There is a wealth of riches when putting together a list of the most famous British female singers. I’ve kept the list relatively short. But I’ve tried to include singers spanning through a few different generations. I hope there are a least one or two in there that you like or even love.
Let’s get straight to it and take a look at the first famous female singer from the UK…
Top 9 Most Famous British Female Singers
Olivia Newton-John was born in 1948 in Cambridge, England. She moved to Australia at just five years old. Because of this, and because she spoke with a very clear Australian accent, it’s assumed that she was Australian.
To a large extent, this is true since she became an Australian citizen in 1981. Interestingly, although she became an Australian in 1981, she had been living in America since 1974.
Before becoming a singer…
She appeared on TV and in movies. Even after she began her career as a singer, this is something she continued to do. Her first album, If Not For You, was released in 1971, and her second album, Olivia, was released in 1972.
Her career was reasonably successful. But, in 1978, she became a household name after playing the role of ‘Sandy’ in the movie musical “Grease.” She played the main female role opposite John Travolta, who played ‘Danny.’
The movie was the perfect part for Olivia Newton-John as she got the opportunity to act and sing. She sang on a total of five tracks on the original soundtrack album. One of these included the beautiful ballad “Hopelessly Devoted to You,” which won her an Academy nomination.
She released 26 studio albums…
…and another 26, which included live, compilation, and soundtrack albums. Throughout this career, she presented herself as the wholesome “girl next door,” and I’m sure it wasn’t an act.
If it was, then it was one hell of a good one. That’s because despite the widespread press interest she received wherever she went, her crown never slipped.
I loved her sweet and pure voice, which was also close to pitch-perfect. Her many other fans loved her too. Enough to make her one of the best-selling female artists ever, with over 100 million album sales to her name. Sadly, in 2023, she died of breast cancer after a long battle.
Bonnie Tyler is a Welsh singer who was born in 1951 and began her career in 1969 at just 18 years old. She released her first single, “My! My! Honeycomb”, in 1976. But, it was her second single, “Lost in France,” that first received chart success. It got to #1 in the UK but was never released in the US.
Fortunately, she only had to wait another year to get her first #1 hit with “It’s a Heartache.” It got to #1 in Norway, Sweden, Australia, Austria, and Canada. It also reached #3 in the US and #4 in the UK.
This hard-working artist eventually found wider international fame following the release of “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”
It was a huge success…
And, after years of work, she finally got her first #1 in the US and the UK. The song went platinum in the US and the UK, but sadly was her last chart-topping hit in either country.
“Total Eclipse of the Heart” was taken from Faster Than The Speed of Night. This became her best-selling album. It sold one and a half million copies and got to #3 in the US and #1 in the UK.
Although Bonnie Tyler has never released anything more successful, she has still sold over 20 million records during her career. Additionally, she still enjoys a steady demand for her music and is a very popular live performer.
So, why is that?
It’s mostly because she has a powerful, expressive, and unique voice. This is characterized by an extremely husky vocal delivery. She developed this following throat surgery in 1976 to remove nodules on her larynx.
If you listen to “Lost in France,” pre-surgery, she had a very pure voice. She didn’t use any vocal fry or distortion. Now, compare that to “It’s a Heartache.” The deep husky voice was suddenly there. The change is quite startling.
These days she sounds like she is chewing barbed wire after gargling whisky all night. And, it sounds great! It’s a testament to her determination that she could work through her vocal problems and carve out a highly successful career as one of the most famous British female singers in history.
Kate Bush started singing and writing songs in 1975 when she was just seventeen years old. His career had an amazing start courtesy of a bit of assistance from the insanely gifted guitarist David Glamour from Pink Floyd.
He helped her with her music demo tape. And, with his backing, record companies were understandably keen to sign her. EMI subsequently became her first record label, and at nineteen, she released her debut album, The Kick Inside.
The album charted well in the UK and Europe, though didn’t make much of a splash in the US. It sold a million copies, and in 1978, I was one of the fans to buy a copy for my ever-expanding vinyl collection. Or, as we called it back in the 70s, a record collection!
Kate Bush released a further nine albums…
Although her last album was in 2011, 50 Words For Snow, she remains active in the music world. Throughout her career, she has mostly been popular in Europe.
However, the inclusion of her song, “Running up That Hill,” in season four of the hit TV series, “Stranger Things,” has changed that. The unexpected inclusion of the 1985 song, taken from the album, Hounds of Love, has generated a whole new interest for this vastly underestimated artist.
For those of you that haven’t heard of Kate Bush, it’s worth your time to listen to some of her back catalog. Other than the two albums I’ve already discussed, I’d recommend listening to “Lionheart,” released in 1978, and “The Dreaming,” released in 1982. I bought both of those, too!
Lisa Stansfield was born in Manchester, located in the north of England. As well as being a singer, she is also an accomplished songwriter. She specializes in R&B, Soul, and Pop.
She began her career in 1976…
But she first got noticed after winning a singing competition on British TV in 1980. A year later, she released her debut single at just fifteen years old, “Your Alibis,” which did little in terms of either chart or sales success.
Her first album, Affection, wasn’t released until 1989 after signing with Arista Records. It was a little late in coming, but this was the album that got her noticed. It ultimately sold five million copies and became her best-selling.
Affection also contained the hit single “All Around The World.” It received huge critical acclaim as well as commercial success. It got to #1 on the US Billboard charts and to #1 in the UK. Globally it sold over a million copies.
It went on to become her best-selling single…
“All Around The World” was an up-tempo hit that was more Pop than Soul or R&B. I get why it was so popular, but I think that the single “All Woman,” released in 1991, was a much better song by far. It poured emotion and hurt and perfectly showcased Lisa Stansfield’s amazing vocal talent.
Sadly, despite having won 38 awards, and having been nominated for a further 59, she has not been able to transfer the critical acclaim to larger-scale commercial success.
She’s still creating and performing music. And I hope she hangs around long enough to become globally recognized and substantially add to her current seven million album sales tally. She is one of the greatest female British singers and deserves that recognition.
The Spice Girls
The Spice Girls are the most successful female British singing group of all time. They sold more than 85 million albums during their time together. It, therefore, seems logical to include all five of the band on my most famous British female singers playlist.
The Spice Girls were made up of Emma Bunton, Melanie B, Melanie C, Geri Halliwell, and Victoria Adams, who is now better known as Victoria Beckham. Their first single was released in 1996 and was an absolute banger. It was called “Wannabe” and was released from their debut album, Spice.
The success of the single and album was bonkers…
The single hit the top spot in the US and the UK, selling seven million copies. “Wannabe” is still their best-selling single. Sales for Spice were even more impressive. It chalked up over 23 million in sales.
Their success was based on wonderfully written songs, which they had a hand in, world-class smooth production, together with tight singing and dancing performances. They quickly built their reputations on fun and excitement, and the public loved it.
“Girl Power” was born, and female Pop music was back…
I have to confess that even as a die-hard Rock and Blues fan, I still got sucked up in the fun of it all. I even unashamedly sang and danced along to their records after a few drinks.
Thank goodness there is no video evidence. My favorite was “Who Do You Think You Are,” which was released in 1997. Please don’t tell my friends.
Adele is only 34 years old, and I believe that she is currently the best female Pop singer from the UK. She might not have the range of legends like Celine Dion and Mariah Carey, but otherwise, I think her vocal talent reigns supreme.
Incidentally, Adele has a two-and-a-half octave vocal range compared to Celine Dion’s three-and-a-half and Mariah Carey’s crazy five octaves. However, the range is only part of the equation.
Adele has an almost unearthly ability to enhance her power and manipulate her voice. It’s masterful. She has the volume of an opera singer, if needed, but can quickly switch to a high breathless style instantly. Her use of vocal fry and phrasing is also on a whole new level.
Her first album was released in 2008…
And, rather unimaginatively, it was titled 19. That appeared to be “job done” as far as the artistic input for naming future albums. Her next three were titled 21, 25, and, most recently, 30. No prizes for guessing how old she was when they were recorded.
Still, who am I to aim criticism at an artist who has sold 120 million albums but has only released four? Artists like Eric Clapton have been in the business for almost sixty years, reached iconic Rock star status, and still sold less. Perhaps Eric Clapton should title his next album “78”.
As far as Adele is concerned…
She is one of those people who typically only comes along once in a generation. The only other singer in the same era that I would compare her to, in terms of talent, would be Amy Whinehouse. And that’s who we’re going to take a look at right now.
Amy Whinehouse was incredible. Her talent was off the scale. The first time I heard her sing on the UK Jonathan Ross Show in 2004, I was in love with her. I was in love with her voice. What a tone.
She chose to sing a track from her first album, Frank. This was released in 2003 while she was still just 20. The track was “I Heard Love is Bind,” never released as a single, and she accompanied herself with an acoustic guitar.
There was no fancy production or other musicians…
It was just Amy, her guitar, and the song. I knew I was witnessing something very special, and indeed it proved to be. This was the starting point for one of the greatest female British Jazz and Soul singers for a very long time.
She followed Frank with Back to Black, which was released in 2006. The album contained some of her biggest future single hits, including “Back to Black” and “You Know I’m No Good.” It also contained her biggest hit, “Rehab.” This also became her signature song.
Back to Black sold over 18 million copies. It was the last album that was released whilst she was still alive. She died in 2011, following a long battle with drink and drugs, at just 27 years old. A waste of such a young life and remarkable talent.
She was born in 1990 in Kosovo. Due to political tension and unrest, her family was forced to seek refuge in the UK. She was a year old when she moved to London and now has dual citizenship in both Kosovo and Britain.
Rita Ora is a Pop/Dance singer and an extremely successful one at that. She began her career at just 18 years of age as a featured artist on dance tracks. Subsequently, she released her first single in 2012, “How Do We Party,” which was taken from her debut self-titled album, Ora.
The single and album were instant hits in the UK…
They both got to the top spot and sold well. On the other side of the Atlantic, things were much more muted and set the tone right to the present day.
Although Rita Ora has been extremely successful in the UK and Europe, she has never caught on in the US. Her brand of Pop and Dance doesn’t seem to fit neatly into the highly segmented US market.
She’s had some success on the Dance charts but nothing to speak of otherwise. In contrast, she’s a big thing in the UK.
In the first year that she released her album, she had three #1 hits in the UK, which was more than any other male or female artist. Additionally, in 2018 she became the only female in British chart history to have thirteen Top 10 hits.
The final single to achieve this was “Let You Love Me,” which was released on the 21st of September, 2018. It was taken from her second studio album, Phoenix.
Despite only releasing two studio albums…
Rita Ora has achieved incredible success and is currently one of the most recognizable female singers in the UK. Although she has yet to release a third album, she regularly contributes as a featured artist on Dance albums of prominent DJs. Her future is very bright indeed.
We are coming right up to date now with this phenomenal British/Albanian singer who was born in 1995 in London, England. At just 27 years old, she is already one of the most popular British female singers of her generation.
In a world that is now dominated by streaming and digital downloads, it’s hard to compare her success with female artists going back over a generation. However, she has sold the equivalent of 30 million albums in old money. She has also surpassed 10 billion streams on Spotify. Now that’s a lot!
Even more when you consider that she’s only released two albums to date. These include her debut and self-titled album, Dua Lipa, which came out in 2017. Plus, her second album, Future Nostalgia, in 2020.
Both albums received strong critical acclaim and charted well…
However, her second album, Future Nostalgia, secured her first #1 in the UK as well as several other countries. It made it to #3 in the US.
Currently, she’s one of the world’s most streamed and successful female artists. In 2021, her single “Levitating” was the most streamed song in the US. When combining audio and video streams, the total came to over 800 million for one song. I predict she’s going to be around for a long time to come.
Looking for More Great Singers?
If so, take a look at our detailed articles on the Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1980s, the Most Famous Female Singers Of The 1970s, the Most Famous Mexican Female Singers, the Best Female Singers, and the Most Famous British Singers for more amazing song selections.
Of course, you’ll need to listen to them. So, check out our in-depth reviews of the Best True Wireless Earbuds, the Best Sound Quality Earbuds, the Most Comfortable Earbuds, the Best Noise Isolating Earbuds, the Best iPhone Earbuds, and the Best Earbuds for Running you can buy in 2023.
Most Famous British Female Singers – Final Thoughts
So, there you have it. I’m sure you’ll agree that it is a pretty diverse group. I hope my list of famous British female singers includes most of the biggest stars.
Likewise, I hope I’ve included one or two of your favorites too. Regardless, there’s no doubt and no arguing about the talent contained in this select group.
Until next time, happy listening.Related Posts
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