Before looking at the best pop songs for altos, perhaps we need to make sure there is no confusion. Therefore, it might help to identify what an alto is. There are different voices, so let’s take a quick look at them. Let’s start with the four for the male voice.
Male voices starting from the lowest are:
You will note that Alto is not included. There are some male Alto parts, but these would need to be sung in “falsetto.” It is not uncommon, especially in church choirs, to have male altos but not so prevalent in Pop songs.
Female voices from the lowest are:
There are one or two subdivisions, for example, mezzo-soprano. But, these are the main identifiers. Usually, the alto is the lowest of the female voices. Of course, occasionally, you will get a Contralto.
As an example, there have been some well-known Contraltos. Karen Carpenter, Cleo Laine, Cass Elliot, Roberta Flack, Billie Holiday, Etta James, and Amy Winehouse, to mention just a few.
- How Do You Know If You Are An Alto?
- The Best Songs For Altos
- Top 24 Best Pop Songs For Altos
- I Have A Dream by Abba
- Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters
- Only Yesterday by The Carpenters
- Home Again by Carole King
- At Last by Etta James
- Rock This Country! by Shania Twain
- From This Moment On by Shania Twain (feat. Brian White)
- Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
- If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher
- Believe by Cher
- Somewhere from West Side Story
- Rehab by Amy Winehouse
- Back To Black by Amy Winehouse
- What’s Love Got to Do with It by Tina Turner
- I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
- I Only Have Eyes For You by Cleo Laine
- It’s Too Late by Carole King
- You’re Still The One by Shania Twain
- Mamma Mia by Abba
- Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack
- I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin
- You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
- Memory by Elaine Paige
- A House Is Not A Home by Dionne Warwick
- Looking for More Great Songs for Different Vocal Ranges?
- Best Pop Songs For Altos – Final Thoughts
How Do You Know If You Are An Alto?
If you can sing the ‘G’ that is below the stave on sheet music and go up to a ‘D’ then you are in the standard Alto range. If you can comfortably go higher than that ‘D’, it possibly means you are a Soprano.
The Best Songs For Altos
All of the contraltos I mentioned above could also sing Alto. They all had a range that was quite wide. There are some great songs by some great singers that fall into the category we know as Alto. So, let’s take a look, starting with…
Top 24 Best Pop Songs For Altos
I Have A Dream by Abba
Behind The Beatles, Abba was probably the greatest Pop band there has ever been. Although, I do know one or two people that will argue that the Abba songs were better, if not always the performance.
Whatever your view, they are one of the great acts of the 70s and 80s and produced some memorable material. Many songs that Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus composed, sometimes with Stig Anderson, were positive and uplifting. This is one of those songs.
It was released in 1979 from the album, Voulez-Vous, and reached #2 in the UK. This song is sung by Anni-Frid Lyngstad who had a better than average range. However, if you can hit those higher notes positively, it is a great Pop song for an Alto audition if that is what you need.
Rainy Days and Mondays by The Carpenters
Before Abba shook the music world at the 1974 Eurovision Song Contest, we had The Carpenters. Not quite the same, of course, but in some respects, very similar.
A clever keyboard player who wrote, sometimes with others, some great songs. And a female voice that was probably the best of its time. The easy-to-listen-to Pop genre was at times common to both.
Easy To Listen To
And their songs were. This song reached #2 in America in 1971. It wasn’t written by Richard Carpenter. Paul Williams and Roger Nichols composed it. It was one of those songs they released that reminded us what a great voice Karen Carpenter had.
She was always great to listen to, and her performance seemed effortless. Her voice had range and a silky tone that placed her way above her contemporaries.
Only Yesterday by The Carpenters
Since we are talking about The Carpenters, let’s stay with them for one more. This was a 1975 release from the album, Horizon.
This is another effortless performance from Karen Carpenter and her three-octave Alto/Contralto range. Her songs were never the easiest to sing, which made her performances even better than they sounded. Unsurprisingly this is one of the best Pop songs for altos.
It is a well-written song that has a negative atmosphere created by using minor chords. But then it changes to a more positive sound by switching to major chords. Her voice, of course, can encapsulate both emotions. It reached #7 in the UK and #4 in America.
Home Again by Carole King
If you are looking for a sentimental alto Pop song about missing home and someone who is back there, then this is the one. Carole King, in my opinion, is one of the most underrated songwriters we have had.
Yes, people know her name, but she ought to be spoken of in the same breath as others who are far better known. This song is a good example of what I mean. It was taken from her album, Tapestry. After years of writing songs for other people, she finally turned to recording them herself.
In the early 60s…
Along with Gerry Goffin, her ex-husband, she wrote “Will You Love Me Tomorrow.” A big hit for The Shirelles on both sides of the Atlantic. It has been covered with success by a dozen other artists, including Neil Diamond and Amy Winehouse. And, for a change of pace, how about “The Locomotion” by Little Eva? Another early 60s King and Goffin collaboration.
Tapestry was the second album and one of the great albums of the 70s. “Home Again” was one of the highlights. The meaning of the song will resonate with anyone who has had to spend time away from home and maybe loved ones.
A tender love song about home…
And, it needs to be sung like that. No histrionics and arms flailing in the air. Just a soft, gentle Alto performance.
At Last by Etta James
This epic performance by one of the great female singers of the last 50 years was taken from her 1960 album of the same name.
This is one of the songs that Etta James is known for. In many ways, it was the perfect song for her. It required passionate, emotional vocals, and that was her gift. At the time, there was no one better.
This song had already become well-known by the time Etta James recorded her memorable performance in 1960. “At Last,” which featured James’s sweeping, impassioned vocals, was only a minor success at the time.
A Late Bloomer
Known as a Blues and Soul singer, At Last was her first album, and it reached #12 on the American album chart. The single, though, only reached a disappointing #47 and only rose to prominence some years after. You might call it a “late bloomer”.
If you are looking for a song to impress at any audition, then this is going to do the job. But there is one condition. You have got to be able to do it, and it will not be easy. Get it right though and you are onto a winner.
Rock This Country! by Shania Twain
One of the most important female Pop performers of the 90s, she was known for her Country style. Country music claimed this Canadian singer, but when you hear tracks like this, it is a tenuous claim. There isn’t much Hank Williams about this lady.
This song is taken from probably her best album, Come On Over, which sold millions. “Rock This Country!” is pure upbeat Rock n Roll, with some fiddles tagged on to satisfy the Country music purists. And it’s one of the best Pop songs for altos.
If you want to keep it simple, then simple this is. The range you will need to sing is not wide, so vocally it won’t stretch you. It allows you to concentrate more on the performance that can go with the song. You can relax with the vocals and give your audience, be they judges or friends, a show.
From This Moment On by Shania Twain (feat. Brian White)
Let’s stay with Shania Twain for one more. This is also from the album, Come On Over. She wrote most of the song while at a football game in Italy as she was a little bored and did not understand the game.
It was going to be offered to Celine Dion at first, but they persuaded her to keep it for herself. Labeled as “Country-Pop,” it is a touching ballad about devotion to a partner. It was released as a single and reached #9 in the UK and #4 in America. There was also chart success in other countries.
It is a highlight of the album and allows her excellent voice to be showcased. It is a song that needs to be sung but without the histrionics, so keep it simple. A great choice for an audition, it fits an Alto range perfectly but will challenge you with some of the notes at times.
Dreams by Fleetwood Mac
I have to confess; I nearly choked on my tea when I read a reviewer calling Fleetwood Mac an “American” band. Pardon? The addition of Buckingham and Nicks did not make them American at all. Not unless Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, and Christine McVie had changed nationality, that is.
Fleetwood Mac was having hit records with an all-British lineup when Buckingham and Nicks were unknown. Just for our “friend’s” education, a track from 1970 with the great Peter Green on guitar, “The Green Manalishi.”
“Dreams” was taken from the album Rumours. We don’t need to go into too much detail about the goings on around that album. It is quite incredible it was ever recorded at all, given the atmosphere around them all.
However, it came out and was a huge success…
This was the third single in the UK and the second single in America taken from the album that was released in 1977. It went to #1 in America but only #24 in the UK.
Stevie Nicks wrote and sang the song and does a great job of creating that ethereal feel it has. In that way, she was a unique singer, and this song demonstrated her very distinctive voice and style.
It is not a hard song to sing at all, but it is hard to replicate what she did with it. So, it might not be a good idea to try. But, it is an easy Pop song for altos to sing, so you can put your own interpretation and personality into it.
If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher
In the last 50 years, there have been very few singers who have survived the musical changes and come out on top. Cher is one of those.
From her very early days with then-husband Sonny Bono and songs like “I Got You Babe” to today, she has reinvented herself to lead new styles. Back then, we couldn’t have imagined how she would develop as an artist.
From those innocent 60s days to the late 80s and 90s and you have Cher at what could be her best. “If I Could Turn Back Time” is a song written by probably the most important songwriter of the period, Diane Warren.
This was released in 1989 from what was unbelievably her 19th studio album, Heart Of Stone. It went to #6 in the UK and #3 in America. I should imagine Cher was pleased she had a change of heart. She initially told Diane Warren she didn’t like it and didn’t want to record it.
It became an “anthem” song for her. It’s a song with a great hook and driving rhythm, which makes it a great song for an audition. And lastly, it is a Pop song made for an Alto’s voice, and Cher does it full justice. Easily one of the best Pop songs for altos.
Believe by Cher
Let’s stay with Cher because a decade later, she is still knocking them out. The 70s had been very much a plastic disco age, but by the 90s, the disco sound was still with us. It was just packaged differently and is now referred to as Dance Music.
Essentially, it was the same thing. Disco had been for dance, and so was this track from Cher. But, let’s not put a negative connotation on what was a good Pop song and an even better one for altos. It was taken from the 1998 album of the same name, which was her 22nd studio album.
In some ways, this is a song about empowerment. It talks about a rather messy and nasty breakup and the strength needed to put it behind her and move on. With a driving rhythm with powerful lyrics, it is one of the best Alto Pop music songs around.
Somewhere from West Side Story
Let’s go back in time a bit now to 1957 and this classic musical from Stephen Sondheim and Leonard Bernstein. The story we are all familiar with.
In William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” where the idea of “West Side Story” was taken from, it was two warring Italian families. In “West Side Story” it is two rival street gangs from New York.
An added theme was the racial prejudice that existed as one gang was made up of Puerto Ricans. It is the story of Tony from one side and Maria from the other and their doomed love affair. It was, of course, made into a film in 1961 and again in 2021.
The song ‘Somewhere’’ is undoubtedly one of the highlights. If you are going to use it for an audition it has its plus and negative points. The pluses are that you can impose your character on the song and also demonstrate some acting skills to go along with it.
The downside is that everyone knows it. So, you had better do a good job as comparisons are bound to be made. It sits in an Alto range, but there are a couple of high notes that will need to be controlled. However, it is a song that can generate a big performance.
Rehab by Amy Winehouse
In 2006, Amy Winehouse released the critically acclaimed album Back To Black. This was the first track from the album. A very typical Winehouse track, with plenty of blues and jazz influences and tons of “feel.”
Musically, it is not a difficult Pop song for an Alto to sing. But, it isn’t easy to generate the same atmosphere as she gets.
The Subject Matter
The lyrics are, on reflection, a prediction of how things turned out. It could be a cry for help, but it is hard to know with her. From day one, she seems like she was hell-bent on a course for a head-on collision with a combination of drugs and alcohol.
The song sounds autobiographical, explaining away her unwillingness to go into Rehab. A great song to listen to, but if you are considering it for an audition, then you have to be believable in your performance.
Back To Black by Amy Winehouse
Let’s stay with Amy Winehouse and the same album for its title track. This was her second and last album, released in 2006. It was written during a time of personal emotional turmoil.
She had been in what could only be described as a tumultuous relationship. He had left, and the album was written during the time he was gone. It turned out to be one of the great albums of the early 2000s.
A Trademark Song
For her, it became a trademark song and was a permanent feature of live shows. For example, she recorded this in London in 2007 and shows very clearly the pure ability of the lady.
Again, it is typical of her. Jazz and Blues are so evident in the song. Her voice almost caresses the notes rather than singing them. The emotion is just there and doesn’t have to be forced.
I suppose one has to ask the question: what would she have produced if she hadn’t died at age 27? This song, though, is not an easy one to copy if that is what you are trying to do. But, if you are looking for something bluesy with a jazz feel, you won’t find much better than this.
What’s Love Got to Do with It by Tina Turner
If you are looking at the best Pop songs for altos, then this is one lady that has to be included. If ever there was a force of nature, it was her. I was fortunate enough to get special seats for her performance for her Farewell Tour concert at Wembley Stadium in London in 2000.
She called it “One Last Time”…
It wasn’t. A few years later, to celebrate 50 years, she did a series of shows at the age of 69. She put on performances that would have wrecked others half her age. As I said, a force of nature.
Picking a song from her endless catalog is not easy, but I have chosen this. It was taken from her 1984 album, Private Dancer. It was written by British writers Terry Britten and Graham Lyle.
First, it was offered to Cliff Richard, but I am sure that wouldn’t have worked well. It went through a few options before it finally got to Tina.
44 and still had more…
It became the biggest selling single in America in 1984 for her at the ripe old age of 44. Mind you, 44 for her meant she was still just warming up. The song was an international success reaching #3 in the UK and #1 in America and other countries.
It became a fixture in her stage shows and was used in the film about her life. A great song for Altos to sing. Plenty of punch and a good hook.
I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor
The song that became an anthem for empowerment for women all over the world. It was released as the second single from her album, Love Tracks, in 1978.
Musically a product of the disco age, it reached #1 in the UK and America. Probably one of the most popular songs ever for a karaoke performance. If that’s what you are considering, then you won’t find much better for your audience.
The song is about a woman who finds extra inner strength after the breakup of a relationship. It could, of course, apply the other way around. Its disco rhythms give it a certain drive which was crucial to its success and its popularity.
I Only Have Eyes For You by Cleo Laine
A song that was written by Al Dubin and Henry Warren was originally composed for the film “Dames” in 1934. It is one of those songs that still maintains its grace and style even after 90 years. Most would call it a masterpiece of songwriting.
It has been covered by dozens of artists. One such notable version by Art Garfunkel came from his album, Breakaway in 1975. Art uses his full range at the top end to sing the song.
Our chosen voice for the track, Cleo Laine, uses the full range at the lower end. Her deep alto, at times contralto tone, gives this song what it needs. It delivers a deep sensuality that few others could offer. If your voice is strong at the lower end of the Alto range, then this is a must to consider.
It’s Too Late by Carole King
We have already taken one track from Carole King’s 1971 album, Tapestry. Well, here is another that is likely to be well-known by most. This is a comfortable Pop song for altos to sing. It has a gentle pace with a comfortable range and an easy feel to it.
The song offers a different message. It is about someone that doesn’t love their partner anymore and is saying sorry. It is a thought-provoking song with a laid-back attitude that makes it so comfortable not only to sing but to listen to.
To give you an alternative way of performing the song, Cuban singer Gloria Estefan covered it in 1995.
You’re Still The One by Shania Twain
Let’s go back to Shania Twain one last time. Hers is not only a great voice but a natural Alto voice. That gives you plenty of options from her catalog of songs.
This again is taken from her second studio album, Come On Over. That album probably established her with a worldwide reputation. It has also been included in various Greatest Hits compilations.
A ballad with Country music feel…
Although, it is not what you would call very “traditional.” The way the song is written means it appeals to a much wider audience and has become a popular karaoke song.
Not a particularly difficult song to sing; it does allow you to demonstrate good control and interpret the gentle lyrics in your own way. The single reached #10 in the UK, #1 in Canada, and #2 in America.
Mamma Mia by Abba
One quick return to Abba to suggest another track from them. This song was released from their third album, simply called Abba.
A song that is quintessentially them, it has everything we come to expect from a song written by Benny Andersson, Björn Ulvaeus, and Stig Anderson. Nice tempo, that will appeal to the clubs, a good hook that will appeal to the record-buying public, and of course, it was Abba.
They were a phenomenon…
You will often see written that there was nothing like The Beatles before, during, or after. And there wasn’t. In many ways, the same applies to Abba. The glamor, the quality of the songs, the excellent productions. They were unique.
This is a great song for any occasion, be it an audition or just fun at karaoke night. It reached #1 in the UK, Australia, and Germany but only #32 in America. It also became the title of a major musical involving their music. One of the early songs, this one will always be popular with any listener.
Killing Me Softly by Roberta Flack
This is a song that just about everyone will know. But, I wonder if they know the controversies and subterfuge that surround it. The song was written by Charles Fox and Norman Gimbel.
They worked in close association, especially regarding the lyrics, with Lori Liebermann. She was inspired by a Don McLean concert she had been to in 1971. Fox and Gimbel refused to give her any writing credit or recognition, so she released her own version. It was released in 1972 but didn’t chart.
Fox and Gimbel accepted the Liebermann story and then suddenly changed their mind. Don McLean had placed on his website a recognition that he was the one Liebermann had written about. In 2008, Fox said he was going to sue McLean unless he took it down.
McLean then showed Gimbel a copy of a quote from him saying that he knew he had been Lieberman’s inspiration. Case closed. There are some lovely people around.
But What About The Song?
Roberta Flack released the song in 1973, and it was a big hit for her. Quite understandably so, she produced an excellent performance. It reached #6 in the UK and #1 in America, Australia, and Canada.
It is a song that is going to test your ability as a singer if that is what you need the song for. The range is not so bad, but the style of the song means there is plenty of “vocal movement” around the stave. But more important is the emotion that goes into your performance.
Creating that emotion doesn’t require a lot of histrionics. But, it does demand a sensitive interpretation of the lyrics in the verses and chorus. A popular song for an Alto singer to leave an impression.
I Say a Little Prayer by Aretha Franklin
If you like Soul music, then there has to be an inclusion from the “Queen of Soul” – Aretha Franklin. This is one of her best-known songs. It was written about a woman missing her husband who was in Vietnam.
However, the song though wasn’t meant for Franklin. Burt Bacharach and Hal David wrote it for Dionne Warwick, and she released it first in 1967. Dionne’s version reached #4 in America. Aretha released it in 1968, a track taken from her album, Aretha Now.
This was also a success on both sides of the Atlantic. It peaked at #4 in the UK and #10 in America with decent chart positions in charts across Europe. It is a song forever linked with Aretha Franklin and was one of her most recognizable hits.
Singing The Song?
That will depend on what style the singer is. It won’t suit every type of Alto. And, you would need to be good and in control of those higher notes, especially in the chorus.
Listen to Dionne Warwick’s version above so you can hear the differences. It is an excellent performance by Warwick, as it always is from one of the great 60s singers, but not by all, I am afraid.
Two instruments trying to play in harmony in the break, and the harmonizer hits a rather bum note. Twice.
How did they let them get away with that?
The Aretha version is also excellent, of course. No bum notes on this one, but there are a few chord changes from Dionne’s original. These allow subtle changes to the vocal line at the end of the choruses.
It is also a little slower. Dionne’s version, at times, seems a little rushed vocally. Aretha’s version does not have this slight problem. No doubt a powerful song for an Alto singer and a song that allows you to put in a big performance.
You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
Here is a song that most people will know. Released in 1971 and written by Carly Simon, it reached #3 in the UK and #1 in America.
It has that very distinctive and “difficult to get to sound just right” bass intro. It was played by Klaus Voorman, who did some work with The Beatles in the early days. The song was taken from her album, No Secrets.
It was appreciated in America and other countries. But interestingly, in 2014, the UK Official Chart Company designated it “The Song of the 70s“. I don’t know about that, but it is one of the best Pop songs for altos.
Not Too Difficult
If you’re looking for an easy song to sing for whatever reason, then this might be worth considering. An easy tempo and, apart from a couple of higher notes, a nice Alto range.
The Age Old Question?
And that is, “Who exactly it is about?” Well, three different people she came across. The second verse she said was Warren Beatty. The other two, no comment.
Memory by Elaine Paige
I have left this masterpiece almost until last. Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musicals usually throw up at least one great song. “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina” from “Evita” immediately springs to mind.
But, in my opinion, there has not been a song like “Memory.” The musical “Cats” opened in London in 1981, and that opening night was an experience like you rarely have. I am not talking about sitting at the end of a row and getting a shock.
When You Are Sharing The Experience
The shock comes when you suddenly realize you are sharing the experience with a cat. It is a member of the cast sitting beside you on the steps purring in your ear.
When Grizabella, played by Elaine Paige on this track, sings “Memory,” there wasn’t a dry eye anywhere. Grizabella is an old cat who has fallen on hard times and is very disheveled. She has never been accepted by the other cats except for Sillabub.
“Memory” sees her longing for the days when she was a beautiful dancer. She just wants acceptance into the group from which she has been ostracized.
A Worldwide Success
The musical and its music were a huge success, of course. Elaine Paige’s version of “Memory” reached #6 in the UK chart in 1981. That wasn’t the first version to be released, though. Gary Moore released an instrumental version of the song in early 1981.
The song was written by Lord Webber and Sir Trevor Nunn, the ex-artistic director for the Royal Shakespeare Company. Nunn wrote the lyrics to “Cats” based on TS Eliot’s 1939 series of poems entitled “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.”
A House Is Not A Home by Dionne Warwick
And so to the very last song. I always like to be a little biased and keep my favorite until last. This is it. In my opinion, Dionne Warwick was one of the great voices of the 60s. And she was still putting out great stuff and recording in 2019.
This is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. It was released in 1964 and was only a modest hit. It peaked at #71 on the American chart. Why it didn’t do better, I have no idea.
It has since been recorded by dozens of people, including Ella Fitzgerald, Shirley Bassey, and Dusty Springfield. She performed it live in Newcastle in the UK on tour in 1975. It was an unforgettable evening for me, made very special by her performance of this song, so here is the live version.
Do you want an Alto song that might just “stop the show” if you sing it well? This could be the one.
Looking for More Great Songs for Different Vocal Ranges?
If you are, take a look at our detailed articles on the Best Audition Songs for Baritones, the Best Audition Songs for Sopranos, the Best Audition Songs for Mezzo-Sopranos, the Best Audition Songs for Basses, and the Best Karaoke Songs for Alto Females for more great song selections.
Also, if you are an aspiring singer, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best Live Vocal Mics, the Best Microphones For Recording Vocals, the Best Wireless Microphones, and the Best Dynamic Microphones you can buy in 2023.
And, if you can’t get enough karaoke, don’t miss our comprehensive reviews of the Best Karaoke Microphones, the Best Karaoke Microphones for iPhones and Smartphones, the Best Karaoke Machines, and the Best Karaoke Speakers currently on the market.
Best Pop Songs For Altos – Final Thoughts
When you produce a list like this, the one thing that always springs to mind can be summed up in one word. Quality.
Boys And Girls
You will see that most of the songs I have suggested are all sung by the ladies. That doesn’t mean they cannot be performed by the boys. If your range is right, they can.
Songwriters come from various backgrounds, as do those that sing the songs. It is, therefore, more than interesting to see the work they produce. In nearly all cases, it is stunning, as we have seen here.
Comfortable For So Many
Writing songs that will fit an Alto’s range makes them available to many singers. Good singers have a range that will usually be comfortable in Alto as well as lower in Contralto. The songs here fall into different categories, of course. You may want a great alto Pop song for an audition; well, there are plenty of those.
You may just want a song to have a bash at a karaoke evening, and quite a few will fit that need. Or you might just want to kick back, relax, and listen. There are more than enough of those.
So, until next time, make yourself heard.