of female musicians to be unapologetically themselves, and her legacy will continue to live on for years to come. Now that’s real rock music.
6. Linda Perry
Here to break all the rules and smash stereotypes, Linda Perry is a true pioneer of the 90s rock scene. From her time as the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes to her successful solo career, Linda Perry has proven time and time again that she’s got what it takes to rock your socks off.
- Known For: Her gritty vocals, badass attitude, and being the ultimate rock chick.
- Memorable 90s Track: “What’s Up”, a song that will transport you straight back to the 90s with its catchy chorus and killer guitar riffs.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Writing and producing hit songs for artists like Pink, Christina Aguilera, and Gwen Stefani.
- Total Records Sold: Who cares about records sold? Linda Perry is all about the music, man.
- Extra: When she’s not busy rocking out, Linda Perry is a vegan activist and outspoken advocate for LGBTQ+ rights. She’s also got a killer sense of style and has been known to rock some seriously badass leather jackets.
7. PJ Harvey
Another trailblazer of 90s rock, PJ Harvey is the artist that put alternative rock on the map. This British singer-songwriter is still making waves today. Her music is raw, honest, and unapologetic – just like her. She’s not afraid to speak her mind and she does it all with a badass attitude.
- Known For: Her raw and intense lyrics, haunting vocals, and for being a pioneer of alternative rock music.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Down by the Water”, a chilling song with an unforgettable chorus that will send shivers down your spine.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning the Mercury Prize twice, once for her fifth album “Stories from the City, Stories from the Sea” and eight album “Let England Shake”. She’s also been nominated for multiple Grammy Awards.
- Total Records Sold: Over 3 million worldwide.
- Extra: She’s not interested in fame or fortune – she’s all about the music. Her live shows are legendary, and she always gives 110%. Plus, she’s not afraid to experiment with different genres and styles, which is why she’s remained relevant for so many years. PJ Harvey is a true artist, and if you haven’t listened to her music yet, you’re missing out on something truly special.
8. Sinéad O’Connor
Shaved head, piercing voice, and who put the “bad” in “badass” – Sinéad O’Connor broke all the rules and blazed a trail for female artists in the music industry. Whether she was singing about love, politics, or religion, Sinéad always spoke her mind and didn’t give a damn about what anyone thought.
- Known For: Her shaved head, piercing voice, and controversial actions, including tearing up a picture of the Pope on live television.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Nothing Compares 2 U”, a heart-wrenching ballad that became a massive hit and catapulted Sinéad to international stardom.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning four Grammy nominations for her album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got”, including Best Alternative Music Album and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.
- Total Records Sold: Over 10 million worldwide.
- Extra: Sinéad O’Connor was never one to play by the rules. She challenged societal norms, broke down barriers for female artists, and spoke out against injustice. Her music may be emotional, raw, and sometimes controversial, but it always came from the heart. With her fearless spirit and uncompromising talent, Sinéad O’Connor proved that sometimes the most powerful statement you can make is to simply be yourself.
9. Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple is the girl you wish you could be. She’s the quintessential rock star: she’s cool, edgy, and doesn’t give a damn about what anyone thinks. Her music is equal parts heartbreaking ballads and upbeat anthems – perfect for when you want to wallow in your misery or dance your troubles away.
- Known For: Her soulful vocals, brutally honest lyrics, and a no-holds-barred attitude that made her one of the most captivating female rock singers of the 90s.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Criminal”, a sultry and provocative song that was controversial at the time but became a massive hit and helped establish Fiona’s career.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Winning the Grammy Award for Best Female Rock Vocal Performance in 1998, and her critically acclaimed album “When the Pawn…” which showcased her musical growth.
- Total Records Sold: Over 10 million worldwide.
- Extra: While Fiona Apple has never been one to shy away from expressing her emotions, she takes it a step further with her music. Her songs are raw and honest, but never melodramatic – they capture the full range of human experience, from joy to despair. With her unique sound and captivating personality, Fiona Apple is truly one of a kind that will always leave you wanting more.
10. Sophie B. Hawkins
Sophie B. Hawkins was more than just a talented musician. She was a breath of fresh air – funny, smart, and unapologetically herself. In a world full of cookie-cutter singers, Sophie’s unique sound and quirky attitude made her stand out from the crowd.
- Known For: Her eclectic style and playful lyrics, which blended elements of folk, pop, blues, and jazz into a unique mix.
- Memorable 90s Track: “Damn I Wish I Was Your Lover”, a steamy love song that oozed with sensuality and desire.
- Biggest Accomplishment: Earning a Grammy nomination for Best New Artist in 1993.
- Total Records Sold: Over 2 million worldwide.
- Extra: Sophie B. Hawkins may not have had the same mainstream success as some of her contemporaries, but that doesn’t diminish her impact on the music scene. Her willingness to explore taboo subjects and push boundaries helped pave the way for future generations of female rockers. And when it comes to her killer harmonica skills – she could blow that thing like nobody’s business.
90s Alternative Rock Female Singers
Alternative rock was at its peak in the 90s with bands like Nirvana, Pearl Jam, and Stone Temple Pilots leading the charge. However, there was another side of the alternative rock scene being led by some of the most talented female singers. Though a little less popular than their male counterparts, these female singers were no less talented and had a major influence on the alternative rock scene:
Among the most well-known include PJ Harvey, Juliana Hatfield, Mazzy Star’s Hope Sandoval, Courtney Love of Hole, and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth.
Here are other lesser-known but equally talented female rockers from the 90s alternative scene:
- Tori Amos
- Liz Phair
- Kathleen Hanna
- Lydia Lunch
- Natalie Imbruglia
- Tanya Donelly
- Ani DiFranco
- Bif Naked
90s Rock Bands with Female Singers
It’s hard to believe that the 90s were almost 30 years ago and it’s also hard to believe that there were so many amazing rock bands during this time fronted by strong female singers.
Leading the way, of course, was the iconic Courtney Love from Hole, Kim Deal from The Breeders, and Shirley Manson from Garbage.
Courtney Love in particular became a symbol of female empowerment and rebellion with her raw and unapologetic sound. Not only did she become an icon of the 90s but also paved the way for female rockers to come in the decades following.
Shirley Manson on other hand was a bit more demure but no less talented. Her band Garbage became one of the most popular rock bands of the time and had a major influence on the alternative rock scene.
Today as we look back at these incredible female singers from the 90s, we can only marvel at their talent and contributions to the rock scene.
- Nina Persson from The Cardigans
- Kim Deal from The Breeders
- Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney
- Corin Tucker from Sleater-Kinney
- Leigh Nash from Sixpence None the Richer
- Shirley Manson from Garbage
- Hope Sandoval from Mazzy Star
- Harriet Wheeler from The Sundays
- Justine Frischmann from Elastica
- Kay Hanley from Letters to Cleo
As you saw from this list, the 90s were a remarkable decade for female rockers. These women not only proved that they are just as talented as their male counterparts but also helped shape the rock scene for decades to come. And now that we’ve seen their incredible contributions, it can only be hoped that their work will continue to inspire more female rockers in the years to come. Thank you for taking the time to read this list and liked it.